Studying the Blade
Sword Master Story was released last year and recently crossed the 6 million download milestone. Developed by indie studio Code Cat and published by Super Planet, players collect a roster of unique heroes and lead them in battle. While this gacha RPG doesn’t shake up the formula too much, it’s a visually spectacular and fun experience with a unique identity that helps it stand out.
Players take the role of the titular Sword Master Cain, the greatest warrior in the Empire of Elgrad. However, he is betrayed and poisoned by agents of the war god Ares. The goddess Athena arrives to save him, but she’s unable to cure Ares’ poison, which continues to sap his strength. This explains why the famous Sword Master is only level one. It’s also a handy narrative excuse for the game’s difficulty curve. It doesn’t really affect the gameplay, but it is still an interesting narrative gimmick.
One thing that does affect Sword Master Story’s gameplay is Cain himself. While games like Eversoul have a player character separate from the unlockable Heroes, they don’t usually join the fight. This is not the case with Sword Master Story, where Cain leads his party from the front. While that’s typical for most RPGs, it’s relatively uncommon in this type of gacha game.
Cain takes the lead in every battle in Sword Master Story, automatically slashing enemies with his twin swords. He’s not going it alone, however, with players assigning up to four party members to back him up. Heroes can be Warriors, Healers, Mages, or Archers and have different elemental strengths and weaknesses. Each character also has a Passive and Active Ability, so two members of the same class can be quite different. There’s a Warrior named Mia who I found particularly useful. Her active ability protects the whole party behind an indestructible shield. It has a very long cooldown and only lasts 15 seconds, but the party’s basically unstoppable during that period.
Super Planet describes Sword Master Story as an action RPG. Others call it an auto battler. I’d say it’s somewhere in between. Cain’s party moves and attacks automatically, and players can choose to enable automatic ability use. However, it’s best to save active abilities for the right moment rather than firing them off as soon as possible. This makes the combat much more tense and exciting than many auto-battle gacha games. I still don’t know if I’d call Sword Master Story an action RPG, but it sometimes feels like it.
Sword Master Story also deserves credit for its visuals. The character sprites are highly detailed, well animated and remind me of the old Golden Axe arcade games. However, while I liked the sprites, I’m mixed on the anime-style portraits. The character designs aren’t bad but have the quality of some anime where all the women have the same face. Sure, they have different hair and eye colors, and some have horns or elf ears. However, it stands out side-by-side with Sword Master Story’s comparatively tiny minority of male characters.
I also can’t get over Cain’s resemblance to Kirito from Sword Art Online. Ripping off Kirito might as well be its own subgenre of Anime at this point. Lately, I’ve noticed the infection spreading to mobile games. Sword Master Story isn’t the only example, but it stuck out to me.
I don’t have much to say about the story besides that it does a decent job of stringing levels together. The game makes homage to Greek mythology but doesn’t do much with it. For example, Cain must complete “The Twelve Labors of Hercules” by defeating a series of bosses. That’s fair enough, but the bosses Cain fights don’t have much to do with the legend of that name. All I’m saying is that it would have been nice to see some more monsters inspired by Greek mythology.
Despite these quibbles and some awful localization in places, I was very impressed with Code Cat’s Sword Master Story. There is room for improvement, but it’s a solid foundation with much to offer. I won’t say it’s my favorite gacha game out there, but Sword Master Story is worth a look.
Is It Hardcore?
While not a flawless game, Sword Master Story is a fantastic gacha RPG with great pixel art and exciting combat.