REVIEW : Xuan Yuan Sword 7 (XBOX Series X)
It’s not often that I come across a series in a genre I enjoy that has made it to chapter seven without at least hearing a bird chirp, but that is the case with Xuan-Yuan Sword, a Taiwanese action role-playing game series. This series has been around since 1990, and while it’s been available on Steam for a long time, it’s the first time it’s been released on consoles in the West. However, don’t be put off by the title; Xuan-Yuan Sword 7 is an entirely standalone adventure that transports us 2000 years back in time to a confrontation with Chinese history and mythology.
It is instantly apparent that this is not at all like what the worldwide audience is accustomed to. This is a very standard action role-playing game with seamless combat and linear paths to pursue, but it’s the graphics, the soundtrack, and the entire package that stand out as something unique. One can say it is a game that relies enough on its sources of inspiration to not see the need to imitate others. It’s a game created in a part of the world where we don’t typically get such a close look.
We can’t uncover any evidence of the recent tendencies that have dominated numerous games. There is no discussion of current events, and there is no discussion of topics that have little or nothing to do with history. The game stays true to the idea throughout, which is refreshing. Of course, dealing with a polite society all the time is weird and uplifting for us. Still, it is also evidently (without me being an expert in the topic) a game that credibly portrays a rather formal culture. I get the impression that I’m being taken to another period and city, surrounded by people I can’t see, and there’s far too little of that elsewhere.
A beautiful journey
Xuan-Yuan Sword 7 is hardly a technical marvel, but it is a visual delight. I don’t often get to stroll around in games as lovely as this one. Running through China’s magnificent scenery appears to be the closest I can get to see the country without actually going there. At the same time, the rural spa offers enough variety and plenty of fresh things to see. Many games address this by transporting you from rainforest to Iceland to lava, but this is accomplished through natural geography and height variations. You’re up in the mountains for a bit, then down in the lowlands, and finally beside a massive river.
Beautiful woodlands with a wide variety of trees, shrubs, and small plants make the calm times in this game almost as memorable as the rest of the game. When one gets close, the free-standing objects aren’t always of the finest quality, but it’s the lovely sceneries in combination with the beautiful use of light that propels this game forward. Because the game is relatively linear, the makers have the opportunity to ensure that each place is shown in its most pleasing light.
Lots to bite into
The game Xuan-Yuan Sword 7 is primarily a role-playing action game. We swing around with a sword and occasionally use a particular skill to slay our foes. These include sabre-toothed wolves, people, and enormous trolls, all packed overhandled in the same way. The combat system isn’t advanced, and it could use more combos, but it’s still valid, especially since campaigns are rarely tricky enough to require much more than what’s provided.
When we go into battle, we use a variety of fighting styles. Each one is a little different in how it works and has a powerful special attack that unlocks as you use it. On the other side, some attacks take so long to unlock that they’re essentially useless, and you’re stuck with the standard attacks instead. Not that the battle system is ridiculous in and of itself; it’s rapid and entertaining, but it gets a little annoying when you know something is waiting for you, but it takes a long time to acquire it.
In the lack of multiple puzzles, it’s only fitting that Xuan-Yuan Sword 7 includes the lovely little mini-game Zhuolu Chess. This is a more complex variant of Tripp Trapp clogs, where the goal is to get three pieces in a row. On the other hand, saying it is much easier than doing it. There are different paths to go and components that can remove and take pieces, so there is plenty of freedom to experiment. Zhuolo Chess is one of the most enjoyable mini-games I’ve played in a long time, and the makers should produce a standalone version.
Xuan-Yuan Sword 7 has a lot of gorgeous nature to enjoy, but there’s a limit to how many gongs it’s pleasant to watch the same trees over and over again. It took me a while to learn that the game has multiple side objectives, and in hindsight, I wish I had lived in constant ambiguity.
The game’s side quest is a regressive moth that involves going from point A to a place far, far away, talking to or killing someone, and then returning before moving on to a new city and back again and again. I haven’t gone out for any of the game’s more brutal side tasks in a long time, which adds nothing to the game. They drag out the time in a game that is generally quite considerate of the amount of time you must devote to it.
You can teleport between certain precise spots. However, these points are generally always in the middle of nowhere, so you’ll have to walk a great distance to get there. This will never bother you if you solely focus on history, and I strongly encourage you to avoid this annoying filler content for a far better experience. Playing Zhuolu Chess is the only quest worth pursuing.
Xuan-Yuan Sword 7 may not be the best game of the year, but it is a fun and memorable experience with some of the gorgeous nature scenes a game can provide. I’ve had a lot of fun on this voyage, which is more than I’ve had with many other, probably technically, superior games this year. It has many diverse features that keep you going and deliver a magical, tempting, exhilarating, and mysterious value. The history is interesting, the fighting system is swift and fascinating, and there are many things to do. There’s always something driving you forward in Zhuolu Chess, whether it’s improving equipment, battling techniques, or seeking new adversaries.