Stranger of Sword City (PS Vita) Review

By Sandy Kirchner-Wilson 13.04.2016

Review for Stranger of Sword City on PS Vita

First-person dungeon crawlers are one of those staples of gaming - something that has always existed and has always been fairly popular. Experience Inc. brings its new game Stranger of Sword City to the West this month, under publisher NIS America. Its art and initial description are enough alone to grab anyone's attention and get dungeon crawler fans interested, but how good is it in practice?

The sole survivor of a plane crash, you wake up in a bizarre world full of monsters with no one to help you but a crooked old man. This world is called Escario. Stranger of Sword City is one of those games that has a great retro feel, yet it retains a modern era clarity where it knows what is wanted from a dungeon crawler: devilish difficulty, amazing art and micromanagement out the butt. The first thing that happens in the game is the character creation, which is deep and a lot more varied than expected.

Every character in the main party can be custom built right from the end of the first tutorial. It has options for name, age, gender, artwork, class and stats. These options are settable for every character, meaning it is well worth thinking about it thoroughly and creating a diverse team with tanks, healers, attack mages, etc. The party is built up of the usual three in front and three behind, with tanks up top and non-combat characters in the back. Each party member also has a limited amount of revivals from death - usually around three - meaning they can die permanently. This perma-death adds another layer of tension to the party management, and places emphasis on exploring carefully and saving up for good weapons and armour.

The battles all play out in a first-person perspective, with detailed, yet flat, enemy sprites lined up to help make clear their position in the front and back rows. The usual array of options is there: attack, defend, spells, items, and so on. Each enemy has elemental weaknesses to take into account, so having mages on hand is advisable. It's also a good idea to use their skills, such as the holy weapon, which, like Dragon's Dogma's flame weapons, gives each party member an elemental boost for a few turns. The battles are devilishly difficult at times, so it is tempting to rely on the auto battle/fast apply action, which repeats the last command sequence - but be warned: the game isn't scared to rub your face in it and destroy very quickly.

Screenshot for Stranger of Sword City on PS Vita

Strangers are people who have come from other worlds to Escario; they are hired to complete dangerous jobs due to their extra strength and abilities. The strangers are less affected by gravity and thus are able to carry much heavier equipment and move faster, making them genuinely favourable as mercenaries. The job of the strangers' guild, which the player joins by default, is to hunt for blood stones. These can be donated to one of three vessels for extra lineage powers unique to the main character. The first of which is a quick escape power that allows a rapid retreat from most battles, but costs morale points. Blood stones are collected by defeating lineage types, and these enemies have buffs, like infinite reinforcements, which force you to act with a modicum of care. This isn't a game that can be rushed in any way.

Presentation is fantastic. Right from the off, there are two art styles to choose from: the older more dark and detailed art from the original Xbox 360 release, or the lighter much more anime style visuals of the new version. I preferred the more unique original art style, as it seemed to fit much more consistently with the environment and seriousness of the story. The other style is also great, but it takes away from the experience with how much the characters clashed with the backgrounds due to their new younger more colourful, kind of flat look. The environments are all squared off due to the exploration taking place on a grid, but they all feel decidedly unique, and the map layouts are memorable to the extent where the map isn't always necessary.

The story really takes a backseat to the gameplay, but not so much that it vanishes like a lot of modern games (looking at you, The Phantom Pain). It is the over arc that keeps the game's pacing up and gives players a reason to keep at it. Each big event presents a new piece of amazing, yet static, art work, which really sets the scene, and when combined with the music, it can really induce some heart pumping moments.

Screenshot for Stranger of Sword City on PS Vita

Cubed3 Rating

8/10
Rated 8 out of 10

Great - Silver Award

Rated 8 out of 10

This is a fantastic game, even for someone yet to try their hand in the dungeon crawling genre. The characters, atmosphere, soundtrack and gameplay create an amazingly immersive environment (especially with headphones on). The fact that it can be played portable on the PS Vita is something that really helps boost its fun factor, as it is also the best way to play many visual novel games. Stranger of Sword City is a great production that is well worth the investment of both money and time from those who are willing to give it a shot.

Developer

Experience

Publisher

NIS America

Genre

Turn Based RPG

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  8/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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