I meant to write about this
latest oh-heck-it’s-been-so-long-they-made-another-one Xuan Yuan Jian game when I finished it back in June – unfortunately life has a habit of not minding its own business when you’d like it to and so here we are, at the beginning of October, finally ready to talk about this gorgeous Chinese RPG with you all.
Before we dive in let’s have a quick recap on Xuan Yuan Jian as a whole – the release of a new game in this series is essentially the Chinese equivalent of a new Final Fantasy, Dragon Quest, or Whatever’s Actually Popular with Gamers These Days - it’ll sell fantastically well while also spawning more merchandise and ever-so-slightly limited editions than any gamer knows what to do with with a possible TV adaptation due at some point in the future too. Xuan Yuan games helped to shape a nation’s image of what an RPG should look like: they’re that important.
But to some extent the past’s the past, and while the third game and its sequel are revered almost to the point of becoming legend (and deservedly so, in my opinion) gaming has changed an awful lot since the release of Xuan Yuan Jian 3 in 1999, and Chinese RPGs are no exception to that rule.
As a post-Gu Jian, post-Xian Jian 5 RPG it contains all the features introduced in the “new wave” of Chinese RPGs that have since become standard such as a marker on the map showing you where the next plot-progressing event will be, auto save slots, battle restarts, bits of DLC and lots of other little quality-of-life conveniences that try to make sure a lengthy experience remains a tolerable one. There are a few nice little puzzle and platforming sections to break things up too, and although nobody will ever call Xuan Yuan Jian 6 the perfect fusion of multiple genres it does break things up and add some immediacy and interaction to the environments and they’re neither frequent or obnoxious enough to sour the experience even if you’re not too keen on them.
Either way it certainly helps that all this RPG-ing is wrapped up in such a beautiful package – scenery can be breathtakingly beautiful at times, and the character designs are similarly ethereal and spectacular. There’s also the option to add a fantastic black ink effect to the landscape if a more typical “realistic” look doesn’t appeal, as well as the option to switch between two complimentary types of character menu art at will.
The plot’s a typically epic tale of “<Woman A> loves <Hero> but sworn duty to her people prevents romance but that’s OK in the end because <Destiny> means <Hero> had already sworn himself to <Woman B> as a child but forgot about it <Because Magics> and <Other Friends> have various missing/dead sibling problems”.
Obviously my paraphrasing has totally killed any sense of romance, emotion, and well… everything but that doesn’t mean the game’s devoid of touching scenes, just that we’d be here forever if I started describing it all properly - the game suffers from the “more is more” mantra that seems to plague modern Chinese RPGs (I’d say “modern RPGs in general”, but I don’t get to play enough of those to judge) which is personally not to my taste, although I say this as somebody who still must have every Chinese RPG that comes out, so I don’t really seem to mind it as much as I think I do.
The themes mentioned above might sound familiar enough to be almost interchangeable if you’ve skimmed over some other Chinese RPG posts I’ve written but they’re all still very much their own stories. It’s like all Western fantasy RPGs could be boiled down to a mix of Tolkien’s Middle Earth, Arthurian legend, and a dash of European mythology - just that Chinese RPGs use a different starting set of reference points.
If the plot’s really not to your taste then why the hell are you still playing this RP-*cough* then there’s still plenty of monster-whacking to get on with, and Xuan Yuan Jian 6’s little twist on the classic ATB system means you have to stay engaged and on your toes if you want to succeed – rather than allowing you to choose from every possible action at the start of your turn a bar charges up and at different points along it are the options to attack, use an item, or use a skill/magic. So do you do lots of quick regular attacks, or do you “save up” for the more devastating spell but give the enemy more opportunities to attack?
After playing through Xuan Yuan Jian 6 it’s clear that it’s in no danger of knocking any of the legendary Chinese RPGs from their pedestals, but then again if they were so easily matched they wouldn’t deserve to be held in such high regard in the first place. Instead it can be considered another big-budget single player RPG that’s justified the time, money, and love poured into it from both the developer and consumers in an increasingly F2P MMO-centric landscape, and all-in-all gaming’s better off for it.