Sword Reverie: How This VR Action RPG Channels JRPG Roots
Isekai Entertainment’s Sword Reverie has gained significant traction these last few weeks. Bringing us a single player JRPG-inspired action RPG to VR, it’s been in the news thanks to a successful Kickstarter campaign.
First revealed last year with some gameplay footage, it reached their $10,000 funding goal in 72 hours and Isekai are now seeking to hit further stretch goals, including further content and support for both PSVR and Oculus Quest. As of the time of this publishing it’s got about 4 days to go.
Reminiscent of Sword Art Online, last year’s VR RPG Nostos, and VR MMO Ilysia it utilizes a hand-drawn anime visual design within a single player experience, designed to make you feel like a JRPG protagonist.
Playing a nameless Hero summoned to this realm, it takes place across an open world with explorable villages, boss fights, and dungeons. Placing you amidst a war between humans and Elementals, it promises a story-driven experience that follows this plot:
“After a thousand years of peace, the boiling tensions between the “kingdom of man” and the elemental lords continue to escalate. Seeing that the threat of a catastrophic war is imminent, the Guardian Magnus uses his powers to summon you the “Hero” to his realm, to become his new apprentice. The Guardian explains to you, that he believes the Elemental lords have grown too powerful and as legend goes, only a “true hero” from a faraway land, can bring balance, peace, and prosperity to all the realms.”
With the Kickstarter campaign finishing very soon we reached out to one of Isekai Entertainment’s founders, Frank Zhang, who was kind enough to tell us more about this exciting new project.
Henry Stockdale, UploadVR: Firstly, thank you for agreeing to this interview. Could you please introduce yourselves and your game?
Frank Zhang, Isekai Entertainment Co-Founder: Hi, my name is Frank. One of the co-founders of Isekai Entertainment. We are a game studio founded in 2018 to develop anime and manga inspired VR games.
Our game, Sword Reverie, is a single-player JRPG inspired VR action game. In Sword Reverie, you will be an anime protagonist who fights off hordes of Elementals using your sword and launches powerful abilities using body gestures. You will explore a large fantasy world alongside anime-style characters in a thrilling story-driven adventure.
UploadVR: Sword Reverie was announced last year but it’s only just gotten a Kickstarter campaign. Why choose to do this now, rather than when you first revealed it?
Zhang: Our original plan was to release the game directly to Early Access by the end of 2020. However, during our playtests this summer, we had an outpouring of support from players who wanted to see the game developed further before Early Access to realize its full potential and were asking for ways to support us financially to do so. We believe Kickstarter is the best way to continue the development of Sword Reverie with feedback and support from our community.
UploadVR: It’s planned for early access release in Spring 2021. What can we expect to be included at launch, compared to the full release?
Zhang: The Early Access release will include the first map and boss fight. The game will be roughly 2~3 hours at Early Access, with a smaller amount of enemy types and weapons. The full release will include 5 maps, 4+ boss fights, and additional enemies and weapons for 8~10 hours of gameplay. The full story of Sword Reverie will also be completed in the full release.
UploadVR: JRPGs aren’t really something we’ve previously seen in VR, though similar ideas were used in Nostos and OrbusVR. How does Sword Reverie distinguish itself from those experiences?
Zhang: Like Nostos and Orbus VR, Sword Reverie has a large fantasy world and epic stories. However, Sword Reverie is a single-player game with a greater focus on satisfying VR combat. Our game has a unique elemental combat system and players use different body gestures to launch abilities. We also do a great job recreating the anime experience with our art style and voice actors.
UploadVR: Perhaps inevitably due to the concept, we’ve seen plenty of Sword Art Online comparisons with your game and I noticed the Kickstarter FAQ discourages use of life-threatening hardware mods. All joking aside, is there any major similarities between SAO and Sword Reverie?
Zhang: We want Sword Reverie to be a game that immerses you in a VR fantasy world with thrilling action combat. Our team is a big fan of Kirito’s use of dual blades and the fights in SAO were exhilarating to watch. This is why we created a combat system that allows players to launch larger than life JRPG like abilities by doing cool battle poses using dual blades.
UploadVR: You’ve previously shown off open-world gameplay footage, showcasing combat and village exploration, so how much freedom will players have here? Can you go off adventuring to complete some side quests, or does it mainly focus on the campaign?
Zhang: Certain details are still being designed, but the player will be able to freely explore large sections of the map during the campaign and will be rewarded with experience and loot for venturing off the beaten trail. The focus is on the campaign, but side quests are a possible addition.
UploadVR: In true JRPG fashion, will there be a fishing minigame?
Zhang: Currently, the answer is no, but additional VR interactions may be added in the future.
UploadVR: Regarding combat, Sword Reverie promises a physics-based approach, using a rock-paper-scissors style system for elemental attacks and you’ve also got physical weaponry. How do these two aspects combine?
Zhang: The elemental system means that you need to change elements and use different abilities to deal with different enemies. The physics weaponry means you can’t just wiggle your sword around, that weapons have weight, and that you need to pay attention to how you are attacking enemies, such as where to attack, and when to dodge or block. You will need to choose the right element and strategy against enemies but also fight hard to dispatch enemies quickly.
UploadVR: We know that the Hero is joined by Magnus and Stella during this adventure. Stella and Magnus will join us during combat, but can players control/influence their actions during fights? Or do they operate independently?
Zhang: Magnus and Stella cannot be controlled by the player and will operate independently. However, they will both have major roles in the story.
UploadVR: Your Kickstarter video tells us we can combine elemental abilities to create our own playstyles within game. Could you tell us more about how this works?
Zhang: Each combination of elements and abilities have unique effects. When faced with different types of enemies, there are multiple strategies on what elements to use and which threats to tackle first depending on the playstyle of the player. For example, players may prefer to use fire elements to burn enemies or grass elements to root enemies. Each approach will have its pros and cons.
UploadVR: What VR headsets will be supported?
Zhang: We already support all PC VR headsets that run SteamVR (HTC Vive/Vive Pro/Cosmos, Valve Index, Pimax, Windows MR such as HP Reverb G2 and Samsung Odyssey+, Oculus Rift/Rift S/Quest with Link Cable, etc.) and Oculus PC VR (Oculus Rift/Rift S/Quest with Link Cable). PSVR and Quest are stretch goals for the Kickstarter.
UploadVR: To bring it to Oculus Quest and PSVR, you’re asking for $20,000 and $25,000 as stretch goals. Is it possible to achieve these goals with just a small financial boost?
Zhang: It will take far more money, and most importantly development time, to create proper Quest and PSVR versions of the game. For the Quest version, due to the performance limitations of mobile processors, we need to make major changes to the game. The Kickstarter is meant to be a gauge of interest in Quest and PSVR versions and not an indicator of the investment needed. If the stretch goals are met, we will seek alternative sources of funding to build these versions or put up more money ourselves.
UploadVR: Lastly, is there any message you’d like to share with the fans?
Zhang: Thank you to our Kickstarter backers for backing our project. The Kickstarter has been a huge success so far, and we will do our best to create a game that meets your expectations.
Again, thank you to all the weebs and gamers who have supported us along the way. Your support allowed us to keep moving forward during difficult times. We hope that all our fans will continue to provide us feedback to make the game better and continue to spread the word about Sword Reverie.
For more details on Sword Reverie, you can visit the official website, Kickstarter page, and Steam page. Sword Reverie is currently targeting a Spring 2021 release window for Early Access.
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