Thursday, February 11, 2016

Blade and Soul

My friend L recently decided to start playing Blade and Soul, a Korean MMORPG which just recently released an English version. He convinced me to give it a try.
The first thing that struck me about Blade and Soul is that it's very pretty. There are lots of big open landscapes which are nicely realized, and the interiors of caves and the like look appropriately gritty. The art style is very much in the tradition of martial arts fighting games and anime. The characters are overly cute, but since they spend a lot of their time kicking monsters in the face, it sort of balances out between cute and dangerous. A dozen or so levels in, you'll start encountering Dragon Soul travel points, each of which has a pretty incredible travel animation. The game has plenty of eye candy.

I was pretty impressed by the character appearance creation options. As I said, all the characters are anime-style cute, but you have a ton of choices of exactly how that plays out. Everything from slight facial changes to body style to coloration is customizable. Unfortunately that doesn't extend to clothing - everyone has the same starting uniform once you get into the game. You can find others as you play, but it takes a while.

There are a bunch of different class and race options, as you'd expect. It's all based around magic and martial arts - options like the Blade Master or Assassin on the martial arts side, or Summoner on the magic side. It all bleeds together, of course; for instance, your Blade Master might use a magical Lightning Sword attack.

Combat is very interactive, requiring the player to move around a lot, execute attack combos, and keep the target lined up. I've only played the lower levels thus far, and not run into anything too difficult, but I can see the direction things are going. There's going to be a lot of twitch-reaction coordination needed, which sadly means I'll probably be awful at it. I'm sure the basic story content will be workable, especially in a duo. But higher level dungeons and such will be a challenge.

Speaking of story, Blade and Soul does have one, but it's very limited. Nothing that I've seen thus far is specific to class or race - everyone gets exactly the same quests and meets the same people. It's all very generic for the genre: you're a martial arts student, some bad guy comes after your master and fellow students, you must avenge them. Heard that one before! Some of the quest bits are entertaining, but none of it is a surprise.

Having said that, the writers sure seemed to have a good time putting quests together. You'll run across plenty of amusing little stories, like the hopelessly-in-love guy sending mushrooms to the object of his desire (who hates mushrooms), or the old man that sends you after his apprentice because the kid stole all the beer. They use a fun little system where you can see thought bubbles from the character you're talking to, so you know when they're trying to deceive you, or just asking you to do something dangerous because they're too scared to do it themselves. It's entertaining to go through once; too bad there's not anything new if you want to play another character.

And then there is loot. You get a lot of it, mostly from defeating the occasional boss monster and from doing quests (many of which can be repeated daily). And you can't use much of it at all without removing "seals", or in some cases unlocking treasure boxes. Even once unlocked, most of the items will be class-specific, which makes the vast majority unusable. You get a decent amount of the keys and seal breakers, but there are special key versions that give you better results if you use them. (Which are purchasable in the real-money store, of course.) And you'll need those better versions to get items specific to your class, or else be prepared to grind for the same drops over and over while hoping the random drop is something you can use.

I'm enjoying Blade and Soul as a change of pace. It's not the style that I normally play, and the duo experience with L has helped to smooth out some of the more difficult points. The combat isn't my favorite style, and the loot system seems unnecessarily focused on repeat grinding. I'll give it some time, though; maybe it'll grow on me.

No comments:

Post a Comment