I’ve just started playing Stranger of Sword City, Experience’s latest dungeon crawler, and noticed something as I’ve embarked on this new adventure. It’s quite easy to get lost in this initial character creator, due to all the factors you have to consider when creating your avatar and all subsequent party members. This is a game where every new character could take at least 15 minutes to make, maybe more.
It’s quite a feat, considering you aren’t getting to customize their faces or body types. The creation process starts by picking a portrait. As we mentioned last week, there are three art styles to choose from, classic, new, and Entaku no Seito: Students of Round. There are 31 different ones total, which are all grouped together. Personally, I think it would have been nice if you could have grouped portraits according to race. As-is, you pick a portrait first, which means you can have a Ney, which is essentially a cat person, who looks like a human, migmy (halfling), or elf.
The next decision was an unexpected one. The second step in creating a Stranger of Sword City character is age. It asks you to decide how old a person is. The youngest someone can be is 10, and the oldest is 99. Different age brackets have different bonuses. 10-19 year olds get three life points and a minimum bonus point number of three. 20-29 year olds get 2 max life points and five minimum bonus points. 40-59 year olds get 2 max life points and seven minimum bonus points. People ages 60-99 get 1 max life point and ten minimum bonus points. The life points determine how many times a person can be revived before they vanish for good. It is possible to recover lost life points, so someone won’t disappear entirely, but this means the person will be hospitalized for a certain amount of time at the Strangers’ Base. (Normal recovery is free, but instant recovery has a cost.) People who are younger recover their hearts faster, and time passes during battles.
You could think of it as a means of determining your own difficulty for Stranger of Sword City, aside from initial decision of Normal or Beginner. Someone under the age of 20 would be most challenging, since you aren’t going to get those bonus points to alter the initial stats. Also, they get the fewest stat increases of the group as they level up. Creating a character over 60 can make the game more difficult, despite getting at least 10 bonus points at the start, because they have only one life point. It’s far easier for someone to vanish. 20-59 is the right age for someone who wants a balanced experience, since you’re getting more than one chance if a character falls and a decent enough number of starting bonus points.
People get to decide on a race next, though the main character always has to be a human. Which isn’t bad, because humans are the most balanced of the five races. Their strength, intelligence, piety, vitality, agility, and luck stats all start at 9, and you can use those bonus points to prepare them for any class you want. Elves begin with strength at 7, intelligence at 13, piety at 8, vitality at 8, agility at 10, and luck at 8, making them well suited to Wizard, Ranger, and Dancer classes. Dwarves’ beginning stats are 13 strength, 6 intelligence, 13 vitality, 6 agility, and 7 luck, so you’ll want to start one out as a Fighter, Knight, or maybe, if you’re feeling adventurous, a samurai. Migmies have 6 strength, 8 intelligence, 12 piety, 7 vitality, 11 agility, and 10 luck, so you might want to set one as a Cleric, Ranger, or Dancer. Neys are the final race, with 11 strength, 7 intelligence, 6 piety, 9 vitality, 13 agility, and 8 luck. I really like this race, as it seems to go well with the Fighter, Samurai, Ninja, and Dancer classes with its starting stats.
Not that you really have to worry about stats. Stranger of Sword City isn’t like Class of Heroes, where stats have to be at a certain level before someone can take that class. Anyone can be any class, and you can try to make it work for you. Also, class-specific abilities aren’t forcing you to have certain people in your party to make sure you can find traps and treasures or discover hidden paths or items. The Talent chosen after the class lets you decide who can have that special ability. People who are Fortunate keep the party from being ambushed as often and get an additional 3 bonus points during creation. Educated individuals can identify items and monsters. Invincible people better defend against critical and paralyzing attacks. Intuition lets people discover traps and find treasure. Finally, Wild Eye will let a character discover secret paths or hiding areas in a labyrinth. This gives you more freedom to build a party based on your fighting style, rather than what you’d need to explore. The avatar can only have the Chosen One type, which keeps life points from decreasing, so there’s no need to recover after being revived, and allows them to take Blood Crystals from Lineage type monsters.
There are a few other things to note when making more people for your Stranger of Sword City party. The first five people you make after the avatar all receive weapon and piece of body armor. All additional characters receive experience points based on your avatar’s stats when they’re made, to ensure new folks are on par with the people who’ve been with you all along. I really liked the latter feature, as it made it feel like I wasn’t being penalized for suddenly wanted to try a different kind of party.
It all works out really well. You’re encouraged to experiment with characters and it goes out of its way to get you to try new things. It’s fun to make new party members and toy with ages, races, and classes to do something new. The recovery aspect means you’ll sometimes have to put in someone you wouldn’t normally use. Plus, newly created characters aren’t going to require too much extra coddling, since they’ll have extra experience that is based on your avatar.
Stranger of Sword City will come to the Xbox One on March 22, 2016 in North America. North America and Europe will get the PlayStation Vita version on April 26, 2016.