Weighed down with your blade, shield and armor, this Android port of developer Empty Flask Games’ debut effort Infinite Warrior takes the endless runner format and walks with it. The game’s comically lengthy introduction can be boiled down thusly: You, the Infinite Warrior, are a one-man army protecting a medieval kingdom from the invading forces of the evil Tyrant King. As you rove across different regions of the land, you fulfill mini quests, build up your iron age arsenal, and rise in rank from Recruit to Emperor – but mainly and most importantly, you just stay alive as long as you can.
Infinite Warrior’s many intricacies orbit around a very simple play format: upon selecting a point on your parchment map in which to fight, you endlessly side-scroll through a war-torn landscape, slashing at your foes until one of them eventually takes you out. Anonymous troops in loin clothes and animal helmets run at you from the right side of the screen in two ranks—one runs past you in the background with an iridescent arrow on his shield, and the next one runs right at you. Swipe in the direction of that glowing arrow as quickly as possible, and you are rewarded with a slow motion scene of the Infinite Warrior cleaving the life from the invader before him. Swipe too slowly or in the wrong direction, and you die. The inclusion of these cinematic sequences, which feature randomized fight choreography and lurid geysers of blood, are just one of the ways Empty Flask Games smartly spices up this potentially monotonous setup. The onslaught of enemies, while varying in pace, is interspersed with volleys of arrows and scurrying vermin bearing bonuses, and at its best can be downright pulse-pounding. The game is compulsively playable from the start, but it’s hard to maintain such a high level of intensity forever – and the game does, theoretically, go on forever. There are no boss fights, save points, or any endgame at all other than surviving. You simply march grimly on until you make a wrong move.
Perhaps taking their cues from real life, Empty Flask distracts the player from feelings of futility with a wealth of options and acquisitions. There is the huge variety of items you can buy with accumulated game gold. These augment your performance in a variety of ways, but especially with respect to “Bloodlust,” a score-multiplying combo state reached by slaying a number of consecutive enemies. Different armors help you achieve Bloodlust at a faster rate; helmets increase the gold you gain; shields summon a dragon who clears many yards from the start of your warpath; enchanted blades increase your Bloodlust score. Each item type has up to 30 variations which, aside from the benefit to your score, add to the visual impact of your avatar. It can be tough as you move into the higher echelon weapons to trade skeletal shields, double-bladed swords and growing green helmets for less glamorous but more powerful versions.
The impressive diversity of weapons is mirrored by excessive details in each environment. From the foul swamps of Hell’s Bog to the corpse-strewn shores of Kracken’s reach, the world of Infinite Warrior is rendered in almost microscopic definition. Although it is frequently dazzling, it can be a problem while scanning for bonus items and power-ups. Glittering ampules of blood that grant you instant Bloodlust can get lost in the dewy moss, and weathered treasure chests can hide too well in dense forests. The tiny green arrows that point out these items are quite subtle, and you can find yourself tapping frantically on a glimmering object before you realize too late that it’s just part of the scenery. A similar issue arises when you choose to fight at night, rather than day, by snuffing or igniting the candle that appears on the map screen— of pace seems nice, but the dark blue gloom doesn’t do the cluttered landscapes any favors.
Infinite Warrior’s primary motivator is the existence of special missions that help you ascend the ranks. At all times you have three randomized quests to fulfillsurvive for 60 seconds in Woodhaven, find 5 chests in Burning Sands, survive 3 arrow storms in Titan Spine. More quests are required to achieve higher ranks, but the quests do not increase in difficulty. Any rank might require you to survive a mere 30 seconds in a certain area, or a grueling 10 waves.
This sense of arbitrariness appears frequently in Infinite Warrior. In spite of its $2.99 price tag, the game employs some common freemium tactics – while you don’t have to pay to win, your weapons degrade with play and you have to spend gold to repair them, or you lose their performance-enhancing attributes. Some weapons appear to be stronger than others, but it’s difficult to tell at exactly what rate they become damaged, or how much maintenance they need without navigating to the weapons menu to see if there is currently a price on repair. Similarly, you can unlock a few extra regions by finding maps as you play, but it will cost you 1,000 gold to access them. It’s irritating to know that Infinite Warrior reaches its maximum potential only when you trade real dollars for game gold.
That said, the game never becomes unplayable, and remains powerfully addictive. Unless you’re exclusively focused on beating your high score, which necessitates full coffers and weapons in perfect condition, Infinite Warrior still has terrific fundamentals that give the game great staying power. The gorgeous 3D graphics and fast-paced play and will keep you engaged more than long enough to justify the price of admission. At the end of the day, Infinite Warrior doesn’t need any of its extraneous special features to deliver the perfectly good cheap thrills it has at its bloody heart.
Amidst a mess of over the top and redundant extras, Infinite Warrior offers enough visceral fun to keep players coming back.