Blade & Soul is an action-MMORPG from the developers over at NCSOFT or Team Bloodlust as the team that is actually behind its creation. This version of Blade & Soul is not to be confused with a new, mobile-based version that is set for release on iOS and Android devices at some point in the near future. Originally, the game was released on the 30th June 2012 for Korea and May 20th, 2014 for Japan, but the rest of the western world was forced to wait with bated breath until the 19th January 2016 to finally get their hands on a fully localised version of the game. The game is completely F2P for all players, but it does have access to some microtransactions, similar to many other eastern MMO’s. With that in mind, let’s jump right in!
Let’s start with the most prominent part of any game that you can’t help but appreciate, and that’s the visual style and overall aesthetics of the game. With the game being 6 years old at this point (at least from its initial release date), it’s going to look dated to some degree, at least when you compare it to some other MMO’s. By no means does the game look bad, not even in the slightest, but the game definitely shows its age to some degree, even on the highest possible settings.
NPC’s aren’t exactly anything special and unless they’re an integral part of the overall game, they visually look rather stunted and quite similar to many of the other characters in the game, despite there being 4 different races to pick and choose from. The animations aren’t too shabby, though, and the overall particle effects are really quite nice for each class and makes the combat a satisfying affair overall.
Character creation is a big factor for a lot of MMORPG’s, especially for certain players, which is why some people might be a little bit disappointed with this one. While the character creation isn’t a complete flop, it isn’t all that detailed and is more middle of the road when in comparison to other MMO’s, such as Black Desert Online, which is well known for its vast character creation system.
When you first start making a character, you must pick and choose from a varied number of classes, such as a Gunslinger, Summoner, Warden, and many more. Whether you want to be a spellcaster or melee tank is all up to you and comes with some unique twists on classic classes and makes for a fun experience to play as all of them if you’ve gotten used to these base architypes by this point. Only certain classes are available to certain races, of which there are 4. Unfortunately, the races that are available are all quite similar, with the exception of 1. The Jin look like humans, the Gon look like just larger humans, the Yun are effectively female elves, but still look very much human in nature, and lastly the Lyn, which are the Chibi-type character that looks like a small child, but with animal characteristics, such as big ears and long tails. The fact that only one race looks all that unique is greatly disappointing, as a lot of characters just end up looking the same.
Once you’ve picked a class, you can change hair styles, contours and the shape of their face, along with their preferred body type, and can even choose between a number of different voice options. It’s pretty standard stuff that a lot of MMO’s have, but is a rather nice inclusion all the same, even if it isn’t fit to bursting with variety.
As with any good MMORPG, the gameplay is going to be a key factor for you. As should come as no surprise, the game plays exactly as you would expect: you run around with WASD and look around with mouse, just like how it is in a lot of action-MMO’s. You’re free to explore the world, which is relatively open world and warrants some exploration from the player, just not quite to the degree of something like Guild Wars 2. A nice extra for the game is the inclusion of a sprint and a glide. The glide is super slow in the beginning but is a good way of making platforming that little bit easier on you. The sprint, however is rather limited and tied to a stamina bar but is incredibly fast and makes up for a lack of mount in the game. From the moment you start playing to the second you hit the end game, you’re going to have access to your sprint and considering its speed, it almost seems as if it would make having a mount redundant.
The combat itself can be performed in both PVE and PVP, with one being slightly fairer than the other. In both PVP and PVE, the overall combat is rather fun and quite satisfying. The animations and sound effects they tie to the attacks are bound to perform well and managing to get off a combo by following up basic attacks with certain special moves allow for strings of damage against the opponent with ease. Although, depending on the chosen class, certain combos are harder to pull off and will require a bit of extra practice on your part as a player.
Even though the overall combat is quite fun to experience, there’s a real big discrepancy with the PVP as the odds are stacked against new players from the very get go. Most of the ladder in PVP is filled with players who have played the PVP for a good chunk of time now and are going to know everything about your class and theirs, along with what they need to do to win. Since every new player seems to come across this problem, it becomes rather jarring to even consider going back to the PVP as it’s not fun to have your backside handed to you with ease, all because you can’t get in the time and practice to become good at the PVP at any point.
In conclusion, the game isn’t the most visually stunning, nor does its character creator blow any minds in the slightest, but the gameplay surely does make up for a lot of the game’s problems. Animations and general visual effects that are used in combat look nice and really give combat that satisfying feeling that you want from an action-MMORPG.
It is a real shame about the P2W tactics of the game’s microtransactions and how hard a level of entry the PVP is, but if you can look past all of the game’s flaws and simply focus on its strengths in the combat, you’re going to really find yourself enjoying this one.