Developed By: Softstar Entertainment Inc
Published By: Softstar Entertainment Inc
Platforms: PS4 / Windows
Reviewed On: PS4 PRO
Sword and Fairy 6(仙劍奇俠傳六) is a 2015 Windows PC Chinese RPG title which has been ported over to the PS4. As a part of a long-standing RPG series (Chinese Paladin), its fame and prestige in Taiwan and China is comparable to the likes of Final Fantasy. Even with such standing in the gaming community, the entire game – saving the story and plot delivery, was done poorly.
STORY & PLOT DELIVERY
This is probably the only feature that’s appealing in Sword and Fairy 6. In the entire journey to complete this game, I’ve clocked at least 40 hours of cut scenes for both main and character plot lines.
The story starts off with a very minimal introduction of your initial characters – Luo ZhaoYan, the young master of the Luo Family and the vagrant heroic siblings, Yue JinZhao and Yue Qi. The initial quest of solving crimes caused by mysterious cults leads our characters into grand conspiracies as the plot thickens – while introducing the rest of the characters along the way
Although the exposition was delivered in an extremely vague manner, it kept me curious throughout the prologue. The plot delivery was done perfectly and the flow of the story is as smooth as one can expect. My only beef is that certain cut scenes can get pretty lengthy; and if you pair it with some food coma, it’ll probably induce a nice lil’ afternoon nap.
The character growths are penned in flawlessly with proper scenarios and emotions as you progress. Each character is equipped with very distinct personalities and has a fair share of history to be explored. It’s the interaction amongst the characters which contributes greatly towards the comical side and climax of the entire plot.
Scripts and plots aside, the subtitling badly misrepresents the script. As a native Mandarin speaker, I find the choices of words used by the translator rather baffling and occasionally absurd. For example, Orc was used to represent demons, beasts, and devils while Protoss for gods and immortals – which to me is either a result of Google Translate or unqualified translators.
The quality of graphics is the biggest turn off in this title. Throughout the entire review, I’ve encountered numerous drops in frame rates, and occasionally with screen tears.
Besides frame rate issues, the aesthetics of the entire game seems to be modeled after 3rd rate MMORPGs. The skins of every object are rendered with really low details and at times the 3D looks too blocky, even for a 2015 production. And to make it worse, the characters are animated stiffly. Without the proper voice acting and supporting sound effects, the facial expressions on the characters may even come off as unnoticeable.
There are occasional issues with camera angles, especially common when moving towards tight corners and narrow alleys. The only saving grace is that it doesn’t happen during cutscenes and combat.
As with most RPGs, you either travel around a preset town with friendly NPCs or explore the wilds and dungeons crawling with enemies – but with a twist. You only get to travel at a fixed movement speed. Running or sprinting does not exist in this game at all. And no, no mounts as well. The only good thing that made this bearable is somewhat faster-than-normal walking speed.
Jumping in Sword and Fairy 6 seems to be a feature made specifically for players to discover hidden treasures and lookout points. Other than that, jumping doesn’t serve any other purpose at all. Be prepared to find your character stuck between crevices and other narrow spaces as you explore the town. When that happens, just reload the game from your latest save point. The trigger points for auto save is pretty sporadic and you may want to manually save as frequent as possible.
Unlike its predecessors, the combat system in Sword and Fairy 6 is much more identical to its counterpart, Xuan-Yuan Sword: The Gate of Firmament. A combat party of four characters with one being the active character while the other three runs on preset combat tactics (Individual Target, Focused Target, etc).
The amount of skills that can be performed depends on the skill cooldown timer bar which fills itself up automatically. The skill cooldown timer acts as a global timer for the skills with each skill consuming a certain amount of the cooldown bar. Players can also opt to perform less skills by executing them before the cooldown bar fills up.
As simple as it sounds, the key mapping in Sword and Fairy 6 can be said as less than intuitive. Switching from combat leader selection to skill selection to ultimate skill selection requires the player to cycle through the L1/R1 buttons before going deeper into the specific action menu, such as selecting the specific skills to cast or specific character to switch to.
As I’ve played on, I’ve realised that the cooldown bar comes in as totally pointless. Characters can be left idle without being attacked while the cooldown bar fills itself up. I ended up setting my characters to a preset tactic and selected a few skills repeatedly when the cooldown bar fills up. The entire process is can be said as totally monotonous due to the lack of dynamics and any needs of critical thinking or sense of urgency in combat.
As with most Xianxia based stories, elements such as Meridians and Runes(Talisman would be a better translation) is present in this title as routes for skill and character stat upgrades.
WHAT I LIKED
- The story. The Chinese Paladin series has always been known for telling a good Xianxia story with references to Chinese mythologies and mysteries in its background. It’s good enough to have 3 television series of its own and they were based on the stories of Sword and Fairy 1, 3 and 5. Sword and Fairy 6 managed to meet the bar set by its predecessors and is a great addition to the series in terms of story settings and character delivery – and hopefully, it’ll be made into a television series as well.
- Plot delivery. Nothing beats a smooth flow in plot delivery. Every single plot change was paced to perfection with proper character history integration. The author and team behind this at Softstar deserves a big fat cheque for their work on this part of the game.
WHAT I WISHED WAS BETTER
- The environment is just too empty and repetitive. I either keep seeing the same objects everywhere or some of the areas are just totally empty.
- The entire visual experience feels like I’m playing a 3rd rate MMORPG. And it’s actually fine if it’s an MMORPG, but it is not. MMORPGs tends to have limitations in visual experiences as it’s required to process real time data from multiple users, but this is actually an offline single player game. The game doesn’t need to interact with online servers. If I’m to give them the benefit of a doubt, it was probably developed to run on lower end PCs in mind. But since this version is released for the PS4 platform, it should at least be able to do much better in terms of graphics. There are so many other PS4 titles which are older and performs better visually in comparison to Sword and Fairy 6.
- The camera angle can get tricky from time to time but it’s still bearable. Just be quick to readjust the camera when you’re playing the mini games.
- Aesthetic differences in the weapons are too minute. But that’s subjective. If you’re fine with bland and realistically acceptable weapon designs, go for it.
- Translation – Softstar really needs to fix the translation. All the important details and expressions from the original script and narration have been lost due to their amateurish work. It’s like translating your national anthem into the Pen Pineapple Apple Pen Song.
WHAT I HATED
- The unstable frame rates throughout the entire game. This is not one of those situations where the FPS plunges during graphic intensive scene, it actually plunges every few seconds, for god knows what reason.
- Character animations are too stiff. It’s as if all the characters are in full plaster casts with facial expressions of a paper bag head. Even if it’s a 2015 title, describing it as such is already considered as being merciful. It’ll be an all out insult if I’m to say… in terms of animation and 3D quality, Sword and Fairy 6 qualifies as a title from the late 90s. Pair this with the unstable frame rates and you’ll get the perfect reenactment of Keanu Reeves’ acting in The Matrix – dressed in traditional-cum-fantasy Chinese costumes.
- There are too many places where your characters can get stuck if you fail a jump. And when that happens, the only option is to reload from a recent save. So save often, don’t rely on autosaves.
- Every single interaction that I’ve had in the game feels monotonous and pointless. The game mechanics are really shallow in comparison to its rich story. It would’ve been better if they’ve made it into a story based adventure game (think Life is Strange) rather than a half-assed RPG.
- The combat menu is all over the place with less than intuitive key mapping.
- Totally pointless addition of mini games. Unlike most RPGs, the mini games in Sword and Fairy 6 serves no purpose at all. The rewards in completing these mini-games are non exclusive and are not essential towards story progression, or character and weapon upgrades.
The only reason that kept me in for more than 60 hours is the storyline. Everything else in Sword and Fairy 6 kept me grumbling and cursing throughout. While I can somewhat correlate the “state-of-art” graphics with the year of release, the entire game is riddled with bugs and poorly done translation. The current state of Sword and Fairy 6 has no right to be released as a title with English as an optional playable language. In fact, it has no rights to be released at all. Softstar should’ve kept it in beta status until they have fixed all the issues.