Xuan-Yuan Sword: Mists Beyond the Mountains Review – What Did I Play

    Title: Xuan-Yuan Sword: Mists Beyond the Mountains
    Release Date: July 25, 2023
    Reviewed On: PC
    Publisher: CubeGame, Gamera Games
    Genre: Turn-Based RPG

Occasionally, I’ll stumble upon a game I have no idea how to review because of how out-there the experience is. The soon-to-be-released turn-based RPG by developers SOFTSTAR Entertainment and DOMO Studio, Xuan-Yuan Sword: Mists Beyond the Mountains, fits that bill in the worst way possible. This new version of Xuan-Yuan Sword 3, part of a series I’m largely unfamiliar with, has the base elements of something that could be compelling but is ruined by fundamental issues that caused me to drop it a handful of hours in.

So, I’ll be blunt and candid right off the bat here. I had little to no idea what was happening in the hours I played Xuan-Yuan Sword: Mists Beyond the Mountains. And trust me, I really, really tried to. From what I could gather, the protagonist is Septem, a Frankish soldier who has traveled to Venice, Italy, with the objective of finding Arabs to aid him in crossing the ocean. Why does he need to cross the sea? Your guess is as good as mine; I assume it’s part of his assigned mission. As for why I’m so uncertain and confused about this game’s cast and story, it’s because of the awful translation.

You can tell from the opening lines that some things aren’t quite right. Commas are missing, and the spacing and tenses are constantly inconsistent, resulting in mixed messaging. Plus, for whatever reason, there are absurdly large gaps in text boxes whenever a contraction is used. I don’t know this for sure, but I believe at least a decent chunk of this script was machine translated.

Descriptors and dialogue jump from reading somewhat well to borderline incomprehensible. And even in cases where the text can be understood, it’s so contextually confusing regarding the intended tone of the respective scenes that it feels impossible to arrive at any firm conclusions.

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It’s honestly a shame since the presented concepts are pretty interesting. There’s plenty of religious conflict that the game isn’t afraid to delve into, alongside quite a bit of character history that gives the impression of considerable depth.

For instance, there’s this girl, Lillian, who Septem has repressed feelings for, but she’s romantically involved with another man, Miles. She becomes gravely injured in a recent battle between the two, which Septem at least feels partially responsible for. A flashback scene of his pining for her is even shared.

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However, the tonal confusion caused by the off-translation makes any attempted messaging and established character relationship feel more like a question than a confident declaration. There’s this sequence where a demon of Satan is summoned by this old man and said demon is a cute girl.

She’s clearly attempted to be written like a playfully knowledgeable and socially dense companion for Septem but just comes across as utterly awkward because of the translation’s indecipherable tone. Further, the NPCs, of which there are plenty, have a ton to say that I’m sure would enhance the in-game world’s liveliness, yet they were given even less attention in the translation department than the main cast.

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As for the gameplay, Xuan-Yuan Sword: Mists Beyond the Mountains features an ATB turn-based combat system…and that’s about all you need to know because you’re going to be one-shotting or get close to one-shotting everything.

I have no idea if the build I was playing was faulty in some way, but almost every standard battle would result in me winning after a single attack. The bosses would last maybe a turn or two longer before perishing. No enemy would do above a small fraction of my health, and it manages to get even weirder.

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Despite the sheer ease of battles that go far, far beyond beginner-level difficulty, the experience rates are ridiculous. The amount needed to gain levels only seems to rise slightly, so you can achieve them rapidly.

This is bolstered by the frankly wild encounter rate on the world map. Every few steps result in a battle which all last like two seconds at most because of the one-shotting. I reached over level 20 on the first navigable part of the world map with little effort, ruining prospective challenges from later boss encounters.

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I’ve never had this broken of an experience in any turn-based game I’ve played. Oddly, Septem’s normal attack would deal significantly more damage than his supposed Ultimate Skill, so that may be another oversight. Also of note is a fusion system with items and monsters that I just didn’t bother with. The basis of combat being so poorly handled makes related mechanics innately unappealing.

Xuan-Yuan Sword: Mists Beyond the Mountains is a game I tried my hardest to keep playing, but my yearning was short-lived. The intriguing story ideas and character relationships are ruined by a terrible translation that I’m certain received no revisions or edits. Any potential narrative interest that could have been derived is automatically deemed non-existent by incessant perplexity rooted in misshapen tone and grammar.

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The gameplay of Xuan-Yuan Sword: Mists Beyond the Mountains is an unoptimized mess. There is no attempt at balancing or scaling, with the only positive being a unique presentation. When it comes down to it, this has the capacity to become truly and unironically great, but the translation and mechanics need to be rebuilt from the ground up. As it is now, you’re better off not wasting your time and money.

A review copy of the title was provided by the publisher for review purposes

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Orpheus Joshua

Random gamer equally confused by the mainstream and the unusual.