Age of Wushu CB Impressions – A Leader Leads by Example, Not by Force
By Darren Henderson (DizzyPW), OnRPG Editor-in-Chief
Late last week the OnRPG team and many lucky players around the net gained access to Age of Wushu the title that has put publisher Snail Game on the map following an epic 7 city tour launch in China. Now the months are counting down to the open beta launch of Age of Wushu in the US and Age of Wulin by gPotato in the EU and everyone is wondering does Wushu really bring the pain to a stagnant MMO market? The answer is no… its intention was never to rework the MMORPG as it currently stands. If you go into this game thinking your past MMO experience is going to make you an expert from the start, you'll be in for a real eye opener. This game requires a ton of reading and study to fully comprehend as it intends to recreate the entire philosophy of how an MMORPG is made and played!
Even while offline your character will remain a persistent part of the world, and earn you benefits upon log-in!
Before you can understand Age of Wushu you have to understand a simple design philosophy that, outside of the game mechanics and unique set-up of the game, carries it beyond anything else. That philosophy is that you can gain progression just for playing. So thoughts of how do I min-max my character, what’s the most efficient way to level, and so on are out the window. The storyline quests take you on so many sidetracks that you will eventually realize this and ask yourself do I really need to do this to progress? That is when your mind expands at the freedom Age of Wushu offers and you can set out on your own personal goals, progressing as you do so just as if you had continued going down your main storyline. In the end everyone has a fun time doing what they feel their own definition of fun is and no one suffers for it!
Storyline and Customization
When it comes to customization players are offered a basic and more advanced facial construction program that allows you really set yourself apart with facial hair, hairstyle, hair color, and minor tweaks to your eye placement and so on. Granted you’re still going to look Asian no matter what you do, but considering the world map is roughly a recreation of China, this only makes sense. My apologies to fans of the Man with the Iron Fists. Beyond facial structure the rest of your customization is going to come down to finding outfits or cash shopping them to make yourself stand out. The costumes all seem to fit thematically and really do a great job of helping build a perceived personality of your character with everything from ninja masks to elegant flowing gowns.
Players also choose from one of four current storylines that impact their starting location, and a cinematic filled quest that all seem united with the goal of vengeance against someone who has wronged you and finding out more about your past. This is a really nice touch for an MMORPG and, with a little more work on the localization front, has the potential to add some replayability to the game.
Schools, Skills, and Cultivation
As important as the philosophy of freedom is towards increasing the fun factor of the game, the eight schools and way you cultivate your skills is the mechanic that really makes this title worth continuing to play. This game lacks levels but don’t be fooled that this means any player can defeat any player. It merely means that there is a disconnect between great gear and great power that normally goes hand in hand in an MMORPG. You see not long after you begin your tutorial section of the main storyline, you will be given the option to join a school. Though if you want to know all the details please check out my E3 recap on the schools and backstories to get an idea of who you should join.
Once you join you will begin acquiring unique passive and active skills unique to your school only. Now what sets this game so far apart is you will gain a huge list of skills all at once rather than earning them slowly over a grueling period of grind. These skills have synergy as well, with multiple debuffs that add bonus effects to your other skills should you use them in the correct order or in the correct situation. For instance some may require you to successfully parry first. Others may damage the enemy’s internal chi if used following a different skill in your school. Others may have bonus effects if the enemy fails to parry in time, such as knocking them off their feet or disabling their skills temporarily.
Beyond this there are also counter abilities based on a rock paper scissor system in which overt (rock) attacks break through an opponent’s feint (scissors) attacks. However overt attacks are easily parried by blocking (paper), which tends to reduce any special side effects that the overt attack inflicts. However a one-dimensional opponent that blocks often will be cut to pieces (literally and figuratively) by a series of feint attacks that not only ignore more of the damage reduction of blocking, but also may inflict additional status effects because they blocked. Of course if two well matched players fight on long enough they can also unleash unique rage skills that cost rage points built up from attacking and defending.
As Sun Tzu famously said, “If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.” In Age of Wushu this can’t be truer as a player familiar with the animations of multiple schools and reaction times to act on that knowledge will have an unfair advantage over those who simply spam skills in hopes of victory.
Now for the unitiated you might be wondering what I am getting at by mentioning a system that has no levels and yet offers you progression just for playing. This is because rather than leveling your character, you level your skills one at a time. You get to choose which you prefer to become stronger with and as you play you will slowly push a cultivation bar towards upgrading the skill. When it levels you gain a pop-up bar asking if you want to continue cultivating said skill or switch to another. Certain skills such as your school passive will also unlock the ability to gain new skills, causing a split in tactics between mastering your basics or pushing quickly towards gaining new skills while lacking strength in all of your skills overall. There are also skills unrelated to your school such as movement arts like running on water or dashing through the air that really help make the game feel like a true martial arts movie.
Professions and the Community Aspect
Age of Wushu is not a game meant to be played alone. Granted it’s possible but there’s a reason why the old martial arts stories made a huge deal out of someone who could train in isolation and still become a master. You have far more to gain working with others than you have to lose. See in terms of cultivation if you complete quests faster by working with others, you will gain a pool of cultivation points that can be burnt through in a process called Team Cultivation. Up to 10 players can join together in formation to do a keyboard DDR style mini-game to use up your cultivation points to power level a skill of your choice. To further expand on this, there are elemental regions ideal for team training. Each element aligns with an attack style (hard, soft, yin, yang, and eternal) and knowing which type the skill you wish to cultivate is and what element is best suited for it can greatly increase the rate at which you improve this skill.
However to limit characters from power leveling to godhood too quickly, you have three limitations for this. For one the world map is massive and not easily traversed quickly, so getting 10 players looking to do team cultivation at any given time can be quite a challenge, even with the world shout system that costs 10 liang (currency tradable between players). Beyond this you have a fatigue system that limits how much team training you can do in a given day. Finally building up the cultivation pool itself takes quite a bit of playtime, meaning those seeking to just log in once a day to take advantage of team training will be out of luck and unable to progress quickly without playing the game to its full extent. But those that put in the effort to make sure all 3 are met will gain progression unparalleled and really stand above their peers as Wushu masters!
Beyond this excellent system that helps bring players together and make friends, they also have a profession system that is incredibly interdependent on working with a community to advance. See the professions are broken up into four tiers. See the professions are broken up into 4 tiers and you will be drained of the same pools for leveling up each profession within one of the tiers. As such it would be incredibly difficult for a single player to master the arts of hunting, fishing, farming, mining, and woodcutting simultaneously. But beyond the variety they also make each profession different to train, from the whack-a-mole style farming to the bejeweled style tailoring. These material gathering crafts are then used to create items for the societal crafts of tailor, poison maker, chef, craftsman, blacksmith, and herbalist. So while you could go about it solo, if you have a friend or two and work together, you can both advance much faster in your chosen crafts and make a pretty penny of profit for your work. For instance my buddy Wodan is learning the ways of a chef as I learn to farm. I provide the wheat needed to make wheat buns and he creates enough food to not only keep our characters' hunger meter full, but also sell the excess to bring both of us profit!
The beautiful NightLawyer was kind enough to show me the basics of farming
During my travels I also learned that professions are ranked with amazing titles bestowed upon some of the best
Though I haven’t dabbled in them extensively, there are also two more tiers of professions; one focuses on art while the other seems to be more misc (divination for granting a boost in cultivation and begging for improving your ability to sell wares). I can’t emphasize enough that this game has far too many nuances for a simple Royal Guard like myself to learn in a week’s time.
While I could go on and on about the advanced completely open world PvP system, guild/school battles, stealing scrolls, and so on, there is simply too much to cover and I am still but a child in a world of mystery and adventure. If you really wish to seek the secrets of Wushu, find a beta key and meet me on the battlefield. OnRPG will offer a full review of this title once it draws closer to launch. Until then, I must return to my never ending quest to seek enlightenment.