The period of the high-end PC unique could be a factor of the previous, however each every so often a recreation comes alongside that’s somewhat particular, that may’t be performed anyplace else and within the case of Sword and Fairy 7, by Softstar Know-how in Beijing, now we have a superb role-playing recreation that piles on the high-end visible options, together with ray tracing help – all courtesy of Unreal Engine 4. It is a high quality recreation and searching into it, I’ve unwittingly stumbled upon a sleeping large of a video games franchise. Sword and Fairy has spawned many video games and stay motion diversifications, and this newest sequence entry is a top quality manufacturing that, curiously, has acquired very little editorial coverage. That modifications at this time!
The story begins in 1995 when The Legend of Sword and Fairy was first launched for MS-DOS, telling the story of a luckless orphan in provincial China who units off on an journey to avoid wasting his ailing aunt. Hailed as a pioneering recreation for Chinese language improvement, its tragic story, mazes and turn-based battles struck gold, promoting many tens of millions of copies. So why did not it obtain the identical form of profile as, say, Ultima or Closing Fantasy? The explanations are legion, however importantly, The Legend of Sword and Fairy was by no means formally launched with an English translation – and I’ve solely managed to pattern it through a translation patch launched a few years later.
Fortunately, Sword and Fairy 7 comes with English textual content out of the field, besides, limitations of entry are nonetheless there to a level: the sport’s menus and interface are translated – but all of the audio and signage within the recreation is in Chinese language. Personally, I really like subtitles and like native audio to typically inaccurate dubbing, however for a launch with so many cutscenes and NPC interactions, I can perceive how the sheer quantity of studying could also be an excessive amount of for a lot of. Nonetheless, there’s a lot to commend this RPG. Far eliminated now from its origins, fight is all in real-time now with differing transfer units and particular assaults – and the power to vary characters on the fly to others in your get together who specialise at completely different strategies.
It is all very acquainted if in case you have performed a contemporary Closing Fantasy recreation, although some parts – equivalent to splitting up the world and traversing between areas together with your fairy mount – are just a little old-school, however at the very least it cuts out any open world bloat. That is really an important profit to the sport’s visuals: dividing the world into smaller areas has allowed the builders to put money into the variety of the visuals on present, that are significantly spectacular. You’ve got a quintessential rural Chinese language village, Taoist impressed temples and extra fantastical environments equivalent to frozen forests and a palace within the skies. There are probably extra – I’ve solely performed about eight hours’ price up to now.
One of many recreation’s biggest strengths is character modelling, thrilling type, vibrancy and element, not saying away from shiny colors. Many characters are accentuated with material or hair physics to intensify their motion in methods which make the sport a pleasure to take a look at – particularly in fight the place the animations are delightfully excessive. There may be some disappointment right here although, particularly in cutscenes the place animation would not maintain up. Pop-in is one other space the place I discovered the presentation missing: a cross-fade as seen in lots of video games would have helped, or only a increased object draw distance as an possibility in trade for some efficiency.
Ray tracing? Sword and Fairy 7 dives into Epic’s toolbox right here, with ray traced shadows, reflections and water caustics. The shadows take away the standard shadow maps, including in a practical drop-off in shadow definition the additional away from the casting object they’re, eliminating shadow cascade artefacts. RT additionally provides micro-shadows for element that customary shadowing strategies cannot seize. RT reflections dramatically enhance the sport’s customary screen-space results, reworking the look of shinier surfaces and water (although unusually, some water surfaces don’t obtain RT results). Nonetheless, RT caustics are constantly utilized, inflicting gentle to bounce realistically throughout the atmosphere from the rippling of the water’s floor – and it may possibly look breathtaking. The final ray tracing impact is an implementation of single bounce world illumination utilizing Nvidia’s RESTIR expertise, extra apparent in closed areas. In all, whereas the effectiveness varies from impact to impact and from scene to scene, RT positively enhances many points of the sport and it is nice to see it right here.
Ray tracing has a value and which means compromising in efficiency once you use it, however optimised settings are potential. Nonetheless, the sport has a quirk within the menus that limits graphical choices – turning on any of the RT options forces DLSS on and the RT choices themselves are usually not versatile, that means you possibly can’t activate/off or tune particular person RT options. One other subject that’s that RT would not work in any respect proper now on RDNA 2 GPUs from AMD. Based on the builders, this will likely be mounted.
I am going to go away it to the video to debate the implications of efficiency, however suffice to say, the RTX 2060 – the least highly effective Nvidia desktop GPU with RT help – is ready to ship 1080p30 gaming on the excessive setting, however actually, you may must disable RT to recreation at 60fps as a substitute. When it comes to enhancing efficiency past RT, there are solely two settings with a lot of an affect and the primary is volumetric fog high quality. Right here, dropping down from excessive to medium for optimised settings is suggested because it has a really faint distinction in general visible high quality however a hefty efficiency win of 11 %. The opposite optimised setting for mid to low-end GPUs is shadow high quality, the place dropping from excessive to low nets one other eight % in efficiency and solely decreases shadow map decision – however to not a level that appears poor, with screen-space shadows serving to to make up for what loss in high quality there’s. Different settings will be tweaked however I’d not advocate it as that may compromise the sport’s visible identification an excessive amount of – particularly as pop-in for vegetation and different scene geometry is already borderline on the recreation’s highest settings. Altogether, optimised settings saves round 15-17 % in efficiency general.
All collectively – utilizing optimised settings can save as much as 15 to 17% efficiency per scene whereas not wanting too completely different on common. DLSS can also be beneficial with efficiency mode for 4K, balanced mode at 1440p and high quality mode at 1080p. Proper now, even with RT disabled, AMD GPUs appear to function with a big drawback to Nvidia counterparts – one thing that the builders and the Radeon driver staff will hopefully take a look at.
Past this, there are efficiency points that appear to be associated to Unreal Engine 4 that appear to crop up in just about each UE4 title on PC that I check. Considered one of these appears to be associated to background streaming, which causes some frame-time instability however extra pervasive are runtime shader compilation points that trigger extreme stutter. Basically the sport compiles shaders on the fly as they’re wanted, that means that for that first time, the title freezes – regardless of how briskly your PC is. This is not a lot of a problem on console because the mounted nature of the platform implies that the sport ships with all shaders re-compiled, however on PC, many video games compile some or all of them as wanted, producing this recurring downside. Within the case of Sword and Fairy 7 there’s really a shader compilation step on first boot, however I need to assume it is solely compiling a few of them as the issue manifests elsewhere within the recreation and feels actually unpolished. I’ve seen it in so many UE4 titles now that I actually do need to see Epic do one thing about it, because the onus appears to be on the developer to handle the issue – and when it’s mounted, it typically occurs post-release. One thing wants to vary right here as a result of too many video games are transport with the identical subject.
Past these technical points, I am actually completely happy to have found the Sword and Fairy sequence – and this seventh sequence entry actually has a lot to commend it. The sport’s good, though maybe there are a number of too many cutscenes for my liking, whereas visuals are superbly achieved and make nice use of Unreal Engine 4’s cutting-edge function set. I actually do advocate giving it a go – regardless of the sport’s Far East origins, accessibility is not an issue – as I discussed, full English textual content is included and also you need not look onerous to search out the sport both, it’s available on Steam right now.