Action Review RPG

Xuan Yuan Sword 7 – Review | Chinese Myth

Not all games are made in the west, and not all games make it overseas and into our grubby little western mitts. Xuan Yuan Sword, a Chinese action RPG, falls into the category as the seventh entry in the series has only now made its console debut. Being the seventh entry in a long-running series comes with a degree of expectation – like quality – so, let’s see if Xuan Yuan Sword 7 manages to deliver on that expectation.

Xuan Yuan 7 - Light

…And Then, Everyone Died

On a relatively peaceful day in a quiet village somewhere in the backend of nowhere, Zhou, a strapping young fella, helps a small girl retrieve a missing toy. He potters on home, sings a song, and all is right in the world. Until it isn’t. In the blink of an eye, Zhou’s life is turned upside down and everyone he ever knew is brutally murdered. Naturally, he grabs his sister, makes a hasty retreat. He grows up, becomes a hunter who looks after his perpetually sick sister, and the game starts.

Xuan Yuan Sword 7’s story starts fairly strong even if it is a tad predictable. Dead parents are always a good trope to latch onto, but a full-on massacre did pique my interest. The game fails to capitalize on its strong beginning, unfortunately. It’s all very padded, drawn-out, and filled with people and events that couldn’t hold my attention. It also became apparent that Xuan Yuan Sword 7’s idea of an interesting plot is to throw in periodic scenes of someone you know dying. This happens during the main story, and it happens in a surprising amount of side quests too. It was all very predictable. 

The game also has a lot of cutscenes and the quality of these scenes is underwhelming. The scene direction is poor, and many of the game’s emotional moments fail to land because of bad camera work, poor audio balancing, and all that jazz. There’s an attempt to make a grand tale here, but it hasn’t been executed well. The final nail is Zhou as the leading man, who is as interesting as a patch of wet paint.

Lackluster Gameplay

The gameplay doesn’t hold up much better and follows the same path to self-destruction. By this I mean it shows promise, then falls flat on its face and slowly drowns in its own blood. Zhou can hit things with his sword using an infinite combo, dodge, and block. The game uses a stamina bar, but I forgot it existed because it never ran out. Zhou can also change stances on the fly, although your stance doesn’t change your combo – which felt rather lazy. What it does do, however, is unlock a few special attacks, with each stance granting a different set.

Combat is fast and animates well. Heck, it can even look flashy at times. It’s just not interesting. There is no depth here, and combat can drag on for too long. Because stances are so strong, and their special attacks so spammable, there is no reason not to just mash that button until you win. There is no punishment for doing so and combat ends quicker as a reward. Not using the system just slows everything down. The game had practically no depth before this discovery and then lost what little it had afterward.

Zhou doesn’t fight alone and is often accompanied by his sister and, later on, a lass called Hong. The AI is competent enough to be useful, and each character has a cooldown-based attack that you can unleash to deal bonus damage. Zhou has his own cooldowns, namely the ability to slow down time and trap monsters in a magical circle. Most fights don’t require this level of engagement because the game is easy enough without it. Bosses on the other hand, of which there are many, do benefit from dabbling here and there.

Xuan Yuan 7 - Dungeon

Doesn’t Get Much Better

Speaking of bosses, they are either complete pushovers or difficulty spikes. The only thing that matters in a boss fight is whether or not they have a status ailment attached to their attack pool. If not, they die without a fight. If they do, then you suddenly get murdered by fire, or poison, etc. Your tactics don’t change – you still just mash and dodge occasionally, you are just punished heavily for dodging at the wrong time. 

Even these brief stints of difficulty can be negated with the crafting system. Zhou can enter Elysium (basically a menu with a fancy name) and create powerful gubbins that can be used to make you stronger. The best ones are the ones that increase your resistance to status ailments. If a guy is trying to burn your knickers, equip a burn-resistant charm and go to town on them. As with everything, there’s a catch – it’s all a bit random. Recipes do exist, but randomly slapping things together works too. I rarely used the system as a result, but when I did, I broke the game.

Xuan Yuan is technically an RPG, but it’s barebones at best. You kill things, your level goes up – that’s it. There are no choices to be had, just numbers going up. You can equip new weapons, armor, and accessories, and these increase your stats, so keeping an eye on merchants is always advised. Big number buying is all that’s there though. There are even multiple-choice dialogue trees that are meaningless since you are forced to sit through every option regardless.

Xuan Yuan 7 - Quest

From Bad to Surprising

When Zhou isn’t hitting things or being dragged through another story segment he is exploring the wilds of China. Xuan Yuan 7 isn’t an open-world game, it’s more like a bunch of corridors designed to look like the great outdoors stitched together with the occasional town or point of interest. There is usually some sort of treasure off the beaten path, but this is very much a linear experience, and the distance between interesting gameplay and narrative nuggets is eyerollingly high at times. 

One thing I enjoyed about Xuan Yuan 7 is its depiction of Chinese culture and mythology – two things that are rarely explored. For all of its misses, the game nails this aspect. It was nice to experience the richness of the world crafted, even if everything else in it was lackluster. Even the loading screens have little bits of history thrown in for some light reading.

Graphically, Xuan Yuan holds up fairly well. Environments look nice, character models are detailed and animated well, and even things like effects and lightning are pulled off nicely. It’s not Triple-A standards of course, but it manages to hold its own. Voice acting is all in Chinese so I can’t say for certain that it’s any good to a native speaker. That being said, to my uneducated ears, most of the cast sounds great. The music is also fantastic utilizing traditional Chinese instruments and sounds to great effect.


Xuan Yuan Sword 7’s biggest sin is that it’s boring. Really boring. It might look nice, sound great, and be steeped in culture, but actually playing is closer to a chore than anything else. It’s also really long, coming in at 20+ hours. The gameplay on offer here can barely sustain a game half – or even a quarter – of that length. This is scratching at the heels of mediocrity, and it’s not with the time.


Platforms: PlayStation, Xbox, PC

If you find yourself wanting more RPG games, check out our review of Baldur’s Gate III.

Many thanks go to EastAsiaSoft who provided a PlayStation 5 review code for this title.

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