Xuan Yuan Sword 7 is the latest in a long running series of Chinese RPG’s, though this tries to takes the series in a new direction with an action RPG focus as opposed to what came before. Previously available on Steam, this release also marks a new foray onto console with the PlayStation 4. A worthy adventure for one to start? Let’s take a look.
Our story opens with the protagonist, Taishi Zhao, as a child on his way home to care for his younger sister during a family celebration. With the celebration over Taishi is awoken by his panicked parents, who usher him & his sister out of the home before both a slain and the house is set ablaze. 10 or so years later Taishi Zhao and his sister now live in the mountains with Taishi now working as a hunter to pay for his sisters medicine. As he returns home after a job, he finds trouble at their home and his sister in danger from demons. A scuffle ensues and with his sister mortally wounded, he now has to set out with her spirit in tow to save his family and fulfil a greater destiny he is unaware of.
To be honest I’ve never played one of these before, so this 7th entry in the series is my first, but I hear they can be self contained narratives. Storywise I found the adventure to be interesting enough, there’s plenty of mysticism involved if you have any interest in that, and the brother/sister duo’s unique situation keeps the chatter up until the party expands later on. At about 20 hours long on the main quest, it won’t suck up too much of your time, but could be stretched to 30 hours if you take on as many side quests as possible.
As expected there are some mixed bag aspects to the presentation, just getting that outta the way. Things do look good for the most part, the character designs and architecture are modelled well and suit the period, there’s also a good amount of work done for some of the enemy designs too. The use of Unreal Engine really helps bump up the visuals in some areas, lush environments and nice looking particle effects are the real highlights. There is the odd patch of weak texturing and wooden animation, but this is something that thankfully hasn’t been a regular occurrence – though the animations can look painfully stiff when they do crop up.
Audio is another that has its low points but is mostly great, the sweeping soundtrack is perfectly fitting for the world and adventure within the game. There’s plenty of native voiced dialogue too which seems refreshing, but its here where the standards also drop occasionally too – every now & again NPC dialogue will sound like its been phoned in from the portaloo. Performance also seems solid enough with only the occasional bit of framepacing stutter being of any annoyance..
From what I’ve gathered this series was primarily more like a strategy turn based RPG before, and this one marks a change from that into a more action focused RPG. It certainly seems that way with the combat primarily consisting of quick light attacks and a heavy attack mainly used to stutter foes or break them for executions etc. There’s magic to learn and use of course, as well as items to craft, and a curious soul capturing that doesn’t seem to work too well when your party kills the foes who you want to capture. When it works it does offer some unique items for crafting so probably worth persevering with.
The games simplicity also extends to others areas. Whilst not a bugbear for me, the game can be quite linear and only really offers some dead end alternate routes for items or chests. You can make use of save shrines & fast travel shrines to aid your journey, but some of the fast travel shrines in particular seem really oddly placed and spaced out a lot. There’s also a distinct lack of equipment and charms that can be crafted or purchased to customise your characters loadout, which leads to things not feeling as though they are progressing much throughout the game. The game does have its moments, the boss fights can be a spectacle and pretty challenging, but the overall lack of depth throughout really hurts it in the long run.
Xuan Yuan Sword 7 is certainly a title for anyone with an interest in Chinese history or mysticism, but unfortunately the shallow gameplay doesn’t really keep up with everything else. There’s a lack of depth to almost every aspect, the action based gameplay itself can be button mashed outside of boss fights, and the characters lack any feeling of actual level progression. Presentation fares better, some great designs and special effects work for spells, but again has its downsides with some spotty textures and wooden animations. The story carries the game for me as, outside of some patchy voice work, the sweeping soundtrack and native voice acting presents itself well for anyone with an interest in other Chinese media (such as movies) that follows a similar vein.
A well crafted world and story that doesn’t quite have the gameplay it deserves to back it up.