Posted Thu, Sep 13, 2012 by Ethec
Here we must learn humility, so the masters here defeat us, putting us in a down state. Blade & Soul’s take on defeat is among the best I’ve seen yet, and I was pretty high on Guild Wars 2’s full set of last gasp abilities, ineffectual as they usually are. “When you’re down,” Steve explains, “you have three different options. You can try to crawl out of aggro range and use meditation to revitalize yourself.” Ostensibly this only works against NPC opponents. “You can also request help, and anyone in the area can revive you. But then you can also teleport to a respawn point.”
After regaining my feet, the master advised us to eat food to regain health. As for other consumables and pseudo-consumables, Steve noted that players can use skills, money, and gems to repair and improve weapons.
Without giving away too much, the aforementioned ultra-evil comes-a-calling in the form of Jin Seo-Yang, a former student of Clan Master Hong and the game’s primary villain. Jin turned to the dark side in ages past and forced Hong to defeat her. Resurrected by the “dark god” with a ravening hunger for a priceless possession of Hong’s, she’s back, with only half her soul intact, stylishly dripping dark chi, and more powerful than ever. Consequently, aged Hong makes a noble sacrifice to save our totally overmatched character. In short, the story turned out to be much more affecting than I’m used to in 20 minute demos, even if it atmospherically follows the first few steps of the classic Hero’s Journey to a T.
But the transformation from lowly cook’s assistant to elite fighter doesn’t spring from a spirit of vengeance alone, and after a long fall into the ocean from the airy confines of Clan Han Moon, our character comes under the protection of a fisherman in Bamboo Village. Not yet ready for prime time, she’s assigned the duties of ammo carrier as the nearby village mysteriously comes under attack from an enemy clan.
Fast forwarding a bit, Steve took us to Emerald Village, the first major city area players will come across and one under attack by what looks like zombies, for a look at some more advanced combos. Each carried a uniquely striking visual effect and tactical possibility. For example, Steve noted that the Force Master’s Force Choke ability allows you to ground-and-pound and opponent or toss them away from you for some lightweight crowd control. You could say that much of this seems derived from Star Wars tropes, but I think the developer would argue that both Star Wars and Blade & Soul are in fact drawing on the same distinctly Asian mythos.
Apart from the combos, what I first noticed that quests appear in fairly linear order, each assigned a sequential chapter number. Those who don't appreciate Guild Wars 2's reliance on dynamic events might be pleased to learn that I didn't see something comparable in the entire demo, short though it was.We left our character stemming the zombie tide as the demo period expired.
We had time for a few questions, and I had to huffily ask what Steve meant by saying that Blade & Soul was in the process of being balanced for the Western gamer. “When I talk about balancing for the Western audience, I think of game dynamics – not the gameplay or the story, but experience curves, rate of reward, that kind of thing. In Korea the leveling curves are a lot longer than what we like in the West. We’ve been trained on Diablo and we just like lots of loot, too. Lockout timers are a lot less severe too,” Steve insisted that these changes wouldn’t fundamentally change the game or the game’s challenge. “We’re just making some slight changes to meet the specific expectations of different audiences.”
It seems likely that we won’t see Blade & Soul in the Western market before 2013, despite some optimistic speculation of a fall launch. Steve also noted that NCsoft, like most publishers we met at gamescom and PAX this summer, is evaluating the viability of all revenue models – free-to-play with a cash shop, box-to-play, etc. – and will choose whatever makes sense for the market.
Our thanks to Steve Levy and the Team Bloodlust division of NCsoft for our first look at Blade & Soul.