[PS Vita Review] Stranger of Sword City
Stranger of Sword City is the story of a regular person who ends up in a faraway mystical land after your flight crashes as it passes through a magical portal. The strange land is called Escarioâ€¦ the city of swords. What is this place? How did you end up there? Is it realâ€¦ or is it all a dream youâ€™re having as you lay on the ground injured into in a comma? Letâ€™s find out!
Your flight crashes after passing through a mysterious portal. As the sole survivor, you awaken to an unfamiliar land lit by stars youâ€™ve never seen. This land is Escario, the city of swords. Quickly marked as the Chosen One, the Stranger of Sword City, you must defend this place, and choose your allegiances carefully as you scour this land for a way home.
This title is, at its core, a game about death and fighting against vanishing forever. You will discover new meaning in the choices you make to survive against all odds. You will define yourself by the lives of those you leave behind, by the people you align yourself with, and the experiences you have on each new venture into the dark labyrinths that threaten to trap you.
After you put on some moldy clothes you found inside of a treasure chest, the game allows you to choose the look of the character youâ€™re creating, out of a total of 79 very different and charming options (this does not affect gameplay, but is certainly a nice touch), and it then prompts you to choose your sex before getting down and dirty with the heavy part of character creation. Youâ€™ll get to decide your characterâ€™s age, which affects the Maximum Life Points and minimum Bonus Points you get while also affecting revive and recuperate time â€“ so yes, the older you are, the more fragile youâ€™ll be. If you select 10 to 19 years of age, youâ€™ll get three max Life Points and a minimum of three Bonus Points. But if you go for a character between 20 and 59 years of age, youâ€™ll get two max Life Points and a minimum of seven bonus Points. If you go for a character that is 60 years of age or older (up to 99 years of age), youâ€™ll get one max Life Points and a minimum of ten Bonus Points. As you can see, the older you are, the fewer Life Points youâ€™ll have but the more potential bonus Points youâ€™ll get, so choose wisely!
But the fun doesnâ€™t stop there, because after youâ€™re done with that, youâ€™ll get to select your characterâ€™s race. You can go with Human (all-around balanced class), Elf (less strength but more intelligence), Dwarf (more strength and vitality, but less intelligence, agility and luck), Miamy (low strength and vitality, high piety and luck) or Ney (high strength and agility, low intelligence and piety). yYouâ€™ll only be able to select a race that goes hand-in-hand with the look youâ€™ve selected for your character two steps back, so if you decide you donâ€™t want to play the available race granted by your look, then nowâ€™s the time to go back and change your selection!
Next up is talent, but right now your only option is selecting â€œChosen Oneâ€ (spoilers!). Then youâ€™ll get to roll for your Bonus Points, and yes, you can keep rerolling over and over again until youâ€™re satisfied with the outcome (I settled for a solid eight Bonus Points). As expected, the next step is to distribute the Bonus Points into one of the six attributes at your disposal: Strength will increase the power of physical attacks, Intelligence will increase the effect of magic and MP, Piety will increase the effect of light magic and MP, Vitality will increase your defense and HP, Agility will increase accuracy, evasion and initiative, and Luck, well, Luck affects many categories, so you never know how lucky you really are until you are!
Another major thing to do is selecting your classâ€¦ and damn, is it a hard one! You can select between Fighter (close combat and heavily armed), Knight (heavily armored to protect allies), Samurai (speedy and deadly), Wizard (offense and support magic), Cleric (healer who can equip blunt weapons), Ranger (weak but agile), Ninja (for experts only), and Dancer (sing and dance your worries away!).
After all that planning, youâ€™ll select the voice youâ€™ll hear when your character attacks, is damaged or dies, and you can select between male and female options, regardless of the sex you selected for your character. Once thatâ€™s done, you get to pick your characterâ€™s name, as well as a nickname.
And now you are ready for an adventure! An enigmatic elder man will claim you are a Stranger, and that you, therefore, possess extraordinary abilities in this world. This, he says, must be the reason why your flight was targeted after it entered the magical portal, so you must escape from your current location before it is too late. This being a dungeon crawler, youâ€™ll see things from a first person view, filling up your map with every step you take, every move you make. Things are off to a slow start because you wonâ€™t even enter a fight in Stranger of Sword City until after youâ€™ve spent around 15-20 minutes with the game. But once you do get into that first fight, youâ€™ll see how the game values your time. You see, after you select the actions youâ€™ll take in a round, the game allows you to apply the actions, fast apply them, or cancel. The first and third options are easy to understand, but itâ€™s the second one that will save you a ton of time. If you select fast apply, all actions, be that from friend or foe, take place in a second. Thatâ€™s right, in a second. That means you donâ€™t have to wait for â€œX targeted Y with Potion! Y has recoveredâ€ or â€œY attacks Z with Short Sword! 2 hits! Z received 35 damage!â€ at all. Everything takes place in a blink, and youâ€™re ready for the next round.
Something that is very important in Stranger of Sword City is finding ambush zones. Ambush zones are special locations where you can, well, ambush enemies that carry chests of loot. You’ll use morale points to hide, and will be given a chance to refuse to fight the monsters to show up (hoping to get a different group soon). Once you start the fight, you better be ready for some hard-hitting action, because the monsters you ambush are more powerful than the regular foes you find in each dungeon. You also need to be quick or else the monster carrying the chest will escape, and you’ll need to once again try an ambush to have a shot at securing that loot. Unfortunately, trying to ambush a second time will cost 20 morale, so you’ll first need to improve your total morale pool (or leave a dungeon and return) before you can try it again.
You’ll spend most of your time out in the field investigating new locations as you search for Lineage Types, special monsters that carry crystals created by their blood. Said blood crystals are powerful items, and you’ll be tasked with deciding which one of the three leaders in the game should get each crystal you collect. Will you keep everything in balance by equally allocating them, or will you decided to side with one particular faction in its rise to power?
There’s plenty to do in Stranger in Sword City, and I find myself playing for 20-30 minutes every day as I inch closer to defeating a tricky Lineage type, finding new gear to identify as I defeat the enemies that always present a challenge, no matter how properly prepared you think you are. One group of enemies can completely destroy your group in a couple of turns if you’re not careful, so always make sure that each of your team members has a specific role to play during each battle.
[review pros=”Fast-paced dungeon crawler
Lots of customization options
Solid challenge” cons=”Might be too hard for some” score=82]