After launching on Steam in 2017, O.T.K Games’ The Vagrant has finally released on consoles with the new alias Sword of the Vagrant. The game is heavily inspired by the games of Vanillaware; renowned developers of games like Muramasa: The Demon Blade and Dragon’s Crown. This inspiration can be seen straight away with the wonderful hand-drawn art style, and even down to the smaller elements like the animation and the uhh… let’s call it “sometimes gratuitous” character designs.
A 2D hack-and-slash adventure with some light Metroidvania-style exploration elements, Sword of the Vagrant places you in the shoes of Vivian; a young sellsword sailing toward the island of Mythrilla in search of her missing father. After being faced with a mysterious owl guy, her ship conveniently wrecks on the beaches of Mythrilla. After assisting a young local woman, Vivian returns with her to a village in ruin and is soon cursed by an evil witch who demands that she retrieve magic artefacts, or else she will destroy Vivian instantly. To ensure our hero does not try and escape, the witch sends her disciple Camden along for the journey to keep watch.
The Vagrant’s story is interesting; however, due to the sheer amount of exposition between the characters, it can be easy to lose the thread of what exactly the characters are discussing. However, Camden’s character arc throughout the journey and his relationship with Vivian are highlights, their scenes together helping to humanise the latter and her usually stone-cold demeanour.
Vivian starts off with a fairly barebones moveset, making the early game a bit of a slog at times. However, once you begin to unlock extra combos and special moves — through a skill tree finding items in the overworld — combat gains a bit of momentum and becomes more interesting. That momentum doesn’t last, as Vivian’s combo list ends up consisting of just a handful of different combos, meaning that repetition returns.
There’s no autosave system, meaning death will send you back to when you last saved; luckily, this isn’t an issue for most of the game as the overworld is rarely a challenge, and most bosses have a save point just before their arena, except the final boss where a long, tedious structure and lack of checkpointing easily added an hour to our nine-hour playtime.
As we mentioned, the art style looks great and the game runs well in handheld mode, although it has the tendency to get a bit choppy when docked. We also ran into a few glitches over the course of the adventure, the most common causing Vivian to just slide across the screen while stuck in a crouch animation, and a soft lock later in the game in which the character would not stop walking right into a wall. By no means are these extreme and you would hope they’ll be patched, but they got a bit frustrating over time. These issues aside, Sword of the Vagrant held our attention and, especially considering the modest asking price, is still worthy of light investigation if you’re a fan of rough-and-ready hack-and-slashing.