Better Left To History
HIGH A beautiful world showcasing a tech-fantasy China.
LOW Punishing combat and unexplained mechanics.
WTF Everyone is ok with this talking bird calling himself King?
Hi everyone! Eugene Sax here with another review from GameCritics.com.
Near the end of the Han Dynasty in China, a powerful prime minster suspended the emperor’s reign and declared a new dynasty under his rule. He led them with signs and omens that would guarantee prosperity if they followed him. However, this prosperity never materialized, and the country descended into war for the last ten years with monsters and demons roaming the land. It’s been foretold that a bamboo scroll would bring this war to an end, but it was lost long ago. In Xuan Yuan Sword 7, that scroll is about to reappear.
In this action RPG, players take control of Taishi Zhao. His family was taken from him in a tragic incident by a military group known as the Lijun while they were trying to find the mystic scroll. 13 years of hiding later, he and his sister encounter the Lijun as they are again looking for the scroll. His sister suffers a grievous injury from actions of the Lijun, so Zhao goes on a quest to find a way to save her. Along the way he will uncover secrets about the nation, the Lijun, and the monsters that plague the country.
Aesthetically, Xuan Yuan Sword 7 shines. Each environment is beautifully rendered and filled with characters that feel alive and unique — people like the old warrior monk Hong, the two general brothers trying to make China a better place, and even the annoying but helpful avian King Jipeng. While the main narrative is about Zhao trying to save his sister, the script goes into other storylines involving political turmoil and religious ideology, and I was hooked from the start.
As for the combat, there’s not as much to write home about. Players will attack, dodge, and block their way through combat scenarios and boss fights, occasionally utilizing a special martial art or magic scroll ability. Players will have to balance between dealing damage to an enemy’s health or using moves to stagger them, which then buys the player time to heal or perhaps deal a special execution move for extra damage. Every enemy defeated will give money and resources used to buy items and to upgrade weapons and armor.
My overall issue is with the execution, in both combat and story alike.
Each combat encounter can be handled nearly the same way each time, and there isn’t a lot of choice in what techniques to use. Stagger the enemy, deal massive damage, dodge when the enemy strikes, and repeat. It doesn’t help that things like parrying or special moves aren’t explained, and are instead left up to the player to learn on their own.
The fights are also plagued with difficulty spikes, and I felt punished for not knowing all of the mechanics up front. I’m fine with dying due to my own mistakes, but not when a boss’ basic attack can wipe out my entire health bar for no reason. Xuan Yuan Sword 7 does allow players to lower the difficulty any time they want, but the difference from one difficulty setting to another is so drastic that it almost feels insulting.
As for the story, while I did enjoy many parts of it, there do seem to be translation issues. In some sequences, the story makes a jarring tonal shift from somber to carefree, and there are some scenarios where the translation leaves things hanging. For example, one quest had me telling a little girl that I found her injured father, and he wasn’t going to make it home, and that it would be just her and her mother now. The girl’s response was “My mother died a few years ago” — and then it just ends! There’s no further interaction or response from my character, which made the conclusion feel abrupt and unfinished. That sort of thing tends to happen often, and it really impacts the quality of the narrative overall.
While I generally enjoyed my time with Xuan Yuan Sword 7, it’s hard to recommend. Those who can deal with the mediocre and sometimes unfair combat may be able to enjoy the world and story, and there is something to be said for games that can wrap things up in around 15 hours or so, but that’s still a significant amount of time to deal with issues that really need more polish.
For me, Xuan Yuan Sword 7 gets a 6 out of 10.
Disclosures: This game is developed by Softstar and Domo Studios, and published by Softstar and Yooreka Studios. It is currently available on PC, PS4, and Xbox One. This copy of the game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on the PS4. Approximately 16 hours of play were devoted to the single-player mode, and the game was completed. There are no multiplayer modes.
Parents: According to the ESRB, this game is rated T and contains Blood, Violence, Language, and use of Alcohol. The site reads: “This is an action role-playing game in which players assume the role of a swordsman fighting to protect Ancient China from demonic forces. From a third-person perspective, players traverse landscapes, battling human soldiers and fantastical creatures (e.g., pygmies, demons) in frenetic combat. Players use martial arts punches and sword slashes to attack enemies; combat is accompanied by frequent sword-slashing/impact sounds, cries of pain, and blood-splatter effects. Some sequences depict creatures impaled in the head with arrows or characters impaled with blades. The word “sh*t” appears in the game.”
Colorblind Modes: There are no colorblind modes for this game.
Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: Subtitles are always present due to the game not being voiced in English. Text is not resizable, and the game will sometimes place subtitles above backgrounds that make them hard to read.
Remappable Controls: Controls can be changed between two different schemes, but are not remappable.