This is not a comprehensive nor golden guide. Rather it is how I played the early game, and some useful tips / tricks to share.
Weapon Choice: For starter, sword is the best, but saber / hidden weapon / polar-arm / fist are all equally viable. The main advantage of sword is that good moves & good weapons are available early on via quests. In late game, you can always farm more martial points to switch to another weapon.
Martial Points: Most important resource, obtained by reading books and winning battles.
It is best spent on cultivation methods, which improves the health, stat, plus many useful buffs. Whenever possible, learn more cultivation!
For the moves, focus on 1-2 moves in early game. There are good moves in every weapon choice. As a sword player, there are moves + cultivation that improves evade in early game.
Lightness is situational, but more movement is always good for real-time battle vs boss.
Meridian Map: Improve the stats. The points are obtained via learning cultivation — another reason cultivation methods are important!
Life skills: Early game, there is no need to improve life skills. Just learn from companion and senior teachers in Wudang whenever available.
Equipment: In early game, take girl in red or Mowen to do a few side-quests and random encounters. You will find some sites that give very good equipment.
Gift / Spar / Consult: Each gift usually add 4, and occasionally 12 affinity if they really like it. The affinity needs to be at least 20 to spar, which give you 1-3 items. Sparring is generally not that useful, although it gives you free items, you can get more valuable items and more martial points from random battles in certain sites.
For consult, focus on learning cultivation method.
Companion: There is a tiger sign for potential companion. Keep on gifting them, until companion mission triggers. Typically there are several side-quests to complete before you can reach 60 affinity and invite them. If the companion rejects your gift, that means there is some mission to be completed first, before you can gift them further.
Companions gain martial points together with you, and you can learn cultivation + moves from them. So getting them early on is a big plus. Companion also have their individual martial points, always prioritize cultivation methods.
Battle modes: Real time battle is the best way to farm martial points via random encounters, as companions are controlled by AI and everyone moves together. Turn-based is usually better for close fight, because of complete control.
However, the game has many 1-vs-1 battle using protagonist. In this case, use real-time battle, as you can time your move when enemy is about to attack — to completely evade their attack, go far away to rest, or go to their back to strike. Real time battle is really fun and pretty much the only way to win an under-dog fight.
This will cover a brief walk-through of the early game.
Yuwen Yi: the main protagonist, with a terrible stat and just an average person. However, he has the best potential in game. He learns the best cultivation in Mount Wanzi prison, and the only one who can switch to any martial arts & learn all cultivation methods.
Learning from squad companion is easiest, just go back to starting village to rest -> learn -> rest. On the other hand, companions can only learn from the textbooks. In the end I really like how unique he becomes.
Wei Huo: Recruit in starting village. He starts as weak as the main protagonist, and polar-arm is underwhelming in early game. His affinity can be improved quickly by eggs. Finishing all his companion quests will make him stronger.
Girl in red: After the world map is available, immediately go to Luo Village then Mount Wanzi. You will meet her after coming out of the prison. Given how good she is, you may go back to world map, and let her help you do some random grinding + recruiting Shangguan.
Shangguan Hong: With good stat and sword mastery, she is easily the best companion in-game.
After girl in red joins, instead of finishing the Mount Wanzi quest, go back to world map and to PingKang city for the “wealthy begger” quest. Finish “Wealthy Begger”, and gift Shangguan until her affinity is 40, it will trigger her joining quest at Qingmu sect (east of world map). Having the red girl in team is essential, because there are several tough enemies along the quest lines. After two more side quests, defeat Shangguan 1-vs-1, which is do-able in real time battle.
For sword player, it is a great investment to get Shangguan early on, because you can learn some really useful sword moves from the quest-lines and from her. After getting Shangguan, go finish Mount Wanzi, which will give you a great weapon move (based on your weapon choice).
Bai Jin: After finishing Mount Wanzi, you will meet Bai Jin in Luo’s village. There are two side quests to complete in order to recruit him, which should be pretty easy with Shangguan in team. Bai Jin is not that strong, but uses hidden weapon and a decent addition to the squad.
Sima Ling: After Shangguan joins, raise her affinity to 70 to trigger another companion mission at Qingmu Sect. Complete the Baidi trial for Shangguan. Then go back to Qingmu Sect and talk to Sima Ling to trigger her joining mission.
IMO she is the second best companion just after Shangguan.
Mowen: After finishing Mount Wanzi and red girl left, go to Wudang, and Mowen will temporarily join.
After joining Wudang, the “real” main quest line starts there, and more side-quests and more companions will open from there. Companions from side-quest can be missed, but missing them will not affect game ending.
Since this is a starting guide, I will stop it here without further spoiler. Exploring the game is fun!
This is not a perfect game, and certain game mechanism needs improvement, such as sparring, energy, food & medicine, life skills, etc.
That said, the game is very complete. The plots are excellent, companions have great stories, and a colorful living world — it has everything I value as a great RPG.
My only complaint is on the ending. All I need is an ending cutscene for Shangguan and Sima — and ideally all the companions from side-quests should appear in ending!