Developer SOFTSTAR’s Sword and Fairy series is one that isn’t all that well known in the West, and for good reason. Most games in the franchise suffer from limited accessibility due to them being available only in Chinese, but that changes with Sword and Fairy: Together Forever. It’s a console release of Sword and Fairy 7 which released on PC last year, and while this version doesn’t rewrite the playbook – it has some noticeable improvements that should make this package more appealing to Western audiences. That said, Sword and Fairy: Together Forever doesn’t iron out all issues with the original, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves here and analyze each aspect of the game one by one.
The biggest deal breaker in the case of Sword and Fairy 7 is the fact that the game doesn’t have English voice acting. You get the option of choosing from English, Chinese, and Japanese in terms of subtitles – but voice acting is limited to the original. The lack of additional voice dubs is a bit of letdown considering that this is supposed to be a global release, even though the voice acting itself is pretty expressive and mostly well done. That said, I did find many grammatical mistakes in the English translation, which can also distract a bit from the immersion at times. Furthermore, some parts of the menus are still in Chinese, which is a clear sign of shoddy execution on this front.
"It’s a fairly played-out prospect of good versus evil, but that formulaic tale is made enjoyable through some well-written characters. "
While Sword and Fairy is a long-running franchise with plenty of entries under its belt, Sword and Fairy: Together Forever is a self-contained story that requires no prior experience to fully grasp – which makes it a perfect candidate for newcomers to the series. The game takes place in a mystical world of the Six Realms which are inhabited by humans, and demons, alike. The story itself revolves around your party trying to save the world from the wrath of Vicious Beasts that have escaped from Heaven Prison, which leads you down a rabbit hole of discoveries and conjured out evil conspiracies that could very well lead to the end of the world. It’s a fairly played-out prospect of good versus evil, but that formulaic tale is made enjoyable through some well-written characters.
You start the game by playing as Xiu Wu, who is sent on a mission to eradicate evil. Then we are greeted by Yue Quingshu, the lone disciple of a crumbling Mingshu Sect who gets symbiotically attached to Xiu Wu in the Human Realm, which makes sticking together with each other essential for the Diety’s survival in this realm. There’s also Bai Moqing and Sang Yo, a pair of young lovers who also accompany Yue and Xiu in this dangerous quest. While the story itself has a fair bit of twists and revelations that keep the plot interesting, the biggest draw is undoubtedly the journey that these characters undertake. With the exception of Que Yingshu, the remaining trio of protagonists seem very distant from you when they begin as they seem to clearly fit into the stereotypical RPG character box all too well – but as revelations about their past open up, they start becoming more relatable and likable. These story beats proved to be essential as they kept me going on through this expansive adventure which doesn’t have the best of pacing as the narrative tends to go off on a ton of inconsequential tangents.
"Sword and Fairy 7 ditches the turn-based roots of prior entries, and features a dynamic real-time combat system that places the focus on unleashing a flurry of hard-hitting combos on your enemies. "
Sword and Fairy 7 ditches the turn-based roots of prior entries, and features a dynamic real-time combat system that places the focus on unleashing a flurry of hard-hitting combos on your enemies. Each character has his or her assortment of light and heavy attacks, which can be chained together to create different combos. The right trigger allows you to switch over to your special moves, which consume magic and are associated with a cooldown timer. The abilities themselves are plentiful, and you gain more of them as you progress through the game.
You can switch between party members at any time during battle, which opens up a bunch of tactical options during fights. Xiu Wu is a master swordsman, Yue Quingshu is a Spirit Controller and team healer and the two specialize in close-range combat while Sang Yo and Bai Moqing excels at dishing out damage from range. Some characters are more effective than others, but they all serve a distinct purpose in the combat proceedings nevertheless.
All in all, it’s a simple but effective combat system, but it’s also pretty light on feedback. Enemies rarely react to your hits, and telegraphing can be hit or miss. There are times when the game smartly uses the PS5’s DualSense capabilities to help gauge boss attack timings, but these instances are more exceptions than the norm. Most enemies don’t react at all to your hits, as they soak up tons and tons of damage without batting an eye. Particle effects also tend to fill the screen during tense battles, which makes seeing enemy attack telegraphs difficult.
"There are times when the game smartly uses the PS5’s DualSense capabilities to help gauge boss attack timings, but these instances are more exceptions than the norm."
The game starts off pretty easy, but there are some really annoying difficulty spikes throughout the experience. This was one issue we put forward during our review of the original version, and there seems to be no change to that aspect. Many boss battles end up being tests of your endurance rather than skill, which can make chipping through those gargantuan health bars a frustrating experience. Much like every other RPG, the game places a lot of focus on progression – but Sword and Fairy 7 does very little to explain to players about how it all works. You have to constantly upgrade your weapons, swap out weapons for stronger variants from merchants, equip armor sets that provide different buffs, upgrade Spirits, and cook different kinds of food that provide different status effects for your party – and many of these mechanics are poorly explained or completely left out for you to discover on your own. Thankfully though, crafting materials and battle rewards are generous – and any excessive grinding isn’t required to keep up with growing enemy power levels.
While Sword and Fairy isn’t an open-world game, it is split into multiple open sections and dungeons that you can explore at your will. Apart from the general assortment of merchants and loot supplies, you can also partake in side quests from NPCs. These mostly amount to fetch quests, and while the rewards can be generous – thankfully they aren’t required to progress through the main story so you are free to skip them should you choose.
"Side quests amount to fetch quests, and while the rewards can be generous – thankfully they aren’t required to progress through the main story so you are free to skip them should you choose. "
Sword and Fairy: Together Forever looks and performs really well on the PlayStation 5. The character models and materials are of high-quality textures, and the lighting and reflection can also combine to make certain areas absolutely breathtaking. Briefly comparing it to the PC version, I don’t think the PS5 version features ray-traced shadows as they are markedly blurrier than the maxed-out PC counterpart. I should also mention here that there are no performance profiles to choose from, which is also a bit of a letdown.
Thankfully, Sword and Fairy: Together Forever features a great deal of variety amongst the environments as well, which range from frosty peaks to tropical beaches to hellish landscapes and whatnot. Many of these are an absolute treat to explore, thanks to the gorgeous visuals. Performance was mostly solid during my experience which was a major problem with the original, but the game does suffer from poor draw distance. I saw multiple instances of characters popping in and out of frame during introductory shots of new maps, which distracts from the otherwise impressive technical make-up. The load times are also pretty snappy, thanks to the PS5’s ultra-fast SSD.
Sword and Fairy: Together Forever is a good enough package of this intriguing RPG, and while Softstar hasn’t added much content or drastically changed up gameplay mechanics – it doesn’t detract from the fact that this is a solid experience that’s worth seeing through to the end. The lack of an English voice dub is a downer, and so is the lack of proper explanation of character progression mechanics and an uneven difficulty curve. Those who have previously played through the game might be tempted to skip this version, but if you haven’t and are even passingly intrigued by the concept or gameplay – you might just end up loving this one.
This game was reviewed on the PlayStation 5.
Beautiful visuals; Well-written characters, Fun combat.
Inconsequential side-quests, Poor pacing.
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