Swords and Sorcery: Underworld is an interesting gaming experience. It’s a new game that appears like a traditional Might & Magic or Wizardry game, allowing you to create your own party of characters, adventuring in first person, etc., with all of the old timey flair those games may have had. The Dark Spire as well as the Etrian Odyssey games also make a very good comparison, due to the highly customizable nature of your party. This is a new game styled as an old-school RPG, straight out of the late 80’s, to the point that even the art style evokes the source material.
Your party of characters, whom you get to customize from a variety of races and classes, all begin pathetically weak and covered in papier mâché for equipment, so your initial encounters are most likely the most dangerous in the entire game. Swords and Sorcery: Underworld uses an extremely traditional turn-based combat system that is loaded with a plethora of options, which a player can easily be overwhelmed by since the tutorial is a text blurb about each of the 15 combat options, one by one, then disappears. It may take a little bit of time, trial and error for users to become accustomed to fighting vigilantes and the like because of how the information is presented.
Players explore dungeons in a first person perspective, moving one square on the map grid at a time. Upon entering combat, you switch to a turn-based combat system where you can choose to attack the enemy, protect vulnerable party members, stealth, cast a spell, flee, and more. Each character gets one action per round, and several enemies will require adapting to their strategy in order to overcome them, so most of the options available to the player will be used throughout the course of the game.
Even after obtaining armor and better weapons, there’s a solid chance your characters will probably fall in one hit. The Endurance stat really only seems to affect tiny increments of damage, as even with a focus on defense many characters will still get KO’d in one hit. Thankfully, though, characters fall unconscious, rather than dead, should their HP hit 0. Another hit will kill them, which requires a healthy expenditure from your coffers at the temple for resurrection.
Adapting to the high damage values of the enemies in the first couple of areas is probably one of the most important aspects of Swords and Sorcery: Underworld. Grinding, at least a little bit, is strongly recommended before diving into the location after the tutorial area. Getting a little bit of a cushion, while still adjusting to the game’s archaic play style, is helpful when the fear and silence ailments can cause you to spiral downward into a full party wipe during an otherwise innocuous random encounter.
Figuring out how to keep archers from hitting the more squishy party members or figuring out the right positioning to keep enemies from harming some characters altogether is a very important aspect of the combat. Join and drop out of melee (as well as the leader’s options of press forward and disengage) are two of the most important options in the game, and ignoring them is strongly not recommended.
The graphics of the game are quite pleasing. The character portraits and event images are hand-drawn and the environments through which you dungeon-crawl are designed colorfully so you won’t have to wonder at what you’re looking. The sound can be somewhat give or take – some sound effects are quite reasonable and match their actions well, such as birds chirping, the sound of a weapon hit, which work despite being fairly minimal. Some sounds seemed to repeat in locations they should not have, such as the bird chirping sound in areas that are actually indoors, but overall it is nothing to lessen the enjoyment of the game.
Swords and Sorcery: Underworld is what you could call traditionally balanced: Like the games Swords and Sorcery emulates, there is a fair amount of difficulty that can be had from fairly innocuous things. Grinding can alleviate the necessity of luck in early progression, though understanding your party’s skills is the key to victory. Leveling up provides the characters with higher health and spell point pools, three attribute points, as well as new skills or spells.
Swords and Sorcery: Underworld is incredibly buggy and riddled with glitches. Sometimes, you will attempt to cast a spell, but one of your party members will disappear and you will receive a “Code Error” text window, sometimes resulting in a fatal error crash – obviously an unintended consequence of some kind of programming conflict. Sometimes you’ll get these errors when trying to unlock a door. Sometimes the game will randomly crash when you choose to rest your party, or crash when you get close to squares of water. Saving often is typically the mantra of RPG players, and this game puts that to the test with how often it breaks.
The game has been updated numerous times since release, but unfortunately, each time the game was updated in the process of trying to review it, something else was broken. Swords and Sorcery: Underworld has significant crashing issues on Windows 10 that the developer has not yet ironed out, which caused a significant amount of trouble while preparing this review. The developer is working quite diligently toward figuring out various bugs and glitches, but as of this writing there are still some fairly large issues playing the game on Microsoft’s latest operating system.
Overall: Swords and Sorcery: Underworld is a game very much for people who enjoyed the classic Wizardry series. Those not on Windows 10 (right now, anyway), and those who wish for a classic coat of paint on that style of gameplay will absolutely adore this game. Those who are intolerant of glitches, or are on Windows 10, may want to stay far away from this game right now due to crashing bugs, save file errors, and more. This is a fantastic game for those who love RPGs, but if you’re on the current Microsoft operating system, it would be best to wait until the bugs are figured out.