I blame Kaozz. Her blog, ECTMMO, has a long history of nudging me into downloading MMOs I probably shouldn't. Perhaps I should say a Loong history. Of course, I'd heard about Blade and Soul before I read her moderately enthusiastic review earlier today but I'd never worked up much interest in it.
It looked pretty enough in pictures and those cats were...a thing...but Wuxia is not a genre that I have any history with, in or out of games and most of all it was another Action MMO. As I keep saying, I can play action MMOs if I really have to, but I prefer not. What's more, I already have a new no-cursors-allowed game on the go in Otherland.
Then Kaozz has to go and mention that if you hit shift-F2 the entire UI converts from action mode to a WoW-style hotbar clicker. Add to that the fact that, as I noticed a while ago, B&S is published by NCSoft, with whom I already have an account, so form filling would be at a minimum and my resolve, never strong at the best of times when it comes to resisting new MMOs, collapsed.
After a couple of hours play I'm scarcely in a position even to do a First Impressions piece but here are my first impressions:
- Slick, smooth, fast installation process. Really top notch. I love the way the tiny installation download simply installs the game's regular patcher from which you patch the entire game. Elegant.
- Character Creation is equally well-designed. Very easy to follow, plenty of choice, lots of presets, no sliders. Classes seem to be locked to races. Didn't notice if they're also loked to gender. I went Summoner because That Cat which means I am the cute, small race. Win!
- Atmospheric opening cut scene leads into dull tutorial leads into extremely atmospheric, extended cut scene. This in turn leads to some tonal shifts that I found problematic and these continue in the starting area. Hardly an unusual problem for either Eastern or Western MMOs, that.
- Thought bubbles beside NPCs telling you what's going on in their mind as they talk to you is something I can't recall seeing before in an MMO. There's potential in that idea. Not sure it's going to get used for much more than comedy effect here but still...
- The UI is awkward and ugly. It's moveable but the editor is cluttered and confusing so I left it as it is, mostly. Too much text in the center of the screen, which I guess is an action MMO thing. Functionally it's fine.
- Having to hold down shift to sprint is annoying. If there's a keybind for it I couldn't see it. I wouldn't bother sprinting at all but you need to sprint to get into the air and glide, which is fun. Also, pro tip, don't glide off the cliffs in the tutorial. I did and I couldn't get back. At least I know how to revive when I die now.
- This game has the best screenshot function I have ever seen in an MMO! They take screenshots really seriously. There are multiple formats to choose from, the game prints the file location in chat so you know where they've gone and best of all a voiceover confirms you've taken the shot. Just brilliant.
- Visually Blade and Soul is okay. Sometimes it looks amazing, other times it looks flat and false like the set for a movie. Some things don't seem to have the weight or density or mass you'd expect. Not really seen enough to judge how much of a problem this might be. I felt the same in ArcheAge at the start but a few quest hubs the world started to look and feel much more solid. Maybe it's an acclimatization issue.
- Quest translations are, largely, in good English. I only noticed one glaring error. Voiceovers are bland but competent. I'd already started reading ahead and cutting them off before they finished speaking by the time I was halfway through the tutorial.
- The opening scenario is incredibly cliched but the writers know it is and play with it. Without spoiling much I can confirm that my character was woken up from a comatose state not once but four times with increasing ironic intent. It amused me and made me mildly optimistic for the storyline to come.
- The quests did not. Not by a very, very long chalk. I don't think there's one in the first three or four locations that I literally haven't done before almost action for action in other MMOs. Anyone with a low tolerance for potboiler filler quests is going to be tearing their hair out in ten minutes. Fortunately my tolerance for that sort of thing is sky high.
- If you think that cat looks creepy you should hear him talk. And he's the least creepy of the five you get to choose from.
- Fighting seems easy enough but then it always is at these levels. You'd hope. I'm just pressing keys at random. I didn't bother to read any of the spell descriptions. Everything so far has died in a couple of hits. If I start to struggle, then I'll look into what does what. Anyway, the cat can do the heavy lifting.
I don't get the feeling this is an MMO I'll pursue for long but I've thought that about a few Eastern conversions and ended up pottering around in them for a good while so who knows? It's certainly been worth the very small trouble it was to download and install. What more can you ask for free?