Preview: Sword Reverie – Just the Beginning of this JRPG’s Journey

There just aren’t enough Japanese anime-inspired role-playing games (RPG) for virtual reality (VR) headsets so when Isekai Entertainment revealed Sword Reverie a couple of years ago, the videogame looked like it could well fill that void. Today, after three years of development Sword Reverie hits Steam Early Access, offering a taster of what’s to come.

Like any fantasy RPG, you want plenty of combat, an engrossing storyline and a protagonist that you can really inhabit and customise to your liking. Some of these features are present in Sword Reverie whilst others certainly need some further finesse.

The title is quite clearly built around combat, getting you into the action whilst attempting to add a narrative via a dude who idly stands next to you watching the battles unfold. You have a blade in each hand that you can neither drop nor stow away in any fashion like you’re Daniel Radcliffe in (the stupid but fun) Guns Akimbo. Needless to say, this would make using an inventory rather difficult so there isn’t one. You can pick items up from fallen enemies and chests but they’re automatically added to your magical storage. If you enjoy organising your potions from your weapons then you’ll be disappointed.

During the main levels, Sword Reverie is a far more arcade-oriented experience, you wander through the town killing everything in your path. The first four are very linear, opening up a touch more after that. However, there’s a very by-the-numbers feel to the fights as most of the enemies simply stand there waiting for you to walk up to them. Some of the slightly tougher armoured opponents do have a small path they follow yet for the most part you can often see who’s in the next section and plan accordingly.

Not that’s there’s much planning involved, you’ve got two giant magical swords after all. That magic is key in Sword Reverie as it’s elemental-based and so are the enemies, red for fire; green for grass, and blue for water; each one more effective over the next in the sequence. The only caveat to these three is the yellow/gold magic, which can be used against all three, so you’ll find yourself sticking to that a lot.         

If you do you’ll miss out on all the magical effects the other elements have. For example, swinging both swords from head to toe unleashes a ranged attack, a bright yellow arrow when using that elemental magic whilst the blue element launches three balls of water for a wider attack. Magic is physical, swinging your arms to activate it. Unfortunately, the first two abilities are very similar in action with Cleave requiring both swords to cross in front of your chest before slashing downwards. The number of times I’d try one move and get the other did start to grate, especially as they both use different amounts of mana.

What really needs some fine-tuning is the melee combat because it isn’t satisfying. Think hack and slash rather than an actual sword fight where you block, parry and attack. You can sort of block but it was easier to step back to avoid the swing, then reengage. Part of the problem was the clunky, slow nature of the enemies, with some ragdoll physics kicking in if they fall over. They do look great, with a superbly bold, vivid art style, and once you begin inflicting punishment the armour starts to look worn and bodily scars begin to appear. The final blow tends to slice them in two, although on one occasion I felled an opponent by cutting off its foot.       

Away from the action in the Guild Hall you can utilise all those resources to craft new weaponry, refine resources or other items. It’s the only time you get any sort of customisation options in Sword Reverie, hopefully, Isekai Entertainment will expand this section further.

On first inspection Sword Reverie hasn’t immediately sold itself even as an early access title. There are certainly good ideas in place such as the elemental magic, creature design and it isn’t bad to look at either. What Sword Reverie needs is for the combat to be more fluid so the sword fighting becomes less repetitive as well as better delivery of the story, some random adventurer talking failed to absorb me in the narrative. Sword Reverie is out today on Steam if you want to give it a chance.

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