Now, let me get this out first; I’ve always had different expectations from Korean MMO releases when compared to other MMOs from the West or Japan. Without fail, Korean MMOs have a certain standard that is aligned with every other contemporary they have coming out of that country. With that said, despite my being crazily hyped up for Blade and Soul’s release in the North American and European territories, I never expected BnS to ever revolutionize the MMO industry in any way, shape, or form, with the slight exception on the combat.
With that said, Blade and Soul has, indeed, met all of my expectations for it. But the kicker there is, unfortunately, both good and bad expectations came true and there’s only so much optimism can do for an eager gamer excited about this new wuxia wonder.
The first of my expectations are the fantastic visuals. I’m not alone when I say that the first thing that attracted me to this game is its drop-dead gorgeous graphics. From the character creation screen alone you can already see the level of detail available for player characters. There is virtually a slider option for everything.
There are so many options to choose from! From calf width and length to hand and arm sizes, it’s nearly impossible for players to create avatars that look exactly the same. Granted, the game is older than it actually is and does not really have the same level of character creation detail compared to its other contemporaries, but four years down the line, it’s amazing to see that BnS’ character creation does not at all pale in comparison.
Once in the game and in the introductory tutorial mode, players are greeted by BnS’ gorgeous wuxia world, replete with cutscenes, lush and green foliage, top-notch animation work, and a relatively engaging story to boot. My expectation on stunning visuals was definitely met a hundred times over when I finally got out to explore the world and see the painstakingly made environments.
An Ironically Bland and Interesting World
Unfortunately, my expectations for the corridor-filled open-world was also met by BnS as it sports the same kind of layout and mapping system that TERA and a bunch of other Korean Action-MMOs have. The pathing is straightforward and questing is generally done via quest hubs, a standard seen since the early days of Vanilla WoW. It’s a shame that gorgeous environment is taken back by the frustrating corridors of trees, shrubbery, and mountains that cannot be easily traversed or was ever meant to be traversed. It’s also bitterly ironic considering that there’s this amazing sprinting and gliding system that lets players travel faster and across borders. But with zones, instancing, and the aforementioned corridor pathing, all those become a moot and academic element.
Blade and Soul also met one of my fears through its quest types. Kill and fetch quests are everywhere in BnS’ quest hubs and you really can’t avoid the whole idea of collecting X number of stupid items for some stupid NPC you could care less about. This just takes away from the grandness and momentum that the story provides for players and can make it quite a tedious activity just to level up.
But, at least, with the game being new on our western shores, world chat is replete with the crazy ramblings of fervent fans to the continuous spamming of Blade and Soul gold sellers, indicating that the game is healthy and that it can only get better. This is one expectation that I’m glad that Blade and Soul met a hundred times over, making the tedious questing a lot more tolerable due to the sheer amount of people playing.
The combat system in this game, while I find to be very engaging, falls a bit short on my expectations for the game. I figured that Blade and Soul was going to be similar to the skill-shotting and free-style combat that would be similar to TERA, but it turns out, to my surprise, that it’s a lot more similar to Skyforge than anything else. This is because only certain skills, especially from enemy NPCs, can be avoided by quick reflexes. A lot of attacks, like enemy auto-attacks, have to be face-tanked rather than being truly avoidable. The targeting system is also a mix of the traditional tab-targeting (though no real pressing to tab to target) and some skills can only be properly used when locked onto a target. This was a real disappointment for me because I was truly expecting a free-style hack-and-slash type of combat.
But even though it’s not what I expected, it’s still damned good and damned refreshing to encounter an interesting take on the Action-MMO genre. If you’re a fan of the Action-MMO genre, then the combo system here will be all too familiar to you because it runs in the same vein as other games like Dragon Nest. Other than that, BnS just takes a little getting used to.
An Oddball Story
I certainly did expect Blade and Soul to follow the trend with its Korean Action-MMO contemporaries on the aspect of story. There are a lot of fantastic looking cutscenes here that dig in deep into the nitty-gritty of this unique wuxia world, especially in the introductory cutscenes where your dojo and all the people you care about get cut down by some pretty badass individuals. The feels, man! The feels!
Unfortunately, despite the potential for BnS’ story, it falls short in the depth department, which also achieved my expectation for the game to have a shallow story. Of course, I can’t really say that with complete confidence as I have yet to reach the very end of it, but from what I’ve seen, it’s all just badassery. Cool moves and flashy attacks are thrown out everywhere with snarky comments at the side, but there isn’t any relative character development. How can I say that when I haven’t even reached the end yet? Well, for starters, and perhaps the only reason I need, is that you control a silent protagonist. In this day and age, a mute hero is something that isn’t too used anymore because there is nothing personal at stake as the story progresses. Your character just follows everything their told and does them without fail. There are no hard choices, no alternative paths, and no flexibility in going through the story. It can be just as bland as the its corridor world, especially since I’m used to MMOs with fantastic story lines like SWTOR. Certainly, this aspect could have been done better.
Frankly, all my expectations for BnS were met, whether good or bad, and it turned out to be a solid experience. Yes, I do find a lot of faults in the game when I look at my experience of more than a decade of playing MMOs, but I take them in stride because I certainly can’t expect it to be perfect. If anything, Blade and Soul is a very honest game that focuses more on its strengths to, hopefully, blot out its weaknesses. But at the end of it all, Blade and Soul is a damned fine game as expected.