Ever since it was first shown, Heavenly Sword has drawn comparisons to God of War. Like SCEA's flagship franchise, Heavenly Sword has great production values, exciting combat, and an enjoyable story with interesting characters. What it doesn't have is length, clocking in at just six-and-a-half hours from start to finish. So while it's a great game, it's a great game you can beat in one sitting.
Like God of War, Heavenly Sword starts off with what appears to be the death of the game's main character, so the story is told via flashbacks. In this case it's a young woman named Nariko, an outcast who was thought before she was born to be the one to fulfill her peoples' prophecy surrounding the Heavenly Sword. The titular sword is a dangerous weapon that grants tremendous power to whomever wields it, but at the cost of that person's life. Nariko's clan has protected the ancient weapon, but they've grown weak and find themselves under attack from King Bohan, an evil despot who wants the sword for his own use. In this desperate hour Nariko's people and even her father are finally forced to admit that she is their only hope. The game's story is well written (if a bit predictable), and the characters are brought to life by some fine performances by the actors who portray them.
That's kind of a lot of dudes to kill.
There are a few rudimentary door-opening puzzles and a handful of situations where you'll have to quickly press a button that appears onscreen as you make your way through the linear levels. But most of your time with Nariko will be spent killing thousands of enemies in her quest to keep the Heavenly Sword from falling into Bohan's hands. Nariko has three different types of attacks that she can perform by standing in a specific stance. Speed attacks are performed by pressing the square or triangle buttons. Her ranged and power stances are done by pressing the L1 or R1 buttons respectively. Attack combos can be strung together by pressing square and triangle in specific patterns or by switching from one stance to the next midattack.
Using combos and attacking with style are important not only because they're the quickest way to defeat an enemy, but also because they're the key to unlocking more combinations and even bonus content. Each consecutive attack you perform without getting hit fills a meter that's divided into thirds. Perform enough combos and you'll earn a new combo; reach the second and third level and you'll unlock making-of movies, artwork, and more. You'll also gain access to superstyle attacks along the way. When you've earned enough style points you can hit the circle button and trigger a short cutscene where Nariko finishes off a foe with creative flair. It's certainly beneficial to learn a few combos, but you can get through the game just fine doing the same few over and over again.
However, you'll need to vary the position you attack from. Some enemies are only vulnerable to certain attack styles and some can be attacked only with a successful block or counter, both of which are tied to the three different stances. As bad guys attack, they'll flash a color that indicates what kind of attack is coming. If it's a speed attack you don't have to do a thing; Nariko will block it on her own. If it's a power attack though, you'll have to quickly press the R1 button to block. If it's red, it's an unblockable attack and you'll need to roll out of the way by moving the right analog stick. Counters are performed by quickly pressing the triangle as an attack is imminent. They're a great way to quickly dispatch an enemy, though they're tough to time when you're surrounded by a few dozen people, all attacking at different moments.