We take a look at upcoming kung-fu sandbox MMORPG: Age of Wushu
I was led on a number of very simple “Run and Talk” quests as part of the beginner's tutorial and initial story quests. So I delivered tea, collected ingredients for the shop, lamented my characters position as a lowly shopkeeper's son and then was told I should train at the local martial art school. Not bad, but certainly not revolutionary.
As I talked to various trainers I finally got to experience the game's much touted martial arts combat. Right click for active blocking, 1-9 equates to hotkey combat (With at least one default secondary bar), a tactical rock-paper-scissors system was briefly explained... I was beginning to really see the depth of a game focused around a combat lifestyle.
I continued my martial art studies at the local school, each new master teaching me a basic punch, or a sweeping kick used to break blocks by handing me a skill manual. However, all the sparring partners I fought seemed to go down very quickly and easily with just a little move spamming.
The animations, while detailed and smooth, lacked a sense of impact and cheapened the intended effect of a strategic fighting system. Eventually I was done at school, and my character was on his way home.
Apparently he heard a damsel in distress at a tea house since my next quest objective unceremoniously auto-pathed me in there while three guys manhandled her. Being the big damn hero he is (in his mind), my character moved to help.
Through a cut-scene with some of the most wooden animations and non-voiced dialogue I've seen in years, the bad guys abducting the defenseless woman had one of their lot sneak up behind me and bop me on the head!
I woke up in a well. Apparently they didn't do a great job of dispatching me. But how could I get out?
I conveniently found a skill book next to me that allows double-jumping... which is pretty cool! I took some time to look through the skill book at other movement modes offered by Age of Wushu and I can report that I am impressed and excited to see them all in action. Virtually any maneuver you've seen in fighting Anime or high-flying movies like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon has a skill with an appropriately flavorful name such as “Jump Across the Cloud” or “Gecko on the Wall”. In fact, the awesome movement skills are such a key feature that they are managed by a special “Flying” point bar that replenishes quickly over time.
I finished the well jumping puzzle and continued on the long tutorial for some time. AoW attempts to explain the rather complicated, Eve Online-like level-less skill learning system through tutorials but it seems like the type of thing best learned through a wiki or with a friend's guidance.
The game could use a localization pass or at least an easy reference glossary in game before launch.
In fact, I'm not entirely sure I finished the tutorial in my time in Age of Wushu. It seems most of the guided material, at least in the beta, is a tutorial in some way. The game is constantly introducing new concepts and systems and it is very easy to fall victim to information overload. It turns out that a huge sandbox world with tons of skills and game systems, eight distinct schools (aka classes), a player driven economy, and over 15 craft skills is quite complicated!
Eve Online, a game somewhat similar in complexity to Age of Wushu, was only recently able to streamline its own new player experience after years of attempts.
My time with Age of Wushu's beta has given me a very distinct impression: It's not going to be a game for everyone, or at least not a game that any random MMO player will be able to sink hours and hours into mindlessly.
However, I do think it is definitely worth a try, and players who do not normally consider themselves sandbox fans may actually discover they’re engrossed by the depth the game has to offer. If you take the time to understand the systems put in place by Snail Games, and don't get easily frustrated by dry tutorials (Or have a friend to explain everything to you!), I predict you might just have a great time in the land of Jianghu.
Keep an eye out for its launch later this year.