Xuan-Yuan Sword 7 Review

It is interesting to come across a long running series that I’ve never heard of before. Xuan-Yuan Sword 7 is a Taiwanese developed game whose legacy dates back to 1990. It is only the second game in the franchise to be released in English and, if Xbox Tavern is to be believed, Xuan-Yuan: The Gate of Firmament was a bad start to Western releases.  

The good news is that Xuan-Yuan Sword 7 is a marked step up in quality from the last English entry, and knowledge of previous entries is not required to enjoy it.

Whereas the previous games in the series were RPGs in the vein of Final Fantasy, Xuan-Yuan 7 is an action RPG most like Onimusha.

Played in third-person with a free roaming camera, the player controls Taishi Zhao, the son of a diplomat, now a swordsman living in obscurity with his sister Xiang. Zhao comes out of hiding after the village he lives in is attacked by monsters, and soon enough he finds himself embroiled in an adventure involving conflict between warring factions, plague outbreaks, and political finagling.  

The combat itself does not have the depth of a character action – there is a light and heavy attack, a stance modifier and special moves – but everything is useful in fighting the various monsters and soldiers Zhao encounters.

The game feeds abilities through conventional levelling, a crafting, and a soul fusion system. The latter is done by stealing the souls of various opponents and combining them with other items to provide passive buffs, or other items. There is an elaborate upgrade system and harvesting all the crafting items and souls will take some time and focus. There was a level of satisfaction to having crafted two abilities that allowed my character to regenerate health upon receiving fire and bleed damage and making certain encounters inconsequential.

Going off Xbox Tavern’s review of the last game in this series, the two major complaints were that it was visually disappointing and that the translation undermined the work put into the story. Xuan-Yuan 7 has gone to great lengths to address both.

From a visual perspective, the main character, his companions, and most of the big antagonists have a ton of detail. A lot of work has gone into movement and animations – the little flourishes Zhao gives every time he vaults onto a high platform shows care and attention. Some of the backgrounds aren’t as clean to look at and many of the ancillary characters are cookie cutter – but nothing that I think would ruin anyone’s enjoyment (except for those people – you know who they are).

At the time of this article, the game is fully voiced in Chinese with English subtitles. Although not perfect the English here does a very good job. The mood is clearly conveyed in the broad strokes of political intrigue, in the casual villager comments that appear above their heads as the protagonist walks through populated areas, or the neat campfire chats that can be triggered at most save points. The game made me want to look up the Chinese mythology and history that some of the game is based on.

My only real complaint is that the combat that threads all the good parts of Xuan-Yuan 7 is merely competent. At no point did I feel like I had truly mastered it, or that there was anything to master. A number of boss fights were me quaffing health potions and picking the right moments to rain sword slices down on them. I was never bored, and that was enough, but it would be hard for me to endorse this game for those that are craving evolved fighting.  

Xuan-Yuan Sword 7 is very competently made and offers an interesting insight into its topic matter. This is a must for anyone who is curious to check out a hitherto unknown game and looking for a good time. For those who are fans of this game series, I would love to hear how this pivot away from RPG has fared in their eyes.

Conclusion

Xuan-Yuan Sword 7 is a curious and fun insight into a franchise that hasn’t seen much air outside of China. Solid combat, with detailed upgrade systems, underpins a compelling story.

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This game was reviewed based on Xbox One review code, using an Xbox One console. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version. Game provided by publisher.
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Good
  • A heart felt story with twists and turns
  • Combat although not complex is satisfying
  • Made me have warm feelings about Onimusha
Bad
  • Platforming feels pointless
  • Some upgrade paths seem fruitless
7.5
Good
Gameplay - 7.5
Graphics - 7.5
Audio - 7
Longevity - 8
Written by
AJ Small is a games industry veteran, starting in QA back in 2004. He currently walks the earth in search of the tastiest/seediest drinking holes as part of his attempt to tell every single person on the planet that Speedball 2 and The Chaos Engine are the greatest games ever made. He can be found on twitter (@badgercommander), where he welcomes screenshots of Dreamcast games and talk about Mindjack, just don’t mention that one time he was in Canada.

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