Blade and Soul is an action MMORPG released by NCsoft that launched in Korea on June 30th, 2012 and just recently made the jump to the west being released January 19th, 2016. The game is free to play and offers a cash shop. The game is heavily influenced by Asian martial arts and this is a dominate theme throughout the game I do believe. The game has the action of TERA, with graphics equivalent to it or Guild Wars 2, and features a story that seems a bit like Jade Empire. Like Guild Wars 2 and many other current MMOs it features progressing through a single player story-line while also taking on additional quests in the areas you venture to. Because this game didn’t seem to offer anything outside of real-time combat, it never really caught my eye and is one of the few major releases I didn’t bother buying a founders package for. At release I attempted to try it, but the servers were simply too full to get on. Within a few days they increased performance and launched new servers and I was finally able to try it out.
Starting off, the character customization is above par with what you would expect in this day and age. It features four races, three of which are pretty much humans (though the Yun are a female only race), and the Lyn which appear to be fox like perhaps? Each race can only select certain classes. The Blade Dancer class for example is only available to the Lyn. Plenty of color options for hair, eyes, tattoos, plenty of pre-built models, and able to customize the size of every limb. The avatars seem to have a great deal of detail, and you will most likely take your time crafting them.
There is an intro section which explains the controls and also lays the back story for your characters motivation. The main quests are voice acted, but there are no dialogue options. This felt slightly disappointing with the existence of Guild Wars 2 and Star Wars: The Old Republic, but being realistic, not every game can obtain that. The world was very detailed, the graphics pleasurable, and great contrast of bright and colorful environments and dark and dim ones.
The dialogue focuses in on whatever character you’re talking too, and while reading the dialogue little bubbles sometimes appear reflecting the characters actual thoughts. I found this enjoyable as they are often humorous, and gives the game a light hearted feel. Given the setting, character designs, and loading screens, it also nearly has an anime feel to it.
The game does have a unique method of movement, and that is gliding on the air. This is activated merely by double tapping the jump button. While there is a sprint, there is no dodge mechanics. Instead of portals or hearthstones, players utilize “windstriding” to quick travel.
I was also happy to see that it keeps track of all the screenshots I was taking! Granted, I use dropbox to keep my shots sorted, but seeing the tool and effort there was nice. They also have periodic surveys you can do for rewards (a feature I’m only used to seeing during betas), and even a great screen when you’re logging out that shows you everything you achieved during that play session!
Changing the topic to the game play, the combat was quick, fun, and fluid. I had elected to go with the Blade Master class and can only assume I was a bit of a DPS type character? At this point I am unsure if it uses the holy trinity (dps/tank/healer), but from what I saw in character creation, I don’t believe this to be the case. In my three hours I didn’t get to anything that required a party. I also stumbled upon the weapon upgrade system, in which I was able to take weapons I didn’t need or couldn’t use, and use them to upgrade my starting weapon. I found this to be an interesting feature, and it made me quite the killing machine.
Armor on the other hand appears to not be a thing. At least what we normally consider armor. I was given a chest piece with no stats, and later received another one with no stats, it merely changed the cosmetics of my avatar.
While leveling up, your class trainer keeps having you meet them in various locations to show you new skills. Each time I had reached them though I was already quite familiar with the skills and how to use them. The experience may be different for someone less familiar with MMOs though, and perhaps more useful for them. Considering it was always done along your path and not out of the way, it wasn’t an annoyance really.
So what do I think after 3 hours of play? I think you should try it! I myself am going to have to try it out more to see what else it holds, but I was certainly impressed enough with the start that I am very optimistic. Though I don’t believe it features my normal preferences like Player Housing and an economic side game that exist in sandbox games, it did seem like a solid theme-park MMO.