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Chair Entertainment talks narrative developments, gameplay enhancements, and social features for Infinity Blade II
By Mark Brown 10 November 2011
Game Name: Infinity Blade II | Developer: Chair Entertainment | Publisher: Epic Games | Format: iPhone, iPad | Genre: Action
Infinity Blade is back. And, just like the tenacious hero of the first game, it's returning bigger, bolder, and all-in-all stronger for the experience.

Developer Chair Entertainment has some ambitious plans for the follow-up, including a more expansive world with a less linear path, more bad guys than you can shake a gesture-driven stick at, and monsters that will take you and a few thousand friends to topple.

We sat down with the studio's creative director Donald Mustard to talk Infinity Blade II and delve deep into its strong focus on customisation and story, as well as the studio's ambitious plans for future content.

Pocket Gamer: Let's leap right in. Infinity Blade II -what's new?

Donald Mustard: Probably one of the biggest gameplay differences in Infinity Blade II is that there are now three different combat styles that you can choose between as you're playing the game.

You can equip a sword and a shield just like the first game, but you can also equip dual swords, which puts you in a different play mode where you're much quicker.

You don't have a shield so you can't block, but we've added another 'dodge' button so you can duck under attacks. It's a much more acrobatic style that relies more on dodging and parrying, and you can open up much bigger combo chains.

We also introduce the heavy weapon style, where you can equip these big axes and maces that do massive damage to your enemies. You're kind of weighed down under the weight of those weapons and can no longer dodge, but in that style you can block directionally so I can block to the left, block to the right and block centre.

If you're good enough, you can literally block every attack in the game, because of your directional blocking. It allows you also to do these massive parry breaks on enemies where you can do directional damage.

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So are you stuck with the class you pick at the beginning, or can you swap throughout the adventure?

You're not stuck with it, no. There's now three categories of weapons and that style will be based on the weapon you equip.

It allows you to strategically plan out your fights. You might come up against an enemy and go, 'You know what? I have a tough time dodging this enemy's attacks so I want to pick a heavier weapon so I can block.' It allows for a much deeper, strategic play, but also allows you to gravitate to the style of play you prefer.

One of the other really big features is the ability to customise all of your gear with a weapon forging system we've introduced.

Most items and weapons have gem slots in them, and there are hundreds of unique gems in the game that you can find and buy in the store and get from enemy drops that will allow you to customise your weapons with all kinds of cool and unique perks and bonuses and stat boosts.

But the underlying formula, of tapping to move between environments and looping back around at the end, will be the same, right?

You know, I'm not a huge fan - at all - of games that use a simulated joystick or buttons or try and emulate the type of gameplay that we'd see on a traditional controller. Having these touchscreen is a huge opportunity to discover new ways to interact with games and that's why we very deliberately designed Infinity Blade the way we did.

Navigation in the environment works exactly the same as it did in the first game, but Infinity Blade II is many times bigger than the first and it's much more non-linear.

We're going to continue with the bloodline style of gameplay - where there will be God King-esque bosses that will cause you to actually die and have to come back after time - but where the first game had one God King, we have six uber bosses in Infinity Blade II. Players will be able to tackle those bosses in any order that makes sense.

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How does the game's story tie-in to the first game, and the book (the recently released novel Infinity Blade Awakening)

The game pretty much picks up right after the events of Infinity Blade and the the events of the novel, from a fictional standpoint, with someone in this vast bloodline of heroes finally defeating the God King.

Siris [as the person you were playing as when you completed Infinity Blade has been retroactively named] decides that he needs allies if he's going to attempt to fight the deathless, and so he sets off in search of the 'Worker of Secrets' who is purportedly the creator of the Infinity Blade.

Siris finds that the Worker of Secrets is trapped in this place called the Vault of Tears, and so Siris begins to head there and that's where you'll find yourself in the opening act of Infinity Blade II.

The book picks up immediately after you kill the God King, and actually leads up to and overlaps a little bit of the opening of Infinity Blade II. So if you want to know what's happening at the start of Infinity Blade II, go read the book!

Is the story going to be a big focus this time around? I felt like narrative took a back seat in the first game.

We definitely have much more story this time. Our goal with Infinity Blade was to set the stage for what this world could be and some of the much larger fiction we were hoping to get into if the brand took off. More focused on the world and telling a story with the environment.

That's very much the same in Infinity Blade II. We want to make sure that the world feels like its very considered, and there's a lot of fiction bolstering everything you're seeing and doing. We're even alluding to things in the first game that will hopefully make sense down the road and further expansions of the franchise.

That being said, there's a much more direct narrative this time. So much so that in the second game the first line is in Pangean (Infinity Blade's fictional language) and then we quickly transition to English.

There's so much more dialogue in the game this time, and so many more cut-scenes, that we wanted you to be able to follow along without having to listen to our made-up language.

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Will Infinity Blade II have any social features?

Much like we did with the first Infinity Blade we have many features and content plans in the coming months. So right at launch the game will primarily be focused on this vast, lengthy single-player campaign. However, pretty quickly after launch we'll be updating the game with a new feature that we're calling Clash Mobs.

So imagine we'll have an event where there's a monster that's got amazingly huge number of hit points - say 10 million - and that monster will be available to fight for 12 or 24 hours. At the end of that, if its not killed, it will run away.

You'll get one 30 second chance to do as much damage to that enemy. The damage that you've done will be saved persistently, so when the next person fights the boss it will have 10,000 or so fewer hit points.

And then, collectively, if a couple hundred thousand or a million people band together and defeat this guy, they'll all get a unique reward - an item or lots of gold or some cool gem.

That's a big new feature that's coming soon after launch.

What about classic, player on player multiplayer? We saw that in an update for the first game, but it looks like it's absent in the sequel.

We were really happy with the multiplayer that we put out for Infinity Blade 1, and we have thousands of people playing it all the time that love the multiplayer. But what I don't know is if head to head, synchronous multiplayer is the right way to be making multiplayer stuff for mobile devices.

So we will be looking at multiplayer again in the future and we'll be adjusting it accordingly. We want to expand the idea of playing together - whether that's competitively or cooperatively - but doing that in a way that's not tied to you having to do it at exactly the same time.

It's just too hard to find two or five minutes where you're both able to sync up. That's not the way we use these devices right now.

Apple's new iOS 5 has introduced some cool new features for games. Will we see any of that sort of stuff in Infinity Blade II?

I think iOS 5 is incredible. iCloud is really cool, but it's one thing to see it in a book and another to be playing Infinity Blade II on my iPhone 4S, and I forge a gem into one of my weapons and I pick up my iPad 2 and there it is, with my weapon equipped with that gem forged into my slot.

I think having my character profile save, load, and sync seamlessly across devices instantly is huge. We very highly recommend that people upgrade their devices to iOS 5 before playing Infinity Blade II, if you want it optimal, highest performing, with iCloud and other features.

Thanks to Donald for his time. Infinity Blade II is out on iPhone and iPad on December 1.
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