You can be forgiven for having never heard of this franchise, but Sword and Fairy: Together Forever is actually the seventh entry in a series that has been around since 1995. Prior to its predecessor being released in 2015, this series of Chinese RPGs had not been released outside of China or Taiwan.
Sword and Fairy: Together Forever – Symbiotic and Scrumptious
Although Sword and Fairy: Together Forever follows from the previous game, it does well to stand on its own in a world awash with western and Japanese RPGs. The game was developed by Softstar and brought to the western world by EastAsiaSoft and hit the PlayStation 4 and 5 on August 4th, 2022 via digital download. However, for those more of the physical nature, a Premium Collector’s Edition is slated to release early next year. This will definitely be on my radar.
Having seen the jaw-dropping visuals of the trailer and its unique environments, I could not wait to get stuck into this.
What we have is a good old-fashioned power struggle between the Deity and Demon Realms, with the Human Realm caught in the middle. In the opening segment, we play the powerful Deity Xiu Wu to give us a feel for combat before moving on to the main portion of the game. This is essentially a tutorial but is also a great display of the gorgeous visuals we will be treated to throughout the game.
Right off the bat, combat is fluent and intuitive, but most of all, it’s fun and rewarding. This is just a morsel of what is to come. After this prologue-type sequence, we head to the Human Realm and take control of Yue Qingshu. Yue is the Senior Sister of the Mingshu Sect, just a quiet girl in a quiet village with her spirit owl Quaoling.
As you play the game, you end up forming a symbiotic bond with the Deity Xiu Wu. Eventually, you end up with a party of four playable characters, all with their own stories, personalities, strengths, and weaknesses. Additionally to that, you will also encounter new ‘spirits’ who bring various elemental skills into battle.
With combat being the main gameplay mechanic, it is fairly simple and relatively easy to master. Once you have all four characters you will essentially have two melee characters, and two ranged; one armed with a crossbow, and the other with magic. Attacks are as straightforward as a light and heavy attack with a generous dodge as your only means of defense. Oh, and of course, you can call on your pet for a little boost.
You can switch to any one of these characters on the fly as well to mix it up a bit, or strategically if your character is low on health and you feel you don’t have time to heal. Boss battles are a lot of fun as you can combine powers to create unique special attacks. I was quite surprised to find QTEs in these, but this was only our first taste of a tinge of western influence.
You will be visiting blacksmiths to forge or upgrade your weapons. Make sure to enhance your party but feeding them regularly with any cooking recipes you might find, to gain temporary attack and defense boosts. Don’t leave the spirits out though. Feed them so they can also level up and increase in power.
During your playthrough, you will visit various sects and areas in the three Realms. Going back to the slightly western tropes I just mentioned. I was surprised to find myself on occasion sliding down mountains like Lara Croft and sneaking around like Ezio Auditore, breaking up sections that may have become a little tedious after revisiting some of the same places. Though to be fair, when you do visit these places, they are all breathtakingly beautiful, and you really don’t mind it too much.
As with any self-respecting RPG, there is a ton of side content to indulge in. Defeating certain monsters, fetch quests, the usual. Although these quests add nothing to the overarching story, they do yield valuable gear, crafting materials, and so on. Add to that a card mini-game which seemed a little overly complicated, making it not very fun. Something I did not want to pursue. But, it’s there so if card mini-games are your bag, you are catered for.
But, with all this wonderful stuff, I did hit a few snags which have affected my review score. There were times when I fell through the environment and because of that, I wasn’t about to die to restart at a checkpoint. So, I had to restart the game and just hope the checkpoint wasn’t too far away from where I was. The main breaker for me though was entering first-person mode. This game doesn’t even have first-person mode as a feature. I would load a game and suddenly be looking through the eyes of the character and would fumble around switching characters to get it into third-person again. One time can be forgiven, but this did happen more often than I would like. However, once things were back to normal, I was back to enjoying the game again.
Graphics & Audio
I have to say, that this is the most attractive game I have ever seen that does not have an AAA budget. The character models are stunning down to the minute detail of seeing the thread on their clothing. And the environments are just…WOW! Around every corner there is something to gasp at, be it a densely packed snow-covered forest or a staggeringly enchanting oriental-inspired vista. Much time was spent in photo mode. Even the featured image of this review was made entirely in photo mode with the logo available to add in-game.
I hope you like cutscenes because there are a lot of them. But, they are really worth a watch. Even if the English translation of the Chinese is a little dodgy, each scene is to be savoured.
Of course, to chaperone this beauty is an equally delectable music score. This is primarily composed of oriental themes using traditional instruments. Each piece of music plays directly into the hands of the story and echoes well the mood at the time. When the battle starts, this is suitably hyped up the get the blood flowing. Flawless.
From start to finish, you are looking at about 25 hours with of game time. Naturally, this is dependent on the number of side activities you undertake. And as I played by RPG rules, i.e. forget about the main quest until all side content is done, well, you get the picture. Doing these during the game helps you in the endgame as you’re better equipped. However, whatever you do not do during your playthrough, you can play after as the world is open after you clear the game to mop up quests and collectibles.
Graphics are not massively important to me. Sure, I like nice shiny graphics, but gameplay and story are what makes a good game for me. But in Sword and Fairy: Together Forever, graphics take centre stage. The gameplay and story are a close second though. The whole narrative is very engaging, and with great but simple combat, it’s a win-win situation. I absolutely adored my time with the game and did everything I could do in it. But, if it wasn’t for those pesky bugs. Those glitches I mentioned earlier we more than just a one-off, and for that reason, I cannot give Sword and Fairy: Together Forever the perfect score I want. Please, if you are into RPGs, play this game.
I award Sword and Fairy: Together Forever the Thumb Culture Gold Award.
Disclaimer: A code was received in order to write this review.