Snail Games went to painstaking lengths to get the little things right.
Snail Games allowed Metal Arcade the opportunity to try out their Age of Wushu MMORPG during New York Comic Con. While con attendees were able to take it out for a spin at their booth, I was able to playtest the game privately with one of their content developers, and an already-developed player character was made available for the purposes of the demo. I was able to get a nice feel for how the game characters behave, as well as take in the lush environments. With the game still inaccessible for US gamers (open beta is tomorrow, November 16th, 2012), the end result of this experience is me eagerly awaiting the first limited beta opening. Let me explain why I’m anticipating this game.
There is something romantic about the setting for Age of Wushu. It is a free-to-play MMO set in medieval China during the Ming Dynasty. The era emanates an air of serenity and calmness which Snail Games captured by paying a lot of attention to detail in the environments. I’ve watched several videos of gameplay, yet they don’t do justice to the graphics in the final game. They’ve gone to painstaking lengths to get the little things right, down to shingles on the rooftops and plant life growing along paths. One of the first thoughts that came to mind as I ran around the place was how gorgeous Age of Wushu is. The richness of the game’s scenery draws the player into the universe of Age of Wushu. It provides the perfect backdrop for training your martial arts, going about your day-to-day business, and fighting opponents.
Age of Wushu does not have traditional MMO class or leveling systems. Instead, you are characterized by the schools you attend and the skills you have learned. A player can be a part of any number of the eight available academies, though certain institutions will restrict admission based on gender, reputation, or attendance at other schools. I hope this adds to dynamics that will break the mold of what is expected in MMO character development. However, there hasn’t been much said or exposed about how groups will work in this game, and I am eager to see what that would be like without the presence of regular class roles – something which will most certainly be missing if no two characters are the same, as Snail Games suggests.
Combat is also a little different than what what one has come to expect from an MMO. As explained to me, it is a rock-paper-scissor system utilizing real attacks, feints, and blocks. Each action (of which there are several falling under each of those categories) affects the determination of whether hits land or how much damage, if any, is dealt. This is a good approximation of actual one-on-one martial arts combat and promises to add to the realism of the game. From my impression of the demo, the fights are fluid to the point where the combat system becomes transparent. Also, in addition to the unarmed combat system, there are quite a few articles of weaponry available in this game. The utility of these can be learned through the various schools and just throws another piece of unpredictability into the mix. Though I was only able to play in PvE, I am excited to see these combat elements utilized in PvP, taking the form of ambushes or duels.
A few other components add depth and persistence to the game world. In most other MMOs, when a player ends their gaming session, their avatar just fades into the mist and is no longer present in the online world-at-large. Not so in Age of Wushu: Characters take professions or crafting skills which they perform and are compensated for when their owner isn’t logged in. Essentially, they have a day job when they aren’t out adventuring. Kidnappings can also happen regardless of whether a player is logged in or not. One can hire or be hired as bodyguards to prevent such an occurrence. In the event of an abduction, which can happen on either side of the law, bounties can be posted to have those kidnapped or imprisoned retrieved or released.
This promises to be a very rich MMO, and while I was running on water and across rooftops Crouching-Tiger-Hidden-Dragon-style (I wouldn’t even consider playing this game if I couldn’t do this within it, by the way), I could almost hear the beautiful cello music associated with such a setting. I look forward to its open beta release, which I readily signed up for while I was there. I also hope a game like this would add to the list of successful Massively Multiplayer Online games trying to break from the old and tired standards World of Warcraft has imposed on the genre for the better part of a decade. After experiencing the demo, I am excited to see more of Age of Wushu and hope others feel the same.