Four Winds: Exploring Swords of Legends Online’s mindblowing world

    
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Have you ever played a game knowing exactly what you’re going to get, only for it to impress you because it did exactly that but just did it so well? Well, that’s Swords of Legends Online (SOLO) for me.

SOLO is by all accounts nothing new in terms of gameplay. But despite that, I found myself absolutely enraptured by the game. And let’s have a moment of silence for my fellow staff members at MassivelyOP because I practically flooded our office chat with videos, screenshots, and endless yammering about how cool this game is and how they should play it, at literally all hours of the night (since we’re in different timezones).

But what’s got me so in love with this upcoming MMO? Let me explain.

Swords of Legends Online is not of the Wuxia genre. It’s considered Xianxia. So don’t listen to anyone that says “it’s another Wuxia game” because it’s not. The Xianxia genre focuses on heroes working toward an ultimate goal: godhood. And quite frankly, that fits quite neatly in the MMO genre. It’s an easy mistake to make, though, since both the Wuxia and Xianxia genre center on China’s mythical past, circa the Tang Dynasty. Whereas Wuxia is rooted in reality, Xianxia prominently features zombies, magic, and magic potions.

Swords of Legends Online is one leg of the existing GuJian franchise. Roughly translated to “Tales of the Ancient Sword,” it’s a series of action RPGs that’s very popular in China. It flew under the radar here, but Gujian 3, which released in 2018, is actually available on Steam and holds a “very positive” rating. So they’re pretty good games to start with.

It also has a popular television show aptly named Swords of Legend. In fact, the show is so popular that 1% of the Chinese population has actually watched the series. That might not sound much, but since China has such a large population, enrapturing 1% of the population actually makes for an absolutely massive audience and hitting that amount is considered a success. (Which really puts the size of the Chinese market into perspective.) The game itself, then, borrows heavily from the television show.

You’ve seen one, you’ve seen ’em all

Our readers will know exactly what to expect from this game. Swords of Legends Online is a buy-to-play MMORPG with a cosmetic cash shop and runs on the Havoc engine. There are rumblings of the game getting an Unreal 4 upgrade, but most of that comes from word-of-mouth as far as I know. And in terms of gameplay, it follows the WoW formula: There’s an open world to explore with quests, dungeons to grind, arena PvP, crafting, the holy trinity, and flying mounts. It features a hybrid of the tab target and action combat styles. I’m not going to waste words on the gameplay. People either love it or hate it.

Given our current MMO landscape, this game has to work extra hard if it’s going to maintain a healthy playerbase longterm. Because of a lack of quality Chinese MMORPG exports and the ginormous pile of mobile MMOs filled with poorly designed cash grabs and pay-to-win structures that we’re faced with, SOLO has a major challenge: convincing a tired and cynical playerbase that this game is worth the time and money. It’s basically a WoW clone in terms of gameplay, and that doesn’t help its case either.

When I first fired up the game, I admit that I thought I also knew how I was going to feel as I played: I thought I was going to be bored out of my mind and log off annoyed at how color-by-numbers the design is. I was expecting a maps filled with invisible walls and linear paths and simple map design to accommodate for some sort of auto travel. I had some really low expectations. I suspected that it wasn’t going to be the game that attracted players but rather the cash shop’s business model.

The cash shop. Instead of taking up inventory space, all purchases are stored and equipped on this page. Very smart design.

And it’s a good business model. Cosmetic purchases are account wide, essentially like Guild Wars 2. It goes the extra mile, though, and makes outfits multiple parts, so it’s not just a single outfit. When players buy a $30 outfit, the entire thing will be separated, allowing for players to mix and match. Plus, Gameforge says it will not sell character slots. Any new classes added will give players new character slots. The developers even promised that the cash shop found in the beta is the finalized form and there will be #nochanges.

But cash shops shouldn’t necessarily be the main metric for judging a good MMO. My assumption from that was that the team would focus on that aspect and make it the selling point to hide the fact that this game seemed like a mediocre WoW clone.

Thank goodness I was wrong on all accounts.

Sometimes, what you want is right in front of you

The game changes when players obtain their first flying mount. There isn’t any major addition to the game or anything, but it’s the sheer beauty of this world. There aren’t any invisible walls that will hold players up. This game encourages players to explore the world and enjoy the vistas. There was clearly time spent to ensure that the world was beautiful and deserved to be shown off. And that’s what got me: I got lost in the world.

Depending on the class chosen, players gain access to the equivalent of a class hall. Screenshots don’t do it justice. As a spellsword, I had access to the Sunken Jade Lake. The calming blue lake and glistening crystals with a massive magical sword floating in the air was just an amazing locale to look at. Don’t take my word for it; look at some of the video I captured.

It has been a long time since I actually felt lost in a magical world. And I didn’t know how much I needed it in my life, but it reminded me that I also play MMORPGs to go to a world that isn’t mine. And since this is the first time I’ve played a full-fledged Chinese MMO, I really felt as if I was someplace new and mysterious.

At first I felt that using tab target combat and the standard MMO formula held the game back. But because of the beauty and immersion this game offered, it’s clear that the cash shop and familiar gameplay is meant to get players into the game and taking in the sights. If you have been hankering to play a game that is new but yet familiar, or you’ve just want to feel that sense of exploring something magical and new, then you’re going to want to give the next rounds of beta a shot.

I know I only really spoke about the graphics and cash shop in this preview. But I’ve got so much to love about this game. Next week, we’ll deep-dive the classes (specifically the spellsword), the dungeons, and PvP too.

The four wind tiles in Mahjong open all sorts of winning combinations for players of this ancient game – and the “Asian” MMO subgenre is just as varied as the many rulesets in Mahjong. Join Massively OP’s Carlo Lacsina here in our Four Winds column as he covers the diverse assembly of MMOs imported from the East!
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ihatevnecks
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ihatevnecks

The unnecessary ‘s’ at the end of Legends will forever bother me if I play this game.

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Khrome

I remain cautiously optimistic for this title. From gameplay videos, streams and experiences i’ve seen and heard, the vast majority are quite positive.

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Bereman99

I got to see three of the “class HQs” during the beta, and loved each of them.

The Summoner’s idyllic, almost autumnal setting. The class is described as living in harmony with the world, drawing on knowledge of the natural world. Perfect fit.

The Beserker’s tree house, full of training and drinking. Felt like a “work hard, play hard” type place. Again, a perfect fit.

Bard…stepped into that one, and felt like I’d stepped into a painting of a peaceful garden in the mountains come to life, especially the way the background environment was rendered to have an obviously painterly style. Again, perfect fit.

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Bhagpuss Bhagpuss

“It’s basically a WoW clone in terms of gameplay, and that doesn’t help its case either.”

Umm… yes, it does. For me, anyway. The age of “too many WoW clones” ended years ago. We didn’t get anything like as many good ones as we hoped. We haven’t had a new, good one for a very long time. A good WoW clone is exactly what I’d like to see right now.

My interest in SOLO went up recently when I read something comparing it to GW2. It’s gone up even more now I’m hearing “basically a WoW clone” If the “hybrid of the tab target and action combat styles” means it can also be played like WoW and GW2, namely by moving with WASD and clicking a hotbar then I’m pretty much sold.

Zulika Mi-Nam
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Zulika Mi-Nam

I played some this past beta, but not a lot. I would have played more, but I have a lot going on irl atm.

I would say that, in my limited playtime though, it does feel like that hybrid combat you mention. I would need some more time to get used to it as I was tabbing and then unintentionally hitting other mobs after my target had fallen though. I did rebind a ton of stuff to my usuals so there was not much hotbar clicking for me.

The only negative thing I can say is that much of the voice acting (orig non-translated) was high pitched which makes me wince in pain, but that is a personal thing -I have dog ears. Translations still need work, but I believe that is to be expected at this point. The early quests seemed all meh, but I was not reading and just going through the motions (due to those voices and my own time limits).

Systems/functional wise it was solid all around from what I was able to experience. Latency was consistently inconsistent (no DCs, just all over the place and one rubber band), but there was only one server for the US that I ever saw.

I think the FPS should have been higher for a game that has been out a long as this and I read some others talking about a lack of optimization and wondering about if that would be improved on this engine or the pending upgrade. Then again one server, first time with this many players, etc.

I can see how some can get excited about it. I am cautiously optimistic at this point while admittingly being in quite the gaming rut.

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Bereman99

So while I preferred the “action” style option – character faces where you aim your mouse, LMB for an attack and RMB for another – one of the very first things the game does is ask if you want to use the “classic” style or the “action” style, and also informs you that you can switch at any time with the Ctrl key.

The same attacks that are set to LMB and RMB are also (by default) bound to Q and E (and you can rebind), so from the get go you can choose between a fully tab target and select with mouse while pressing keybinds and the hybrid that is the action version (you can still tab target even with that one, which acts like a lock on would in an action game).

That’s DPS and I believe tanking specs.

The classes that can heal – Summoner and Bard – are entirely locked into the traditional tab target system a la WoW’s style. Movement with WASD, keybinds, selecting targets, etc. Even has some QoL features in the design – choosing quick selection in the Teammate settings menu allows for what is functionally a mouse over selection instead of having to fully click to switch targets. There’s a number of other QoL features in the UI when it comes to healing as well, though I’d have to track down the clip that I saw that showed them.

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bobfish

Every class has two skill trees that they swap between out of combat.

Spearmaster (Spear) = Tank and Melee DPS
Besereker (2 handed sword) = Tank and Melee DPS
Spellsword (Mage) = Ranged DPS and Melee DPS
Reaper (Scythe) = Melee DPS and Healer
Bard (Mage) = Ranged DPS and Healer
Summoner (Mage) = Ranged DPS and Healer

Action Combat mode is recommended for Tank or DPS, but they can function fine in Normal Combat mode too.

Normal Combat mode (tab targeting mouse click to target, hotkeys to activate skills), is recommended for Healing. When you activate the Healing skill tree it actually forces you into Normal Combat mode and disables the key to switch to Action Combat mode, but you can get around it using text commands. It really isn’t designed for Healing in Action Combat mode though.

Worth noting as well, that the Bard has cast times / channeling, so can’t move whilst using skills, unlike the Summoner which can move because they are all instant cast.

You don’t need different gear to use both skill trees, but you do need different gear for PvE and PvP content.

Also, a correction to the article, whilst there are no artificial walls and you are free to explore, it is limited as the game is built on zones, not a true open world. There are many areas where you can’t fly or go beyond, because its simply outside of the zone.