Review: Stranger of Sword City (PlayStation Vita)

Stranger of Sword City: Official GBAtemp Review

PlayStation Vita 2,979 views 3 likes 5 comments
Reviewed by Prans Dunn, posted Apr 11, 2016, last updated Apr 11, 2016
Apr 11, 2016
  • Release Date (NA): April 26, 2016
  • Release Date (EU): April 26, 2016
  • Release Date (JP): January 22, 2015
  • Publisher: NIS America, Inc.
  • Developer: EXPERIENCE, Inc.
  • Genres: Dungeon RPG
  • Also For: Xbox One
  • Single player
    Local Multiplayer
    Online Multiplayer
    Co-operative
Plane crashed and stranded on a peculiar land with monsters, sounds familiar? Yes! This is indeed the setting of Stranger of Sword City, released for the Xbox One last month, and soon available for the PSVita. It’s a dungeon RPG that brings a fresh addition to the platform.
Prans Dunn

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The Game

Following a plane crash, you find yourself stranded on a peculiar land. As you look around the ruins you’re in, you meet a surprised elderly man who guides you out… only to come face-to-face with a giant wyvern and a snake-like monster! It’s a trap!

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But in the blink of an eye one of the wyvern’s necks is slashed clean by a girl called Rui who chases off the old man. She briefly explains that like you, she got stranded on this land called Escario, the city of swords and here you are called “Strangers”. She then guides you to the Stranger Base for further explanations.

It all boils down to this: make yourself at home and team up with the Strangers Guild to protect the city of swords, where the average human stranded there can wield more power and become a mighty city-defending hero

Stranger of Sword City offers several features that makes it a unique and captivating experience. From customization, story telling and gameplay, your memories of the game could almost trick you into thinking you’ve experienced an interactive novel.

Customize, with care!

Regarding customization, the game surely doesn’t fall short. Right from the start you get to customize your character’s avatar, race, class and even voice from the vast choices made available. However, these are just related to aesthetic since these choices won’t affect the gameplay. Another nice customization that the game offers is the choice of changing the NPC art, which basically modifies the look of the whole game since you’re interacting with NPCs the whole time (and the title screen art changes accordingly too!). Although being solely aesthetic, these customization possibilities are a nice addition.

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However, your character’s age has some direct influence on his performance. Younger characters heal quicker but older ones come with more experience. You’d better create your character carefully for the best balance.

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A game or an interactive novel?

As I wrote earlier, you could easily relate this game to an interactive novel, which makes it a beautiful experience. Sure there’s not many cutscenes and the NPCs don’t show much motion but the narration is done in an engaging way, partly narrative, partly descriptive, setting the mood and leaving room for your imagination to picture the scenes. The soundtrack also perfectly help to set the mood in the various situations you find yourself in. However being heavily dependent on narration might not be to the taste of everyone and if you’d rather get into action a.s.a.p, then you’re in for a wait and might get irritated quite often. Definitely not for casual or quick playing or you’ll miss the game’s core experience.

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However, the labyrinths are not too varied, with repetitive textures and few variations between maps. Although the characters' and creatures’ art is unique the environment does not compliment it. Being the only hands-on part of the game, it does not make for a visually appealing experience.

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Crawling through the Gameplay

Concerning the gameplay, other than interacting with the other characters during the narrative parts, it revolves around exploring unmapped labyrinths in a dungeon crawler mechanic to face off boss creatures (Lineages), collect blood crystals and unlock abilities. As you advance in a labyrinth, it gets mapped automatically and you encounter creatures which you can evade but some are mandatory to face with your guild. The latter has to be strategically built and the members positioned depending on their abilities and class for the turn-based combats.

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As you win battles, your guild members level up, learn new abilities and you may even acquire additional items, all for strengthening your team. Getting used to the gameplay might be challenging, especially at the beginning as you get to learn that you can’t carry on slashing your way through monsters to level up, grab loot and still have enough HP/MP for the current quest. A lot of times running from random encounters is decisively helpful. And with the perma-death feature, you’ll have to be ever more careful about your choices and compromise. You can still revive characters but it will take time (time passes as you win battles) or a ridiculous amount of money. The game definitely lives up to the traditional challenge expected from dungeon crawlers.

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Verdict
Pros
+ Fresh addition to dungeon crawler genre
+ Engaging narration
+ Challenging labyrinths, requiring planning and strategy
+ Wide range of customization
Cons
- Lack of varied environment textures
- Depends heavily on narration, which can feel to long at times
7 Presentation
The game sets the mood with its unique and beautiful art style and soundtrack. However the labyrinths could be made more varied to make for a more visually appealing experience.
8 Gameplay
The game relies on the story and navigating through the labyrinths to complete given tasks. Simple and effective, which the game masters, although it might not be to the the taste of everyone.
7 Lasting Appeal
The labyrinths are challenging and require proper planning to complete. This is experienced even at the first "training" session, which could however be a turn-off for some.
8
out of 10
Overall (not an average)
Stranger of Sword City comes as fresh dungeon RPG with a captivating story and challenging labyrinths that will get you hooked from the start. Although not perfect, it offers a highly recommended experience.
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