Funnily enough, Blade and Soul isn’t a new game at all, it was released in Korea back in 2012 and slowly crept its way into China, Taiwan and Russia over the next couple of years. In that time it has become one of the most popular ESports in Korea, with some tournaments netting winners over $15,000 in prize money. It even spawned an anime which was produced and aired in Japan back in 2014. I hadn’t even heard of Blade and Soul let alone played it, and when the game was finally introduced to western audiences I felt… well, daft for assuming it was just another grindfest MMO with a short life expectancy.
Developer: Team Bloodlust
Reviewed on: PC
Also Available On: N/A
Release Date: Out Now
I vaguely remember a friend of mine introducing me to the game a few months ago. I didn’t really think much of it, because at first glance there really isn’t anything that differentiates Blade and Soul from any other MMO coming out of Asia. It’s colourful, has a race of vertically challenged cat/squirrel/rodent people and all the female characters are very, very unrealistically proportioned. I wasn’t interested, but my friend was pretty convinced that I would enjoy it. Eventually I gave the proverbial middle finger to my doubt and forked over £18 for a founder’s pack which guaranteed beta access – What can I say? I just love me some cat-people.
I played the game very briefly and what I played was honestly very enjoyable. But seeing as the official free to play release just arrived (the date of release being the 19th of January) I’ve decided to reformulate my opinion on the game with a brand new character, from the perspective of a completely new player. Once you’ve gone through the login procedure, which I’m sure most gamers are quite familiar with, you’re greeted with the class/race selection and character customization screens. Oh and the diminutive cat people I was talking about? Well this is one of them.
The class selection gives you an idea of just how varied the classes, and races for that matter, actually are in Blade and Soul. You’ve got the Summoner, the Destroyer, the Blade Dancer, the Blade Master, the Kung Fu master, the Assassin and the Force Master. Then there are the races, which may not be as numerous but are just as varied as the classes. You’ve got the Gon, the Lyn, the Jin and the Yun. One of things I really like about this screen is that it gives you a very good idea of what all the classes are like, which classes are race specific, what kind of play styles they suit and how easy the class is. If you’re the type that has a hard time choosing which class to play, this screen is incredibly helpful. Being the kind of player who mained a Death Knight in World of Warcraft, I decided to choose the easiest class I could – which just so happens to be The Destroyer.
After you pass the very informative race/class selection screen you then have to customize your characters appearance. Now I don’t know about you, but this is easily my favourite part of any MMO. At the end of the day, this is the character who will be acting as your proxy in the virtual world and you want to be as meticulous as you can in order to make your character look like the real you. That’s why I made this guy.
While that Frankenstein-esque beast of a man may look nothing like me, it should give you an idea of just how crazy and detailed the character customization is in this game. There are myriad of hairstyles, eyelashes, pupil sizes and body shapes to choose from so if you’re the type that likes to make your character look as ridiculous as possible then you will fall head over heels in love with Blade and Soul. You can customize the size of your characters calves for crying out loud! In case you’re curious, here’s one I made earlier. I’d like to add that within 5 minutes of playing someone called me their “waifu”. I’m not entirely sure what that means but take that as you will.
Once all of that is over you finally enter the world of Blade and Soul. And quite frankly, it’s gorgeous; a little cutesy, but gorgeous nonetheless. I have to say it’s quite refreshing to play an MMO that is as pretty as Blade and Soul. The environments are lovely, varied and interesting to explore and gliding through the air like an extra from Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon is a thoroughly enjoyable experience.
Then comes the questing, arguably one of the most important factors of any MMO. To get straight to the point, the questing isn’t anything we haven’t already seen in the MMO world. They all follow the typical formula of “go here and kill ‘y’ x amount of times”, and while this is a tried and tested formula that we’re all comfortable with, I would have preferred to see something a little different. Story heavy quests with lots of character development and less grinding are a lot more interesting in my opinion.
One thing I do appreciate is that the main story quests are all voiced and have the occasional cutscene to go along with them. While this isn’t exactly a groundbreaking addition to the MMO genre, it’s always nice to see games go that extra mile to make their quests more engaging.
The moment you start hitting people is when the fun really starts, and is also Blade and Soul’s biggest strength. The combat in the game is some of the best I’ve ever had the privilege of experiencing in an MMO. I’m not surprised the game has such a big e-sport following, because it plays more like a fighting game than an MMO. The attacks are weighty yet smooth and look awesome to boot. On top of that, the game makes use of a combo system where you can string together moves to form some very cool looking attacks. I have to admit, there is something very, very satisfying about kicking someone on to the ground then picking them up and literally smashing them against my axe.
Blade and Soul also has very heavy emphasis on PvP, and luckily for the more aggressive types out there you can get involved in world PvP incredibly early on. There are two factions: the cerulean order and the crimson legion. Choosing either one gives you a uniform which you can put on anywhere at any time and instantly flags you for world PvP. Then of course you have the arenas, which follow a similar formula to World of Warcraft but also adds a very cool “tap in-tap out” feature, which makes the arenas feel more like wrestling rings. It might not be a huge feature, but it does help spice up the occasional monotony of MMO arenas.
The game also does away with the conventional gear that we’re used to seeing in most MMOs. Rather than wearing armor that beefs up your stats, your character makes use of something called a Soul Shield, which is essentially your armor. They come in sets of 8 and give you a bonus for equipping 3, 5, or 8 of the same set, which means you have a little room to mix and match. This essentially makes clothing and armor sets nothing more than cosmetics, which I think is actually quite a cool feature, especially because the clothing in the game looks fantastic.
Blade and Soul already has enough years behind it for it to be a truly refined experience, despite its very recent release in the US and Europe. And if you’re the type that is fanatical about PvP and enjoy taking those fights into wonderfully crafted environments, than this is definitely the game for you.