Also on: PC, PS4
Developer: Softstar Entertainment/DOMO Studio
Xuan Yuan Sword 7 has an interesting background. It?s the 13th entry in a long-running Chinese RPG franchise that stretches back more than 30 years. As someone who had never heard of it prior to playing this game, that kind of longevity is both impressive and intriguing.
Unfortunately, the background is literally the only thing about Xuan Yuan Sword 7 that could be described as interesting, impressive, or intriguing. In almost all other respects, it?s painfully dull and incredibly generic.
Part of this, admittedly, may be that I didn?t have any background context for why I should care about any of these characters — and notwithstanding the fact this is a 20+ hour RPG featuring all kinds of hack & slash action, it?s very much built around telling a quiet story about family during a tumultuous period in Chinese history. Consequently, for every trek across a valley where you kill direwolf after direwolf, there are just as many lengthy cutscenes featuring the hero of the story, Taishi Zhao, talking about saving the sister that he?s literally just rescued from death, as well as saving all the villages he comes across during his travels. I?m not saying it?s impossible to jump into this story without any background, but I definitely found it a challenge to focus on those long, subtitled cutscenes.
Even if I did care about them, though, there?d still be the problem that Xuan Yuan Sword 7 isn?t particularly interesting to play. While the game gives you the illusion that it?s set in a vast, sprawling world, the fact is, you spend the entire time walking on a very linear path, going from one cutscene-spawning marker to the next. There?s nothing here to explore, and the world through which you?re walking seems totally unlived in. Even the villages you come across seem kind of dead (and not just because they?ve usually been victimized by murderous monsters): apart from the one person in town you need to talk to, no one else even acknowledges your existence. You can walk in between them and around them, and they never waver from their tasks. It makes the world feel totally flat.
It also doesn?t help that the combat is totally uninspired. For the most part, you?re just hacking and slashing away at everything in your path, with the odd block coming in handy when you reach the boss fights. There?s a stamina metre that serves no purpose, since it barely ever even budges and you can hack and slash to your heart?s content. There are also references to absorbing spirits and all kinds of levelling up, but the game hardly pauses to explain any of these systems — but given how far you can get with nothing but hacking and slashing, they don?t seem all that necessary, either.
Maybe I?m being unduly harsh on Xuan Yuan Sword 7. Maybe I?m missing out on all kinds of intricacies and Easter eggs because I never played any of the dozen other games in the series. It?s quite possible that all my issues with this game would?ve been resolved if I?d just played Xuan Yuan Sword 6.
But frankly, I doubt it. Xuan Yuan Sword 7 is a dull, uninspired action RPG that never rises above mediocrity, and unless you really want to waste 20+ hours on something that?s totally generic, I don?t see why you?d want to bother.
Eastasiasoft provided us with a Xuan Yuan Sword 7 Xbox One code for review purposes.