A young swordsman is caught up in a feud between rival martial arts families, and must take to the road in order to improve his skills and become a hero. It's the delightful plot of so many fantasical wuxia stories, and Wandering Sword, a forthcoming tactical RPG from Chinese developer The Swordman Studio looks to create that rich world in beautifully-lit 2.5d style.
Wandering Sword will be an open-world game about exploring, making friends, and learning mystical kung-fu techniques in a fantastical world reminiscent of ancient China. Building friendships with NPCs will be a key way of both recruiting new characters to your party and learning new martial arts. In true wuxia style, of course, the developers say that you "may even fall in love!"
We first saw Wandering Sword back in early 2022, when it was announced, but it has definitely come a long way since then. The demo, released as part of the current Steam Next Fest, has a lot to recommend it if you're skeptical of the aesthetic and premise.
For my part it has the diversity and strange techniques you expect from the genre. There are planned to be hundreds of martial arts forms and weapons to master and wield, each of which has a tree of skills and powers laid out over a skill tree shaped like acupuncture meridian points on a human body. The fights play out in either turn-based or real-time on a combat grid, letting you take your time on tough fights or plow through weak foes in real time.
The demo has lots of this to play around with, and is about three hours long. It's a pretty neat system. Even if the tactical movement isn't too deep, I think the design space is there for it to become interesting and complex over the playtime of a full RPG.
As a fan of the fantasical wuxia and taoism-inspired xianxia stories of people like Jin Yong, I love the idea of a video game world based on the idea of mythical martial artists fighting for supremacy of both techniques and moral code. Here's to you, practitioners of 18 Dragon Subduing Palms.
You can find Wandering Sword and its demo on Steam. The English translation is a bit flat, for now, so hopefully a good editor and translator can beat some personality into it before release later this year.