Estimated reading time: 7 minutes
Picking back up from last week with our Saviors of Sapphire Wings review, we are back with the other half of the recently released dual titled dungeon crawling package. Back again to make even the most hardcore fans cry with its permadeath systems is Experience Inc. and NISA’s Stranger of Sword City – Revisited.
Now, I’ve got history with this title. Originally reviewing Stranger of Sword City for the Xbox One over at DigitallyDownloaded while visiting Robert and Nick down in the States, I was immediately sucked into this visually hybrid experience. Blending both a more gothic style with bright colored anime portraits for your characters, the environments followed the same suite in a bizarre world existing outside of our own. Being the sole survivor of a plane crash and finding yourself now able to do so much more, you get to hire a few cohorts to help you hunt down monsters for their blood crystals on behalf of several factions. Being on vacation and outside of my own country just really helped me to sink into it as I had none of the standard day to day distractions.
Fast forward just a bit and Stranger of Sword City released for the PlayStation Vita and what was a tough-ish experience suddenly became brutal. Dying, aka full party wipe-outs, in the first dungeon was the norm as apparently the Xbox version was toned down. The rest of the experience was still solid but you had to pay twice as much attention to not find yourself losing out on a fair amount of dungeon crawling progress and acquired loot.
Stranger of Sword City – Revisited continues this trend as I’m not even ashamed to say I wiped out in the first dungeon for another time. Not even once either. Multiple. Times. Some enemies such as skeleton captains can literally one shot any of your crew if they are lucky enough to land those hits and they often do. So because of this, unlike a lot of others in the genre, you almost have to play over cautiously and head back to town even if you aren’t even ready to. This factor alone leads into the two other major aspects that this hardcore experience has in store for you.
Working on the concept of age, the older your character is the more bonus stat points they received, but, the less life points they’ll have. Life points, unlike hit points, are the amount of times your character can die before being permanently dead. Young characters have a total of three life points, middle-aged characters have two, and old characters only have one. only having one Life Point means that if a character dies in battle and they aren’t resurrected on the next actual turn they are gone. All the experience they have acquired, all their gear, poof. Queue waterworks.
So it’s generally in your best interest to have a younger set of characters unless you really know how to design a character with a single life point. and in my case if you use a dwarf and set them as a cleric and keep them in the back row and basically make them a tank, they’re generally the last person to die so if they are dying then it’s already game over. for characters with more than one life point however you’ll be finding yourself having to go back to town in order to swap out for another set of adventurers all the current ones heal up.
This is perhaps the second feature of Stranger of Sword City and now Stranger of Sword City – Revisited that can really either slow down progress or potentially even turn some players away. It’s really not an easy adventure and unlike a lot of dungeon crawlers you actually need to have two or three sets of adventurers ready to go at any moment in time. For adventurers with three life points, it’s easy enough to go back to town, resurrect them and head back out. But after a second time, they’ll need days worth of in game time in order to heal up and not permanently die on you the next time out. So you see where issues can lay with characters that have less than three ans why it’s so important to keep multiple groups going.
Now setting all of the Doom and gloom aside there’s an incredible dungeon crawling experience to be found here. Characters can be customized both visually and statistically allowing you to create variance within each type. Dungeons from the starting tutorials into the much later ones all have interesting layouts that require a fair amount of time to go through. These dungeon’s sizes both allow for an easy rotation of multiple parties even if it does slow down the overall progress.
Now whether or not you decide to keep one singular party and just waste the days while people are in recovery or have multiple “emergency backups”, the loot system is both easy to use and easy to use to your advantage. Located around each map are small rooms that once discovered can be used to hide and ambush enemy convoys. These convoys can range and strength and size as well as the type of loot that they’re carrying allowing you to decide whether or not it’s worth it to attack. The longer you wait to attack however and the more likely you are to be discovered so it’s never a bad idea to attack regardless on the early turns if only to have the element of surprise.
To perform these ambushes you’ll first need to ensure that your group’s moral is high enough to do this action. Starting off with a modest amount of only ten points, your initial ambushes will cost five. This number really isn’t bad as moral increases over the course of battle as long as you don’t die of course. From here you can either choose to ambush again in the same location or go pick another location that hasn’t been used yet. The difference between these two actions is that to perform an ambush in the same location it will require more morale points. So the initial cost of five points would cost you eight and keep increasing every time you do it.
Well potentially a little harder to pull off in the beginning it won’t take long until you’re able to pull off subsequent ambushes in order to rake in all that loot. If points are a particular issue though you can always return to town and once you’ve left the dungeon the morale cost per ambush will reset back to its initial value. It may not be the most ideal if you’re on a roll, BUT, it could also be a safe bet to heal up, gear up and save before a potential wipeout.
On a final note, Stranger of Sword City – Revisited is not simply a port from the PlayStation Vita version. Along for the ride are the following new features that exist part of the package with Saviors of Sapphire Wings: new classes, challenges, mechanics and dungeons in order to draw back in even the most hardened of souls. It also helps that the revamp can both be handled like the Vita or on a larger screen like the Xbox One or PlayStation TV that had a short shelf life.
All in all, adventurers both new and old should find plenty of hardcore dungeon crawling action to love within Stranger of Sword City – Revisited. Even if it’s a lot tougher than most in its genre because of its permadeath, that’s simply part of the charm and frustration to this challenge!Score: 8.5 / 10