As our coverage continues I thought it would be nice to talk about something that may be under some people’s radar. I know it was under mine. To be fair, I’m not a big MMORPG fan. I did try World of Warcraft, and I did get pretty far in Old Republic, but I never really committed to the genre. Maybe I’m just a different kind of gamer. That being said, these games do a lot right, and they are actually good games. The problem is that it’s often tough to break through the genre because of how much time commitment one game requires. Age of Wushu, coming out of China (from Snail Games) is looking to break off some of that MMO market space. And they seem to be on the right track.
Okay, so I’m going to be completely honest, I did not know much [read: anything] about the title before NYCC, and I was lucky enough to have one of the guys behind the project to talk to me for a bit and even show off some of the games features.
The game is set in ancient China, so we can expect a lot of cool martial arts choreography What that means is that the supernatural aspect of many fantasy MMOs will be strangely absent. There are no elves, dwarves or orcs, just people. The game’s equivalent of classes are philosophy schools, they determine your origin, train of thought, and skills you can develop. There are schools based on actual philosophies and a few more that were made up specifically for the game world. In each case, the emphasis either way is on types of combat.
I got a chance to see the combat in action and it does look extremely well coordinated. Without spells or anything similar, it is always a challenged to put together a deep combat system. It seems that Snail Games did a good job balancing the gameplay and differentiating between different styles in the game. I didn’t get to see too many classes, but from what I saw, the thought behind each seems extensive.
Another big change is how leveling works in this game. There are no levels in a traditional sense, but the progression is still there. You simply worry about your skills without the level number. I’m assuming that means you can choose to make your health more, but don’t necessarily have to. It’s interesting, because theoretically there is no level cap and according to the community manager, you can eventually unlock every single skill in the game (you can cross between philosophies as well). I’ve seen some pretty cool powers already, like running on water, and honestly, I think martial arts fans will have a good time with seeing some of these unfold.
The one inherent problem I see with that is enemy leveling. In MMOs, your level is usually a gauge for how tough your enemies will be. Age of Wushu will have enemy progression through story mode (MMOs also do that, but more stick to proportionate enemy leveling, as do RPGs). Some areas will house tougher enemies and it will be up to the player to figure out if he/she is ready for a challenge.
There’s also PvP instances as you can belong to guilds, buy towns etc. Factions can go to war with each other. I’ve not see a PvP battle, but it’s similar to all other games with designated fight areas etc. One thing that I really like, is that your characters do not stop to exist when you log out. The game will take over as your characters will go about their business. If they own an estate, they will look after their stock and make food and live life. What that means however, is that enemy guilds can often kidnap your character, or do other things making your game more complicated.
I think this is a welcome element as long as rules are often well outlined and clear. There could be difficulties with you being kidnapped and not being able to play the game on the same file for a bit and that could work against the developers I think if not handled very carefully, the mechanic could fall apart, but so far so good.
Overall, I am intrigued by the game. It’s rare to see a new IP and I am always excited to see one. The game looks good, and it plays well. There is enough here to set it aside from the major competition in the genre. A different approach, a different setting and a few interesting ideas might just set the MMORPG world ablaze yet again.