Hello all, I was in the closed beta last weekend, picking up a Blade Dancer as a first character. Thought I’d give my thoughts so far.
I’m a pretty frequent flyer when it comes to MMOs; I played World of Warcraft for a number of years, as well as a little game called Vindictus. I’ve been in the open beta for RIFT as well as the closed beta for Elder Scrolls Online. Heck, I even played Runescape back in the day – point is, I’m not unfamiliar with MMOs.
After picking up the Blade Dancer and grinding him out to 10, I found it hard to keep focusing; I got burned out eventually.
I’ll start with the good, no sense in entering on a bad note: the game looks really good. The art style is one I’ve yet to see in any games, the characters are creative and colorful, and the world itself feels like it was lovingly crafted. Even the starting areas are gorgeous, and it really makes one feel like they’re going to embark on a big adventure. A game’s visual style is not simply about polygon counts but also artistic direction, and Blade and Soul nails it.
Navigation is also a delight. Sprinting, jumping, gliding, all great tools for making a person feel unrestricted and free. It’s the kind of function I wish was in games like Vindictus, ESO, Rift, and all those other games; it’s a breath of fresh air in many ways.
However, while the world looks gorgeous and open, it feels quite constricted, at least the portion I was playing in. I was playing through a fairly narrow valley going from camp A to camp B, and despite the world looking wide and open, there were invisible walls everywhere preventing me from using that amazing jump ability. Lush green hills just out of reach, rocks that can’t be jumped over, sectioning off the world into corridors.
The quests didn’t help the issue. Asides the tutorial missions, they were all fetch or kill X quests. After completing all the quests in one hub, I’d move to the next, where more fetch or kill X quests were located. Asides the characters part of the main storyline, I have no reason to remember the names of anyone. Most of the quests were far too generic and did nothing that hasn’t been done in any other MMO.
I did not much like the combat. Perhaps I’ve been spoiled by Vindictus and ESO as well as the plethora of single player RPGs I’ve played, but I didn’t feel like I ever had to react to an opponent. Maybe I picked the wrong character, but I had no block button, no dodge button, and no real disengage mechanic until later on. Strafe was finally picked up, but it seems meant for power attacks; if I encountered an enemy with lots of high powered quick attacks, then I had no way to avoid anything. I’m aware that you’re expected to take hits in MMOs, but I was hoping this would break the standard convention of meaningless filler attacks that you just kind of sit and take while waiting to avoid the real attacks. If there was something I did like about the combat though, it was the manually aimed attacks as well as the targeting reticle; manually aimed attacks means I can’t just tab and press 1, I have to invest in the fight and look around, and I like that mechanical element!
Lastly, the most minor gripe at all, I was a bit bugged by the user interface. It felt quite a bit in my face, and though I could shrink or eliminate the mini map, there were still bright colorful buttons everywhere in my view. I sort of wish they could take a page from Vindictus here, where one tap of the “-” button eliminates all non-essential UI functions (everything but health/stamina, items/spells), and a second tap eliminates the entire UI and character plates. Having the ability to totally remove parts or even the entirety of the UI would be a really nice function to be able to just look at the world.
If I get a second key, I’ll definitely give a different character a shot, but so far I feel like Blade and Soul hasn’t made itself different enough from other MMOs. Quest NPCs are still the soulless entities they’ve always been, blocking and dodging are still dictated mostly by stats rather than player ability, and leveling up still feels like I’m being led along a path rather than being allowed to create my own. I do hope this game the best, but for now it does not look like the kind of game I could sink months or years into.