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Xuan Yuan Sword 7 Review

Xuan Yuan Sword 7

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Release: 30/09/2021
Publisher: SOFTSTAR Entertainment
Developer: SOFTSTAR Entertainment
Genre: Action, Role-playing, XBox One Reviews, Xbox Series X Reviews
PEGI: M
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Xuan Yuan Sword 7 is one of those games that gets whispered about amongst diehard Action RPG fans. Nobody in the mainstream knows it, but those that do KNOW IT.

It has an epic story built around Chinese mythology and history, decent combat and pretty enough graphics as to not be off-putting. It has occasionally hilarious translation and story elements that come from nowhere and disappear as quickly. There are long walks with few saves.

And yet it’s still time well spent for those that love the genre. For everything it does wrong, there’s something it does well enough to enjoy. For every charming quirk (or downright mistake) there’s something that works perfectly.

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And the beauty of this latest entry coming to console after releasing on PC last year is that more people will now get to check it out for themselves.

Bull in a China shop

A cutscene plays. You take control for a bit of good old fashioned on-rails walking. It takes you into a building where another cutscene begins. A few minutes later you’re in control again and you have a new place to walk to.

Now, granted, you’ll fight some enemies along the way, but that about sums up Xuan Yuan Sword 7. It very much on-rails, with only the occasional side quest or mini-game to hold your attention. It’s not a massively long game either, especially by RPG standards.

But in that there is a rhythm, a sense of heart, that still makes it an enjoyable time. Sure, your dungeon run might be interrupted by an annoying puzzle – shippable but I feel bad to do so. Yes, another crowd of cookie-cutter enemies are on the horizon. But the destination usually makes it worth it.

Those who prefer The Witcher’s overwhelming openness will not be happy here. Still, if you can manage something like Final Fantasy 13, this has more exploration.

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The fight style borrows from Demon’s Souls or similar games, but in a not particularly elegant way. Difficulty spikes happen, but it’s not a hard game. Dodges aren’t as pin-sharp as in other games. Indeed, even the block and parry falls short, the former feels useless and the latter being little replacement for the dodge.

Between battles, overworld and dungeon areas consist of picking up items and listening to conversations. These are about as interesting as you want them to be. If you get really into the characters there are a lot of nice moments. That’s about it.

Then another cutscene begins and you’ll venture off to the next area.

Xuan Yuan Sword 7 – Telling a Tall Tale

The story here is pretty good, especially against the backdrop of Chinese history and mythology. It’s a big story told through the eyes of two little people, and that’s always a wonderful way to tell a big story.

Naturally, if you don’t like the characters – especially your extremely anime sister – the rest falls flat. But they’re easy to stomach for the most part.

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Some of the plot makes perfect sense and feels pretty cool. Other bits not so much. I don’t want to give examples – even early “twists” are spoilers. But you’ll meet characters or be in situations that don’t make much sense. “Big baddy that absolutely must be killed? Let’s debate who should fight it before landing on the stranger instead of us all going to kill it” levels of sense.

Lots of games have these moments. Nice-guy Nathan Drake is a murderer many times over, and it’s never mentioned in any way. That’s the gameplay bubble, I suppose. Things happen because the player needs to get from A to B.

Translations are less easy to forgive. Some item descriptions read like they’re directly from Google Translate.  Lines of dialogue are handled better, but there’s still the occasional odd phrase. When looking at an item at a shop, the main character says it’s interesting. “Interesting enough to be interested?” The shopkeeper asks.

It kind of scans – I know what it should be, at least. But it doesn’t entirely feel right.

I didn’t find there was much to get in the way of my actual enjoyment but I frequently saw translation issues like this. How much they bother you will depend on how easily you can fall out a game.

Graphics and Sound

A few years ago I’d have called Xuan Yuan Sword 7 a very pretty game. It still has its moments, no doubt. But it’s already been replaced by bigger teams, better tech and beefier budgets.

Ghost of Tsushima, which I guess is weirdly its closest comparison, looks much better along a similar theme. It’s partly that the textures just aren’t as good as they need to be, or that foliage looks jaggy. It’s nice enough, but every gorgeous moment is met by a come down, I found.

You won’t be disappointed by the graphics here and, in fact, given the stature of this title I think it’s probably above expectations. But you also have to be realistic, and this just isn’t one to show your friends.

Sounds is good. I like most the music, although occasionally during battles you’ll get weird songs combining that classical east Asian sound with, for want of a better word, noise.

Voice work is good. There’s not much more to say on that. It’s not as over-the-top of some games of this type, but it’s hard to categorise it beyond that. For the most part I enjoyed it, with only the occasional voice sticking out to me as off.

Xuan Yuan Sword 7 Review – Conclusion

Xuan Yuan Sword 7 was never destined to be at the top of its genre, but there are very few games that can boast that.

What it does is modest but fun. It’s not always perfect, but it doesn’t need to be. In fact, its imperfections remind us that not every game needs to be a huge insane blockbuster to be worth playing.

If you love Chinese history or mythology, or if you just enjoy a good action RPG, then you could do much worse than Xuan Yuann Sword 7.

 

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blank Mat Growcott has been a long-time member of the gaming press. He's written two books and a web series, and doesn't have nearly enough time to play the games he writes about.

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