Stranger of Sword City, an aesthetically pleasing little Dungeon Crawler developed by Experience inc who have developed rather similar Dungeon crawlers in the past, most notably Demon Gaze. Releasing back in 2014, it has taken almost 2 years for this game to make it to English speaker’s hands, moving from the Xbox 360 and PC to Ps Vita and Xbone. This review is based on the Ps Vita version of the game.
There isn’t too much of a build up before the game begins, besides scenes of a Plane and its eventual crash, leaving you to awaken among its wreckage with an Old Man close by to help you. You’re given a small assortment of items to protect yourself from the monsters that plague this land as it seems drastically different then the real world. Shortly after it is shown that the Old Man wasn’t on your side and a “Stranger” has to come by and help you to defeat some rather large monsters.
This Stranger will take you to Sword City, the main hub of the game, as well as telling you that you have landed in a completely new world, separate from the real world. People who fall into this world are called “Strangers” who are quite a bit stronger then the denizens of this land due to it having lower gravity… because you’re Superman? Forming into a Guild the Strangers protect the people of this land, all the while trying to return home.
You are soon given your main task, to defeat the Lineage type monsters who are much stronger than the average enemy. Once those are defeated you can collect the Crystals they leave behind, entrusting them to one of the 3 Chosen ones situated in different parts of the world, once they are given a crystal both you and the person you choose grow in power. Hopefully through this you will be able to gain enough power to travel back to Earth.
To complete the main game it can take upwards of 60 hours, depending on difficulty, as you will need to grind for levels and obtain better equipment to even stand a chance of surviving more than 10 battles outside of the city. There is a long list of optional Lineage types you can hunt down, alongside some neat little quests that go along with them, either buying a certain item or meeting a requirement to make them attack you.
Following the old but gold gameplay style of Turn-Based-Combat, Stranger keeps in the first person grid based movement style of yesteryear. You move from one square to the other by using the directional buttons, or hopping to the sides with the trigger buttons, with an optional auto-move by using the map. While in battle you will have your characters lined on the bottom of the screen with pictures of your enemies taking up the middle.
Finding its home more on a handheld console this game is pretty straightforward and doesn’t rely on 3D or cinematics at all, showing mostly still images for conversations or slightly moving images for battle. It might look boring at times but you’re more focused on the numbers then the graphics most of the time. For new age gamers they might be deterred from the lack of control you have, being forced into single directions, clicking buttons and clicking an enemy and so forth.
The game gives you a standard set of characters to add to your 6 person party, as well as allowing you to make a character from scratch, their race, class, age and ability point distribution. Making your own characters is vastly better when you have the gear to suit them up, with the ability to boost their one stat to almost 30 at level 1 with the correct set up, leagues above the 10-15 of the already made characters. Strength for melee and intellect for casters there are plenty of other stats for you to increase but they don’t matter too much in early levels, levelling gives you enough points to balance the books when you need more health for later on.
Going for a hybrid system of Fire Emblem, Stranger gives each of your characters a Life level, ranging from 1 to 3 hearts. If they reach 0 that character disappears, lowering each time they are defeated in combat. It is possible to recover these hearts but it will take quite a few battles for them to recover back at base. Revival also takes quite some time, leaving you to fight in dungeons with lower level characters waiting for your A-Team to be ready again.
Overall Thoughts and Feelings
Souls fans rejoice, this game is hard, really hard, on top of being unforgiving. If you decide that normal is the way you want to go, have fun grinding for hours on end to keep up with the enemies, easy mode isn’t too much better but at least you will see some story progression within 4 hours. Enemies take huge leaps in terms of damage dealt and health, even within the same dungeon, sometimes being able to one shot even your tankiest of characters. A knight at 22 Vitality and some good armour, you thought that was good for early game? You must be a jester. It can be a fresh of new air to find a RPG that is actually challenging for once but this might take it a step too far, having to grind in the very first dungeon can be off putting for quite a few gamers.
The music and graphical design can be rather niche here, I wasn’t too fond of either to be honest with the soundtrack falling into the background as I cried over my dead Priest. The art style can be changed between “Realistic” and “Anime” but there isn’t too much of a jump between the two, Realistic reminded me more of Dark Souls so I kept with that for most of it. Since most images are static it can get boring to look at after a while, especially when there are no English voices to listen to.
Overall Stranger of Sword City gets a 7/10, the story is quite boring, you’re in a new world fight to get out, with the length being strung out by the difficulty of the encounters. You can make specialist characters but until they hit level 5-10 they are just like everyone else, even stats are hard to min-max due to the damage enemies can dish out. The style is a nice change from other games and it tries to reinvent the old gameplay styles of old by combining it with newer age ideas and mechanics but it leaves a weird taste in your mouth. The early game is quite bad when compared with later parts due to how much you can unlock later on.