Writing about games does have its disadvantages, but it also has its advantages: I don’t have to pronounce Xuan Yuan Sword 7. Actually, I’ve perfected the 7.

Out today, on the PlayStation 4 (and Xbox One) from Eastasiasoft, this is the first time the series, running for over 30 years in the East, has been released for Western audiences. Featuring the original Chinese audio track, it’s supported by English, French, German, Spanish and Russian subtitles.

Fusing ancient Chinese traditions, we encounter nods to the nation’s illustrious history, philosophies and mysticism – notably the Mohists, whose origins stem back over 2000 years ago around the same time as Confucianism and Taoism.

Xuan Yuan Sword 7 PS4 Review

You play the righteous, and perhaps a little naive, Taishi Zhao. Born into a family of high standing, tragedy strikes as a child when he’s forced to flee his home with his baby sister, Taishi Xiang, under his protection. Fast forward 13 years, and he’s in the same position, as Xiang is a sickly child that needs regular medicine.

Xuan Yuan Sword 7 PS5 Review - Cutie E
Cutie E. Source: Screen capture

With a rise in deadly beasts in the region, Zhao is hired as a competent hunter to investigate. When he returns home, he finds his sister mortally wounded by a dark entity. Equipped with the Elysium Scroll, he seeks the help of King Jipeng, where they have to separate Xiang’s spirit from her body, eventually uniting the two with magic once they find the solution.

Despite this, Xiang accompanies Zhao on his quest and serves as a supporting party member. You can’t control her or give commands, but you can invest in the gear she wears, as well as your own, through the Buildings of Elysium. More on that later.

The Wise Man Is One Who Knows What He Does Not Know

Xuan Yuan Sword 7 is an action RPG with real-time combat. Early feels were ‘Shenmue meets Dark Souls‘, but it’s probably closer to Shenmue 2 for the narrative and the Uncharted series for its storytelling techniques. Minus the setpieces. The actual combat is basic but enjoyable.

The moveset includes a light and heavy attack, evade, special move, support powers from your party members, and your own ability; the Elysium Scroll, which briefly pauses time. Xuan Yuan Sword 7 is a bit of a button masher as there are no complicated combos, but Zhao can employ several stances that change the attack style, and each has a special move once you master the skill through practice (a.k.a. killing enemies).

Combat by default is very easy. Not once was I defeated by the standard enemies – not through skill, but the difficulty. Bosses, however, are slightly unfair and would often get the final hit at the last hurdle. Health potions can be equipped, but they’re pretty inefficient as if you’re hit with a debuff like bleed or burn, your potions can barely counter that, so you’ll die and have to retry. The problem with retrying rather than a save point is you can’t experiment with your stances from the pause menu. Save often; you’ve been warned.

Xuan Yuan Sword 7 PS5 Review - Pearl necklace
Pearl necklace. Source: Screen capture

The setting in Xuan Yuan Sword 7 is beautiful. I typically play all PS4 games through the PS5 now, and if it weren’t for the slow loading times, I’d have forgotten it was PS4 and said it was a next-gen release. Some of the facial animations were a bit sketchy at times, and there was the occasional ‘dead inside’ expression.

A Good Traveler Has No Fixed Plans And Is Not Intent On Arriving

The score throughout is beautiful, and Shenmue 2 fans will perhaps feel a bit of nostalgia with it. This applies to the voice talent, too – Xuan Yuan Sword 7’s story is one of its biggest appeals, and as a standalone, you need not play the other games to appreciate it. That said, while the voice acting was great, it was also perhaps the biggest issue.

Not knowing any Chinese, I played with subtitles, but conversations would occur while travelling on foot and were often interrupted by combat, or perhaps I was concentrating on my actions. My complaint is it’s easy to miss dialogue, and while there’s a journal with character, places and monster entries, there are no conversation logs. 

To reiterate, the story here is great. As a gameplay experience, Xuan Yuan Sword 7 is mostly on rails as it’s obvious what route you need to take to your objective and locating any ‘hidden’ objects is pretty straightforward.

Xuan Yuan Sword 7 PS5 Review - Male escort
Male escort. Source: Screen capture

What Is Firmly Rooted Cannot Be Pulled Out

Taking on side quests is a different matter as it’s very much a fetch quest of going back and forth that it’s the polar opposite of the dungeons you explore in the main quest or behemoth battles. The upside is they’re optional, but they also award XP, coins and ingredients – essential in an action RPG to boost your stats.

Coming back to the Buildings of Elysium, you have to hunt down the required ingredients to upgrade these stations and craft the items they produce. Options include improved weapons, armour, harnesses that serve as buffs, accessory slots and a fusion station for experimenting with ingredients to make new items.

As an action RPG, Xuan Yuan Sword 7 may be perceived as a bit light, and while there aren’t that many hours required for the main story, completing the side quests and farming the ingredients to upgrade your gear, and hunting down the mythic monsters that grant new stances, are all incentives to keep playing.

Xuan Yuan Sword 7 PS5 Review - Stones
Stones. Source: Screen capture

Combat, as mentioned, is pretty simple outside of the sometimes frustrating boss battles, but it’s very satisfying if you up the difficulty for the bulk of the game. The puzzles in the game were spot-on. They were never too hard but required a bit of time to complete, slowing down the otherwise excellent tempo.

He Who Knows Does Not Speak. He Who Speaks Does Not Know

But the biggest deal here is the story and interactions with the characters. Initially, I was a bit dismissive of the frequent fade to blacks and cutscenes. As a big fan of cutscenes, even my patience was pushed in the first hour, but I was eventually looking forward to them as the story progressed, getting to the point where I cared about the characters and their plight.

If this has been the guinea pig determining how Western audiences respond to Xuan Yuan Sword 7 and the franchise in general, I hope it exceeds the predictions, and we see more entries. Maybe we will see remasters of the earlier games as we saw with Yakuza. As a Japanophile (don’t misread that), it’s refreshing to be able to play a historical piece that isn’t a samurai vehicle and believe me, I can’t get enough of them either. 

Xuan Yuan Sword 7 is excellent and highly recommended if you want a game that feels epic with its storytelling, scenarios and action, without costing you 100s of hours of playtime.