Wandering Sword by The Swordman Studio
Wandering Sword is a tactical turn-based RPG set in a world inspired by ancient China. Wrapped in the wuxia genre’s many tropes and traditions, Wandering Sword follows the journey of a young warrior as he learns the secrets of martial arts and navigates a violent world of rival factions and gangs.
Featuring a beautiful pixel art aesthetic that echoes the style of Octopath Traveler, Wandering Sword offers a wide and stunning world to explore.
Wandering into Trouble
The narrative of Wandering Sword opens with a band of travelers making their way through a dangerous region. The travelers find themselves between two of many conflicting factions.
The situation turns hostile, and as the fighting breaks out, our protagonist, Yuwen Yi, is severely injured. Spirited away from the battle, he finds himself in the care of a powerful martial arts practitioner who sets about healing him of the poison left in his body and teaching him martial arts in the process.
I found this segment of the game very efficient at combining a gentle introduction with something of a tutorial for several of the game’s systems. Tutorial information is stored for later access in a simple guide, ensuring that it’s not possible to miss anything important. This is fortunate, as there is quite a lot going on here, and it’s easy to get lost in a sea of technical terms.
The Warrior’s Journey
The battle system itself is quick to learn and tough to master. Each character has access to an assortment of attacks – more on this later – and each move affects a certain number of squares in a grid around them.
Attacks from behind or to the side of a character will do extra damage, and many moves have cooldowns or mana costs restricting their use. All said, it’s fairly intuitive and satisfying, but the abilities themselves, coupled with the leveling system, offer a bit more technical challenge.
The skills available to a character are dependant on a couple of interacting factors: the weapons they wield and the arts they have learned.
Weapons are linked to different abilities and these abilities must, in turn, be unlocked via skill books or other means before being leveled up with martial points.
An important set of skills, independent from weapons, are “cultivation” skills; these provide an assortment of support abilities and, when leveled up, provide meridian points which are used to unlock passive bonuses to base stats.
There’s a lot to take in, and at first, it can be tricky to be sure that points are going to the right skills, but with a little time, things start to make sense.
Making Friends and Influencing People
Outside of combat, Wandering Sword offers a massive, explorable world full of side-quests and fun characters to meet. Most NPCs have an affinity meter that gauges their opinion of Yiwan Yi; many can be recruited into the party if their affinity gets high enough, while most can be dueled after a certain point as well.
The most direct way of raising a character’s affinity is to gift them items that they want. I made it my business to befriend the local blacksmith early on in my adventure, but his taste for increasingly rare and valuable ores soon proved to be an obstacle in my quest, so he had to wait.
The aesthetics of Wandering Sword are one of its greatest strengths; the environments are beautiful, and the pixel art style never fails to give the many characters personality. This is all backed up by a gentle and absorbing soundtrack that oozes wuxia vibes.
If there’s anywhere that the aesthetic feels a little less polished, it’s in the battle scenes; I’ve always found grid-based tactical RPGs a little ugly to look at, and while this is among the most pleasing I’ve seen, the combat here still doesn’t look as stylish as a more traditional RPG.
Wandering Sword is a sweeping story packed with wuxia action and martial arts-themed quests. Its leveling system can be a tad fiddly at first, but there is a deep RPG experience to be had here and the world is beautiful to explore.
Anyone looking for a rich adventure that evokes the feel of classic Chinese action films will find an adventure worthy of their time in Wandering Sword.
Wandering Sword is available via Steam.
Check out the official trailer for Wandering Sword below: