Sword and Fairy 7 by Softstar Technology
Though lockdown began for most of us in March 2020, I wonder if it didn’t happen for the good people at Softstar around 2006, so anachronistic are some of the systems, vibes, and tech issues at play in Sword and Fairy 7.
Flawed Fairy Tale
With regular pop-in, rough textures, stilted facial animations, uneven collision detection, buggy draw distance, occasional scene clipping, audio blips, infrequent QTEs (!), and chronic load times, this Chinese RPG – on PS4, at least – presents like an early PS3 game.
But this is a good game. It all depends on whether a few key ingredients will please your palette or not.
The strengths of Sword and Fairy 7 lie in its world, its characters, and its story. And despite the technical problems – which do become forgivable and negligible as the journey deepens – it is a gorgeous world, stunningly designed, with a memorable and truly excellent instrumental soundtrack.
More potential drawbacks: this is NOT an open-world game. It has a few pre-Witcher/Skyrim-level side quests here and there, but none rise above fetching something, and all that I tried failed to prove a good use of my time, as rewards are shallow. Early on, I gave up on them, having, as they do, a very limited ambition.
This game requires patience and investment. It is a slow burn with no English dub, only subtitles, that occasionally suffer from wonky localization. Again, these are, overall, quibbles from me. There are a lot of scenes with characters standing around talking, which means a lot of reading for the player. Times crop up frequently where I fast-travel to a place, speak to someone and simply fast-travel somewhere else. There can be long stretches of just walking to and from story scenes with no action. This game unquestionably is very niche in a lot of ways. (And the insanely tiny font, is another baffling choice.)
Combat is something of another Achilles heel. The systems are not especially interesting and there are no skill trees, just improved weapons and powers to swap in and out for the most part. Whether melee or magic, everything feels a bit floaty, a little unresponsive, and lacks real feedback. Being able to switch between four different combatants on the fly allows for some variety, but everything’s really chaotic, making the action hard to discern sometimes, and there’s no strategy to change up your characters. Cooking special meals allows for some pre-fight buffs, but fire monsters aren’t weak to ice, for example. It’s just spam or be spammed.
Now, it might seem that I’m ragging on Sword & Fairy but again with all its faults, the group of characters and the story they live through are where the meat of the pie is.
A Tale Worth Reading
I won’t say more than this tale is JRPG style from a Chinese perspective, so the ridiculously-dressed characters are noble even in their evil-doing: temperate, naive, caring, and almost painfully earnest. Needless to say, a terrible fate awaits the world if our four heroes don’t prevent it, and with humans and demons and gods all jockeying for war and peace and control and harmony, this is the type of high fantasy that the West just doesn’t do but gobbles up with big spoons.
Yue, Yo, Bo, and Xiu Wu are a disparate band of decent people (and a fallen deity), all with strong backgrounds that are revealed with good pacing and varying motivations that tie together nicely throughout, knitting the group over time into a tight unit that become easy to care for, as they work almost like a team of detectives to uncover the mystery and save the day. This is standard stuff on paper, but in execution, it is thoughtful and highly effective because of thorough world-building, careful – if long-winded – writing, and decent voice acting, all of which help to overcome the glassy-eyed faces with poor lip-syncing.
At times, our heroes split up and set about discovering pertinent things simultaneously, and all characters are playable at some point outside of combat, which lends itself to some different gameplay types (such as sneaking, platforming, and snowboarding sections), as well as a good collection of light puzzles here and there that are just the right level of difficulty to be satisfying.
Sword and Fairy 7: Together Forever, catchy title notwithstanding, is a 20-or-so-hour epic game that I recommend to those who will let charm supersede nit-picking and who are interested in a linear, story-heavy, dialogue-fat fantasy with a very Chinese bent that overflows with heart and falls short in some aspects, particularly technically and in combat. All shortcomings, in my opinion, cannot prevent an enjoyable journey through an authentic world.
Sword and Fairy 7 is available via the Sony PlayStation Store and Steam.
Watch the trailer for Sword and Fairy 7 below: