Need a Witcher-esque game with a rich Chinese mythology-based world and strong gameplay mechanics? Then check our Xuan Yuan Sword 7 review!
In Xuan Yuan Sword 7 from DOMO Studios and eastasiasoft, you play as Taishi Zhao, a young and highly capable swordsman doing everything in his power to provide for his young and frail sister Xiang. Together they travel across the land trying to scrounge enough money to survive their day-to-day lives. When Zhao takes a job with the local army and discovers a dimensional rift that seems to be having aggravating effects on the monsters in the area, it becomes apparent that something potentially world-ending is right around the corner. But for Zhao, his desire to protect his sister trumps all else, and he will do anything to keep her safe.
The relationship between Zhao and Xiang seems to be front and center in this game. As most of the game is told from Zhao’s perspective, most of his time is spent trying to find ways to improve her health and guarantee her safety. Whilst his quest occasionally meshes with the overarching story, it becomes clear that their relationship trumps everything else in the story. The two leads are highly developed, whilst every other character seems to be a little bit lacking in that vein, with most of them barely making an impact in the main story.
Visually, Xuan Yuan Sword 7 gets the job done on PlayStation 4. With Sony’s PlayStation 4 console now being the current-gen standard, PlayStation 4 games need to work extra hard to wow us. Mind you, the environments and character models for Xuan Yuan Sword 7 are pleasant but not mind-blowing. The game offers a good framerate that allows you to enjoy all of the action. This is a project that aims for some of the design choices of AAA games, offering a chunky experience with lots of stuff to do, all for a $49.99 price.
The Witcher 3 comparisons that will undoubtedly be made with Xuan Yuan Sword 7 are not without merits since the gameplay, the vibrancy, and the general presentation will certainly remind you of the classic from CD PROJECT RED – which you can enjoy on every single console out since it was released on the Nintendo Switch.
Like Geralt, Zhao is a swordsman, and like with The Witcher 3, combat here is fluid, and the transition from exploration to combat is seamless. You use the left analog stick for movement and can press R3 to focus on your nearest target, but you may need to press it more than once since targeting can be a little tricky. But once you lock onto a target, you can use the R1 button for light attacks and the R2 button for heavy attacks. Should you wish to do so, you can press the X button to evade oncoming attacks. On the surface, combat in Xuan Yuan Sword 7 does not set the world on fire, but that is only on the surface.
The more you dive into the game, the more you see the game blossom into a richer experience. As you progress, you unlock new stances that you can switch into with the L2 button. Depending on the enemies you are fighting, you may find yourself favoring one stance over another. You will gain new companions, AI.controlled allies who fight at your side. They can contribute special attacks regularly by pressing the L1 and Square or Triangle buttons, but they will have a cooldown.
For me, the thing that saves the combat from being too similar to other action RPG is the choice to make most of your abilities, including how using potions will be on a cooldown. Whilst this might not appear to be a massive decision, I feel that it adds a small element of strategy to the combat. The cooldown of abilities is not obnoxious and at no point did it feels like it detracts from the overall feeling of the great combat.
Where the game does lose some of its polish is in the world of the game. The villages and settlements you encounter during your quests are nicely presented and feel lived in. The characters you meet along the way are mostly interesting enough, but at times you can feel you are being led by the nose down a corridor. There is little room for exploration in the world map and next to nothing to discover in your travels, which can easily be argued to be one of the staples of an RPG. While the game does boast a very in-depth crafting system for your weapons, abilities, and armor, most of the components needed are drops from the enemies you battle.
While the game is linear, the devs go out of their way to break up the gameplay loop with some bonus objectives. Scattered throughout the game are a few puzzles you need to complete to progress the story. Unlike most games that feature puzzles, here they actually feel thought out. Each puzzle encountered is different from the last and individual enough that you don’t feel like you’re doing the same thing over and over again. In addition, if you like games that feature mini-games, then Xuan Yuan Sword 7 has you covered. Zhuolu Chess is a riff on the ancient game of “Nine Man’s Morris,” an ancient two-player game dating back to Roman times. If you have played the magnificent Clubhouse Games 51 Worldwide Classics on the Nintendo Switch, then you will likely be familiar with this.
Unlike Nine Man’s Morris, Zhuolu chess features special pieces you can collect and use in future games as you beat opponents during your run. While the side-quest offers no real impact on the main game, it is a fun distraction to challenge the different players you meet in the world, especially since the AI level of your opponents increases the further you progress through the challenges.
I do have to mention that the sound design feels a little middle of the road in its presentation, with the Chinese language voice acting feeling nothing too special, drifting at times into soap opera dialogue territory. The music is a mix of ancient Chinese instruments and modern-day guitar music still laced with that authentic and intimate feel, arguably emphasizing the fact that Xuan Yuan Sword 7 is more about the intimate story of the siblings and not about any grandiose story arc.
If you love action RPG, then Xuan Yuan Sword 7 is from DOMO Studios, and eastasiasoft is one to check on PlayStation 4. It will certainly be compared to The Witcher 3. Still, the game manages to stand out on its own thanks to its Chinese setting and mythology, the mini-games you can take on, and some of the customization options for the overall experience. Xuan Yuan Sword 7 is out on PlayStation 4 with a $49.99 asking price.
This Xuan Yuan Sword 7 review is based on a PlayStation 4 copy provided by eastasiasoft.