Since launch, Blade and Soul has maintained a steady cadence of updates and classes to play, and next week NCsoft will be launching the soul fighter. Available to the Jin, Gon, and Yun races, this hybrid blends the martial styles of the force master and kung fu master to create a flexible class capable of dishing out pain at both range and in melee. And that's just what's coming next week, sitting down with NCsoft reps at E3, I also got a sneak peek at some of the updates players can look forward to in the next six months.
Okay but let's just focus on the soul fighter for now. It's an interesting class that revolves around rotating between two stances depending on the situation. The first is its elemental stance, which allows the soul fighter to dictate range and blast enemies with shards of ice or call down blizzards just like you would if you were a force master. When switching to the kung fu stance, the soul fighter adopts abilities similar to that of a kung fu master, which involves vicious blows that keep opponents off balance with an extra emphasis on dodges using the 'Q' and 'E' keys that circle around behind your opponent for more follow up strikes.
Demoing the class and getting a good sense for how it all fits together is difficult though, especially when the entirety of E3 is pushing Los Angeles's internet infrastructure to its breaking point and the demo keeps lagging out (which isn't a knock on NCsoft, every online demo I played had this issue), but I do think that the Soul Fighter can be a rather deadly class to play as. Apparently so do many of the professional Blade and Soul players, because Soul Fighter has quickly become a popular pick and is doing quite well in tournaments.
Of course, I can't think of an MMORPG that has released a new class that doesn't seem overpowered at first, but once again it's hard to get a sense for that short of taking a deep dive into the meta. What I will say is that I think the soul fighter is a lot of fun, and I enjoyed learning how to swap between the two stances in the arenas I got to try him out in. In one fight, I got to try my luck against an AI controlling other classes, so I took the soul fighter up against my old favorite, the destroyer. My circle-strafing dodges were an excellent weapon for slipping out of the cone of attack of the destroyer so I could punch his kidneys into a paste. Against a later foe in the Tower of Mushin, using my elemental stance really helped during his AOE attacks because I could simply pull range and continue applying DPS without much effort. On top of that, soul fighters can also heal their allies and even resurrect them if things really go sideways.
With that kind of versatility, it's no wonder 3 of the 16 Korean players have switched to using soul fighter as their main, and it's proving to be effective. I have to wonder if being so strong at both range and melee could make soul fighter inherently too powerful for other classes to deal with, however. But it's also something that I'm sure NCsoft is keeping a close eye on, what with competitive play being at the heart of what Blade and Soul does best.
After getting to punch livers and then freeze them for later, I did get the opportunity to see what sorts of updates will be coming down the pipe for Blade and Soul, and while I'm sure it's not a completely comprehensive list, it's less exciting than a new class. After soul fighter deploys next week, the next six months of Blade and Soul will add new heroic dungeons, a new 24 man raid, and two new chapters to the main storyline all within six months. Funny thing, the NCsoft rep I spoke with very seriously told me that one of the story chapters made someone cry—so if you're a big fan of the story (and there's a lot of you) you should probably be prepared. As for me, I've been crying myself to sleep every night since I turned 25 so I'm sure the emotional climax of acts five and six won't phase me.
Of course, there's going to be much smaller additions as well, including more holiday events to partake in and likely a continued growth of cosmetic items. For those of you who are bitter about always being second to Blade and Soul's East Asian market, NCsoft has an exclusive otter pet you can get that isn't available in the East just to show that, despite what others might say, the NA community is actually NCsoft's top secret favorite child.
But the bottomline is that if you're one of the 3 million players who have jumped into Blade and Soul since launch, there's a lot that has changed and there's even more that is coming. I personally haven't gone rampaging as my destroyer for a while, but there's been the Silverfrost Mountain expansion, warlock class, pets, PVP, and daily challenges introduces to the game since then. While I'm not overly fond of the game, Bill quite enjoyed it when he reviewed it at launch. But then again, how do we even know Bill exists? I'm not convinced. Either way, stay tuned for more news from NCsoft as our E3 coverage continues into next week.