Launch impressions of Blade & Soul: Combat, story, questing, and flow

    
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Launch impressions of Blade & Soul: Combat, story, questing, and flow

Every time I play Blade & Soul, I’m really playing a different game, which I dub Why Don’t I Like You More? The object of that game is to figure out why you like all of the pieces of something while not liking the thing in and of itself, like figuring out why you don’t like spaghetti but do love pizza when they both share the same overall ingredients. (For the record, it comes down to pasta-based trauma when I was younger. I wish I were kidding.)

Logging into Blade & Soul‘s launch version kept prompting new rounds of this game in my head, without any definitive answers. I could point to niggling issues like the lack of a borderless windowed mode or weirdness with the game’s subscription time, but those were just issues, not enough to really reduce or remove my enjoyment of the game. Even the server queues shouldn’t have done that. So keep in mind as I present my thoughts that all of this is coming from someone who really wants to like this game quite a bit.

The problem isn't that characters never look good; the problem is how quickly that evaporates into quakey piles of physics-defying breasts the moment motion happens.Before launch and not counting beta tests, I had two major experiences with playing Blade & Soul. The first was when its localization was announced, in which I quite enjoyed the game – and since I had flown across the country and was stuck holing up in California for the duration, that’s saying something. The second was early in the beta, when I wrote another piece regarding my experiences testing the game. And it’s kind of odd to me, looking back, because I went from being far more excited about the game to a shrug and a meh.

Thus come the rounds of Why Don’t I Like You More because I clearly enjoyed what I played before, and I don’t dislike what I played now, and I continued to find myself thinking that the game was fine and I really should be liking it more. And yet… I didn’t. And I don’t.

I don’t dislike it, either. And after a bit of playing, I think I figured out some of what was getting to me, why I liked the game more the less I played of it. The game has a whole lot of depth, but all of that depth is concentrated in areas that I find far less interesting.

Case in point: the game’s combat. The system on display is indisputably deep and requires attention and careful play to make the most out of it. No simple matter of tabbing to a new target and following a steady rotating of combat. And yet the steadiness is still there; it’s just based upon a different set of timing, a cadence of block-attack-repeat in stable loops. The mechanics of combat are very solid, well-tuned for PvP battles and character duels, set up to become more interesting as blocking becomes second nature, and yet the practical upshot was that combat felt so rote that it became less engaging, not more.

Because of the narrow range of different skills available, everything comes down to that central mechanical flow. Rather than giving you two dozen different abilities with unusual interplay, the game gives you about a dozen with a very set interplay that you can mildly tweak in one direction or another. That’s fine, as far as it goes, but it’s not the part of MMORPG combat that I enjoy.

In my earlier impressions pieces, I suggested the game had much in common with third-person brawlers like DmC. This is still largely true, but that game was all about swapping tactics and motions, using new weapons and techniques against enemies, and being mobile. There was always an assault of new enemy types and always new ways to fight against them. In Blade & Soul, combat has a cadence that inherits the most execution-heavy parts of that game with a much more MMO-like set of abilities to reuse on a regular basis.

And in and of itself, that’s fine. The game knows exactly what it’s trying to do, and more to the point, it does it well. As active combat systems go, Blade & Soul’s leaves just about every other game out there in the dust, with a handful of exceptions. But it still has a certain degree of stiffness to it, and I ultimately felt that I couldn’t enjoy it. I can appreciate what it is without particularly liking it.

At least the baddies are... present?The same thing goes on down the line. It’s not that the story is bad, in and of itself; lots of MMOs have linear stories and/or stories filled with characters that I don’t particularly care about. But most of those games also have more space to move off the beaten path, alternate things to do, likable characters in the mix, excellent presentation… something to hold your attention as it all comes together. Blade & Soul never hit that critical mass. I enjoyed the cliches and the homage, but I never felt as if it was going anywhere. It was too straightforward to be parody but not engaging enough on its own.

Maps and regions seem to be neatly cordoned off, which is fine as far as it goes, but it leads to a flow that reminds me of nothing so much as Cataclysm. Grab everything in this little area, go do everything in a little area, be pointed at the next equivalently sized area that’s conveniently just a few beats away. Functional? Sure. But not terribly compelling, at least not to me. People who like that sort of quest design will have a ball.

You're just not good enough at what you want to be.It does mean that the only reason to play another character is just to explore a different set of mechanics. And for some people, that’s all the motivation you need. But even in Cataclysm, World of Warcraft‘s most one-route point, you still had multiple options about how to level. Your experience on a second character need not be a carbon copy of the first character.

And perhaps that changes as you get further on in Blade & Soul. Maybe at higher levels you have a plethora of options, and my worries are entirely based on problems that fade away once you progress through the game a bit further. I would like that to be the case. I hope that’s the case.

But my experience playing the game at launch didn’t convince me that I wanted to stick it out and find out. The fundamental philosophies of the game seem to be all about emphasizing the moment-to-moment antics of martial arts and dealing with complex interplay of upgrading weapons and soul shields, with the rest of the game as window dressing to facilitate that. It’s not something I find compelling.

When you add in the server queues, the issues regarding its female characters and costuming of same, niggling technical details like the lack of a borderless windowed mode, and the like… yeah, none of this made me spring to my feet enthusiastically.

I’m not going to say that Blade & Soul is bad because I really don’t believe that. The case could be made that it goes all the way to being actually good. But it’s only going to be good if you’re looking for something very specific out of your MMORPGs here in 2016, and ultimately I just didn’t enjoy it. Take that with the appropriately sized grain of salt and do as you will with it.

Massively Overpowered skips scored reviews; they’re outdated in a genre whose games evolve daily. Instead, our veteran reporters immerse themselves in MMOs to present their experiences as hands-on articles, impressions pieces, and previews of games yet to come. First impressions matter, but MMOs change, so why shouldn’t our opinions?

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wontgrowup
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wontgrowup

Having lots of fun with the Blademaster. Soloing, occasional PvP. I love learning th combos and feeling like i am getting better.

Miserymachine
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Miserymachine

I wanted to love this game. The combat is deep and while it’s easy to learn it’s hard to master. The major sticking points are the poorly localized content, no account bound outfits or weapon skins, stupid cash shop prices, and just a general feeling that even while you’re subscribed the game is always trying to pull more out of your wallet. 
Outfits in the shop run about 10 to 15$ a piece and they are single use, although you can mail them to other characters. Weapon skins are one shot then gone. So if you buy a cool weapon skin for 10 bucks and then decide later to change it to something else you effectively lose that $10 skin into the ether. Horrible. If they want to gain traction in the west they need to look at Guild Wars 2 and copy their account wardrobe and weapon skin setup.

I’ll come back to see what has changed when they release the warlock class but until then I’m off to greener pastures.

Cyroselle
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Cyroselle

I wish I could play Blade and Soul with the rest v of my friends back in the States, however as an American living in Japan, the security confirmation page when I login to my preexisting NC account is IP blocked to me. So even though I can login here, the page throws an error because I’m logging in from Japan, when I had a previous history of logging in from the US. NCSoft then sends me an alert which it asks me to confirm, which I can’t because the confirmation page is blocked. AFAIK the BnS client itself isn’t IP locked out of Japan, just the confirmation page. I’d just proxy the login, but I think that’ll lead to issues when I login to the launcher later.
It’s a bit frustrating.

CasualSlacks
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CasualSlacks

As of level 17, I find Blade and Soul to be a fun, leave your brain at home, ignore all side quest text, beat ’em up MMO brawler with stylish world and character design and just enough of a sense of humor to call it quirky. I started playing on the third day after launch on the newish Dochun server and I’ve never experienced a queue to get in. Right now the game is fun and I intend to play it daily until it isn’t. I have no plans beyond that point.

Crazzinees
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Crazzinees

I agree the main thing I hate is the lack of variety in combat mean reason I don’t play wow anymore is the gawd awful homogenous combat so many abilities and changes taken out of each class. Developers thinking man we have a bunch of ability glut lets make all these abilities into one and remove funct 3 and 5 because class B does it now ànd class Ç complained how op it was . we could just give class C an appropriate counter and leave shit alone and make a unique ability for class B instead but we already rolled the dice and the card said that players want less choice , want classes to be only slightly different and take away all the cool unique abilities because it would be unfair to other classes.

NoctisGray
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NoctisGray

Blade and Soul blows the combat of most every other MMO out of the water, several times over. Playing a Kung Fu Master truly feels like an exhilarating martial arts moment-to-moment combat atmosphere.
As I said before elsewhere, this game missteps in a few spots — namely engaging content and availability of weapon / skill options — but the character customization and the combat and the visual design so utterly trounce other games’ systems that those are forgivable.
I play games for fun factor and combat, and this game nails both in spades.

GoJammit
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GoJammit

Tab targeting was always done as an easy way to deal with inadeqecies of technology. It was bound to evolve one day. That being said, I have no reason to believe old school systems are going anywhere as there are still plenty of games that use it. I do find it strange that anyone would be against a more organic style of play.

Rohirrim
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Rohirrim

I am worried that so many people think the combat is awesome :(…if this is the future of RPGMMOs, Batman style, flashy action combat, then my retire is nearer than i think..
The characters are beautiful in a way, though i prefer Aion characters, even if they are several years older..

Suikoden
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Suikoden

Great review.  I like Blade and Soul yet I think your review is right on the money.  15 years ago I would have preferred a game like Black Desert.  I still love the idea of a sandbox like that, but the reality of my life caters more to a Blade and Soul experience now.  In addition, a grind doesn’t bother me, in fact I actually find it relaxing, if the combat is somewhat enjoyable.  Even though BnS is reticule action combat based, the combat is more interesting in DCUO, or even Neverwinter.  The combat is just so repetitive in BnS, it’s almost like there is not a lot of situations you really have to adapt to, it’s simply a slightly different rotation.  Errily similar to Neverwinter, this simply turns into a game of refining your weapon and soul shield.  The graphics onthe characters are nice, and the animations and effects are really cool, however the environmental textures are sub par.  It has an asthetic art design that is pleasing to look at though, and all in all the game is enjoyable.  It has a crafting system that supports the economy, so it will be interesting to see how that plays out.  Bottom line: Blade and Soul is no different than your run of the mill MMO, but if you are looking for a new world to sink your teeth into, it’s not bad by any means.

Benbrada
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Benbrada

Khalith Zeplini Exactly as I did once because I had accidentally evolved the weapon I needed as a breaktrhough, as they call it :-)