Blade & Soul is a game that I had been waiting a long time for, so much that I kept checking the main site for any announcements regarding an EU release date! Low and behold, January 19th 2016 was the date set for the EU release!
Now the game is free to play with a cash shop and an optional subscription fee for premium rewards such as 10-30% increased experience or currency and all those delicious things. The cash shop I haven’t touched at all because I’m really not interested in it but for those who like to get their hands on cosmetic items, potions, bag slots, wardrobe features etc. then it’ll probably be of interest to you.
Character customization is something we all adore in some form or another because we get to alter the appearance of our characters to however we want, within the limits of the game’s customization of course. The customization in Blade & Soul is very nice because of how many options we have. There are sliders the change your eyebrow height, eye shape, different beards, somewhat decent hairstyles and many more customization features. It’s doesn’t have as much as Black Desert, which can be a good thing because having too many options can sometimes feel overwhelming.
So the game has been out for just under a week now to the public (worldwide), but just how does it fair? I’ve been playing it for a good few hours now to see how the game feels to play and it’s really a very fun game! Although it shares some similarities to Tera, the differences are how much better the gameplay and yes, the story is. First of all it’s one of the very few MMOs so far that has been able to stand out because of how strong the introduction is. There’s you, the “chosen one” who loses everyone at the Hongmoon School to ruthless villains who are noticeably much more powerful than you are (for now!). Most importantly I seemed to care for these characters because they were strongly attached they were to your character so you can’t help but feel somewhat disheartened when they disappear from the face of the planet.
The combat feels very smooth and a lot more fluid than other MMOs currently on the market (the exception being World of Warcraft, which hands down has the smoothest gameplay in any MMORPG) and less dull than Tera’s combat. There’s a lot of movement involved I’m very thankful that spell casters can cast on the move, which tends to make gameplay a lot more fun since you aren’t being restricted and if you’re someone like me who tends to move around a lot in MMOs…I can’t complain! Another thing hah makes the combat more engaging is chaining or executing combos. For example as a Kung Fu Master, you have Grapple enemy before you can use Headbutt, but before you can Grapple, you have to stun or knockdown the enemy. Really, it’s not as complicated as I’m making it sound and it’s great fun!
Adding to the combat, spell effects and abilities are extremely compelling and using them feels like you’re actually casting spells or beating down on enemies. Whenever I log into the game, all I want to do is to find something or someone to attack just because I want to see the ability effects! The only MMOs that seem to have combat as enjoyable as this for me, is Star Wars: The Old Republic, World of Warcraft and Rift. The Force Master, which you can see gameplay of in below, has a spell called “Phantom Grip” which is basically force grip. Chaining this will allow you access a couple more abilities that can either push them away or slam them to the ground. I managed to play the Kung Fu Master and Force Master just to get a feel for how a pure melee class and a pure ranged class works and they both play very differently, as you’d imagine!
The Kung Fu Master is one of the difficult classes to master and it’s evident when you first play it because it relies on timing your counter attack and to fuel your resource (Focus). The complex mechanics and challenging nature of the class is what interested in it in the first place! The Force Master seemed to be a far easier class to play with because the class mechanics aren’t as complex.
Every class can glide through the air to avoid falling damage which is very cool and is probably just something to add a bit of flavour and extra fun to the game!
Check out the intro gameplay of the Force Master class below! I skipped through most of the dialogue to get in as much gameplay as possible, but feel free to pause at moments where you want to read the dialogue. There isn’t any commentary during the gameplay because I want you to focus on sounds and the gameplay alone. You can also see Part 2 at our newly created and currently under construction YouTube channel for more gameplay with extra abilities being showcased!
The game is a little confusing as you enter the world. The skill tree system seems a bit all over the place, the UI can get cluttered unless you move it around a bit or minimize windows and often there’s dialogue that appears in the middle of the screen, which can get annoying since it get’s in the way of your view even though it’s not game breaking. The controls are pretty easy and the action bars are perfect because they don’t take up much space which is great as you have more screen space.
The character sheet is a really underwhelming and inspecting another player’s character sheet opens a separate window within the game and it looks really horrible. It would have been to have them spend just a bit more time on it to make it look decent but it’s just…dire. There’s actually two versions for a reason I have no idea why, one is the bad version and the other is displayed nicely and looks pretty good.
As with all MMOs you’ll encounter some toxic players, mostly in the Region/trade chats and Blade & Soul is no exception. The absolute worst experience with the game are the unbelievable number of gold sellers. Even after blocking them, more seem to arrive appear, even the ones you’ve blocked! If it bothers you as much as it did me, I switched to a tab where they don’t spam.
Some of the dialogue is pretty weak and cringe worthy but that’s most likely due to the horrible dubbed English voices. As you can tell I’m not too fond of dubs but there are exceptions and there’s something more authentic about hearing the original voices as they were meant to be heard.
There isn’t much to say about the music except that it’s very nice and fits in with the overall theme of the game. At the beginning it’s very peaceful and soothing but as soon as things start to get a bit more serious, you’ll notice the dramatic change in the music.
So in short?
Overall my first impressions of Blade & Soul are mostly positive with the extremely enjoyable and engaging gameplay and an actual story. There doesn’t seem to be any need to pay for anything in the game but perhaps that will change upon end game. The only things that fall short are the gold sellers and the cluttered UI/chat and horrible character sheet. The confusion at the start isn’t a big deal as you’ll easily understand how the games works as you keep playing! For a freemium game, it’s definitely something I recommend any MMORPG seekers try out!