I am finally playing this year’s newest MMORPG released in NA and Europe that was originally released in Korea called Blade & Soul. I’ve only started playing it for a week now since its first release back in January 18th. But before that, I purchased the basic Founders Pack to give me a head start, and of course, so I can finally have early access to the game before everyone did. I actually started playing it on the 16th, two days before its official release date. I even wrote a brief mention of it some two weeks ago, as you can tell how excited I am with this game.
So, here’s a quick review of MMO, mainly its Western release. I’m sure that this new release still lacks the stuff that the current Korean (and probably the Japanese and the Chinese versions) release has, but I’ve only played this over a week and I haven’t really advanced to the higher levels just yet.1 There are, of course, some things that I really like and the things that I don’t like about the game.
Since this is a quick review, I’ll just list them out in two categories.
What I like/love about this MMO:
- It takes place in a mythical (East) Asian-style world, where martial arts is a way of living. You (the player) start the game off as a new student at the prestigious Hongmoon School, almost similar/reminiscent of a Shaolin Monastery and the Taoist temple complexes in the Wudang Mountains in China. In short, a kung-fu/martial arts school located up in a floating island somewhere in the sky. I’ve always loved this setting, not because I’m Asian myself, but because I’ve always found wuxia-themed stories fascinating, enchanting, enthralling, and simply magical. Speaking of mythical Asian themes, the characters’ names are purely Korean, and that the Western release kept their names in Korean.
- Artwork by the awesome Hyung-Tae Kim. It’s too bad that he already left NCSoft (the peeps behind Blade & Soul) for his own future endeavors, whatever that may be. His artwork may be heavily influenced by Japanese anime/manga styles, but his intricate style makes it stand out from that genre if one truly pays attention to it. Even the Japanese anime/manga industry also recognized Hyung-Tae Kim’s work from anywhere. I read that in the Japanese anime version of Blade & Soul, the anime character designers did whatever they can to emulate their designs as close as they can to Hyung-Tae Kim’s. I do wish that he would be more recognized and be more involved in more video game projects, whether it may be in Korea or Japan,2 as he only had three projects on his resume: the War of Genesis series of Korea-only released PC games, the Magna Carta series in consoles,3 and this one.
- Highly customizable character creator system. For those video game art enthusiasts, we are all familiar with Hyung-Tae Kim’s “oversexualized” versions of his female characters and using a lot of “shimmer and shine” on their bare skin, but if you are creating a female character, the options are almost limitless. You can make yourself look average, super-cutesy, a lot more “well-developed,” (for the fan service) light-skinned or dark-skinned, long hair, short hair, custom-styled hairstyles, you name it. It’s the same that goes with the male characters too. You also have four different races to choose from (Jin, Gon, Lyn, and Yun), not just as a preset on how your character’s appearance should look like, but a few of those races have specific classes that only belong to them. More info on their main website, of course.
- Simple but complex combat system. I know they’re oxymoron to each other, but even though certain moves are assigned towards certain keys of the keyboard, you can even create special combinations using those same combinations of your keys. You can do basic attacks using both the left and right mouse buttons, you can block, rush attack, kick, counter-attack, you name it. It took me a bit while to getting used to the system, but once you continue on with the game, you’ll eventually get used to them.
- Voices! A lot of the “purists” always complain and criticize about how the characters’ voices sounded or portrayed, which for me as an avid gamer and a storywriter, annoys me. For example, if an Asian character sounded American, purists complain. And if an Asian character tries to add an Asian accent while speaking in English (or whatever language being dubbed), purists complain. For me as a gamer, I only care about the story, and how the actors behind those characters portray their emotions to their parts. After all, in real life, you may see some burly-looking dude with a high-pitched mellow voice or a cutesy-looking girl with a rather deep, “in your face” woman voice. It happens a lot. Why can’t that just apply to video game characters too? Anyway, I haven’t played any (anime-based, fantasy-based, etc.) MMOs (that I know of anyway) that have some character voices in them. In Blade & Soul, only the characters involved in the main mission are provided with the voices. I guess you could say, it makes a lot of sense.
- Fast-paced! Yes, the battle scenes are very fast-paced. Well, actually, it’s only fast-paced if you have a rather powerful computer. Blade & Soul‘s recommended system requirements only requires 4GB RAM to play it and you’re good to go. Most of my games in my 4GB RAM all-in-one desktop run smoothly, though lately the computer itself is running rather slow. I installed it in my 16GB RAM-powered laptop because there aren’t any games in there and I thought I would certainly enjoy it more on a system that has a higher power than the one recommended. Also, I love the colors and the resolution too. I didn’t have to worry about any shrinking fonts and what not (unlike my resolution problems before on older programs like Adobe CS6, sigh…) and that the game looks really good in both Fullscreen and Windowed mode. I am playing the game in Windowed mode, but the window also takes up the entire screen, which makes it more “fullscreen windowed” than just windowed. Of course, you can minimize it also if you need to multitask.
There are a few more that I like but the ones mentioned are the main points that I want to point out. I’ll be doing the same with the “opposing” list.
What I DON’T like/love about this MMO:
- The nonsense “wait line” for non-premium members. You know how in some MMOs, they offer plenty of server channels for you to play on, and that in those same MMOs, you create characters that are permanently bound to that server? Well, Blade & Soul is one of those games. During my “head start” days of the game, I created my fiirst character on the Hongmoon server (Kairinie), but then a day after the release date, I got slapped on with a window that’s telling me I’m in a “wait queue” to enter the game using that same server and that I had to wait almost an hour just for me to start playing. Like, seriously? And what’s worse of it is that you can’t change server channels using the same character too. Apparently, in this new “wait queue” system, they now give priority to premium members. Now, premium membership only gives you extra perks, and that they are optional to all players. It’s not a “pay to win” MMO like some other MMOs out there (*coughSquareEnixcough*). I don’t mind purchasing some premium membership, however, they’re quite pricey and decided not to. I had no choice but to recreate a new character (Erima) so I can use the newer servers without any of that “wait queue” bit going on in the beginning. So far, I’m doing a whole lot better with this second character than my first “trial” one.
- The endless spamming/spambots on the chatroom! I’m thinking this is the reason why NCSoft is having so many problems with their game servers. They don’t have a very tight, very accurate security system, and that it’s always being flooded by these spambots. They also spam the chatroom with the whole “cheap Blade and Soul coins at (whatever that malicious URL may be)” endlessly, so much that I had to minimize the chatroom so I don’t get distracted by that. Maybe if NCSoft fixes this problem, then we probably won’t have any more problems with the whole “wait queue” issue that I mentioned in the previous list item.
- It’s hard to make friends/meet people here. If you’re wondering, yes, I am a solo player on this game. Before, during my Lucent Heart and my Destiny days (even though Destiny is a console game), I didn’t have much problems meeting new people and actually playing with them. However, probably because of the spambots, it’s really hard to find someone to play with here. So, if you’re interested in joining me in this game, please don’t hesitate to let me know so we can play together, make a clan together, something.
Those are the major points on what I don’t like about this game. Overall though, still worth a try.
So, I finally conclude my quick review of this MMO. I don’t normally do MMO reviews, let alone video game reviews, but I felt that I just had to write one about a game I’ve waited over four years for it. Why not?