I have so many mixed feelings about this game, so I guess I’ll just dive in: Blade and Soul is a classic example of a lazily developed game. But it’s so damn fun to beat up enemies and it looks pretty. I imagine the developers came up with the combat style, built it up and smoothed it out then noticed they ran out of money and phoned it in on the character progression.
If you’re like me and start the game with no previous knowledge about it, you’ll wonder if you’ve just stepped into an anime. Everything about this game screams anime, from the way your character moves around to the way the story progresses. Well, as it turns out, there is an anime… Color me surprised. The game came out first, but it was so popular that NCSOFT produced the anime to tie the story together.
Well the game only recently came out in the US, and I sunk my teeth in. Character progression is simple. But something fairly unique is the way you upgrade your equipment. Early on I got my Hongmoon weapon which can be upgraded and evolved by feeding it lesser weapons. Later, I would obtain Hongmoon accessories that are upgraded and evolved the same way. There’s no branching paths on these, so it was pretty simple. I would prefer to be able to use these weapons and accessories and have some unique stats that makes each one different, but the developers decided to keep it simple it seems. I did miss getting excited about collecting a new weapon and wondering if it was better than the one I had.
While we’re on the subject of equipment, let’s talk about stats. Stats come from weapons, accessories and this weird shield thing that has 8 parts. There are many types of weapons and accessories, but they’re all just garbage to feed to your evolving equipment. The shield parts come in several sets. A few that aren’t terribly great, but are great for deconstruction for crafting parts as well as mutating another shield piece to have some more stats. There are typical stats like damage up, critical chance and potency, accuracy, evasion, HP, etc. Nothing terribly unique. Then there’s gems. If you’ve played Diablo, you’ve seen this gem system. The Hongmoon weapon has 1 slot for a gem at first, but as it evolves there’s more slots. Oddly, you can’t have two gems of the same color on a weapon at a time. I don’t think the color of the gem dictates what stats are on them, but don’t quote me on that as I didn’t see many gems as I played.
Then there’s outfits. These are entirely for customizing the way your character looks. As long as your character is wearing an outfit, you’ll get the benefit of your shield’s stats. And oh boy, there are so many outfits. This is a dream come true for the cash shop enthusiasts. There’s not a whole lot to say, so here’s some more pictures of outfits.
Combat and Classes
When I first read about the game, I immediately read about the class system because I’m a class junkie. I like to play every class to see how they fit into the game. I really like games that let me play all the classes on one character. If you’re like this too, then too bad. In Blade and Soul your character is locked to the class you chose at the beginning of the game. If you get sick of it, suck it up or start over. In the beta I had a character of each class so that I could test each out. Let me tell you, playing the same quests over and over again was just so incredibly boring.
Let’s talk about abilities and combat. When I first read about combat, I was confused at first how many abilities and how few controls there were. There aren’t multiple hotbars, just 8 quick actions, Tab, Q, E and F. There are quite a few abilities for each button, mostly contextual rather than having to choose. I was concerned that this would be clunky and confusing. I was wrong. Surprisingly the combat is quick and smooth. Abilities grow by upgrading them in a branching path. Like most modern MMOs this is achieved by granting players a point that they can spend at each level, taking this branching evolution and turning it into an EXP grind fest. But, more on that on my weekly MMO rant… There are 3 different suggestions once you are able to start branching your abilities: PVE, Dungeons and PVP. These help players make a quick decision about leveling up their abilities. Luckily you can choose for yourself and you can reset your points at any time for free.
There’s something I haven’t talked about yet: PVP. Blade and Soul has a unique take on open-world PVP. Early on players are given a choice between two warring factions: the Crimson Legion and the Cerulean order. I chose Crimson Legion because the outfit was way sexier than its counterpart. While donning this outfit, players are flagged for PVP against the opposite faction. But be wary, to take the outfit off, you must survive the onslaught for a whole 5 seconds. There’s a delay for taking off the outfit, thus turning off your PVP flag.
I haven’t reached max level yet (mostly for a lack of trying, really), but PVP at early levels is pretty one sided. Assuming all being equal, whoever initiates or has the most stuns, trips and grabs wins, typically. You really need to know your opponent’s class and how to avoid being locked down. I really hate this kind of PVP, so I’m going to move on.
Now onto my favorite topic, and a kind of rant… Progressing your character is so incredibly boring. To get experience, you must do quests. These quests have boring dialogue and simple tasks to complete like kill x enemies, collect x items by killing enemies or gather x items from the environment. It’s so repetitive that while playing I was forced to take breaks to walk around, do some jumping jacks and grab some water just to keep myself from falling asleep. That’s right, an MMO made me exercise. Absurd. Luckily they gave enough experience that I would level up fast and get a new ability or point to spend on evolving an old ability. The combat evolved quick enough for me to not become too bored.
Overall, Blade and Soul is a fun casual game. It’s not something with a whole lot of depth or branching character growth, but the combat is fun and the visuals are great. I can’t talk a whole lot about end game because I haven’t gotten there yet, but from what I understand, there’s not a whole lot to do. With so little to do, I wonder how long the game will last in the west. Though, due to the extensive outfit system, it will definitely keep those who like to change the way their character looks often going for a while.
I give the game 3 out of 5 daily quest markers.
Pros: Sexy smooth combat with contextual combos, tons of outfits, optional open-world PVP
Cons: Boring questing and story, linear character and equipment progression, character = class/no horizontal progression