Count me amongst the horde of bloggers who have downloaded Blade and Soul. Others, such as Bhagpuss, have given a much better overview of the game than I will attempt to here. Suffice to say that I found the game not without interest, but not with enough interest to become part of my regular repertoire. The high point was the combat, which felt like a fighting game and has a nice flow to it, with all sorts of interesting combos you can set up with your abilities (which the game does a decent job of teaching you via a series of ‘training room’ missions interwoven into the early part of the story) and quite a decent control system of contextual controls. Rather than having a shedload of abilities on a shedload of keybinds that you have to remember (a la SWTOR), or the limited set of abilities normal to an action MMO (such as ESO), B&S has a shedload of abilities on a handful of keys, with keys mapping to a different ability based on the situation. So, for example, the ‘F’ key allows you stomp enemies who are down, or comes up to activate an ‘on critical hit’ skill after landing a crit. Neat.
Downsides for me really came down to the art style, which veers between highly-realistic (apart from the OTT jiggling) human models to extremely cartoonish looking characters standing side by side, some frustration with the ‘wheel of fortune’ loot system and the fact that pretty much all loot items have to be unlocked before being used, lack of engagement with the story, and the fact that there’s no open world to speak of that I can explore – just a story on rails that moves from set location to set location (at least as of level 15, where I stopped). The story is the hackneyed staple of wuxia – you are a martial arts student, bad person turns up and kills your master, you set out to avenge master. Possibly my problem is I came straight from playing through the Sith Warrior storyline again in SWTOR, which boils down to you going on a quest to kill your master yourself, so I couldn’t take my rip-roaring rampage of revenge here seriously. Still, there’s a decent game in B&S if you like that genre… it’s just not really for me.
De-installing B&S freed up 20 GB or so of much-needed hard disk space on my pitiful PC, a figure that sounded oddly familiar. Then I remembered someone mentioning that was approximately the disk footprint of WoW these days. Which set off some musing… I managed to remember my Battle.net password and check my account status. I last logged into WoW in 2009, and that was for a cursory session or two – I stopped playing WoW with any regularity in 2008. I have, in fact, not played WoW for two-thirds of the game’s lifespan. And sitting there, on the web page in front of me, was a button that would activate a 7 day trial of the current expansion for free…
So I’m playing around in Azeroth, doing low level content like the filthy casual I am these days. My highest level characters were level 70 when I stopped playing, and were both kitted out in awesome raid gear for their day – now of course they are mid-level characters who should be replacing all that stuff with Northrend green quality drops, or would be if I was playing them. I’m spending more time on my level 40 mage and level 60-something rogue, as well as creating new worgen and pandaren characters to see what their starting zones are like. Gameplay, and especially character customisation (hah! In so far as there is any!), evokes a feeling of “it’s WoW, but not as I know it”, and all the Cataclysm changes to the world are new to me. It’s strange, but not entirely unpleasant. Is it my ideal MMO? No, but it feels comfortable, like an old sweater. Being a middle-aged dad, I well understand the pleasure of sometimes just wearing that old sweater and relaxing with what is known rather than trying to scale the heights of fashion. Next week brings new and shiny SWTOR, of course, but this week maybe I’ll just try and remember my way around Orgrimmar.