23.07.2024

Wandering Sword REVIEW. A pixelated tour of martial arts culture.

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Inspired by various elements of Chinese culture, Wandering Sword is a tactical role-playing game created by The Swordman Studio. Controlling a young swordsman, Yuwen Yi, we will explore a wide variety of locations and fight dangerous factions seeking control of the region, while mastering a wide variety of martial arts to combat them.

  • Developer: The Swordman Studio
  • Publisher: Spiral Up Games
  • Release Date: September 15, 2023

After the fall of the Ning Dynasty, all local lands suffered from numerous internal and external conflicts, resulting in a huge bloodbath across the country. In the Outer Lands region, the Tianlong Gang took a chance and allied with foreigners to increase their power and influence in order to dominate the Central Plains region.

At this point, we are introduced to Yumen Yi and her friends Jiang Cheng and Li Qiuyue. These three are responsible for escorting Qingxiu, the master of Wudang, through the Outer Lands. Along the way, they find themselves at the center of a conflict between two gangs and are attacked as they try to escape. Cheng and Li die on the spot, while Yi is left lying there suffering from the effects of a powerful poison.

A month passes and Yi wakes up in the village of Wutong on the Central Plains. The young man has been rescued by Qingxiu and is under the care of Jiang Yinfeng and his daughter Jiang Xiaotong. There, the protagonist manages to suppress the effects of the poison and is trained in martial arts by Yinfeng. His goal now is to avenge the death of his friends.

In the middle of the process, Yinfeng dies and his daughter is kidnapped by an unknown woman. Yi takes it upon himself to rescue his former master’s daughter and sets out on a journey through hostile territory to put an end to those who made him suffer once and for all.

Wandering Sword has a compelling story based on Chinese culture, mainly based on martial arts. On our journey we visit places such as mountains, forests, caves, temples and villages with unique architecture and customs, and encounter many mercenaries and wild animals.

The pixelated 2D graphics provide a huge level of immersion through very well designed artwork, lighting system and camera play. The soundtrack emphasizes this feeling with instrumental music accompanying the simplicity and dangers of peasant life.

The game is structured in the form of main missions that define the main plot and secondary missions that we use to obtain resources such as money, weapons and new allies. They usually involve defeating a specific enemy, collecting information or items. These missions are not very diverse, but they do not become a nuisance during the campaign.

One of the best features of Wandering Sword is the combat system. It has a tactical RPG structure where the battlefield is divided into a grid and we have the freedom to move our group members within a certain range. Similarly, our attacks also have different ranges.

The dynamics of combat vary depending on the martial arts we are learning. During our training, we have to choose between styles with swords, sabers, concealed weapons, sticks or freehand. However, throughout the adventure we can specialize in each of them by training with new equipment.

For example, using hands or swords, we need to get closer to our opponents to make an attack. Similarly, with sticks we have a greater range and we can hit them from a greater distance. Creating a group of characters with different styles is one of the greatest secrets to progressing in the game, as we can adapt to a wide variety of hazards.

As you would expect from a tactical RPG, the positioning of units is a fundamental factor in battles. The movement of warriors varies according to their mobility, a characteristic that can be upgraded with points earned after battles.

To somewhat compensate for this, the developers have implemented the ability to modify turn-based combat systems for real-time combat, in which the order of actions is determined by filling in the action bar. In turn-based system we can plan our movements more calmly, and in some cases we can even retreat from the decisions made. In real-time combat is more dynamic and complex, as there is no room for thinking and any mistake leads to a quick defeat.

Although I didn’t enjoy the real-time combat, it can be a great alternative for those who have a lot of experience in this genre and are looking for a more challenging game. At the end of the day, the most important thing is that Wandering Sword can cater to players of all different backgrounds

Let’s now move on to the game’s shortcomings.

One of some of Wandering Sword’s problems is the rather “heavy” interface. There was too much visual clutter in places with lots of NPCs, with texts of names, missions, items popping up on the screen. It’s like you’re playing some early 2000s MMORPG.

In combat, this problem is also present. There is a lot of information scattered around the corners of the screen, some in the form of icons, some in the form of texts with typical fonts, which blend in with the interface elements and make it difficult to understand which button we need to press.

This shortcoming becomes obvious when we see beautiful scenery and visuals mixed in with this excess of information. Perhaps less demanding players won’t mind this, but it’s a detail that should have been better worked on during the development process.

It’s also worth highlighting some of the problems with the controls. Although the game officially claims to support gamepad, sometimes the button layout is confusing and in some cases different from what is shown on the screen. Until we used the mouse and keyboard, we had to guess which button to press, because the screen showed one thing, but on the control element appeared a completely different command.


Wandering Sword attracts attention with beautiful audio-visual elements and challenging combat. Gorgeous 2D graphics and soundtrack create a unique setting for this Chinese culture-inspired adventure.

Different martial arts styles create varied, dynamic fights that can hardly be lumped into one and the same, although the grid doesn’t help much. For the most enthusiastic, there’s a switch from turn-based to real-time mode, which can’t be beat.


PROS

  • Gorgeous 2D graphics
  • The soundtrack matches the quality of the graphics and creates a great immersion in the adventure
  • Turn-based and real-time systems can satisfy the needs of both casual players and genre enthusiasts.

CONS

  • Very cluttered interface, lots of elements popping up on the screen
  • Menus are difficult to navigate
  • Controller support is problematic due to inconsistent buttons

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