The Dojo's Blade & Soul CBT1 Review
The MMO genre is not a new one, it has been around for some time now. The unfortunate part about that is that the genre has seen little successful innovation in quite some time and we feared that Blade & Soul might suffer the same fate; we were concerned that it might just be another addition to the collection of lack luster MMORPGs, except with a different package.
Oh wow, we were wronger than wrong could ever be!
Let's start out with the obvious; the graphics. This game is incredibly beautiful and the level of detail that the art team has put into Blade & Soul is jaw dropping to say the least. We found ourselves constantly stopping to just appreciate the insane amount of detail in the characters, the spells, armor and weapons, the water, even the grass! Absolutely everything in this game is above and beyond what we expected in terms of visuals. We expected it to be good, but not this impressive!
The level of detail in the weapons, armor, spells, and abilities was also equally impressive. The weapons were both beautiful and deadly, with slick designs and engravings up and down the blades. The armor varied from simplistic cloth and armor to incredibly detailed and complex robes and plate armor with fine detail that must have taken an absolutely insane amount of time to perfect, but the results were definitely worth it. The spell animations were also a joy to watch; fireballs that actually looked like fire, ice that glistened as it sailed through the air, and awe inspiring chi magic. The Force Master's ice dragon spell was especially impressive as it launched forward from your hand and then quickly broke apart, simulating real ice. That specific ability was beyond incredible.
Blade & Soul did lose half a point in our opinion because of some ground textures and how they simply looked off in certain areas. Despite being in ultra settings, the way the textures looked on the ground made it feel like medium settings. However, this was not incredibly apparent as none of us even took notice until taking a screenshot in a specific location. All in all, the graphics in Blade & Soul are fantastic and will give your video card a much needed workout!
As good as the graphics are, this is where Blade & Soul truly shines. What we thought would be a clunky and infuriating combat system turned out to be the most fun and innovative combat system we have ever seen. After a quick tutorial showing you the ropes so you aren't completely lost, the game thrusts you right into combat against both single targets and groups. How the combat works is when you use an ability to swing your weapon or cast a spell, you must aim said swing or spell in order to hit your target(s). This may sound like a terrible idea, but the way Team Bloodlust has implemented it is basically perfection. Aside from minor latency issues (playing in North America while connected to Korean servers is never lag free) the flow of combat and ease of use is perfect for almost any level of user.
When you kill an enemy without ever giving him a chance to attack you, it's an amazing feeling and sometimes very difficult to pull off. But it's definitely the result of a learning experience. Each enemy in the game has its own unique attacks and animations that you must learn before you can pull off these flawless victories. Have you ever been kited by A.I. before? We have! It was both a frustrating and refreshing experience to know that the enemies actually make intelligent decisions. This game rewards you by learning your class and your opponent instead of just giving you enough extra health and stats to steamroll your enemy.
This combat system is basically the epitome of "easy to learn, difficult to master". We had no problems immediately getting into the thick of things and holding our own so long as we didn't get too over zealous, which is entirely possible in this game.
However, as the days passed, we found ourselves experimenting with different movement strategies to avoid attacks, different ability orders to see how we could best control our opponent, and just trying different play styles, whether it be more offensive or more defensive. As we all continued to improve at how we simply play the game, the results were very impressive. We found ourselves able to take on much stronger opponents and in greater numbers. The power of your character really depends on how you play it and that is something that many players have been looking for for years now. This is not your typical "Press 1, 1 and 2 hotkeys repetitively" MMORPG's.
There is also a considerable amount of customization in Blade & Soul. The Bo-Pae system allows you to equip eight piece of "equipment" that gives your character additional stats. Completing and equiping a full eight piece set will award you set bonuses and give your character a glowing effect, but that's not all! You can also sacrifice pieces you aren't using to add additional stats to your current Bo-Pae set. This will allow for various builds including Critical strike builds, evasion builds, and so forth. In addition to the the Bo-Pae system, you can also gem your weapons with sockets to add an even greater stat bonus.
Once you reach level 15 you will gain access to Blade & Soul's class training system. This system resembles a talent tree, providing you with new abilities as well as improving old ones. Upon reaching level 15 you will be given one point to spend in this training system, you will then continue to gain one point per level. This system adds a great deal of character customization to Blade & Soul. It may not be an entirely new MMO feature but Team Bloodlust definitely added their own flare to it.
We'll be getting into further details on Blade & Soul's customization features later this week. Stay tuned!
Even though this phase of Blade & Soul beta only had four classes available, Destroyer, Blade Master, Kung-Fu Master, Force Master, it was more than enough to realise that each class will actually be unique. Blade & Soul does not have the typical "well a warrior is just a rogue in plate" syndrome that many MMORPGS out there have. Playing a Destroyer and a Blade Master was not similar at all aside from the fact that they are both melee. Besides that, they felt entirely unique from each other.
The Destroyer focuses on taking hits like a boss and delivering massive damage, both single target and area of effect with a few control abilities such as a boot to the head, knocking your target down. The Destroyer has a wide variety of attacks including a shoulder tackle, an area of effect whirlwind style spin, a massive delayed swing, and so forth. What surprised us the most was the effectiveness of the Destroyers area of effect attacks. The Destroyer first appeared to be the typical warrior, lots of hp and single target damage...then you started spinning and spinning and spinning taking on three to five opponents at once while delivering lots of damage. It didn't feel like a typical warrior at all from that point on.
The Blade Master was an eye opening experience at how tactical Blade & Soul can potentially get. This class was designed around parrying attacks and controlling your opponent. The raw damage numbers was no where near that of the Destroyer, but the level of control and defense that Blade Master possesses makes it an extremely formidable opponent to face with special attacks available after successful parries, leg sweeps to knock your opponent down, kicks, interrupts, area of effect attacks, impales, and so much more. The Blade Master is exactly the class to pick if you're looking for something based around raw tactics rather than brute strength.
The Kung-Fu Master was another very enjoyable unique experienced based around solid hp, solid damage, blocks and grapples. The grapples were especially interesting as you can knock your opponent down in a variety of ways. From there you can get on top of your opponent and choose from a variety of options, ranging from just hitting them while their down, to preforming special maneuvers like a cross-arm bar. Additionally, while you have your opponent on the ground during a take-down maneuver, your party can attack them while they are having their arm broken or face punched in. This makes Kung-Fu Masters particularly useful in group situations. Getting your opponent to the ground and countering his attacks is what the Kung-Fu Master is all about. It actually felt like a martial arts class and not just a brawler or boxer.
The Force Master, oh the Force Master. Finally, a mage class that doesn't require you to be rooted to the floor in order to do anything. The Force Master was a very refreshing experience as you are a mobile caster with impressive control and moderate damage. The Force Master was probably one of the most visually impressive classes to play with having incredible spell effects involving chi, firewalls, fireballs, fire dragons, ice bolts, ice dragons, and some control spells making you feel more like a jedi than a mage. The Force Master is a much needed breath of fresh air to an mmorpg archetype that has suffered from boring and stale class mechanics for years.
Keep the Dojo bookmarked as we will be making dedicated class articles this week! The articles will include everything from skill lists to their specific training system.
The questing system from Blade & Soul was very convenient and efficient. There are clear markers showing who to talk to, where to go, what to do, even markers telling where the entrance to a dungeon or cave is, then the markers update telling you where key quest components are inside said dungeon or cave. The quest markers even differentiate between solo quests, group quests, and main story arch quests. There is literally nothing you could add to the quest system to make it any more efficient short of playing the game for you.
There is also some evidence of phasing technology in the game as you come across a city, complete some tasks, leave, come back, and the city is now under attack and being destroyed. How far the developers will take phasing technology remains to be seen, but it definitely opens up a lot of potential.
The only reason why Blade & Soul lost a few points here is that a large majority of the quests are your generic kill 10 of this, collect this, kill 5 of this, kill this guy, go here, kill 10 of this, and so on. However, the gameplay of Blade & Soul is so enjoyable and fresh that this is pretty much okay with us!
We feel it is a little early to judge this aspect of the game, but we're going to anyways just because our experience with it was surprisingly positive. Now, usually in a beta the servers are crashing, and random down time happens and lasts for extended periods of time, quests are bugged, abilities are bugged, and so on and so on. However, this did not feel like a beta. Not even a little bit.
Server stability was amazing with only 2 instances of down time set for 15 minutes and they lasted exactly 15 minutes. The servers came up exactly when they were supposed to and went down at accurate times as well. We didn't come across a single bugged ability or quest which was very surprising.
The only problem we did have is that we experienced some latency and fell through the world a few times, but playing in North America on a Korean server that is simply to be expected. There were also a few issues with getting stuck, but the unstuck button proved useful in these situations. The camera also liked to shake a bit on jagged terrain, but this only occurred on excessively high levels of FPS, 150+. When FPS was set at 60, this shaking stopped. Whether or not this was an actual graphical glitch or a driver issue remains to be seen. Overall though, the game already seems very polished.
Blade & Soul was everything we could hope for, and more! We found ourselves constantly being impressed by not only the graphics, but classes, mechanics, questing, story, cut scenes, the list goes on! Blade & Soul, in just five days, has removed any fears, reservations and concerns for the title and replaced those feelings with excitement, joy, and anticipation. We can't wait until we can get our hands on the game again. CBT2 just can't come soon enough!