Old-school dungeon crawlers are usually rewarding and immersive and here we have a collection of 2 top-notch examples of the genre.
Saviors of Sapphire Wings
As far as I can tell, Saviors of Sapphire Wings is a brand new game and it's one fantastic dungeon crawler. Before I continue, let me just say that I'm a huge fan of these retro-inspired first-person grid-based RPGs where you slowly fill out maps while exploring intricate dungeons complete with oodles of secrets and dangerous foes. From classics like Moraff's World and Wizardry to modern interpretations such as Etrian Odyssey and Mary Skelter; I have many fond memories of forging ahead through perilous dungeons with my companions by my side so I'm extremely happy that this compilation exists. Plus, it's been quite a while since a truly old-school dungeon crawler RPG released so that makes Saviors of Sapphire Wings / Stranger of Sword City Revisited even more special for genre veterans like me.
Anyway, Saviors of Sapphire Wings is a genuine retro experience albeit with a phenomenal cast of characters that you'll end up rather attached to as you progress. That's actually a huge part of the story and gameplay; working together to overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles. You'll also occasionally need to talk to your companions and you can cook and eat meals with them, too, with sometimes humorous results. This sense of comradery is strong and consistent throughout the campaign, especially considering that the battle system will have you using each character's strengths in order to deal with massive hordes of monsters and hulking bosses.
Thankfully, the character artwork is excellent and you can even swap out your party members' portraits to make them more personally appealing to you. Along the same lines, the enemy art is incredible, too, as the monsters range from clever takes on stereotypical enemies to huge intricately-detailed beasts. Oh, and the environments look great as well and there's a wide variety of them to boot.
Of course, one of the stand-out aspects about any worthwhile dungeon-crawler RPG is its progression systems and there is plenty to sink your teeth into with Saviors of Sapphire Wings. Besides equipping stronger gear and assigning stat points upon levelling up, you'll also learn new skills, deposit unneeded gear into a furnace to earn permanent party-wide stat boosts, perform simple alchemy to craft new items, and enhance your companions via the Soul Rank system which rewards you for bonding with your chums as well as ensuring that they survive battles. In the end, it all comes together to form an easily-digestible yet engaging and rewarding party dynamic.
Although I absolutely loved my time with Saviors of Sapphire Wings, I should mention that if you get easily frustrated with challenging RPGs, you might not appreciate it as much as I did. However, if you enjoy figuring out winning strategies on your own in order to work past intense boss battles then you'll have an excellent time. That being said, there will still be moments when you don't quite know exactly what to do in order to progress and whenever that happens, it's hard not to get a little impatient after a while.
Stranger of Sword City Revisited
Yes, it's true; although Saviors of Sapphire Wings is more than enough of an excuse to pick up this outstanding collection, it also contains Stranger of Sword City Revisited. I first played and reviewed Stranger of Sword City back in 2016 and it's still as immersive and gripping as I recall it being back then. What's different about Stranger of Sword City is that it's quite a dark game that'll have you on the edge of your seat with its eerie atmosphere and grueling dungeons. It can be surprisingly brutal, too, with some harsh difficulty spikes so make sure you're up for a challenge before diving in. Unfortunately, its cast of characters aren't nearly as memorable as they are in Saviors of Sapphire Wings due to them being sort of blank slates so you have to put in some imagination to get the most out of it.
Stranger of Sword City is also a bit more complicated and involving when it comes to its progression systems. For example, you'll have to manually level up in the party menu and equipment pieces come in many slight variations and levels so it ends up being a very loot-heavy equipment system. Overall, it's simply a much more old-school adventure so if you love pouring a lot of time and effort into honing your party in order to conquer challenging scenarios then you need Stranger of Sword City in your gaming library. Anyway, if you'd like to learn more about this modern dungeon-crawling masterpiece and why I love it so much, be sure to read my full review of the original.Stranger of Sword City Review
As a long-time fan of grid-based dungeon crawlers, I'm delighted to say that Saviors of Sapphire Wings and Stranger of Sword City Revisited are 2 of the best examples of what the genre is capable of. If you love a challenge, I highly recommend picking up this pack.
- + Includes 2 amazing RPGs with lengthy, challenging, and memorable campaigns
- + Great sense of companionship
- + Super-rewarding progression systems
- - Some parts can be confusing to figure out
- - Might be too old-school for some