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Plenty of Blade, But What About Soul?

Written By William Murphy on February 12, 2016 | Comments

Plenty of Blade, But What About Soul?

Blade & Soul may not be a new game anymore, having been out in other regions for 3 years now, but that doesn’t mean it hasn’t been anxiously awaited here in the EU and NA.  But after all the hype, all the downloads and queues, how is the actual game after dozens of hours of playing? Blade & Soul seems poised to make a splash in the competitive PVP scene (just as it has in Korea), but whether or not it has staying power for PVE fans remains to be seen.

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As you may have read in some of our other editorials and the reviews in progress, I’m a big fan of Blade & Soul’s combat. If all MMORPGs could mix this sort of targeting and reactive action, I’d be a happy camper.  If there’s one thing about the game that doesn’t get stale, it would be beating up baddies and players. This is a good thing, since combat is about all you’ll really be doing in Blade & Soul. Crafting is there, but for the most part (until end-game), it’s not very useful except to make money on the Marketplace.

All of Blade & Soul’s major systems hit the big marks on the “What an MMO Needs” checklist, but so many of said systems feel sort of tacked on.  Crafting especially, as you kind of just place orders, and then wait. It’s reminiscent of Neverwinter’s crafting really, only in NW the items you made often felt useful throughout leveling, and you could access your crafting queue while away from the game. In Blade & Soul, because of the strange itemization (which we’ll talk about next), you don’t really need anything you make until you get to the later tiers of the game.

Blade & Soul’s item system is somewhat like The Secret World’s. Your costume and looks are completely independent of your stats. You have a soul shield, a sort of collection of items that come in sets for you to mix and match to improve defense, agility, attack power, crit, and so forth. You also have earrings, a necklace, a ring, and a weapon – but here’s the rub. The items you get within the first few hours of the game for these slots are the best items you’ll ever see in Blade & Soul.

With the ability to cannibalize other rings, weapons, necklaces, or earrings you just keep leveling up those core items all the way through the current level cap and presumably beyond as updates are launched.  It’s just a weird system, but still serves the same purpose – you level up your item as well as your character to increase your power. The problem is that at the endgame, the grind to get the materials is pretty atrocious. You’ll grind dailies, dailies, and more dailies. And since the game’s group loot system is auction-based, it means you’ll sometimes have to spend a fortune just to “win” the item you need to upgrade with.

The dungeons, though there are many to choose from, are mostly just “run through, clear mobs, and kill boss easily” sorts of affairs as you level up. The late game and harder dungeons are much more engaging, and this week’s (Rising Waters) patch adds a good deal of new content – including the very cool Mushin’s Tower (a solo heroic challenge dungeon) and the Bloodshade Harbor/Nightshade harbor for level capped players to run through. The Nightshade variant is a 24-player raid too.  Each class now has 5 new Hongmoon levels to obtain as well, which pretty much extends the level 45 cap to 50 and adds new skill points and additional stats.

The PVP, quite simply, is where Blade & Soul will shine the most in the coming months. The PVE is sort of a sideshow between competitive seasons for the game’s PVP-obsessed, and its 1v1 (and eventually other group sizes) will undoubtedly surprise people with how fun matches are to watch and play.  I’ll be curious to see how NCSOFT handles the different regions, and if they’ll eventually do world championships – and then, if our NA and EU folks will be able to compete with the seasoned KR competitors.

World PVP is a thing. It’s fun, when it can happen. But, and this is where I notice the spammers the most, Faction chat is abysmal with the sheer amount of gold-selling spam going on in the game right now. These aren’t players logged into the game, these are third-party tools being used to spam chat channels remotely and create new accounts with a script. It’s annoying as hell, and has to be annoying to NCSOFT too. But, simply put, the spammers make the game’s chat channels completely unusable except for groups and clan chat.  Therefore, you can’t really use Faction chat to work with your faction and participate in world PVP. If that part of the game is your bag, I’d suggest finding a clan that wants to do the same sort of gameplay.

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