Blade & Soul - First Impressions

Posted Thu, Sep 13, 2012 by Ethec

It’s tempting to pigeonhole Blade & Soul as the latest in a long line of MMORPGs that, like Aion and TERA and a host of low-budget free-to-play MMOs whose marketers spam my inbox daily, seemed destined to find only niche success at best on our side of the Pacific. It’s an roomy mental shoebox for Asian ports to fall into, and one that many other companies besides NCSoft have spent a marketing fortune trying to claw their way out of. 

But NCSoft’s Steve Levy seemed bent on curing my Asian port antipathy with Blade & Soul, and in the course of an hour-long demo at a recent games event, he succeeded. While the art style is unapologetically anime, Art Director Hyung Tae Kim is a widely respected manga artist and, from what I saw, has seriously upped the visual presentation of the game while avoiding typical anime tropes: outrageous hair dye, oversized weaponry, rampant androgeny, and the like.

Blade and Soul Gon  Blade and Soul Kun

Blade & Soul's character models are more Bruce Lee and Lucy Liu than Charles Atlas and Pamela Anderson. (image gallery)

Development began in 2007, and while the game launched June 30th, 2012 in South Korea, it seems like NCsoft is giving the game a little more time in the oven before releasing the game overseas. Still, even as Guild Wars 2 is basking in huge numbers, NCsoft is pretty excited about Blade & Soul’s reception in Korea. “Even in beta, it was beating out games at PC cafes like Diablo III and League of Legends,” Steve noted. “We’ve had amazing peak CCUs of over 230,000 users with steady CCUs over 200,000, and that’s just in one market.”

Blade & Soul's Graphics and Story

Visually, the leap from Lineage 2 (Director James Bae’s last effort) is akin to that  from vanilla WoW to Guild Wars 2 . It’s that impressive. From the fluid, quasi-supernatural martial arts combat to deft movement along steeply sloped rooftops, it’s as though the anime MMO genre has finally grown up - especially when you factor in the relative lack of unwieldy armor, overwrought cleavage, and other over-the-top male gaze. It’s something you’ll get a small sense of from the screenshots, but moreso from the just-released Blade & Soul reveal trailer. And yes, Steve gives us his word that none of the cutscenes appearing in the trailer are pre-rendered – it’s all straight from the game engine.

Clan Han Moon's serenity won't last long.Blade & Soul has the boilerplate story setup of its ilk: the 1,000 year peace has been shattered by an ancient evil. But as Steve notes, it gets very personal very quickly. “It’s your very classic Asian vengeance storyline. At the very beginning of the game, your village is attacked, it’s in ruins, your entire clan is wiped out, and your clan master is assassinated – betrayed by one of his own students.

"So you have a very personal story evolving along with the global story arc. And neither ends when you hit level cap – we’re going to continue both throughout.” It’s a winning formula, as evidenced by the coterminous storylines of NCSoft’s other 2012 hit, Guild Wars 2.

Gameplay and Combat

As you can probably guess, Blade & Soul’s combat runs along PvE and PvP lines and is very button-driven. Steve cited the Street Fighter and Tekken series as inspirations for the variety of combos available even at the earliest levels., noting that tab targeting will be available at least for low-level PvE players.

In light of NCSoft's recent anti-Western antics (i.e. abruptly shutting down the healthy City of Heroes of franchise and firing the 90 employees of US-based Paragon Studios to help bolster its Asian market games), I'm trying not to laugh as they serve us up this tripe. If this is where the company plans to show "a realignment of company focus and publishing support" then they can shove it. I hope Western market consumers are smart enough not to purchase Blade and Soul in light of NCSoft's penchant for dumping games to support their bottom line, regardless of said game's track record or loyalty of the fan base. I think it’s pretty obvious that Blade and Soul represents yet another super-generic fantasy grindfest in an already oversaturated market.

City of Heroes? Seriously? With other, more recent and even free superhero mmo's on the market now, did anyone even play that game anymore? I'm guessing they dropped it because who wants to play MMO pong.

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glutenfreetokiesOne would not be able to visualize the extraordinary product of time folks have used as recreation into this system.

That looks like Lucy Liu the same way I look like Jason Statham.

Thank God for NCSoft, I was salivating over the thought of playing another generic Korean Fantasy grindfest MMO. This will surely join the ranks of Aion and TERA; both of those games were wildly successful and considered smash hits by North American and European audi- I can't even bring myself to finish that sentence.

More Korean dreck.

I think this looks like a really cool game. I look forward to checking it out.

If you want an MMO within the same genre, WITH STABILITY... Don't go NCSoft. Although the Perfect World franchise isnt a much better choice, it is the better choice none-the-less. NCSoft has a colorful history of developing intoxicating, yet addictive, games and dropping them like a bad habit.

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I always like your blog post because you always come with different ideas and information. I always shared your site post with my friends. Keep posting and i will follow you.

To all the haters of this game, don't play it. Sorry but played other games and so far B&S is by far the game changer, love the Korean version so I can only imagine how the NA release will be. PPL just need to stop bashing on every game that isn't that boring World of whiners or TERAist lol

Sorry but COH was bound to shut down, it was running on fumes DCUO killed that game upon release so get over it.

Having played the korean beta for a bit, I couldn't understand anything being said, and the gameplay by itself was enough to make me want to buy this the second it releases. Anyone who likes both fighters and mmo's will buy this once they get a taste.

its sad that ppl say such bad things about the game, though it is really awesome and the looks and grafich makes the game more fun to play. i mean when i see on other sites all the ****comments then im getting sad, its like they wanna make the creators sad for making an awesome game, but of coures if theres fans then theres also haters.

i just hope they stille wanna release it in the west even though some ppl, just dont deserve it but their are fans who waited many years for this and they deserve to play til their hearts conten,

anyway i hope it will come soon and stick with what all the fans think not what a hater who cant see the beuty in the game. dont judge a book by its cover as i say :3 hehe

and ps to all the hater (if theres any) = w =)/ if u hate it so much then dont play or watch the videos more simple cant it get.

Peace out

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Blades may be used to scratch moving the blade sideways crossways a shell as in an ink eraser slightly than along or from side to side a surface, they are also to cut and dismember things.

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