Games Xtreme dives into Medieval and Mystical China on the trail of the Xuan-Yuan Sword, in the 7th entry of the series.
Before we get started, we got this code for review on the Xbox from PR – so thanks for that!
If you’ve not heard of Xuan-Yuan Sword before, don’t worry, because this is a long-running Chinese mythology series of RPGs. It started back in about 1990 and has been going strong ever since, this is however the second game in the series to make it to an English release.
The previous English release didn’t do so well, but I can tell you know, Xuan-Yuan Sword 7 is a markedly improved release from Gate of the Firmament, and falls somewhere between the early Witcher and Greedfall in terms of gameplay style.
I’d probably say Witcher 2 more than 1.
Humble beginnings, impressive power.
Xuan-Yuan Sword 7 is presented in a third person perspective, and is an action RPG where you don’t have to do much in the way of stat management and you can’t really min-max – its emphasis is on story and combat against numerous foes as you take on the role of a humble swordsman, who inherits a scroll of great power.
The Elysium Scroll.
This scroll not only forms the backbone of the story, but also provides you as the player with a one-stop shop to access the various features of the character’s skillset. From your first steps into this world, you’re quickly going to unlock all the scroll has to offer and spend time in the various sub-parts of that wondrous artifact.
Basically, it’s an in-lore method to provide the player with access to equipment, skills (martial art styles) and various upgradeable buildings which allow you to craft new things.
In combat, the scroll can be used to summon powerful attacks, seal away enemies for their souls, and slow down time. We’ll talk about the fights in a bit though.
The World of the Sword
Set in a time of great upheaval in China, Xuan-Yuan Sword puts you in the capable and sometimes reluctant shoes of Taishi Zhao, a calm and reliable swordsman. Taishi may be calm, but he’s also looking for revenge against those who wronged him in the past, killed his family, and slaughtered people around him.
This is the last embers of the Western Han Dynasty, where in history, the powerful prime-minister of China ousted his emperor, and constructed a new dynasty called the Xin Dynasty.
It was a time of odd storms, cracked boulders that rose from the ground, and strange writings.
Magic, monsters, and more.
I’ve got a soft spot for the mid-tier of games, and I adore indie titles. Xuan-Yuan Sword 7 is the first time that this series has become accessible, with a stand-alone story and protagonist, as well as tuned gameplay which will appeal to fans, as well as create new fans (like me) of the series. I spent about 30-40 hours with this game recently, finished it, and I can say that I totally enjoyed it despite a quest trigger on a side quest not working (a reload fixed it) and a few translation issues, as well as a few instances where the dialogue didn’t play as the characters spoke.
Those things aside, this is a fun and highly accessible entry in the series.
Gameplay in the World of the Xuan-Yuan Sword
This is the kind of game I like to call a hub-spoke adventure, akin to Witcher 2 or Greedfall as previously mentioned. You have towns/cities that form the hubs and then the spokes are the lands between, not quite open world, and not quite linear.
You can explore off the beaten track to find monsters to fight, goods to find, and upgrade materials to ensure you can craft up the best gear in the game and outfit your hero – as well as the 2 NPCs that travel with you.
I won’t spoil who they are, but you’re free to change out their gear as you go.
Taishi can climb certain places, and he can traverse into certain areas using a set of canned animations. There’s even some light platforming, which you can’t fall off, and again uses the animated transition from A to B very similar to Greedfall.
You have a generous auto-save in the game, and you can save at shrines and camp fires. Here at the camp fires you can rest, and get more insight into the hero as well as his companions as time goes on.
The name of the game though, apart from Xuan-Yuan Sword 7, is action adventure and you’ll be immersed in a pretty charming story with some nice twists and turns as you battle regular foes, mini-bosses and boss monsters with Taishi’s weapon of choice and nimble athletic martial arts style abilities.
There are four main styles to the game, Ox, Tiger, Bear, and Wolf. Each one does something different, and levels up to a main martial art you can trigger with a pull of the controller trigger.
Taishi can block, parry, dodge and fight. He has a light attack, and a heavy attack, and as you level up through the game, you’ll gain more nuances to these attacks. The heavy attack will extend into longer and more devastating combos, the light attack will allow for more hits.
Combat is fluid enough, and there’s a good variety of enemies to keep you on your toes. Healing can be plentiful, and you’re going to need to master the scroll’s powers if you want to win on some of the tougher fights. You’ll also need to get to grips with the game’s soul fusion system, where you can take objects and materials, as well as the souls of sealed enemies to form new perks.
These soul perks can be applied to your hero and allies, and they’ll allow for things like: heal on kill, and heal on hit. Or putting fire on your foes with each strike.
There’s a lot of soul recipes too and you’ll find them on little frog-like statues which are secreted around the world, usually in hard-to-find places. This game rewards exploration a lot.
As for the scroll itself, slow down time, pull the souls of dead enemies into a useable form, and summon defeated boss monsters to change the tide of battle.
The controls, once you get to grips with them, allow for quick access to all of this and never get confusing.
One Sword to Rule them All
Gear in Xuan-Yuan Sword 7 is pretty simple, you have one main weapon, and you can upgrade it by finding the right materials and also building upgrades to the forge on the scroll screen. The blade, the guard, and the handle all affect the weapon’s stats and you’ll find all you need to get the best ones over time. All the visuals on the weapons change as they upgrade with new materials.
Your companions benefit from their own upgraded weapons/gear too.
Actual gear is simple as well, with armour as one item, again you can swap new ones out – but the visuals don’t alter.
Lastly, you have accessories (up to 2) which further let you customise your hero and his allies.
Cutting gear down to this simple system means you can get on with the game, not have to worry about keeping track of a million stats, and enjoy what Xuan-Yuan Sword 7 has to offer.
In addition to various side missions, which vary in quality from a simple fetch-quest to narrative story-driven adventures into other areas, you have the chess mini-game which is quite good, and the puzzles across the main story. These require a bit of thought, and in some cases, you might need a solution online since the puzzle may rely on a translation of a certain symbol that you won’t get unless you are Chinese.
The spoken language of the game is in Chinese, and you get subtitles to allow you to follow on with the story. The rest of the menus and so on are in English or your chosen language. Sometimes the game drops a line or two of dialogue that’s not translated, leaving you to wonder what is being said – but the good news is that it doesn’t detract from the story for the most part and you can still follow on.
Xuan-Yuan Sword 7 is a last-gen game, but still has a beautiful world design and gorgeous aesthetic to it. The environments are pleasing, and the outdoor areas take you to some pretty varied locations. It runs smoothly, the frame-rate is solid, and there were actually no crashes at all in my 30+ hours run-through of the story.
This version was running on my Series X, and the load times were shorter for definite.
(Compared to seeing videos on YT from the Xbox One X)
Animations are excellent, and the combat is fast, frenetic and fun.
Sound of China
It has some great sound design, ambience, and music. The music is especially excellent, with a wide and varied soundtrack full of some lovely peaceful moments as well as driving battle-orientated tracks that suit the on-screen action perfectly.
The voice work is obviously something I can’t speak for, barring that it is recorded well, has consistent audio levels and is clean.
These are interesting games, and this entry into the series is the best one for Western audiences by far. Fun, accessible, solid on day one and with only a few minor issues I’ve pointed out. It’s a series worth watching, and I’d be interested in seeing what happens with Sword 8 if it comes to the West at some point.
I enjoyed it a lot, and the story kept me hooked until the end.
Worth a try for sure.