Revenge. Danger. Epic battles. Blade & Soul: Revolution has all of these things, but in Netmarble’s global release of this once top-grossing Korean MMORPG mobile title, if you play the game as intended, you could miss all of it. Blade & Soul: Revolution dazzles with high-quality graphics and an early story hook, but with 200 levels to grind and a ton of features to learn, will players see it through to the end?
As a disciple of the Hongmoon School, you begin your journey with a plan to harness your strength and become more powerful under the tutelage of your master. Wait – you’ve been double-crossed and now your master and all of your friends are dead? Welcome to the basic introduction to the story for Blade & Soul: Revolution. Once you wake up in the healing house, it’s time to start your journey to gain strength and enact revenge. The initial tutorial, up until you get out into the world to quest, felt pretty good, and had the tutorial been indicative of your forthcoming adventure, the tone of this review would likely have been quite different.
Pick a Master to Become a Student
Before we dive too deeply into the leveling game, I’d like to touch on a few points regarding character creation. B&S:R released March 4th with 5 playable classes at launch, the Destroyer, the Kung Fu Master, the Blade Master, the Force Master and the Summoner. Over the course of my play time, I attempted to play with the Kung Fu Master, the Destroyer and the Summoner, the latter of which I chose for the majority of my play sessions. Each of the classes generally corresponds to a race, though only the Gon and the Yun are gender locked. The Lyn, which was my choice so that I could play as a Summoner, is the obligatory hybridized animal cutesy-character we see at least one of in most MMORPG’s.
The character selection options were somewhat limited, though the Lyn Summoner seems to have more options than the others, as you were able to customize not just your face, hair and body, but also your ears, tail, and the type of familiar you wanted to utilize (though they were all cats). The choices weren’t extensive, or unique in many cases, but with outfits available to change your look, it makes sense that they don’t want players to get too comfortable with their appearance from the jump.
Once I finally tested each of my characters, I was off and running. The summoner was an easy pick, as it’s supposedly rated for team play, and it was the only ranged character I created out of the 3 I started with. Shortly after finishing the prologue, which allows players to fulfill gameplay objectives with manual controls, I was introduced to some new features that changed the way I played Blade & Soul: Revolution altogether. Auto-play.
Give Those Fingers a Rest
Most mobile MMORPG’s in some form or another employ some means of auto-play. Whether they simply move you to a quest area, or attack for you, this should barely be a cause for concern, but in B&S:R it was quite disconcerting. In this game, auto-play functions not only as a means to automate the monotonous parts of the quest objectives, but the sad fact is, there comes a time where manual play isn’t even a realistic option for regular combat.
The Summoner, for example, cycles through chain skills so quickly, while managing your combos, stances, and health potions, it’s quite a lot to pay attention to and oversee while navigating and battling enemies. It didn’t take long before I gave up on manually fighting enemies actively, and instead, focused my time on other tasks, such as sifting through my inventory, or trying to clear out my notifications. Netmarble takes it a step further, with an option for Quest Auto-Play, that will not only play the story quests for you, but it even gives you the option to skip the story cutscenes and will darken your screen so you’re not wasting battery while the game plays itself for you.
The ability for Blade & Soul: Revolution to handle questing on its own is only handicapped by a stamina system that worsens the gameplay investment problem. Once stamina runs dry, mobs no longer drop currency or give you experience, and progression slows to a crawl. On the other side of that coin, while you are not playing, rest rewards accrue, and players will obtain experience and silver for the time they aren’t playing. This way, the game rewards me when it plays itself until my stamina runs dry, and then it will continue to reward me when I stop playing the game so that my stamina can regenerate (it’s important to note that you can recharge stamina in the game and with in-game items that are available in the shop for 20k - 35k silver).
A Clean Inventory is a Happy Inventory
The idle-nature of Blade & Soul: Revolution does make it difficult to get invested in the game. There were few fights where I had to supervise my summoner to ensure I utilized my evasion abilities properly in battle. Gear drops, in most cases, have also been simplified. Players can select the option to, not only equip new pieces as you obtain them, but to auto-equip any gear in your inventory that's better than what you are wearing. As simplistic as it is to equip gear, managing and upgrading your gear is a convoluted process. You have options to enhance gear, reforge it, reinforce your shields, salvage it, and restore its durability in the event your enhancements fail.
As you play you’ll acquire dozens of chests to open, gear drops from enemies, and plenty of buffs and materials to craft items. There’s a good chance, while the game is auto-playing itself, you’ll be managing inventory until you exhaust your stamina and your will to continue. If you don’t utilize bag upgrades, each play session post level 100 will have you visiting vendors to sell items to make more space. Fire pits are also common stops to break down gear you no longer have a use for. Many specialty items, like Essence of Skills, Essence of Passivity, and Potions of Growth will also populate your inventory, and you will be required to consume them to upgrade your abilities, or gain a small experience increase.
Blade & Soul: Revolution does provide a substantial number of hours of content, for those that don’t mind the more hands-off approach to MMORPG games. Dungeons, Timed Missions, Challenges, and the ongoing Faction War are all options that don’t require stamina. There are also reputation ranks, an arena, and field bosses. The options are, honestly, overwhelming. There could be a substantial appeal for the right idle RPG player who is looking for a new game with an abundance of content and elaborate supplemental systems.
Lastly, I can’t end this review without touching on monetization. I’ve spent more than my fair share of time in a number of online mobile games, but the shop in Blade & Soul: Revolution is truly a sight to behold. Whether you’re first logging into the game, or you happen willingly visit the shop, you’re immediately inundated with ads for the current deals that are available. The shop itself has 9 main tabs worth of different items. Each of those tabs breaks down into sub categories, many of which ask for blue crystals (cash currency) or a direct cash payment for some type of bundle. Then you have options to purchase items with in-game currency, silver, but if you don’t have enough of that, you can purchase more silver in the shop. There is even a tab that allows you to watch ads for some daily chests where you can roll for pets, equipment or other items.
Blade & Soul: Revolution requires a certain kind of player. This is not a traditional MMORPG by any sense of the word. The idle nature of the game may not resonate with players hoping for a recreation of Blade & Soul but on a mobile platform. The monetization and extensive shop choices are astonishing. For those familiar with Netmarble's other titles, having a plethora of purchasable options seems to be their general approach. Luckily, Netmarble is also pretty generous with providing free in-game chests and rewards for those that are steadfast in their willingness to log in everyday and put in the work. My time in Blade & Soul: Revolution did have some bright spots. Putting together an auto-play deck, and watching the story unfold were certainly enjoyable. Unfortunately, the hands-off approach to leveling really puts a damper on the attachment and investment to my characters. If you’re familiar with idle-games and you’re looking for an comprehensive experience, Blade & Soul: Revolution might just be the game for you.