The Legend of Tianding (Also written Tian-ding) is an action title that tells a fictional version of the tale of Liao Tianding, a legendary Taiwanese folk hero that served as a real-life Robin Hood to his people during dire times. The Legend of Tianding is actually a remake of a 2004 Flash game called Shényǐng Wúzōng Liào Tiāndīng, and the original creator and CGCG worked together to revive the title, give it that 2021 shine, and release it worldwide.
So does the tale of Liao Tianding inspire in the same way Robin Hood did? Or should this folk story close its books and be put away? Let’s find out!
The game starts off by introducing Liao Tianding, a true folk hero from Taiwan, and speaking of how amazing he has been for the Taiwanese people during the harsh Japan takeover in the late 1800s/early 1900s, and The Legend of Tianding does a wonderful job of riding that fine line of real-life storytelling and fictional fantasy. This is an excellent historical figure to elevate, and it is one that Taiwanese are particularly proud of, as they should be.
The story follows a typical Robin Hood-like tale of the wealthy taking advantage of the poor and downtrodden. Liao Tianding arrives in the nick of time to help, and he begins his quest of robbing from the rich to give to the poor. He is an excellent martial artist, and he is quite skilled in the use of certain weapons, including his trusty short sword. Everything the character of Liao Tianding in The Legend of Tianding represents is of utmost respect, honor, and selflessness. He is truly a man of the people, and the game does an excellent job of representing him in a bright light.
I absolutely love the story, as I learned an incredible amount of information about an historical figure I was not so familiar with. Although the story of The Legend of Tianding is fictional, it is still captivating and gives its audience a grand view of one of Taiwan’s most revered individuals. I especially love how he is represented with a sense of humor, which adds a fun layer of entertainment to the otherwise tragic tale of oppressive Japanese rule. In many ways similar to the Robin Hood tale, Liao Tianding is multi-layered, and he is here to make rights out of wrongs.
Gameplay is a 2D action platformer with some slight metroidvania elements. Those metroidvania elements are minimal, so do not expect progressive powerups and a huge map. However, there are both, as certain powerups do give you access to previously inaccessible items, and the map is large enough to merit a fast travel system. But overall, this is equal parts story and heavy action with some excellent boss fights.
The Legend of Tianding is set up by chapters, with each one starting with some story build up around certain characters that are thrusting their power on the lowly. In comes Liao Tianding to save the day, and this is when some fetch-questing happens before ultimately accessing the “dungeon” area where the real combat begins.
Liao Tangding is equipped with some great abilities, and he starts off with a standard knife/short sword attack as well as a ribbon ability (Red Sash Bind) that allows him to wrap an enemy up, steal their weapon, and throw them any direction. The ribbon is an excellent mix to the action, as it constantly gives you an ability to try new weapons temporarily, like long swords, guns, clubs, and even rocket launchers among many others. This gives Liao a genuine arsenal at his disposal, and each area mixes things up enough to keep it exciting.
On top of the weapons, Liao also knows kung fu, which includes numerous abilities that allow him to do things like One Inch Punch and Soaring Dragon. The Soaring Dragon, particularly, is a wonderful early learning that allows Liao to basically do a “triple jump” thanks to it thrusting him in the air more after his double jump. Each ability is excellent for combat, but they are even useful in getting around town and collecting hidden goodies.
There are 6 chapters in The Legend of Tianding, and each one takes roughly an hour to clear, which gives the game a hefty 6-7 hours of potential gameplay. There are also two difficulties that cater to the experience you want to have, which is a really nice touch. You can play Gentleman Thief which allows you to play through the story with less stress, or you can play Wanted Outlaw where the combat is more challenging and enemies can kill you more easily. This is great and gives two very different crowds the ability to enjoy the game as they want, and the story is stellar, so buying The Legend of Tianding just for the story experience is well worth the asking price.
One of the greatest points in the entire game are the boss fights, which tend to be the close of each chapter, and they are tons of fun and have a proper, old-school big fight feel. Similar to games like the old Mega Mans, the bosses tend to work in patterns, and learning the patterns is part of the fun. Some bosses even allow for Liao to use his ribbon ability to steal weapons, and there are the occasional hazards mixed into these fights as well. The progression of difficulty in these boss fights is also commendable, as they test your skills perfectly as you move through the story.
The art style is fantastic, and it doesn’t matter if it is the 3-dimensial gameplay graphics and models or the static manga-like images that pop up on screen during story moments, everything is amazing. The same can even be said about the occasional voice acting, which is entirely in Mandarin and Japanese, as they are incredibly well-done and bring an authentic feel to what is happening.
I did run into a couple misspellings in the dialog boxes throughout the story, though. Thankfully they are not too distracting, but for those dependent on reading the on-screen dialog, this is a bit unpolished.
There is so much to love about The Legend of Tianding that it is difficult to not praise it entirely. The story is one-of-a-kind in the gaming world, and the characters are so well developed that you feel invested in all of them. Gameplay is stellar, and it seems like they covered all the areas they needed to in order to make The Legend of Tianding feel like a proper (And fun!) action title. The fetch quests can be a bit of a drag, but they flow into the great dungeon areas and even better boss fights. That flow is absolutely worth it!
The Legend of Tianding is a beautifully recreated (and fictional) telling of a proper Taiwanese legend, and it is awesome that we live in a day and age where access to a broad spectrum of games allows us to enjoy and experience things outside of our little bubble. Taiwan has been through a ton the last couple hundred years, most of it unfortunate, but it is exciting to celebrate a true folk hero in this game.
If you are looking for a solid action experience with a real challenge, The Legend of Tianding is a great option. But if you are looking for an engaging story with a strong narrative and fantastic characters, The Legend of Tianding is perfect. If you are looking for both? Well, all I can say is you need to buy this game right now! It is one of the best action titles I have played in 2021, and if you know me, that is saying a lot.
The Legend of Tianding Review provided by Nintendo Link
Review also found on OpenCritic
Publisher: Neon Doctrine
Release Date: November 1st, 2021
Price: $19.99, £17.99, €19,99
Game Size: 1.5 GB
Excellent narrative/story of a proper Taiwanese folk legend
Great combat, especially boss fights
Beautiful art styles
Native Mandarin and Japanese voice acting
Fetch quests are a bit of a drag
A couple spelling errors (Can be updated!)
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My name is Jason Capp. I am a husband, father, son, and brother, and I am a gamer, a writer, and a wannabe pro wrestler. It is hard to erase the smile on this simple man.