Blade & Soul: Could It Replace WoW in North America?

After finally mustering up the ability to tear myself away from Blade & Soul, I write a review on why its release at midnight tonight could change...
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    The vast MMORPG genre is defined by games like Ultima Online, Everquest, and World of Warcraft, but since the release of those titans, it seems as though MMORPGs have lost their spark. Although World of Warcraft is still one of the most highly played games on PC, it is subject to criticism for remaining on the same engine and systems for as long as it has; meaning that some people view the game as being outdated. However, the success of World of Warcraft has spawned many clones, fittingly called "WoW clones," since they don't stray too far from the gameplay and elements that made World of Warcraft so successful. For the longest time, it seemed as though the MMORPG genre would be trapped by its past, since modern MMORPG releases couldn't provide gamers with a new experience. However, with Blade & Soul being released in North America and Europe later tonight, the wait for a truly unique MMORPG is almost over.

    I had the distinct pleasure of getting early access to Blade & Soul during their Head Start period over the last few days. In these past few days, I've had more fun playing this game than any other game that I've ever played. I firmly believe that Blade & Soul has the potential to gain as much traction and influence as the titans of the MMORPG genre have gotten. It is an alluring game with a combat system and story unlike 99% of MMORPGs.

    Being unique, however, doesn't necessarily make a game good. Blade & Soul is made good by its fluid and timing-based combat, its compelling narrative and soundtrack, its take on open-world PvP and PvE, but the major point I'd like to stress is its style of combat. Blade & Soul could be accurately summed up by calling it a mashup of a fighting game and an MMORPG. The game features 7 classes currently on the North American and European servers (there are more classes on the Korean server) and each one has a different feel and play style from the others. I chose to play as the Kung Fu Master, an aficionado on hand-to-hand combat, grapples, and situational skills. The Kung Fu Master had the highest difficulty rating, so I decided to roll with it, seeking the greatest possible challenge in Blade & Soul and with my class selection.

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    The first thing I noticed after choosing my class was the character customization and its intricacies. The art and look of the characters in-game have an "anime look" to them which won't appeal to everyone, but you are fully capable of making a character that doesn't look "so anime." The customization options go pretty in-depth. You can rotate features of your character, change positioning and shapes, and change the size of every part of your character. Given these tools and options, players will have everything at their disposal to make their own character.

    After your character is made, you're thrown into some cinematic cutscenes that serve to orient the player in this new world. Your body is found in the ocean surrounding a tall mountain, where the Hongmoon school of martial arts is located though, to the man who saved your life's dismay, the school is aflame and you were the only survivor he could find. After this, your character is brought back into the past to show the events that transpired earlier that day. This section is essentially a tutorial to get players into the unique mechanics of the game and it shows the basics of windwalking, combat, interacting with NPCs and objects, and it's also an introduction to the story. Of all the students learning from the master of the school, Hong Sokyun, your character is chosen to learn the "secret Hongmoon techniques" that are powerful enough to rule empires. Feeling betrayed, one of the other students conspires with a sinister being of dark intent: a woman named Jinsoyun who has a strong connection with a great evil of the past. Master Hong is poisoned by this student and Jinsoyun attacks the school, killing everyone in it including Master Hong, and leaving your character with the dreaded "Mark of the Black Rose" that slowly kills its victims and turns them into a demon upon their death.

    From there, your quest is largely based around avenging your master and getting what information you can on Jinsoyun. As you progress, you unlock more expansive and interesting takes on your abilities which you can even use to get a new ability entirely. As a Kung Fu Master, I was able to turn my basic Swift Strike into an ability called Tiger Strike, which hits multiple times and inflicts fire damage instead of normal physical damage. It also paved the way to new combos and attacks that I wouldn't have been able to use if I had gone with a different ability path. Every ability works this way, with trees designed to benefit your performance in PvP, PvE, or fighting major bosses. These builds usually entail high crowd control, high area of effect damage, or high single target damage, respectively and they will almost always change your abilities completely from when you first started training them.

    The skill system is only a fraction of what makes the combat system shine. The combat revolves around timing and predicting your enemy's moves. Each different "type" of enemy has set attacks it can use and learning the timing on those attacks and how to counter them is the key to learning how to play in Blade & Soul. Even if you're fighting NPCs, they will use attacks based on their class; so if an NPC is a Blade Master or an Assassin, they will use the same abilities and fight almost like a player would. Of course, the timing isn't just important for defensive reasons, as your combos can prove even deadlier if you time them right. Timing things well can get your combos off faster and you will move blindingly fast once you master the fundamental mechanics of the game.

    This means that soloing dungeons is actually possible and is widely done by most players. You don't have to rely on stats alone to do well; you can rely solely on your skill with your class and your ability to dodge and predict attacks. Even if you aren't a high enough level for a dungeon or your gear isn't up to par, you can still participate and even do well so long as you learn the attacks of all of the enemies and figure out how to dodge them.

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    On top of this, there's no "holy trinity" of tanks, healers, and damage dealers. You can choose to generate more Threat on some abilities, effectively becoming a tank, or you can get some minor healing abilities as a Summoner, but that's it. There are no dedicated tanks or healers and it's generally up to each individual player to not die while in a dungeon. The major dungeons also feature huge boss fights with challenging mechanics and abilities that normally affect the entire stage you fight them on. They also have abilities that, if not dodged and if a player is under-geared, could take out a chunk of your party in one fell swoop.

    I mentioned that the story is centered around finding and stopping Jinsoyun in her nefarious plans, but there is more to it. Blade & Soul, even as an MMORPG, is story-driven and actually tells a pretty good story if you stop and pay attention to it. Though it's more fun to skip all of the dialogue and cutscenes to get back into the combat, it's important to stop sometimes and take in what you're actually doing in the game. Your character starts out weak and your attempts to stop Jinsoyun and her allies are swiftly stomped out because your character can't match their skill until much later in the game, which makes sense as you were only a student. You eventually seek out the Eight Masters who guide you on the path to recovery to get the Mark of the Black Rose removed, as they also teach you new abilities and things your character can do. You'll learn new windwalking techniques, options to customize all of your skills and turn them into brand new skills, and more as you go through and reach certain parts of the story.

    It truly was a breath of fresh air to feel some real incentive to go through the story and do all of the quests. At the end of every major quest, I received rewards in the form of outfits, weapons, crafting items, and even new abilities. Even without any rewards for completing the main quest, it's still an interesting story and delves deeper into storytelling than almost any other MMORPG. It's not the most well-told story, but it's still a good one and it's more than enough to keep me interested which is not something that any other MMORPG has done for me.

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    On top of that, Blade & Soul has a massive soundtrack composed of songs that create an atmosphere and really made me feel like I was a part of the story or dungeon. Upon entering a peaceful village, I'm given a relaxing song to listen to that encourages the idea that the village is safe. After entering a cave tainted by an evil shaman, I'm given a dark and eerie song that is unsettling and adds to the tension of the impending boss battle. Everywhere I went in this game had a unique soundscape to it in addition to their unique visual appearances.

    On that note, I really have to compliment the game's lighting effects. Although the graphics of the game can't really compare to games like The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt or other visually stunning games, Blade & Soul still captures its intended art style and the lighting really adds to it throughout the game. From what I've seen, there's no graphical issues with the game and everything works as intended and at maximum graphical settings, Blade & Soul actually raised the bar for me with graphics in MMORPGs as the game does look rather impressive with the maximum settings enabled.

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    There is a lot of content related to factions and PvP, but I've only scratched the surface on it. PvP is easy to get into but hard to master, and factions are a fun way to incorporate open-world PvP based on when players want to toggle it on or off. This is done by equipping the uniforms of a certain faction and finding players who have the opposing faction uniform equipped. This is how the open-world PvP is structured and all a player has to do to turn it on or off is equip or remove the faction uniform. If you'd like a more PvE approach to factions, there are certain locations where you can fight challenging NPCs of the opposing faction, though enemy players are able to join the fray just as allied players would be able to help you. The difficulty increases, too, as you keep fighting the NPCs, they will send for backup and a special team or faction officer will slam down into the field and attempt to stop you. As you ramp up kills and earn Prestige Points, you become a target for other players, but you can earn great rewards with your faction should you make it back to their camp and turn in your kills, which are lost if you end up dying.

    There is also a PvP arena which allows players to duel in one-on-one combat or in tag teams. I got beat in my first match, though, so I didn't explore the arena or PvP at all. There is a ranking system that some players have already participated in, as well as a PvP currency that can be traded for unique costumes, weapons, and items for doing a lot of PvP.

    Blade & Soul has been released in Korea since 2012, eventually making its way to China in 2013 and then Japan in 2014. Its popularity soaring, demand for a western release only increased over the years with the lack of new MMORPGs coming out. Its reception in those regions has been nothing but positive, with Blade & Soul being one of the most widely played games in those regions. Its skill-based combat system inspired an eSports league for the game's dueling and PvP combat, with tournaments being held for the game just like what you might expect to see for a fighting game.

    All in all, Blade & Soul does exactly what it intended to do and more. It created an open world where players could master martial art combat, explore professions and guilds to make money, and a story that is easy to follow and interesting to keep up with. The game has masterfully designed gameplay and combat that makes the game fun to play, even if you're not fighting enemies. Movement and combos are fluid and everything makes sense; the game is so fun that it is sometimes addicting. Everything that the game does right - the visuals, the sounds, the gameplay, the plot - all come together to form an excellent game that I would wholeheartedly recommend to anyone who likes MMORPGs, fighting games, or video games in general.

    Given its popularity and fans' patience for a western release, I have no doubt that Blade & Soul will make waves when it's finally released tonight at 12:01 AM EST. With just over 7 hours remaining in the countdown as I write this, I imagine a lot of MMORPG enthusiasts are eagerly waiting on the edge of their seats for the game to go public.

    http://www.bladeandsoul.com/en/

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  1. Master
    I highly doubt this game is going to replace WoW. But it can try.
  2. Autonamus
    whenever a new MMO comes out you always find someone saying "Is this the wow killer" or "will X replace wow" and I think we all know the answer by now...
      ImDuhOnlyTragik likes this.
    1. Arxhive
      You work at Blizzard your argument is invalid.
      Feyfolken likes this.
    2. Autonamus
      I've been making the same argument for years.
  3. Vendetta for V
    Finally got in the game. Disappointed due to the wait time of 25 mins but it's a good game considering it's free. I get the feel of wow but the refreshness of a whole new world
      Feyfolken likes this.
  4. deebug96
    I happen to be a huge fan of MMORPGs myself and I've played many of them. I tend to always describe them by somewhat like so-and-so game but also very different. I can say this game is at the top of my lists. I've been playing it for about a week now when I haven't been sleeping or at work. I currently main a level 41 summoner.

    I will say I was first drawn to the class due to the animal ears and tail and the magic capabilities of the class. Not only that, but the game I was putting all my time into before the release of BnS was Tera where I have multiple Elins, they are so much like Lyns, and multiple Mystics.

    While the class Mystic from Tera is very much like the class Summoner in BnS, they are very different. Mystics have to resummon their thralls after every so often. They have different thralls for different situations. They are also a healer that can help with dps. They have a special command to make their thrall attack a mob. The only other way a thrall will attack is if something attacks the mystic.

    A Summoner in BnS always has a familiar, a cat, summoned unless it dies. Then resummon it. You can pick the type of cat you want. This is the only familiar you have to fight for you. As a player, you also have to control your familiar. It will follow you around, but for it to attack, you have to use your tab skill which will make your familiar attack or you have to attack the mob yourself. So, there is no afk in an area you know your familiar can handle itself and expecting it to protect you, you will die. Your familiar does have it's own attack pattern, but there a multiple skills it has that you control. You have to watch your familiar and and the mob to time your attacks between your character and your familiar.
    A summoner is a very light healer. Light is the main word. The main healing skills you have are Doom'n Bloom and one that's a tornado of petals.

    I'm quite pleased with my little summoner and while she is like a mystic, she is also very different.
      Itachi_Uchiha, Zone-Tan and Feyfolken like this.
    1. Itachi_Uchiha
      I tried a Summoner I just did not like the way the class rolled, I'm happy with my Little Blade Dancer Lyn :smile:
  5. Vendetta for V
    Que times are from 1 hour to 4
    1. deebug96
      That is true and it also depends on when you get on. I tend to get on around 2pm before work and there is not wait time, yet when i get on between 9 to 11 at night, there is a bit of a wait. My suggestion is to find out when your can get on and what like the wait time is like around that time. Maybe plan to have something also to do while you wait. I've gone and ate dinner while waiting or just sat there and watched anime until I was able to play.
  6. Walteri
    You so highly praise the game, I checked it out, and im very, VERY disappointed. Its like a rip-off from wow. Or pretty much any ither rpg in the world. Combat is same, ui is pretty nuch the same, leveling like in every game out there, the character creation. Its pretty much the same as on wow. Three classes per each race, some race might have the same class as another race has. Now the customization, something between spore and skyrim. Questing is the same as in wow, or even any other games questing out there. It doesnt differ from wow. Thus its a rip-off. Conclusion: the game is ****.
    1. View previous replies...
    2. Feyfolken
      Why are you surprised that games in the same genre are slightly similar? An MMORPG has a leveling system and a UI that displays health, abilities, experience, and quests?! Holy moly, it's another WoW clone!

      Blade & Soul has its similarities to World of Warcraft in the same way that it has similarities to Call of Duty, The Elder Scrolls, and basically every other game. A lot of games utilize RPG elements and it might surprise you to hear that MMORPGs tend to incorporate RPG elements, such as leveling, UIs that display a lot of information, and the like. Watching videos of gameplay will not tell you what a game feels like to play or how fun it actually is. This game has been placed in a less populated sub-genre of games: action MMORPGs. There's no "tab targeting" or concrete rotations like in WoW. You have abilities in BnS and you have a lot of them. They combo into other ones and you either have to time it right to get your combos off or you time it right to mitigate damage.

      The only similarity between the two is their genre, realistically. I've played a lot of MMORPGs, WoW included, and the only one that you can say is similar at all is Tera. On a side note, if you're going to have this discussion, don't flame others. Calling someone ignorant for disagreeing with you is not how you hold a conversation, Walteri.
    3. Walteri
      Zone-Tan those two game(-series') are pretty close to eachother, same point in multiplayer, different stories, but you play both games the same. might be slower or faster to level up on the other game but the idea in both games are the same.
      Feyfolken tbh i'm not that surprised. But you CAN make a game different even though they can be the same genre. atleast make it look like it.
      Games like TES: Online and wow, wow being a mmorpg and tes somewhat mmorpg too? Never tried tes online, maybe at some point, but they definitely look different. Even though the quests are alot like in all mmorpgs. go kill x amount of something, go speak to someone, get something, etc.
      Now, I might be wrong, I'm just imagining TES: online as TESV:S but online. You get better stuff but and you equip it.
      UI? in TES:O, nothing like wow. might be on pc though... you have no minimap in the corner (in skyrim), your mana, stamina and health are on the bottom edge of the screen, BUT only if you happen to run, lose health or use mana. or lose mana from getting attacked.
      Why did I call him ignorant? Because he either doesn't want to see the things in wow and bas characted _CREATING_ (not editing it's features). You have races, you have a couple of classes for that certain race, but not all of them, if you want a certain class, you might have to change the race.
      No, I might not know how fun it is or how different it in reality is, but i have gotten some kind of uhh...feel about the game, like everyone gets. hype, sad, excited, disappointed, so on. I feel like kind of disappointed after the hype i got from the text. After watching a single video, a feel about the game can change. That's what happened. Deal with it.
    4. Feyfolken
      All MMORPGs are, at their core, similar and sometimes nearly identical. This isn't exclusive to Blade & Soul, but there is a full UI customization tool where you can move all of the UI elements to wherever you prefer, or remove certain elements altogether. I don't see how you can draw parallels with something like the UI when it's something that all MMORPGs incorporate. The only difference between The Elder Scrolls Online and World of Warcraft is that the former's UI goes away when it's not in use. Interestingly enough, Blade & Soul's UI elements also do this, though the player's action bars and health bar are the only elements that don't do this.

      You can't come to an accurate conclusion by watching gameplay or taking things out of context. The game has one of the most polished combat systems I've ever experienced, where there is no global cooldown on skills and your timing is crucial on every action you take.

      In regards to character creation and race-locked classes, it has nothing at all to do with WoW. It's about how enriched the races are in the lore of the classes. A race known for its mental strength and chi manipulation can be a Force Master, whereas other races that are renowned for their physical prowess have to be one of the varying melee classes. In a game like WoW where the different races are so unique, I see how it can be inconvenient, but it's not that intrusive in BnS.
  7. 3xTiNcT
    Sounds and looks cool but I'll never play it. I don't see it being bigger than wow.
  8. TheItalianLad
    I prefer Guild Wars 2. I just think that even though it is similar to WoW, it is one of the best mmorpg games out there.
  9. Alesana
    I'v played plenty of MMOs and this one is a lot of fun right now. Will I get past level 20 and continue to play? I don't know yet, but I am loving the combat more than any other MMO I'v played. This is far better than WoW.
    1. Walteri
      The combat is pretty much the same in wow...
    2. Alesana
      No it's not.....
    3. Walteri
      Please, do tell more. You've caught my attention.
  10. Arxhive
      Jacob Frye likes this.
    1. View previous replies...
    2. Jacob Frye
      I'm going to go back, and play Empire Total War. :frown:
    3. Arxhive
      Maybe the servers will chillout when the people with 5-second attention spans get bored and go back to Call of Doody.
    4. Itachi_Uchiha
      I can't even download it, the last mmo with an anime style i played I loved so I'll give this one a try when ever the servers are chill.