Let me begin by alienating the vast majority of readers by referring to Sword and Fairy: Together Forever via song, in the style of Jason Donovan and Kylie Minogue’s classic, Especially For You. Together… Forever… I wanna show you… Ok, with only the middle-aged readers left, let me save you a bit of hassle, here are a few points to consider before you purchase:
- Sword and Fairy: Together Forever is very much like Xuan-Yuan Sword 7. If you like that, you’ll enjoy this.
- Though it is technically an action RPG, it’s comparable to a third-person walking simulator: there is a lot of dialogue, cutscenes, backtracking and exploration.
- If narrative-driven games are your thing, you’ll be pleased to know the story is very good, if a little scatty in places.
- Combat is satisfying in an arcade sense, and there are difficulty settings to accompany it.
- The presentation is fantastic, and the soundtrack is wonderful, but let me stress again that there is a lot of dialogue.
Sword and Fairy: Together Forever is a Chinese fantasy story that has an abundance of lore, characters and scenarios to grasp. The skinny, without much in the way of spoilers, is the land is split between various (magical) sects. The main two, Tianshi and Mingshu, have a rivalry of sorts. You play primarily as Yue Qingshu, the granddaughter of Mingshu sect’s leader, and a pure archetype – everyone loves her.
After a chance encounter with a deity named Xiu Wu (I think I’ve already cocked up on the terminology), the two are joined together through symbiosis, setting out on an adventure to bring balance to the force, bring the Heaven Demons to justice (erradicating them), and saving The Golden Child – nothing to do with Eddie Murphy or Charles Dance. Sword and Fairy: Together Forever could be a daunting series to get into as it’s well over 27 years-old, however, the storytelling is very thorough both in dialogue and through the archives you unlock during your travels.
I do hope you enjoy stories as this is a big one. Considering the age of the franchise, it’s reasonable to throw in some lengthy exposition, but it’s done in a way where you get started with the mechanics almost immediately, but the dialogue is thick and fast and will frequently interrupt play even as you progress. As I frequently bang on about, I love cutscenes, but they’re quite excessive in Sword and Fairy: Together Forever and, hands up, I skipped a handful. It’s worth noting that the action in the game takes a backseat, so when you do start fighting, it’s almost a bit of a surprise.
Combat is straightforward enough; real-time, a light and heavy attack and spell wheel accessed via the shoulder buttons. Using Xuan-Yuan Sword 7 as a comparison, the action is fast. Stringing attacks together is effortless, plus the AI of your party of four is reliable; casting spells and buffs on the fly. Not a fan of Quingshu? You can switch between players during the battle, choosing from Wu (a tank), a ranged option and mage. Despite the ease of the controls, the boss battles can offer a massive challenge, so you might find yourself lowering the difficulty on some if you struggle. *holds head in shame*.
One of the frustrating things about Sword and Fairy: Together Forever, albeit trivial, is the ‘buffer memory’ of your preferences. Though you can choose a leader, they will often default to someone else in your party. It can be corrected in the menu, but sometimes you get locked into an undesirable. Some events require specific characters, so make sure you level everyone through their weapons (which can be enhanced), apparel and accessories. XP is automatic, so don’t worry about that. You can get some alternative costumes, but for some reason they don’t show in the cutscenes. Xuan-Yuan Sword 7 did it – ner ner ner ner ner.
While on the topic of Eastasiasoft’s other title (Sword and Fairy: Together Forever is developed by Softstar), unless you understand Chinese, subtitles are essential, so it’s imperative you wait for the conversations to end before wandering off. Yes, objectives are clear, but the story here is much more engaging, as is Qingshu and her relationship with the spirits. These can be summoned and levelled up manually with spirit fruit. Her starting companion, Qiaoling, also morphs into a giant owl and enables fast travel (an absolute must in this game). You can also unlock some badass summons in the way of deities.
Sword and Fairy: Together Forever is epic. The storytelling is brilliant, the visuals are great, but I have to say that the soundtrack throughout is absolutely stellar – it may be your next go-to chill/study playlist. There were quite a few technical hiccups throughout – nothing game-breaking, but out of sync scenes, artefacts on screen and one restart in my playthrough. There have been two updates since receiving the code, which corrected a lot of these.
My biggest criticism, for the purposes of recommendation, is the deluge of text. Those thirsty for action may be somewhat disappointed as it’s more to do with the exploration and storytelling. Like Yakuza, the cutscenes are very frequent, arguably disruptive. They can be skipped, but you’d be missing out on one of the best features of this game. Overall, I’d say go for Xuan-Yuan Sword 7 if you want the action, Sword and Fairy: Together Forever for the storytelling and characters. Or, treat yourself and get both.