Xuan Yuan Sword 7
Xuan-Yuan Sword 7 (XYS7) is the latest in a thirty-one year old series of RPGs based on early Chinese history and mythology. While long established in its home market the series has only recently begun to be translated and distributed in the West, with spin-off title The Gate of Firmament releasing in 2016. Unfortunately, while this entry in the series has some highlights, they are buried deep between some things that are lost in translation, others that are just not translated, and a few I’d rather hadn’t been translated at all.
At A Glance
|Positives||+ Good Boss Battles|
|+ Interesting Setting|
|Negatives||– Non-boss combat lacks any challenge|
|– Dated visuals|
|– Very slow to get going|
|Our Playtime||20 hours|
|Available On||PS4, PC, Xbox One|
For an “action” RPG, XYS7 begins very, very slowly. I’d estimate that over the first two hours of playtime less than half of that was spent actually playing. Instead I was subjugated to many, many slowly paced and clunky cutscenes. Occasionally, as a treat, the game would take a quick break from the cutscenes to let me walk the character forward a dozen paces (and forwards ONLY – the turning controls were locked) before resuming. Later the cutscenes also included some quick-time events, although the “quick-time” aspect of these was somewhat lacking as there didn’t appear to be any actual timing challenge to them – I could hit the button prompt at any time.
With so many cutscenes you would assume the developers were showing off their world or their characters, or imparting a meaningful story. Sadly, you would be mistaken. The animations and graphical quality overall left me surprised to find this was a port of a game released only last year, while the voice acting manages to be bad enough that it can be in Chinese and I can still confidently say that it was bad. A stand-out comes in the flashbacks, where the characters’ adult actors continue to voice them as children. Some of the readings do improve as the game goes on, but it manages to front-load a lot of the worst examples seemingly in an effort to ensure that only the truly dedicated will ever experience them.
Combat makes up the majority of the gameplay, and is fairly mainstay ARPG fare. You have a light attack and heavy attack, block and dodge, and there is a parry mechanic for good measure as well. The challenge, however, is light, and against the normal foes you will encounter none of the nuance is at all necessary. Enemies are generally lacking in aggression and very easy to stun-lock. The first several hours of the game will see you fighting wolves, and not much else. A short cutscene introduced a special wolf, raising my hopes for something a little more meaty, but it turned out to behave identically to the regular wolves but with a bit more health. And blue.
When the game finally comes to introduce bosses things become a little more interesting. Unfortunately this is also likely to prove frustrating, as the mindless button mashing that had easily gotten me through to this point (two hours in, give or take) failed completely, and I was forced to learn the actual mechanics of the combat system. This is what all the preceding combat encounters should have done – what they are for, from a very basic game design principle! The boss fights – which after the first start to come on fairly regularly – are also quite good. Certainly this is no Dark Souls, but the bosses require you to read their moveset and respond, think at least a little tactically and the designs can be quite imaginative as well, although the first is, of course, just a big wolf. But red.
As with combat, the characters and story are developed further as the game goes on, but it takes far, far too long to get moving with anything. At around the 4 hour mark the game begins to find its stride, the pacing finally picking up, the endless cutscenes at last allowing some gameplay to occur without constant interruption, and some more interesting mechanics come to play with the party members and their combat abilities. Even the general world enemies begin to have some variety, though they continue to be too easily stun-locked and quickly dispatched by my apparently endless stamina meter (I didn’t realise basic attacks even cost stamina until several hours in…).
It’s a shame that this game locks what good content it has behind a boredom-wall of turgid cutscenes and pointless, button mashing combat. It isn’t a long game, with around 20 hours of content, but it feels like it could have been a stronger contender if a lot had been cut and a more interesting, better paced story had been presented as the hook. Everything it does well can be found better elsewhere, and, while I haven’t played it myself, the reception to the series’ own first translated title The Gate of the Firmament is far, far more positive. If the setting intrigues you it’s still one that isn’t well served in many Western games, but go in prepared to grind through a few hours of chaff before you get to what good content there is.
In the interest of full disclosure, the publisher provided VGamingNews with a copy of the game in order to conduct this review.