After years of radio silence and overwhelming success in Asia, western fans of the action MMORPG, Blade and Soul, had all but lost hope in a western release for the game. The game was said to be in development under publisher NCsoft for the west ever since 2013, but details about any sort of actual progress on the western version have long eluded the public eye until today. Earlier, the western Blade and Soul team have officially released a slew of details about the state of the game in a live stream on twitch and has reaffirmed, this time with a time table, that Blade and Soul is in fact coming. Together we’ll be covering the finer points of the live stream.
What is Blade and Soul and why has it taken so long?
Blade and Soul is an eastern fantasy martial arts action MMORPG which focuses heavily on story and its fast paced gameplay. The fantasy and epic story revolves around the concept of the “Wuxia” which literally translates into “Martial Hero.” This broad genre of Chinese fiction has been the result of many an epic tale. It was originally released in Korea back in June of 2012. It has since spread to much of the rest of Asia with servers located in China, Taiwan, and Japan as well as gaining much attention on a global level.
Each region has slightly different versions of the game and have all been built specifically for that region. There are a lot of finer points to localization of a game to make sure it is well received globally. In addition to the translation of the original Korean game, many things have to be changed to fit the region it is being ported to. One of the examples that were given in the live stream were the clear cultural differences. The team at NCsoft stated that they wanted to try to bring the same level of cultural understanding to the west with the region’s release, that they didn’t want things to get lost in translation, while still trying to keep the feel of the eastern fantasy that is essential to what makes Blade and Soul unique. The version of the game will be unique in many ways to the region it is launched in just as it has been for each of the Eastern regions. NCsoft has been taking their time with this one and they are bringing the full game to North America and Europe with English, French, and German versions on release.
Give me something about the story!
Blade and Soul is a tale of revenge that many in the western world will find refreshing and entertaining. A portion of the stream was dedicated to explaining the differences between western fantasy and eastern fantasy, or at least the story of the wuxia genre. We see many western RPGs and epics focused on the struggle of good vs. evil itself. We see the story of a singular hero who is raised to importance above those around him or her in a narrative that follows their story. Often giving the player is given the choice to manipulate certain aspects of those stories and make decisions, but ultimately the story picks a side, in a way, the side of the hero for whatever cause they are pushing for. However, Blade and Soul takes a very eastern approach in the way that it follows a story of personal honor. The playable character is caught in the middle of a conflict that annihilates their clan. There is no inherent good or evil, just the light and darkness, both of which coexist in the world, usually in balance. However, your character is done a wrong and sets out on a personal quest to set things right and restore that balance through out the story line. The world and story does not revolve around the player character, but is more focused on how the character will navigate it to reach their personal goal. The eastern version of the game has six acts of story, but the western version will release with three. The other three and future content will be patched in later.
Okay, so how’s the character creation then?
Character creation was glossed over briefly in the stream. From what I could tell there were far too many options and sliders to realistically go through in the amount of time they were given… which is a good thing! There were many customization options for hair, facial features, and build which would allow players to create their own definitive hero.
The game has four races and picking a race actually matters. The Jin, Gon, Lyn, and Yun are all unique and each race will determine the classes which are available to you. The six classes that will be available on release include Assassin, Blade Master, Destroyer, Kung Fu Master, Force Master, and Summoner. Each have extremely different play styles and skills for players to utilize ranging from DPS to Support, but oddly enough, not including a Healer. Blade and Soul’s gameplay supports high action, all the time and wants their players to be continuously involved. All classes have ways of keeping themselves healthy, but all will need to do their jobs and show their own skill in order to succeed. The focus of this game is combat.
How’s the action in this action MMO?
A good portion of the stream was spent showing off a good bit of game play and what the game looked like in an early alpha build for the western audiences. The game looks stunning and because of the stylistic choice, you can hardly tell that it was one made three years ago. Sweeping landscapes and environments that are fully explorable create a world with little that is added as pure backdrop. The very first thing that was talked about was the verticality of the world, travel, and exploration, showing off aspects of movement through a type of gliding called “Wind Walking” and a sort of visually active travel through “Dragon Streams.” Unique stylistic aspects that make the game and exploring the areas way more fun than walking around from place to place while really showing off the environment.
Another really cool thing that caught my eye was the dynamic combat system. From what I know about Blade and Soul and what I could see again in this demo, the game plays more like an action fighting game than a traditional MMORPG. Large hotbars that take up the bottom of your screen are replaced by a few small, but dynamic ones that change for you as the battle goes on. These contextual hotbars allow you to create trigger actions that happen when a certain condition is met or allow you to chain together a combo with a specifically tailored effect that you will rotate through as you continuously press the same button. This allows for streamlined game play and ease of skill access without the need of many buttons and button combinations.
The game follows a quest based storyline progression, with many dungeon instances to keep people entertained. The dungeons will all operate on a cross-server queue system on launch, connecting all the servers for the region.
Gear in Blade and Soul works in a very unique way in the fact that it is constantly evolving and leveling with your character. Your gear is designed to be a part of your character’s wuxia legend and as such Blade and Soul allows for players to really define themselves in the way of keeping and using the gear that you want. Armor works in two sets. Soul Shields which are basically the character’s internal energy and the source of their power. These shields are assembled in multiple pieces and effect the strength of the character’s stats in multiple ways, however they bear no influence on appearance. The costumes are purely aesthetic and allow for anyone to look exactly how they want without having to worry about stats. In the case of weapons and jewelry this is handled slightly differently. Any item of the same type can be “fed” to the gear that you have to increase their stats and evolve these weapons and jewelry to carry through the game with the character.
The stream team also wanted to make it clear that they want the game to be as balanced as it is currently in the east. While they said that we wouldn’t be getting all of the content that is available to eastern regions on day one, all of the numbers and they way the game plays will be exactly the same as the eastern versions. So expect a surprising lack of bugs and overpowered things you can exploit on day one.
So it’s really coming?
Blade and Soul in all of it’s glory is finally coming to the west sometime this Winter 2015/2016 with a closed beta test scheduled for Fall 2015 as stated by the stream. It will be completely free to play, claims to not be pay to win at all, and will not charge for content. It will be completely optimized for this region, including the removal of Chinese censors, and Fatigue/Vigor systems that are in place in other regions. The western servers will be based in Dallas, Texas for North America and Frankfurt, Germany for Europe.
Are you ready to create your own wuxia legend?