Swords n' Magic and Stuff is absolutely 100% going for a cutesy vibe, but don't let its appearance deceive you. SMAS is an open world RPG so chock full of adventure and exploration that even in its Early Access state I’m pretty sure I haven’t even scratched the surface of what it has to offer.
Let me start at the beginning. More specifically, character creation. I created three different characters (you can have five characters at a time on a copy and characters are for the moment locally saved) to see if the different races had any mechanical effect on quests, skills, or factions. So far they do not, appearing to be purely cosmetic so you can play the sort of character you want to be and still enjoy everything Swords n' Magic and Stuff has to offer.
And offer it does. After a short tutorial segment on the ship that brings you to SMAS's initial island, you are allowed to run around, meet the locals, take quests, find loot, fight crabs, and just generally explore anywhere you can survive, and anywhere that currently exists, of course.
Being that Swords n' Magic and Stuff is in Early Access, there's a lot of stuff currently unfinished, handily marked by an anvil sign to let you know it's being worked on. Already in the few days I've played the game, it has already been patched twice to improve quality of life, iron out bugs, and literally just add content. Kindred Games seem absolutely committed to improving their game, so I do look forward to seeing what they add in the future.
Upon loading my first character, I managed to accidentally skip the tutorial by accessing the exit ladder when trying to pick up an item, since take and use are bound (as they often are) to the same key. I created a new character to double check the tutorial since the game regularly autosaves and you can't go back to the tutorial once you leave. In general I approve of the autosave and see as a bonus, especially for a game in Early Access, though a hard save option would be nice. Anyways, I had to quit and restart since a quit to menu option doesn't seem to exist. I found this odd, since Sword n' Magic and Stuff features multiple save slots. What if I want to switch characters without quitting?
Since there wasn't a visible delete character function at the time, I created a second character, thoroughly explored the tutorial, exited to the Tirawyn (SMAS's setting) proper, and got myself stuck on level geometry. Fortunately, the developers were aware that this might happen and coded in a handy feature. Typing "/stuck" into the chat window will get you into a clear area and free to move again. I ran around the starting town, getting used to movement and quests before calling it quits for that character for the moment.
My third character was created because I wanted to try playing on my older media PC with my wife, so we could try playing with controllers with local co-op, but controllers weren't yet supported nor was couch co-op. Online multiplayer exists, but my wife and I only have the one key, so my wife's Moon Elf went out exploring into the wilds of Tirawyn. We quickly solved everyone's problems in the little starting town, then went exploring outside, only to get very quickly overwhelmed by a very aggressive rat that charged at us from a bush.
Looking back, we probably should have not gone out with only 15 HP remaining. No worries though, as we were able to run back into town as a ghost and revive ourselves at a lantern in town. There is a time limit to this trek, but I don't know yet what happens if you fail to get back in time.
The game is pretty solid to play so far. You have a left hand and a right hand and can equip a weapon or shield in either or both hands. Weapons can be melee or ranged, mundane or magic. You also have a double jump and a roll. It's not the high paced action of, say, a Platinum Games offering, but for an open world adventure RPG it works wonderfully. You can also upgrade your weapons and shield if you have the right resources, which gets into the game's funny resource gathering system.
I don't know if this is a temporary thing in beta, or if this is permanently a part of Tirawyn's lore, but instead of chopping down trees or using a pickaxe on rocks, you just attack them like a random enemy. There's even an NPC who exists to explain this unique mechanic to you.
In terms of graphics and responsiveness, Swords n' Magic and Stuff works wonderfully. Its graphical style is something between Skyrim and Minecraft with a hint of Funko Pop, but it’s very well designed for its simplicity, with all the characters being easily identifiable despite their simple features. While there were obviously no problems running the game on my newer PC and its NVIDIA 2000 series card, my 11 year old PC also had no problems running the game on a 4k display at max settings, and it still looked amazing. The developers absolutely know the aesthetic they are working with and how to craft with it, especially their landscapes and vistas. The only thing to note is that on that lower end PC it did sometimes take the game a moment to finish rendering and populating items into a house when I first went in, but given that this test was specifically done on a decade old machine, you probably won't have the same issue.
If you can get behind its very blocky and cartoony aesthetic, Swords n' Magic and Stuff is a great game to grab in Early Access. While it's far from error free, updates are frequent; it got two in as many days while I was playing this review, quashing bugs and forcing rewrites of this preview. I shake my fist with mock anger at their friendly response to player concerns and rapid update schedule! One feature I'd love to see added to Swords n' Magic and Stuff is the ability for couch co-op. SMAS already supports multiple local saves, and it just has the perfect look and feel for a game to play alongside a friend in the same room. With the caveat that this is nowhere near feature complete, yes, I would say it’s worth a shot. There’s tons to do and more is on the way.