In Wandering Sword, explore a world filled with bustling ancient Chinese towns, scenic mountains, picturesque rivers, dangerous lairs and more
Product Brand: The Swordman Studio
Product Currency: USD
Product Price: $24.99
Product In-Stock: InStock
I still remember the summer holidays when I used to watch the Chinese martial arts movies dubbed in Hindi. Movies like Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon have been etched into my mind. Little did I know that there’s an entire genre of such movies—Wuxia, where martial arts warriors can perform superhuman feats. I am not really a fan of the genre, but there was something in Wandering Sword that evoked a sense of nostalgia? Was it because it reminded me of Octopath Traveller and old Final Fantasy games? Or was its character design? Anyway, all I can say is that I hugely underestimated this game!
Wandering Sword is a Chinese martial-arts RPG which puts you on a perilous path of becoming China’s greatest martial arts hero. Developed by The Swordman Studio and published by Spiral Up Games, Wandering Sword was release in September 2023.
War… Has Changed!
When I said I underestimated Wandering Sword, my first delusion was related to the plot; I thought it would be some chosen one good guy-evil guy trope that we’ve seen in countless Chinese games. But boy, was I surprised! Within minutes the plot will hit you like a hammer and in fact you’ll feel like you’re actually watching a Wuxia TV series!
The game begins in a war-torn land where you and your party of four are escorting a VIP. Suddenly you’re caught up between strife between two factions. Your wagon is ambushed, and you are severely damage. The VIP turns out to be a martial master and takes you to a nearby town for you to recuperate. And all this happens within the first fifteen minutes! Wandering Sword starts a bit slow since you’re recuperating while training your mind and body under the tutelage of your healer, who clearly seems to be carrying a huge emotional baggage (he’s got a bad drinking habit). The way things unfold, you’ll find yourself rooting for HD 2D sprites as you get embroiled in a highly intricate plot of politics, betrayal, loyalty and love involving multiple factions with varying motivations and connections!
Heck, even the side-quests took me by surprise! By the time I had joined the Wudang Sect (Sect of the good guys, trust me), I was approached by a senior member of the Liushan School (detectives on government’s payroll) to assist in an investigation. What started out as a generic Assassin’s Creed style investigation soon unfolded into a completely separate adventure with its plot twists! If you’re a hardcore RPG fan or have played games like Divinity and Baldur’s Gate, you’ll know what I’m talking about. It’s when the side quests outshine the main quest as you dive deeper and deeper into the subplots.
What, you thought that’s it? Let me tell you about the companion quests, which are different from your average side quests. Some of these personal side stories have such levels of polish that you might feel teary-eyed. I’m talking about Yakuza: LAD level substories showcased in the form of pixel sprites. When you’re limited by technology, your main weapon to evoke an emotional response from players is by its plot. Oh, and this goes without saying that you’ll be rewarded well for completing them. However, first you need to earn their trust, after which they will agree to spar you which when they enter your party. Wandering Sword is a Wuxia RPG through and through!
Octopath Traveller Lite
Wandering Sword is more like a textbook RPG rather than a modern RPG. For starters there are numbers like HP, MP, ATK Points, MOV points etc., and a lot of upgrades! First is your Weapon Mastery Points, which affects the damage to the weapon and is the pre-requisite to learn certain special moves. Then it’s the Martial Arts points, the XP which you earn every time you go into battle. The more the numbers in the party deployed into battle, the fewer the XP you earn. These Martial Arts can be used in the Cultivation Menu to upgrade your character’s attacks. Then comes the Meridian Points, which you earn by upgrading your Cultivation. Meridian points increase base stats like strength, agility, evasion and critical hit percentage etc. I like the way, the Meridian screen is presented, in the form of acupuncture points where you ‘strike’ a certain point to enhance yourself.
As for the main combat, it is the in the form of square tiles where attacks from the sides and rear (when the enemy has his back turned towards you) wields the maximum damage. However, my only gripe is, despite how great the narrative is, the base combat mechanics leaves room to desire. It is…quite easy I would say, where the only tactics that you’ll need is move to the side to exploit the enemy’s weakness. True, you’ll have to think in what sequence you need to attack and how to chain your combos, but after having played so many RPGs, the combat of Wandering Sword doesn’t hold my attention for long. Good thing, the combat doesn’t drag on as later you can switch it to real time mode where every cute miniature sprite just moves and attacks in a flurry of attacks. It’s more chaotic and reminded me of Dragon Age: Inquisition minus the time pausing mechanics.
Besides the combat there are some aspects of ‘life-sim’ mechanics like Fishing, Cooking, Tailoring, Alchemy etc. via which you’ll get to know many NPCs. Since Wandering Sword was designed with Chinese audiences as its core fan base, many of the translation to English won’t be 100% accurate. Not to mention, I gave up remembering the non-quest centric NPC names. However, one thing I remember is how immensely huge the overworld is! Not kidding, I legit had an Elden Ring moment accidentally. Similar to Elden Ring when I was transported to the endgame level right from the beginning only to realize how huge the map is, in Wandering Sword my cursor accidentally got stuck on the edge of the screen and the map just went scrolling on and on and on! The landscapes vary from bustling cities and green pastures to blistering deserts and snowcapped mountains. And it’s very warming to see colorful, cute little sprites running on an HD 2D map.
The 2D World of Ancient China
The visual department is the de facto USP of Wandering Sword. I was skeptical that whether the game would be able to live up to the visuals of Octopath Traveller since it pioneered in blending 2D sprites within 3D backdrops, but Wandering Sword does wallow in Octopath Traveller‘s success. It merely borrows its visual style, but has enough polish to set itself apart. The world looks beautiful and in fact right from the start when you wake up after getting rescued, the town you spend some time was so aesthetic and so rich in flora and fauna, I legit wanted to live there (isekai moment).
As for the soundtrack, they are pleasant and just serviceable. I personally am not a fan of Chinese ambient music, but some may find it soothing and therapeutic.
And as for the performance issues, there is only one major gripe is that manual saving sometimes work, sometimes it doesn’t. Maybe the devs will fix this issue soon, as their discord channel is quite active.
Among all the AAA blockbusters of Q2 and Q3, Wandering Sword was released, sandwiched between Armored Core 6 and Baldur’s Gate 3. However, it is slowly garnering attention from hardcore RPG fans. With a well-thought-out narrative, it might even hold a newcomer’s attention, but the plot takes some time to get into gear. That and the nigh easy combat might put many off if they are looking for a challenge. Despite these issues, Wandering Sword is a must-play entry in every RPG lover’s book.
Final Rating: 80/100
Wander Sword ReviewWander Sword Review
- Great plot
- Incredible visuals
- Combat is rarely challenging
- Slow campaign progression