E3 2012 Closer Look: Age of Wushu Pt 1: Backstory and Martial Schools
By Darren Henderson (DizzyPW), OnRPG Editor-in-Chief
Snail Games USA is a company name not often mentioned on online gaming news and review sites, at least not on the western side of the world. They've launched a couple of successful titles like The Chosen Online but stayed mostly low key. This E3 they set out to change this and make a name for themselves in the western market with a title five years in the making. That title is Age of Wushu, a 3D martial arts masterpiece so epic, even Jet Lee signed up to be part of the team!
Do you know your Wushu? If not it's good to know that Age of Wushu is built on the golden age of Kung Fu in China, the 15th century Ming Dynasty. Age of Wushu takes place in an alternate reality coinciding the Ming Dynasty in which the corrupt Emperor Ming Taizu attempted to kill off the martial arts masteries, and succeeded in bringing down many legendary heroes with his highly skilled Royal Guard Wu Ding Ji squadron. However his reign of chaos was ended through the deceit and cunning of Emperor Cheng-tsu who released the "Nine Yin Manual" and other Wushu guides to the public, bringing in a new era of Martial Arts mastery.
This eventually led to a revival of the way of the ancient 6 masters and the creation of two new western schools, making a grand total of eight schools of thought. Let's go over these schools as they will play a vital part in your adventure.
8 Schools of Wushu
Shaolin: Anyone who knows anything about martial arts should hold Shaolin as among the highest forms of enlightened martial arts. Founded by a traveling Buddhist teacher and Dhyana Master on the legendary lotus flower shaped Mount Song, Shaolin has always sought to perfect their art form in order to maintain righteousness in the land. Those seeking to maintain order without the corrupt influence of magistrates or businessmen should look no further than the Shaolin School.
Master Xuanhuai is the man to see. Seek him out to learn the ways of the Dharma Stick, Buddha Palm, and multiple pressure point strikes designed to separate tendons and render opponents helpless but not fatally wounded.
Wudang: Those seeking an enlightened path in the southern kingdoms may be able to rival the soundness of mind that even Shaolin offers. The Wudang school was founded on Taoist principles and believe that through intense Taichi training, they can counter hardness with softness. Students of Wudang are not only training in martial arts but also agriculture, medicine, and other academic pursuits.
Those seeking to find Dao should look to Zhang Sanfeng, an ancient martial artist famed to have fought off the Mongolian hordes as a youth. He can teach you to channel your inner chi to unleash destructive attacks by channeling it into your fist... or even your chi blade.
Emei: This school stands as an all-female martial arts school hidden away in an unknown forest location, separated from the trials and cares of the outside world. Here Abbess Juechen trains young women to flow in combat like a river to unleash hidden needle attacks and feminine swordplay to overcome larger physically strong foes with finesse and grace.
If you are a female seeking to uphold justice and stand as one of the greatest swordwoman of all time, Juechen will take you under her wing. She holds strong ties with both Wudang and Shaolin as she stood side by side with their leaders during the Mongol invasion. The style taught here is diverse, offering hidden needle projectiles, swordsmanship, and devastating counter-strikes.
Beggars' Sect: Despite the negative connotation and shoddy dress, the Beggars' Sect is one of the most righteous and free schools of martial arts. By opening their doors to not only the poor but also military officers, scholars, and anyone who holds justice in their heart, they have diversified their martial arts style while infiltrating every level of society. If you are in need of accessing hidden information or controlling political affairs from behind the scenes, the Beggars' Sect is the place to be.
Despite their carefree and wide range of membership, Xiao Tianfang maintains order and structure throughout the ranks with his Dog Beating Staff, made from bamboo and representing the strength and sway that the school reflects. Their martial arts range from the fight ending finishing move "Eighteen Dragon Subduing Palms" to the defensive and diverse Dog Beating Staff and Yuyang Kung Fu.
Tangmen: There's two spicy art forms that come out of Sichuan province. One is their world famous hot pots that use spices capable of rendering the tongue numb. The other is the hidden sect of Martial Arts ran by the Tangmen family from their secluded castle. It is said that Tangmen rarely becomes involved with the affairs of Jianghu. However it may just be that the recent increase in political poisonings may be Tangmen working in the shadows.
Tang Tianxing is the current head of the family and the man you will need to see to learn the hidden poison needle arts of the Tang family. They can unleash hidden needles from scrolls and even make it rain needles on their hapless foes from 64 different directions using the master art of "Storm Needle."
Scholars: One of the newest of the eight schools, Xiao Bieqing founded the Scholars Sect as a means of cultivating the mind in the arts of music, chess, calligraphy, and painting. From intense internal training in these art forms, the advanced members of the school can even bend the wavelength of music to inflict internal damage on their enemies without ever spilling a drop of blood, ensuring assassinations with no proof of murder.
When meeting Xiao Beiqing for the first time, it would be wise to mention your disgust for government politics and the current power plays happening in the world. He may come off as haughty and arrogant but once you're among the ranks your sense of enlightenment may do the same to you. As a skilled member of the Scholars, a lute is all you will need to unleash the full force of the Anran Melody, Phoenix Sky, Mingyu Kung Fu, and Bagua Array.
Royal Guards: The Ming Dynasty established an elite intelligence agency known as the Royal Guards in order to supervise the court and report directly to the Emperor on major happenings in his lands. While the intentions were initially good, Huangfu Yao, a rumored follower of the ancient "Evil Blade Master," corrupted the sect with Evil Kung Fu. Now he uses the guards as his own personal tool of destruction, cutting down anyone who opposes him and trusting no one.
The Royal Guards is a great place to join if morality has no implications on you and you seek nothing but power and position. They offer the diverse teachings of Tianmo and Xiuluo Kung Fu as well as the Shiyue Liuhe Array.
Wanderer's Valley: Established by an unpredictable and temperamental fortune teller, Wanderer's Valley carries no official political power or prestige in Jianghu. Instead they seek merely to master the martial arts most practical for winning combat, no matter if others call them out as underhanded or sly for their style. It's difficult to trace where their arts originate from, but everything from poisoned blades to insects to traps are all canon among their followers.
Shan Tianming is the current secretive leader of the sect. He will gladly teach any of the Duoming sword and Blissful Fist, so long as you agree to join his hidden agendas.
Stay tuned as I've only begun my Age of Wushu coverage! We'll be going over gameplay and features in-depth in an upcoming article.