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Blade & Soul

Blade & Soul

NCsoft was present at Gamescom with a beautiful Guild Wars 2 lounge, but the publisher did not sit still behind closed doors either. She did not show the new Guild Wars, because it came out shortly after the fair. No, a small group of press got to see a brand new MMO. Blade & Soul, a game that was released in Korea in July and is now also going to make the step to Europe.

Behind Blade & Soul is the internal NCsoft development group Team Bloodlust. Two well-known names play a major role in this team. Executive Producer James Bae, known for the Lineage games, among other things, provides the overarching course. While Hyung-tae Kim, well-known Manga artist, takes care of the look and feeling. In technical terms, the game is doing well in Korea, with over 230,000 players constantly online in the country. In plain language, the game can easily keep up with the other well-known MMOs in Korea in terms of players, so the game is off to a good start. Your question is, of course, what kind of game is this? In short, a fairly unique MMO, which I will discuss in this preview via three ‘unique selling points’.

#1: An Asian World

In most MMOs, players find themselves in fantasy worlds that often have a lot in common. We now know the well-known orcs, green forests and stone cities. That’s why Blade & Soul takes a different approach in its imaginative world. The game has a very Asian flavor and that is something that is less common. In environments full of Asian myth and folklore, ancient forces of light and dark battle each other. The player is going to take revenge on the killers of his master and clan, but that is easier said than done. The game looks very nice and has a mixed style. Call it a realistic cartoon, in which the Manga influences of Hyung-Tae Kim are clearly visible.

#2: Fight like Jackie Chan

In an Asian world, of course, there is only one way to fight. No flapping pistols or waving a wand, no martial arts plays the leading role in Blade & Soul. Take in martial arts movies like House of Flying Daggers and Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon and imagine how they fight. This is exactly how you take down your enemies in Blade & Soul. Lots of close combat, fast reflexes, big weapons, hard action and cool combos. The so-called Qing Gong system also gives you a lot of freedom of movement. Like a true Jackie Chan, you can jump high, run into walls, run across water and even move pieces floating in the air. While playing you should feel like a real virtual martial arts expert.

Within the martial arts spectrum are different fighting styles that come back in the game as different classes. The Assassin fights quietly, quickly and stealthy, while the Destroyer brutally swings a large ax around. The Blademaster is unbeatable in a sword fight and the Summoner never fights alone with his crazy summonable buddies. The Kung Fu Master crushes his enemies with his Kung Fu moves at close range and the Force Master uses ancient magic to achieve victory. They are different play styles with all unique moves and combos.

#3: The Hollywood MMO

Team Bloodlust aims to combine the Asian world and martial arts-inspired combat with a Hollywood-like feel. Cut scenes are made in a cinematic way and should put the player on an emotional roller coaster. Just like watching a Hollywood movie, gamers really need to be drawn into the story and empathize with the characters. Where most MMOs use a broad story that goes in different directions, but which is often a bit empty or is told in a simple way, Blade & Soul takes a different approach. There is one main story that is told in an intense way and should really keep the gamer on the edge of his seat. There are plenty of single player games to mention that excel at this and an MMO that handles this well is certainly welcome.

The other features

In addition to the three ‘unique selling points’ I just mentioned, I would also like to discuss the general operation of the game. Blade & Soul will primarily be a Player vs. Being an environment game (PvE) and that also fits well with the focus on the story, but Player vs. Player (PvP) will not be totally absent. By registering with a special clan, it is possible to also kill real players with your moves. Team Bloodlust also wants it to be clear that this isn’t going to be an MMO that requires grinding. Korean games are known for this, but Blade & Soul keeps the player busy with the story and learning powers. After the launch, the development team has the intention to constantly come up with new content that should keep the player busy for a long time. The story will play a major role in this extra content. The game will of course also contain the well-known MMO features such as a crafting system and sidequests, but the last option I would like to go into is the downed system. Just like in Guild Wars 2, when the health runs out, a player enters downed mode, where you can fight for life or death. It is the last resort for the gamer to come back to life and keeps the action nice and fast and dynamic.

Fascinating, but we want to see more…

The Asian world and style of Blade & Soul is new in the MMO genre, but seems to be easily accessible to the Western audience. Yes, the characters are clearly Asian. Yes, the myth and folklore are unknown to us. But isn’t this positive? It doesn’t go so far that Western gamers can’t get the style. The degree of obscurity is interesting for the European market, because it is something new to discover. The choice to tell one intense story is also something that is not often done in the MMO world and the Hollywood-like cut scenes and story elements that I have seen so far are very promising. It is clear that Team Bloodlust is not changing the game for the European market, but wants to offer us something new that has already proven itself in the Korean market.

However, the game still has to prove itself for me. What I got to see from the game looked good. Great graphics, a unique atmosphere and not wrong in terms of scale. I haven’t seen the really cool martial arts moves with my own eyes yet, such as running straight into the wall and connecting combos. Only then can I really judge. It will also be interesting which business model NCsoft chooses for the game, because this has yet to be chosen. I hope for a model like Guild Wars 2. My first feeling is that this is going to be an MMO that could become interesting for the gamers with an Asian preference or discovery mindset. The narrative single player gamer should also keep an eye out, because Blade & Soul has the potential to be very interesting to them due to the focus on the story. NCsoft still has to prove itself by showing the really cool martial arts moves and clearly setting the Hollywood tone.