It’s Finally Coming to America
Some might say that 3 years is too long to wait for an Eastern bred MMORPG to come to the West. In the case of Blade & Soul, it seems like the long detour to an English client has only created more pent up demand for the Wuxia-themed game from NCSOFT and Team Bloodlust. And we’re happy to announce that Blade and Soul is indeed launching in the US and EU this winter, with a closed beta to begin this fall. The wait, as it were, is almost over.
It’s been so long since we heard from Blade & Soul that people might not realize it’s gained 10s of millions of players across South Korea, China, Taiwan, and Japan since its initial launch in mid-2012. When I sat down with Omeed Dariani (Community Director), Ben Conrad (Head of PR), Julianne Harty (Brand Manager), and Producer Nico Courant, it was obvious that everyone at NCSOFT West feels know is the time to bring B&S stateside. Why? Simply put, they had a lot of localization to do and they wanted to do it right. When the game launches this winter, it’ll be in English, French, and German simultaneously with complete voiceover for all of the game’s many cut scenes and quests.
Additionally, with a game based on Wuxia mythology, it may have seemed like an easier sell to Eastern audiences first and foremost. With the title’s success in those territories, it really was just a matter of time before we got our own version. As we reported last week, the game is indeed in Friends & Family alpha testing internally, with the closed beta coming this fall and an official launch in the winter. It’s apparent that NC West has long been secretly plugging away at this one, as the client we were shown was really well localized, albeit with placeholder voice over and some placeholder text.
We managed to grab about an hour’s worth of hands-on time with the game at the recent event in Santa Monica, and you can find our impressions on that time spent playing elsewhere on the site. For those wondering just what Wuxia is, think of the best known example: Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. Wuxia literally translates to “Martial Hero”, and Blade & Soul’s focus is on crafting a world of martial arts fantasy where traditional martial arts combat blends with magic, flight, and insane monsters and landscapes.
B&S is first and foremost a theme park MMORPG. The best analog you could compare it to is En Masse’s TERA. Both games run on Unreal Engine 3, which gives each some of the most impressive MMO visual fidelity out there. Even 3 years on, Blade & Soul is a gorgeous looking game. While we’ve yet to see how free players are to make their heroes their own, to carve their own path outside of the main storyline, fans of theme park MMOs looking for a fresh take on combat will likely find a lot to love here.
There are four races and six classes at launch. The Gon (big tall barbarian-esque humans), Jin the most traditional human race), Yun (a lithe female only race), and the Lyn - tiny animal-esque creatures that will immediately remind TERA fans of the Elin, only the Lyn can be males too. The eight classes are Assasssin, Blademaster, Force Master, Summoner, Kung Fu Master, and Destroyer. The three we were treated to in our hands on were the Blademaster, Force Master, and Summoner. Be sure to check out our hands-on impressions for more details on those.
As a theme park MMORPG, you can expect that Blade and Soul will have a lot of questing, but there’s also crafting (which we didn’t touch much on) and a greater game-wide faction system that factors into territory control and PVP.
With B&S you never have to PVP if you do not want to. The system is entirely consensual, but like any good world PVP, there will be rewards and reasons for partaking in the struggle if you decide to. There are two main factions (their English names are yet to be decided, so we just called them Red and Blue like their colors for now) and players need simply don their chosen faction’s outfit at any time to take part in the ongoing struggle for territory. You see, gear does not affect your looks at all. Similar to The Secret World, your outfits determine your looks, while Soul Shield fragments make up your armor and beneficial effects. Outfits cover your whole body, with hundreds available at launch, and there are face and head items as well to further differentiate your looks.
You do however have weapons, prescribed to your class, and it’s entirely possible to keep your first weapon in the game all the way to the launch level cap of 45. This being Wuxia-themed, weapons have a soul and essence to them, and you’re able to feed your weapons other items and weapons in the game in order to increase its power. An example we were shown was the Blademaster’s first sword being an ordinary katana, but its higher leveled version resembled the red and black fang or claw of a dragon. That doesn’t mean you won’t find a weapon you’d rather have, but the idea is to make you actually connected to your weapon as an extension of your character.
Hopefully we’ll get even more info on the crafting, what questing is all about, how the PVP Arenas work (I’ve been told there’s a pretty competitive eSports scene in Korea, due to the game’s fighter-game style combat), and all the other little intricacies that make B&S tick. It’s also worth noting that the Western version of Blade & Soul will be launching with several of the game’s updates under its belt, rather than starting from square one.
In the Korean version, they’re on Act 6, and when the game launches here we’ll be have Acts 1 through 3. So there’s definitely going to be a lot of content to chew on, and Omeed told us that the Closed Beta is mostly about judging how the pace of the content pans out and what tweaks and adjustments need to be made to ensure it never feels grindy as Korean MMOs are often accused of being. One thing’s for sure, we don’t have to wait much longer for the floodgates of info to open. The first major official Blade & Soul livestream will take place on Thursday, May 21 at 10AM PDT / 17:00 UTC at www.twitch.tv/bladeandsoul.
Be sure to head over to our hands-on impressions with three of the game’s classes, and stay tuned to MMORPG.com for tons more info in the weeks and months ahead, including how and when to get your own closed beta key.