Stranger of Sword City (PC) Review

By Athanasios 03.07.2016

Review for Stranger of Sword City on PC

Most videogame genres tend to have a Western and an Eastern face; extremely evident in the realm of role-playing games and its many sub-categories. Take dungeon crawlers (DRPGs), for example: the West is all about Dungeons & Dragons, with simple, yet immersive, plots, while the East is usually more flamboyant, with super sexy characters, complex storylines, and over-the-top battles… in other words, an anime turned into an RPG. Unfortunately, each side also tends to repeat certain mistakes; the West a lack of originality, the East a heavy emphasis on grinding. Do the flaws surpass the good stuff in the PC port of Experience Inc.'s successful Stranger of Sword City?

Remember Demon Gaze? It was a good Japanese DRPG, very simple in its mechanics, and, thus, extremely accessible for beginners… but maybe a bit too simple for its own good, and, secondly, ridden with all the stuff that usually comes along with the vast majority of Japanese games: tons of fan-service, lots of predictability, and an overabundance in clichés.

Stranger of Sword City is more like a fusion of Western and Eastern DRPGs, although it still has a clear Japanese "feel" to it, mainly due the generic manga-esque dialogue, Japanese-only voice-overs, and overall design of characters (schoolgirls with a swords and iron gauntlets, anyone?). Story-wise, the player takes the role of a so-called 'Stranger' - a person who has somehow entered the magical realm of Escario through the "real world." Soon after doing so, the protagonist meets other Strangers who explain that they are all much stronger here, and have become some sort of heroes whose main mission seems to be the hunting of the dangerous Lineage monsters.

Screenshot for Stranger of Sword City on PC

Unfortunately, not only is the story somewhat boring due to characters that are impossible to connect to and who usually just serve as talking interfaces, or predictable twists and tons of anime-inspired clichés. It also takes a major backseat, with the vast majority of the time being spent in dungeon crawling. Of course, this being a DRPG, that's only natural, but it would be much better if there was a reason to do so. At least, is the gameplay portion any good? Sadly, it is barely decent.

Stranger of Sword City doesn't really bring anything new to the scene. It's a basic grid-based, first-person dungeon crawler, with movement confined to the four directions, typical turn-based battles, traps that must be disarmed, treasures waiting to be discovered, and so on. The only "innovation" here is that the party can hide in some specific locations and ambush the enemy, getting a nice shiny new item upon completion.

Screenshot for Stranger of Sword City on PC

A lot of time can be spent in creating a team of six adventurers (or more for back-up). Besides being able to choose a portrait amongst many (with two distinctive styles - one fitting the game, the second one a bit too cute, colourful, and flat), it is also possible to import a custom one, although it will need some Photoshop work on it. Other than that, sex, age, class, voice, and talent can be chosen, plus, of course, a bonus points to attributes addition.

It turns out, however, that the most important stat here is age, since it affects Life and bonus points, with young people having more LP but less bonus points to assign to their initial attributes, while older folk have less LP and more bonus points. What do LP do? Well, instead of just hospitalising or using a revive item for dead heroes, this title uses a semi-permadeath system, where dying spends a LP. Lose all and the Level 20 Wizard goes bye-bye! If a character has some LP left, then it's possible to get him/her to rest and restore that lost life.

Screenshot for Stranger of Sword City on PC

The problems start with this system's implementation. For starters, creating very old characters is a great risk because one death means that they are gone forever, and the fact that they get more points in the beginning doesn't really help much when frequently meeting overpowered, boss-like enemies in dungeons, or even simpler critters that can one-shot those with low vitality. The alternative is to have all characters have more than one LP, and putting them to rest in order to restore any lost ones, which, unfortunatel,y takes way, way too much time.

The main problem, though, is the fact that, while this high level of challenge forces the player to use everything at hand to survive, the main strategy here seems to once again be grinding, and while this isn't a term that is a stranger to the genre, way too much of it is needed here. This is evident in how even the first and tiny dungeon needs at least five levels before trying out the boss - five levels that take too long to reach, and, like most grind-heavy titles, this doesn't make things harder, just very, very repetitive and boring.

Screenshot for Stranger of Sword City on PC

Cubed3 Rating

4/10
Rated 4 out of 10

Subpar

The few good bits of Stranger of Sword City, like its immersive atmosphere and beautiful 2D art, amongst others, get drowned in a sea of problems. Besides the typical shoddy work that accompanies most console-to-PC ports (lame UI and controls), this dungeon crawler has a disappointingly unimpressive plot for its, otherwise, great setting, a very slow pace due to a heavy emphasis in grinding, and a very bad use of a permadeath system of sorts, with hours of work lost just because "a wild wyvern appeared!" and one-shot a few worthless heroes.

Developer

Experience

Publisher

NIS America

Genre

Turn Based RPG

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  4/10

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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