Tips for starting your journey in Stranger of Sword City

Get some help for the early hours

After a long wait, Stranger of Sword City is out today for the PlayStation Vita. For Xbox One owners, hopefully you’ve been playing it over this past month. You should, it’s good (or at least I think it is). For fans of the dungeon crawler, you probably don’t need my help in figuring the game out. But if you’re a newcomer to the genre who is picking it up today, allow me to give you some tips on making it through the first 10 hours of this difficult-as-hell adventure.

Character Creation

After the brief introductory story segment, you’ll create the main character for your party. Here are a few things to keep in mind when you’re making your characters:

  • Age is more than just a number – As stated in my review, Stranger of Sword City features permadeath. The best way to keep your team together for longer is to give them more life points. Life points are determined by age. For team members under the age of 20, they’ll have three life points. Ages 20 to 59 get two points and those in the over 60 club get just one. The trade-off for being closer to death is your character is stronger with more bonus points to assign to the various stats. Three-life-point characters have a minimum bonus points threshold of three, those with two life points can have a minimum of up to seven, and those aged 60+ have a minimum of 10 bonus points.
  • Rolling on the river – When rolling for bonus points to apply to your character’s stats there doesn’t seem to be a limit on how many times you can roll. Keep at it until you get a number that’s six or seven points above your bonus point minimum.
  • My big fat greek party – After the first dungeon, you’ll be able to create your team. Go ahead and make at least one of each class right at the beginning. Even if they are not in your party, these characters will level up. You may also want to consider creating duplicates of the main characters in your party early on. If you lose one to permadeath, a replacement character made after the fact will be given a level that is in comparison to your main character. However, that new character will still be below those who are sitting on your bench. For instance: when I lost my ninja at level 14, the replacement ninja I made was only a level seven while a character on my bench that had been there since the beginning was already at level 10.

Building Your Team

With your characters created, here are some tips for choosing how to build your lineup:

  • Proper placement – I couldn’t find a place where it explicitly said this (and I may have missed it), but the first three characters you assign to you team represent the front row while the last three are the back row. Characters in the back row need long-range weapons such as lances, bows & arrows, and boomerangs in order to hit enemies. If a character in your front row dies, your party snakes forward and the character in the fourth slot moves to the front row.
  • Must use magic – Two of the early dungeons will require a wizard and a cleric so make sure you have them in your party from the beginning. A later dungeon will negate the use of magic, so make sure you have non-magic users on the bench for when the time comes.
  • The long and short of it – Enemies will often attack in rows. For characters in your front row, they can successfully attack enemies directly in front of you with a short-length weapon. If you arm a front row character with a long-range weapon, they can hit enemies in the first, second, and (possibly) third row.

On The Attack

With your lineup set, you’re now ready to go kick some ass. For the most part, Stranger of Sword City plays just like any other dungeon crawler. It’s turn-based, characters with the highest agility move first, etc. It’s not original as in RPG in that way, but there are certain unique features of the game you’ll have to utilize if you want to succeed. 

  • Run Joey Run – The smartest thing you can do in battle is know when to run. You will often come up against enemies who are way too strong or in numbers too great for you to handle. There are two options for running: divinity or smoke bombs. In the hours I spent with this game, I never found the need to use smoke bombs as I always had enough divinity to escape, but it’s nice to have some on hand just in case. The best part is if you run from an enemy that is seen on the map (i.e., not a random encounter), it will not be the same enemy when you re-engage. 
  • Divine retribution – As you kill Lineage Monsters throughout the game, you’ll gain blood crystals. When you give those crystals to one of the three vessels, your divinity will increase and you’ll unlock skills that use your divinity. Don’t be afraid to use your divinity skills every round. Your divinity builds up quickly as you’re attacked and you don’t run the risk of running out unless you manage it poorly.
  • Dead like me – If your character runs out of life points in the midst of battle, they die at the end of that turn. You will not have a chance to revive them. If you character has a life point left, exit the dungeon as quickly as possible and take them back to the guild to rest. Reviving that character will cost way too much money, so you’ll need to wait until you’ve completed a certain number of battles to get them back. This is why it’s important to have a stock of replacement characters ready to go as you may be switching them out early on. Later on, you’ll gain items that can refill lost life points and the cost of reviving a character right away will be easier to swallow.

Odds and Ends

  • Don’t waste your money – Outside of items, the shop is useless. You want good equipment? Head to any ambush location on the map and strike. Just make sure you move between ambush locations as the amount of divinity that is used each time you hit the same spot in succession increases greatly. Money should only be spent on items and really only certain items early on. Don’t waste your funds on crap that identifies the treasures you collect as those are automatically identified when you leave a dungeon. Instead stock up on healing supplies.
  • Do change classes – This is not a tip I give out lightly as it will add considerable hours to your playtime, but when you hit level 14 or 15, you should change character classes. This will drop your character down to half their current level, but you will be able to learn skills across classes. You can do this up to five times allowing you to make some absolute killing machines, but you better be ready to invest the time necessary to do so. Changing the class of even just two characters made it easier for me to succeed later in the game.
  • Plan for success, not outcome – The vessels you give the blood crystals to will affect how the story plays out. With Stranger of Sword City being as difficult as it is, I found it best to not worry about who I was giving these crystals to and instead focused on which of them gave the best skills for my donation. I may not get the ending I necessarily wanted, but at least I get to see an ending.
CJ Andriessen
Just what the internet needs: yet another white guy writing about video games.