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E3 2012 Preview

Carolyn Koh Posted:
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Are you familiar with any of the ancient Chinese martial arts? Perhaps you’ve seen some movies which highlighted some of the art forms. I don’t mean Kung Fu Panda here, but Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Hero (YinXiong). If you’ve studied any of the art forms, if you are a fan of WuShu (Chinese martial arts), then you are in for a real treat with Age of WuShu.

Eric Rodgers, Publishing Producer for Snail Games USA was especially excited about the announcement that actor and Chinese martial arts champion Jet Li was impressed enough with the game to sign on to endorse the game. Age of WuShu supports the real Chinese martial arts and each of the eight schools of martial arts in the game are based on real martial arts forms if not actual, formal schools. The beauty of the animation is based on full motion capture of actual WuShu experts.

Set at the peak of the Ming Dynasty (early 15th century), in the alternate Chinese universe of Jianghu, you start off as a novice and select one of the eight schools of martial marts to begin your training as a warrior. These schools are:

  • Shaolin – the oldest and most famous of schools, upholders of righteousness, they are masters of the External Skills.
  • Wudang – the southern school. Incorporating Taoist concepts, they pay equal attention to body and mind, and excel equally in fist and sword.
  • Emei – the maiden school, Emei only accepts femal characters. Their main weapon is the sword, but make use also of female accessories they may have on hand; hairpins and needles as projectiles.
  • Beggars’ Sect – Beggars are everywhere. They are the eyes and ears that no one takes notice of. A secret sect, they are one of the pillars of Jianghu’s defense against invaders.
  • Tangmen – this is the assassin’s school, using secret poisons on their weapons, mysterious Grandma may be retired but she still wields enormous power.
  • Scholars – Scholars are revered in China as any child can raise himself and his family out of poverty by applying his mind and passing imperial examinations to earn a place in the vast administrative needs of the government. Their skills are in the manipulation of sonic frequencies to disrupt the internal workings of the body. Killing with a song and leaving no trace. He died of a ruptured appendix. Yeah… really?
  • Royal Guards – When you have organized army and government, there must be secret service and covert agents right? The Royal Guards are the most feared and ruthless group in Jianghu and other schools refuse to associate with them. None of their skills are about incapacitation. They are killers and most of them enjoy it.
  • Wanderers Valley – The outcasts. These are the practitioners of the dark arts. They use all and any means to accomplish their purpose. Poisons, sneak attacks and sabotage techniques are in their arsenal.

The story line and many of the quests are based on novels of the WuXia – a concept roughly equivalent to the western “Age of Chivalry.”

There aren’t any classes in Age of Wushu. You join a school to learn the skills from it and if you don’t like the style, you can leave and join another. You will retain all the skills you’ve learned from the previous school. From the description of the schools, you may have gathered that there are basically three alignments in the game you can gain favor with; the good, the neutral and the evil, although of course, you can also gain favor individually from each school.

Apart from combat, there are 17 professions that players can partake in, learning up to a maximum of four per character. As the economy is player driven, the professions are viable career paths for layers and each has their own unique experience. The professions are divided into four different types in what is known as the Life System.  They are:

Collection: These are the miners, hunters, farmers, woodcutter and fisher. The gatherers of raw materials.

Manufacture: These are the tailors, chefs, poison maker, craftsmen, blacksmith and herbalist. Every one of these professions creates something that will support combat. The tailor and blacksmith creates and reinforce weapons and armor, the craftsmen creates accessories and adds attributes to them, the chef creates food for health recovery and buffs and sharpens weapons, the herbalist collects and refines herbs into pills to cure diseases and poisons, and for buffs. The poison maker is pretty self explanatory.

Culture: These are musicians, chessmen, scholars and painters.

Market Place: These are diviners (fortune tellers) and beggars.

Some of them may seem rather arbitrary, but each do have their own mini-games, storyline quests, and some even support skills learned in one or another of the combat schools.

To support the world economy, there is a world shop or auction house system which can be a game in of itself for players who enjoy economic play. There are a limited number of shops and players have to bid to lease them. Then they can expand then, change their looks and put up items for sale as well as hire an NPC to man the store.

Speaking of NPCs, in a pretty fun and unique offline system, when you log off, your character doesn’t just vanish from the world. It remains as an NPC and will go about doing a job. You can either contract out for a specific job or just log out. When you log back in, you can check a log to see what your character did and the rewards he gained. Log out near farmland and you could be a farmer. Park by a lake or pond and you could be a fisherman. In town, you could be a court clerk, a wandering musician, a beggar, a peddler, the options are broad and in a bit of fun, your friends (or enemies) could prank you by kidnapping your character and selling you off to a brothel. Not too difficult. Buy a knockout potion from a shady shopkeeper, knock out your target, throw a sack over him and cart him off to the closest brothel!  Be careful though, you’ve made yourself one big target (flagged PvP) and you are encumbered at that! Players who log in and find themselves in a brothel can either bribe their way out or fight their way out.

Age of Wushu has a pretty involved reputation / fame system for PvP. You can go about killing people out in the open world, but you will gain a bad rep and lose privileges in towns. You can get to KOS status with the guards and have to sneak / run to your school which is a safe refuge. Of course… you can’t be a member of a good school and have a bad PvP rep. There are bounty systems, guild wars, school wars and guild territory wars. At launch, 32 territories will open up. If your guild wants one, go for it. Just remember you have to build on it, defend it and hold it against all other guilds! Yes, you can be burned out and driven out.

There are also some unique PvP games associated with the Territory, including burning buildings, capturing the stone beast – a secret device deep in the heart of the guild buildings, controlling the teleport points, capture the flag (guild insignia) and kidnapping the maid. Two maids will spawn at any of four points and the goal of the attacking guild is to kidnap them and stuff them into a carriage at the guild gate and steal them away. The defending guild has to rescue them.

Did I remember to mention no levels as well as no classes? Age of WuShu is going to be modified sandbox style play in a world of legend. With full 3-D graphics, some gorgeous art and combat animation that is true to WuShu styles, feasible non-combat character development, mounts with their own skill and level system and the unique offline feature, Age of WuShu has earned themselves a “Rising Star” nomination in our yearly Best of E3. The business model has yet to be announced but SnailGames plans on North American beta soon after E3 and an end of year release.


Carolyn Koh

Carolyn Koh / Carolyn Koh has been writing for MMORPG.com since 2004 and about the MMO genre since 1999. These days she plays mobile RTS games more, but MMOs will always remain near and dear to her heart.