Your plane has crash landed in a mysterious land. No other survivors can be found, and you need to make your way to safety. That “safety” will lead you on a dangerous quest across the land in search of a way to get home.
Stranger of Sword City is an extremely difficult dungeon crawler RPG, and is from the same folks that brought out Operation Abyss: New Tokyo Legacy and Demon’s Gaze. After creating your character, you will be launched into an unknown world that is filled with powerful creatures called Lineage Types. Your goal as the newest Chosen One to arrive in the land is to slay these Lineage Types and collect the Blood Crystals that they carry. You must then return these crystals to one of the three vessels that oversee the land in order to gain new powers.
Hunting down these Lineage Types will be your goal for a good majority of the game. Doing this task will not be easy though, and you will need to prepare to die a lot in order to complete it. Each time you unlock a new area you will receive a fresh list of Lineage Types to hunt down.
While hunting down these Lineage Types will be your primary goal, what you’ll end up spending most of the game doing is grinding out experience and equipment. Regardless of what difficulty you are on this game is absolutely brutal. Dying isn’t a simple matter of just tossing a revive item on a party member either. While there are some revivification items in the game, the primary method of reviving is bringing them back to the Stranger Base and having them rest for a certain period of time (or by paying for it, more on this later).
You aren’t done once you revive them either – each character has a resource called Life Points, and if they run out of these they will be gone forever (your first character can never run out of points). “Fortunately” you can also spend time or money to revive these. Pretty quickly in the game I ended up just trying to make sure no one in my party ever died and just resetting the game if they did.
Money is a fickle thing in Stranger of Sword City. When you first start out, you will see all of these nice, handy items in the shop and just think, “I really can’t afford this.” Getting money is tough too since encounters are fairly stingy on actually giving it to you. Once you do get the money to afford what is in the shop… it turns out you already have better gear. When it comes to reviving, you will almost never have enough to actually pay to revive your characters, let alone enough to afford recovering a life point.
When you first start Stranger, you’ll be able to make your character as one of a bunch of classes. Once you get into town you will be giving a group of 6 starting characters. Beyond this, if you want any additional characters it will be up to you to make them. I quickly replaced the starting dancer and fighter I received with an archer and samurai (both extremely useful jobs).
One extremely handy thing for you to do with your characters is to class change them, but there are definitely some things you need to keep in mind with this. First, you can only change one character’s class a total of 5 times. Second, it costs a bit of money to change (it really isn’t much). Third, your level will be half of what you left off at and you will gain no additional skill points until you are back at whatever level you changed at. Fourth, your character WILL continue to receive HP and MP (if applicable) upgrades as they level up. Finally, you can use some skills from whatever class(es) you had before, which will truly let you power up your characters.
Each time a character levels up they will gain some HP and MP (if applicable), as well as a stat point. In your initial creation of a character you will be able to get them some amount of skill points based off of how old they are – the older they are, the more points they get, BUT the less life points they will have. These points can be used to level up stats such as Strength, Piety, Intelligence, and so on. Each stat is useful in it’s own way, but you will need to be a bit mindful of how you level, especially when you start class changing and can’t get more points until you’re back to where you were. While focusing on stats such as STR and VIT for your melee characters is very useful, sometimes you will come across equipment that will require them to have a certain amount of some other stat in order to equip it.
Equipment in Stranger is primarily obtained through doing Ambushes. Get ready to do a lot of ambushing, since between how much you need to level and how much gear you need to get, you’ll be fighting a lot. Gear definitely goes a lot further than levels do for powering up. When you go to ambush, you will need to find specific parts on the maps to do so. Ambush zones will be indicated with yellowish squares on the map should one of your characters identify that there is an ambush zone there.
To trigger an ambush, you will need Morale points. These are earned by turning in Blood Crystals to the different vessels and getting additional Divinity skills (the defensive ones are extremely useful). Once you’re in an ambush, you will be greeted with a group of enemies and a treasure chest. The type of treasure chest (Wooden, Metal, Silver, Gold) will indicate how strong the equipment within is, with the best pieces being located in Gold chests. There will also be an icon on this chest that indicates what type of equipment is in that chest, and each area will have specific types of equipment you can find in them.
As I mentioned, turning in Blood Crystals will grant you access to Divinity skills. These skills are generally extremely useful, particularly the defensive ones. I was almost always turning on Holy Light (heal a percentage of your HP based on the level of the skill), and in most boss fights I was also using things such as Black Wall and Sword Bond. Divinity skills are definitely not something to overlook if you want to be successful in your time playing Stranger.
For those who previously played Operation Abyss and/or Demon Gaze, you will probably recognize almost all of the sound effects in this game. I definitely did within about 10 minutes of playing the game. It is a bit disappointing that there wasn’t much in terms of new sound effects. I definitely heard that door noise far too many times in Operation Abyss and am a bit sick of it.
While Stranger of Sword City is challenging, it is an enjoyable type of challenging. Even though I had to go back and grind (a lot), I really did enjoy my time with Stranger. I do wish that there had been more original music, but that is really my only complaint about the title. If you’re in the market for a difficult dungeon crawler on the Vita (compatible with PSTV), then definitely be sure to check out Stranger of Sword City!
Stranger of Sword City Review Score
Stranger of Sword City is available now on PSN (Vita), XBox One, and Amazon. The game will be available on Steam this June.
I would like to thank NIS America for providing me with a copy of the game on Vita for review purposes.