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Ah, for the good ol’ days of early computer games! There’s something to be said for having to make your way through an endlessly complex maze with only wireframe graphics, precious few hit points and an extremely limited spellcasting system to keep you company. The Wizardry series helped define what dungeon-crawlers were and it’s still got fans today, even overseas in Japan.
It shouldn’t come as much of a surprise, then, that there have been plenty of Wizardry-esque dungeon crawlers hitting the field lately, and if you’re interested in jumping in you might want to check out Saviors of Sapphire Wings and Stranger of Sword City Revisited, which bundles up two solid dungeon delves in one reasonably-priced package.
Stranger of Sword City Revisited is a director’s cut version of a classic dungeon-crawler from yesteryear. It was originally a Vita title and, in fact, this version of the game has been available on Vita for quite some time. Vita? What’s that? Well…let’s not talk about it. Instead, let’s talk about how this is the definitive version of Stranger of Sword City and the one you’re going to want to play.
After a plane accident, you find yourself stranded in a mysterious new world. You’re a Stranger in this land, and Strangers have unique powers here – in particular, you’re able to deal with horrible monsters called the Lineage. You’ll assemble a party, complete with re-rolling stat points, to get this done. Naturally, you’ll also need to explore dungeons, collect new gear and strategically control your heroes or risk getting stomped.
That “getting stomped” thing is particularly spooky here, since Stranger of Sword City really does lean on the classic side of classic dungeon-crawling. That means that, yes, your dudes can die for good if you aren’t careful. The enemies are more than happy to make that happen, so careful exploration and farming for items are the orders of the day. Still, the dungeon design is great, the art is interesting and there’s plenty of character customization to go around, so it’s worth your while to stick with it.
If you’ve already played through Sword City or you’re after something a little more immediately new, though, you’ve also got Saviors of Sapphire Wings to check out. This is a somewhat more modern take on the dungeon-crawling formula, following the reincarnated head of a knightly order as they take a second shot at defeating the standard dark lord. You’ll need to gather Squires and form a mighty coalition to get this done, especially because the dark lord has the power to mentally control anyone who’s not loyal enough.
That means plenty of good old-fashioned human interaction via cutscenes and combat in order to ensure that everyone’s ready to fight when the time comes.
Sapphire Wings’ systems are a little less brutal than Sword City. There’s no more permadeath, gear is more readily available, the early phases of the game tend to be easier and character customization is a bit less punishing in terms of having to re-grind your characters, so it almost comes off as the game one should play first. There’s also a much heavier emphasis on a traditional plot here rather than focusing entirely on dungeon-crawling, so players who’d rather play a more plot-based game may find themselves having a better time with Sapphire Wings.
Both games look, sound and play great on PC. There’s definitely something to be said for the gorgeous art, which ends up being the highlight of the package by a long shot. Naturally, as these are just dungeon-crawlers you shouldn’t be surprised to learn they perform perfectly even on underpowered hardware (i.e. less powerful PCs and consoles), so feel free to slap this into your potato if you so choose. These make for great laptop games in particular, as the dungeon-crawler format is well suited for brief sessions.
If you’ve got a hankering for old-school dungeon goodness a la Wizardry, Saviors of Sapphire Wings and Stranger of Sword City Revisited are both here for you. The fact that you get both in an entirely reasonably-priced package is another perk. Set aside some time, grab some graph paper (nah, there’s an automap) and order some pizza – it’s time to RPG like we did back in the 80s.