Blade & Soul (CN) Open Beta Review: Grandly Fascinating
Since Blade & Soul’s western localization
is trapped in unknown problem, it won’t be released in US and Europe very soon.
Many western players choose to play the Chinese version, which just started
open beta, and I feel that it’s necessary to review the Chinese version. I will
focus on the gameplay aspect and skip the business model which is specifically tailored
for Chinese market and Chinese players.
The story and starting area will be the same no matter which race and class you select. Blade & Soul is a themepark MMO and its linear narrative makes strong and intriguing storytelling. You follow the story and you get closer and closer to the truth, but you will encounter a lot of twists in the whole story. When you think you know what will happen next or who’s the rat in the group, the game will surprise you with big or small turns in the story.
There are real-time cinematics to enhance the most important pieces of story and you can find voice acting in almost every quest NPC. Speaking of voice acting, the developer knows how important character personality is in a game’s story. Many NPCs come to life with identical tone, rich facial expressions and accurate body gestures. You will come across Qin Yijue, the cold and mysterious blademaster, and Nan surou, the most beautiful and graceful female character in the game. You won’t see dragons and epic battles between two kingdoms in Blade & Soul, instead, you will read about friendship, honor, betrayal, and the Wuxia stuff in this game.
Nothing innovative is found in the quest system. You will still be asked to do what hat you did in many other MMORPGs, thus, kill 5 bandits, slay 5 wolves, and retrieve 5 supply boxes, etc. When you almost clear the quests in an area, you will be led to the next area. The quests are quite easy in early phase and I rarely have the opportunity to face more than 2 monsters at a time. Besides, I have 100% of chance to get quest item from defeated monsters and additional items sometimes. Enemy doesn’t drop gold however, which will disappoint many gold farmers.
Unreal Engine 3 isn’t the most powerful engine anymore but it still works well on MMORPG. Blade & Soul has outstanding light and shadow effects, and with depth of field and long viewing distance, the game is pretty beautiful in the day time. Blade & Soul is a 2010 MMORPG after all, and its lack of high resolution texture and physics preventing it from becoming a next generation MMO. But thanks to the extraordinary artists such as Kim Hyung-Tae in the team, the game is unique in characters and costumes.
Combat is fun in PvE because each class has a lot of abilities to use, and each class is designed for players of certain playing style. The game gives the 7 available classes different difficulty rates, showing the learning curve of these classes. For starters, the game recommends Destroyer and Summoner, and for veteran, Force Master is suggested. From what I see, classes like Force Master require you to accumulate combo points to deal larger amount of damages (similar to World of Warcraft’s Feral Druid) while classes like Destroyer don’t.
The combat feels smooth and flashy, with every type of weapon is given accurate animation and visual effects. For instance, the Destroyer’s huge halberd swung clumsily but struck heavily. Force Master’s weapon is as light as ribbon, and they can attack rapidly but also more gently. Depending on which class you play, you have to press certain buttons to complete a combo. That means when you pick up a new class, you have to learn how to play its particular combos from the ground up — it’s fun to try new class.
You level up your character to unlock new abilities and increase your stats, and additionally, you can use cross-server dungeon finder at level 15. Clothes are purely cosmetic items, but eight trigrams function as armor sets in this game. Each piece of eight-trigrams set adds certain bonus to your stats — could be accuracy, could be evasion, and when you collect 3, 5, or 8 pieces of a set, you gain additional bonus.
Weapons and eight trigrams can be enhanced, with the right materials. You can also insert gems into your weapon to increase its power. Some abilities can also be enhanced, and it’s called cultivation in the game.
Blade & Soul provides console quality combat experience and it handles the storytelling well. It features unique character design that can’t be found in other MMOs today. Many MMORPGs implement various and complicated systems to become huge but Blade & Soul takes a different approach for it doesn’t have player housing, dynamic events, and in-depth crafting. The game puts you into the story, pits you against your enemies, and let you gradually have your revenge, and it makes your adventure to the max level a memorable experience. You may worry about the end-game as I did before, and it’s unnecessary because the game has updated to version 2.0 in Korea and it turns out that Blade & Soul 1.0 is just a very small part of NCsoft’s big picture.