It goes without saying that there are just far too many video games coming out right now; new games seem to be launching on a daily basis. But despite there being no shortage of titles available, what’s amazing is how games have always been produced from nearly all corners of the globe, yet only recently some of them have started to reach a global audience. Xuan Yuan Sword has been part of Chinese pop culture for nearly three decades now. Originally launching as a PC action role playing game in the early 1990s, it soon spawned into a franchise which saw several sequels, spin-off games, and related media such as a television series and more. Xuan Yuan Sword 7 lands on Xbox, and yes, the 7 in the title does indeed mean it is the seventh entry in the mainline series.
It probably would have helped if the international title had dropped the number “7” and instead just called it Xuan Yuan Sword with or without some subtitle, but regardless, this is a standalone adventure which does not require prior knowledge of the franchise. The game is an action-adventure RPG, and the best comparison to make here is in the The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt. Within moments of starting up you’ll be amazed at how polished and big budget everything feels, and it only becomes more grandiose from thereon.
Xuan Yuan Sword presents an incredibly rich game world, one which fuses Chinese history with Chinese mythology to create a setting, cast and lore that is grounded yet fantastical. The narrative style and flow are almost akin to timeless folklore, and after seeing so many worlds and settings based on Western and mostly Japanese fantasy themes, Xuan Yuan provides something genuinely novel; fascinating to those willing to brave into this world. The game is worth experiencing just for its unique setting and premise alone.
Situated within this rich backdrop is a fascinating tale of two siblings who are survivors of fallen nobility, with the elder brother Taishi Zhao taking on hunts to help support his younger sibling with the medicine she needs. At the start of the game, he is approached by the royal military in what seems like a good pay day, until things take a freakish and tragic turn as a demonic entity inflicts a mortal wound on his sister. Upon bringing her to a demi-god, our hero embarks on an adventure alongside the soul of his sister. What starts out as a personal objective for Taishi turns into something much more as he finds himself in the middle of a battle far greater than himself. This is something Xuan Yuan Sword 7 does so eloquently, as it organically builds its world, lore, and set pieces, captivating the player’s interest right from the get go building up to epic moments.
Bringing everything to life is a highly polished and detailed graphics engine, one sporting excellent texture mapping and stunning lighting effects. Granted, we are at the cusp of some serious X|S optimised titles, but Xuan Yuan Sword 7 fuses its solid graphical engine with its exceptional artistic style to create something which will hold anyone’s awe. The production values feel lavish too, with detailed character designs expertly voiced in Chinese language. The authenticity of it all shines through the presentation, even in the game’s inspiring soundtrack which contains oriental rhythms and arrangements.
As an action role playing game, Xuan Yuan Sword 7 takes after The Witcher 3 in its combat approach and it works beautifully. Our hero is nimble and versatile, and it’s immediately a joy to slash into enemies. He’s got more than his fair share of tricks and spells up his sleeve too, and all the different techniques and systems blend seamlessly with the character upgrade system. The enemy variety stays fresh with some truly epic boss encounters against mythological icons from Chinese folklore.
Beyond the combat there is plenty to explore and discover in the game’s interactive environments. It’s especially cool to walk into the bustling villages and towns just to enjoy all the attention to detail.
The game world is vast, with a great deal of variety in the areas to explore as you traverse outdoor areas and even dungeon settings. Most of it is combat heavy, but there is a fair bit of adventuring and climbing to do here. Thankfully, the vast map is connected via several fast travel and save points, and beyond just battling and adventuring there are other distractions too; most notable being Zhulou Chess, which surprisingly is a completely original table top game not based on any real-world variation of chess. Although it does borrow some conventions from ancient Chinese chess, this original table-top game is well worth learning and diving into, as you search for worthy players all over the game world. For some, this may be where they burn several hours.
The core combat comes with a fluid combination and attack system, allowing you to also be able to dodge and block. All these different actions are quite smooth, and it’s possible to change your approach on the fly as the actions transition into each other smoothly as per player input. There are layers of depth to the gameplay as our hero learns new skills and abilities, such as new combat stances. There are magic abilities to learn as well, primarily one which involves slowing down time.
Various workshops and workstations pop up all over the game map to allow you to upgrade your equipment, and while you battle a range of foes, you’re also able to draw upon their spirit to fuse enhancements. Speaking of spirits, while Taishi’s younger sister may be a spectre for most of the adventure, she is also able to assist in the offensive flurry with some explosive martial arts of her own.
Xuan Yuan Sword 7 on Xbox is a uniquely special action role playing game which sweeps players into a fascinating setting; one that fuses ancient Chinese history with folklore. The game world is presented in stunning detail, and the world building feels organic and captivating. It also helps that this is an entertaining game to pick up and play, with rich environments to explore and a great deal of enjoyable variety in the gameplay. There may be some big graphical hitters releasing in 2021, but you’re not likely to find a genuinely novel RPG quite like this one.
You can pick up Xuan Yuan Sword 7 from the Xbox Store