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Stranger of Sword City does a great job of living up to its name. Trapped in a weird, rather haunting fantasy world, you’re constantly made to feel like an outsider – someone that’s stumbled into a series of events that they can’t quite comprehend. This is a dungeon crawler with an atmospheric edge, and although it doesn’t do a great deal to differentiate its gameplay from other titles in the genre, it’s a refined experience that role-playing game fans may get a lot of mileage from.d City Earn to die
However, proceedings don’t start off as smoothly as they should. After creating your own custom character, the title’s systems and features are gradually explained as the story takes its first steps. Being a traditional dungeon crawler at its core, the game’s complexity certainly warrants some kind of tutorial phase, but this initial section of your adventure lasts several hours, and really starts to seem like a slog – especially since your actions are severely limited in battle until your ragtag allies level up a few times.
Once you’re finally left to explore various dungeons at your leisure and progress the plot at your own pace, Stranger of Sword City thankfully starts to come into its own. As hinted, this isn’t a casual RPG – on the normal difficulty setting, combat can be rough if you enter a location underprepared or underlevelled, and allowing your party members to fall in battle has some pretty punishing consequences.
Speaking of which, your party is yours to customise, tweak, and develop as you see fit. You can create a balanced team of warriors, magic users, and ranged attackers, for example, or if you wanted, you could form a band of tanky dwarves and attempt to recreate The Hobbit. Having the ability to craft your own group of allies – all the way from giving them dumb nicknames to deciding their classes and statistics – is one of the game’s best features, as it gives you ample opportunity to put your own personal spin on this lengthy journey.
Watching your comrades grow, gaining new skills and spells as they level up, is a rewarding process, especially since dungeon delving can be risky business. As you unlock more abilities and gain access to better equipment, the release really opens up as an increasingly tactical affair. Depending on enemy formations and the type of foe that you’re up against, you’ll quickly start to form strategies for each battle, and the turn based combat system as a whole ends up having a satisfying amount of depth to it, even if it doesn’t necessarily do anything unique or particularly exciting.
Despite its slow start, Stranger in Sword City matures into a compelling dungeon crawling RPG that’s defined by its gritty atmosphere. Even though it doesn’t bring anything especially new to the genre in terms of gameplay, it’s a cohesive and well-crafted handheld experience, topped off with a setting that practically begs to be explored.