TLBB Preview: Looks Good Plays Even Better
By Vincent Haoson (Vincenthaoson), OnRPG Journalist
In the span of a year of writing reviews I've come across a lot of martial arts themed MMOs. However, each time I've tried a game there seems to be something lacking. I thought at first I'd have the same experience in ChangYou.com's martial arts themed MMO, Tian Long Ba Bu(TLBB), but I was wrong.
At first glance, TLBB seems to be an over the top martial arts MMO. That's exactly what you'll feel in the game's first few hours, most especially when you go with the game's starter newbie quests. However, I personally suggest you go through with the game's newbie quests especially if you're just starting out. Going through with the starter quests not only helps you in clearing the first ten levels, it also provides you a prelude to the various game features that you'll be encountering as you play the game.
One Big Kung-Fu Show
When I was a kid I was immersed in old school martial arts shows that were being aired on Chinese cable television. The shows' male characters looked close enough to women while the women looked so dainty and elegant that it felt out of place when you saw them in rugged terrain. However, don't let their looks fool you, when they start fighting they literally can bring down a house. I think the best example I can tell you guys about this is the critically acclaimed martial arts movie, 'Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon'.
I shared this little tidbit because TLBB feels exactly like you are in one of the martial arts shows I just mentioned. The mixture of the game's visuals and music brings a whole new meaning to the term 'old school martial arts'. The game feels like your character is in one big online kung-fu show.
I'd like to emphasize the game's authentic martial arts feel because there have been a few MMORPGs that promised this environment but failed to deliver. I think the reason why TLBB feels more authentic is due to the fact that the game switches between the beauty and ruggedness of the martial arts world which is also how it was depicted on the Kung-Fu shows I mentioned.
Admittedly, TLBB doesn't bring anything new to the martial arts MMO genre. The game plays exactly like any other MMORPG which doesn't really affect on my perception of the game. In fact, the game's familiar feel is one of the reasons why you may want to keep on playing TLBB. You'd really need something to make you feel comfortable with the game because TLBB has just too many features at play that you'd practically feel overwhelmed if they also included a new gameplay system.
TLBB has a lot of game play features that you will find in other MMORPGs. You have the pet and mount system, there's also crafting and cooking involved which they call life skills, you can mine the various ores scattered around the maps in TLBB, you can also fish, play bingo and participate in "chess" matches which translates to experience point and item gain.
There's practically always something going on in TLBB that it feels like you're going to miss something when you don't log in. This kind of feeling nurtured in TLBB is a good sign that the game will go far in the future. In fact, the game is still in limited open beta and seeing that everything is already lined up for the players at this early stage only cements the fact that future players will experience a lot once the game goes commercial.
The Pet System
Among the various game features found in TLBB, I liked the game's pet system the most. You get your first pet pretty early in TLBB just as long as you went with the newbie quests. The pet may not be as strong as you'd like but you can be sure that they will help you a lot as you begin your journey in TLBB.
Character and his pet
Pets in TLBB are not just mere fashion items that you can collect and use. In fact, pets also have stats that you can allocate. Pets are like your other characters in TLBB because they can also attack and damage your enemies. There's also a variety of pets you can capture in TLBB, and although some for sure will be only available through the premium item mall there are enough pet types as of this moment to tickle your pet taming urges.
The next game feature that I liked in TLBB is the life skills. Life skills in TLBB pertain to the other non-battle skill types that can enhance your combat capabilities or provide you with items, armors or weapons that will be useful in your TLBB experience.
Enhancing and using your life skills has a two -fold effect in your TLBB game, the first is that it provides a refreshing alternative to the usual PVE or PVP activities in the game. This gives you at least something else to do whenever killing monsters or beating other players to a pulp is getting way too boring. Investing time cultivating your life skills is somewhat similar to grinding because the more you invest your time on it the more you'll be rewarded with better items and tools that strengthen your character even more.
Experience points in TLBB are not just for leveling your character. You also need to use your experience points to upgrade your character's skills. This is practically the only TLBB exclusive game feature that you'd find a hard time adjusting to.
I personally liked this game system because it provides a new viewpoint in PVE or questing. This gives you the choice of being a low-level character with higher skills sets or becoming a high-leveled character with a low skill set. This gives you a different way of character growth which is rarely found in MMORPGs these days.
As far as I've played TLBB I've liked everything the game has to offer. Seeing that the game is still in open beta I must say that ChangYou has done a good enough job that a lot of players will definitely like to try the game out. I liked the fact that leveling isn't such a chore in TLBB because the quests provide enough experience for you to get to the mid-level ranges in just one day.
It's still too early to say anything definite about TLBB, but I am looking forward to seeing the game once it goes commercial; the game has enough in it to make me stay and keep on playing.