Developed By: Softstar Published By: eastasiasoft Category: RPG, Adventure Release Date: 12.8.23 Price: $14.99 *Game Download Code graciously provided for the purpose of review.
Up until a few weeks ago, I had never heard of the Xuan Yuan Sword series, despite it apparently being really popular in China. Mists Beyond the Mountains was originally released in 1999 on and has now found its way to the Switch. When I was doing my own research into the game, it looked very promising based on the screenshots and description so when I played it for the first time, I had high expectations. Unfortunately because I had such high expectations, I ended up being pretty disappointed in the result.
First we should talk about what I liked about the game, and fortunately there are many great things about the game. Firstly you have the story, which on paper includes a very deep and emotional story and some interesting characters. There are a few issues with the writing that will be discussed later, but the overall plot gets incredibly dark at times. If you can wrap your head around the themes of the plot and get past the issues, you’ll find a fantastic story. As for the characters, the main guy Septem goes through a pretty drastic change throughout the game while other characters will become likeable.
After playing less than an hour, I had my fair share of exposition detailing what was going on between the knights and heretics and a general idea of where people stood and what happened to those who went against the knights. After that was a pretty grand adventure as Septem travels east. There’s a lot to enjoy or at least admire about the story and characters but we’ll come back to that later.
The two best aspects of the game are the visuals and sound. I was quite impressed with the opening animation and I really enjoyed everything about the visuals. The overworld and towns had a nice, simple art style and I really liked many of the character designs especially when battling or their profiles when talking. My favorite part of how the game looks was the backgrounds during battles which looked like really well done hand drawn paintings. When it came to the sound design, it would have been better if there was voice acting, but the soundtrack was as amazing.
Combat is very simple because there are very few options to choose from and most of the time, enemies can be taken out quite easily. If an enemy is too powerful, a little bit of grinding will do the trick, which makes the game very straightforward and easy to learn. Be prepared to battle a lot of enemies though.
There’s a lot to like about the game but there are also bits that make it nearly impossible to play. The main issue that I encountered was the poor localization, which is often distracting. You can piece together what is being said most of the time but more often than not, dialogue will be confusing, broken, or just wrong. This is disappointing because the game relies heavily on a strong and emotional story. The game has a good story and some really interesting characters but the localization makes the flow difficult to grasp. As a result, the tone constantly feels like it’s shifting between serious drama and cheesy anime.
The next issue is that there’s no real sense of direction. The only way to see your next task or objective is to pause the game and go into your journal. Someone will tell you where to go and it will be easily forgotten or too broad of a description. Sometimes you will know where you need to go but not how to get there or the right order of things. This makes it very easy to get lost or to accidentally run around aimlessly.
Another issue is that the spawn rate for enemies is way too frequent for my taste. It’s great if you want to grind but if you’re just trying to move around the map, it can become difficult when you beat an enemy and have to fight another one or two seconds later. The pain is increased with the aforementioned direction issue because the longer it takes you to figure out where you need to go, the more infuriating the battles will become. These three issues make the game difficult and confusing to play at times.
The game is serviceable but I really wanted to like it so much more. There’s a lot of potential in the story and characters and both the music and visuals are great, but that’s where the praise ends. Progression is confusing and sometimes too difficult, and the localization issues make it so players will completely miss most of what the game is trying to say. For only $15, it’s a pretty long game that you can get through with some enjoyment, but don’t expect much.
Solid story and interesting characters.
Great visuals and music.
Simple combat that’s easy to learn.
Easy to forget where you’re supposed to go.
Battles are too common and hurt exploration.