By William Haderlie / June 27th, 2016
|Title||Stranger of Sword City|
|Release Date||June 6, 2016|
|Genre||Dungeon Crawler Role Playing Game|
|Age Rating||ESRB – Teen|
As anyone who is a fan of the genre knows, or has read my reviews, there has been quite a Renaissance in the dungeon crawler RPG genre lately. While there have been a few notable examples from the West, such as Legend of Grimlock or Severed, most of the ones that I consider new classics come from Japan. Some of my particular favorites in the past few years are Dungeon Travelers 2, Demon Gaze, and the entire Etrian Odyssey series. So, this new title published by NIS certainly has its work cut out for it if it wants to impress me. This was once a neglected genre, and now it is one of the most popular game types around, especially on Steam and the beloved PS Vita. So the primary question of the review is, will it stand out in the crowd?
The first thing you’ll notice about the game, other than its beautiful art style, is that this story is set in a very interesting world. It’s seemingly an alternate dimension where all the common fantasy world tropes and all of the steampunk or technomancer tropes all exist at the same time. The Strangers are people who enter this world from our normal dimension and are given fairly extreme powers as a result. Think of the way that Superman gets his powers because his body is constructed for a different solar system. In addition, some rare Strangers can also be a Chosen One, which means that you can pick up the destroyed Blood Crystals from enemies and give them to Vessels to grow their power. Vessels are the leaders of the three factions in the world. Effectively they represent Good, Evil, and Neutral. Your plane crash landed in this world and you were apparently the only survivor. After you wake up, you are given the chance to create your character.
To Dungeons & Dragons veterans, the character creation menu will be largely familiar. You are given the choice of your Portrait, Gender, Age, Race, (starting) Job, Perk, Name, and you dice roll for stat point distribution. Your gender does not affect anything, likewise with looks and name, but some of the other ones are a bit different. Race affects your starting stats, as happens in most RPGs, but an interesting new mechanic is the effect your Age has here. The higher your Age, the more Stat points you can have to distribute. However, it comes at a great cost, because you have lower Life Points available. Life Points can go up to 3, and you will lose one every time you die. If all your Life Points go away, that character will totally disappear and you will lose them forever. This is only the first of many hardcore mechanics about this game.
I also specified that it was only your starting Job. One of my minor complaints about this game is that it doesn’t do a good job of explaining some of the more esoteric systems. It tells you that you can change Jobs, but it doesn’t explain how it works or how important it is. If you are going to beat this game on anything but Beginner, you will need to change your jobs several times to pick up a variety of skills, and even on Beginner it is still very difficult to do without that. But the game never really tells you how important this is. Also, there are some interesting quirks to this class change system. You’ll notice in the above screenshot that the character has been a Wizard twice. When I changed jobs back to Wizard, I did not pick up where I left off. That has two repercussions. The first is that going back still counts as one of your six available class changes. And the second is that the level you are placed at is always half of your current level. So, if I changed back to Wizard from a Level 13 Dancer, instead of going to Level 14, I would have only been Level 6. So, you need to be wise about using it, but use it you should.
Another thing they don’t make totally clear, but you will quickly discover, is that you need a lot more than six party members. Your leader is the only one that you can never change out, the others you will likely have to do so frequently. When a character dies, they lose a Life Point, but you also don’t have any spells that can revive, and items that do so are extremely rare and extremely valuable. So you have to take them back to the guild hospital. There they will have to rest in bed until they revive. The standard is about four game days’ worth of time. The only way to pass that time is to fight battles. So, if you don’t want to be nerfed in your battles and struggle with them, you need to bring in a replacement. Thankfully, by creating new characters in standby, they will earn about half of the experience that your other characters do in battle. So, they will slowly be gaining levels, as well, and you won’t have to take a Level 1 character out to battle as a replacement. You could immediately resurrect that character, but that costs an insane amount of money; far more than I could ever afford. You can also gain back a life point by resting that character, but that takes even longer than resurrection does. One other bonus to creating a whole stable of characters is that they are training while in standby, and they earn a small amount of money each. That can add up to a decent stipend with every character slot filled. So, do yourself a favor and immediately fill every character slot when you get to the Strangers Guild.
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