Blade & Soul’s Kung-Fu Is Strong (And Multiplayer)

By Nathan Grayson on September 14th, 2012 at 11:00 am.

And also blue, apparently.

When the song “Kung-Fu Fighting” comes on, I can’t help but wonder to myself “Was everybody really kung-fu fighting? And even if – in that one shining, fast-as-lightning moment – they were, are they still? Or have they moved on with their lives, back to the hum-drum doldrums of day-to-day drudgery?” It’s a sobering line of thought, to be sure. Now, though, there’s finally hope. NCSoft is offering everybody the chance to resume their dazzlingly graceful fisticuffs for the rest of eternity (or until it pulls the plug on servers, at least) with Blade & Soul, its “wildly successful Asian martial arts fantasy MMO.” How wild? So wild.

So, what’s it like? Well, NCSoft’s page goes to great lengths to reassure us that this isn’t Just Another MMO, but kind of fails to explain precisely why we should believe it. Here’s the official FAQ answer to that very issue:

“Unlike other Asian fantasy MMOs which often imitate Western concepts of fantasy, Blade & Soul draws upon the deep and fascinating mythology of a myriad of Asian cultures, which promises to bring Western players a completely new experience rich with intrigue, mysticism, and high-flying martial arts.

“In the words of Art Director Hyung-Tae Kim: ‘Blade & Soul goes much further to infuse users’ experiences and growth – the people they meet and the situations they encounter while playing the game – which we feel ties in much closer to the genre.’”

Which means… wait, what? More importantly, though, the class roster seems worrisomely traditional, featuring seemingly standard roles  (rogue, spellcaster, warrior, and only one hand-to-hand fighter) – but with thematically appropriate names. However, NCSoft is adamant that this one won’t be another monotonous grind climb up slog mountain (“I assure you, Blade & Soul will never run out of content to keep players engaged in the game. This game will not be a repetitive grindfest,” says its executive producer), and it’s working on “aggressively tailoring the title for Western players.”

And then there’s this combo video I found while hunting for screenshots, which paints the combat, at least, in a far more impressive light.

At this point, though, who really knows? Blade & Soul could very well hold its own in a monstrously crowded MMO arena, or it could get trampled right out the gate. Tera, for instance, heralded from the Korean school of MMO design, but its combat was definitely a cut above, and questing – while tediously traditional – was pretty speedy. That said, it also hasn’t been doing so hot lately. At this point, unfortunately, all we really have to go on for Blade & Soul is NCSoft’s word. Given, however, that it tends to enjoy that whole “making money” thing, I suspect it might be a teensy bit biased.

Update: I asked NCSoft about whether Blade & Soul would be subscription-based or free-to-play. Unfortunately, it’s “not announcing details on other aspects of the game at the moment.”

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26 Comments »

  1. AshEnke says:

    That chardesign is godawful.
    Game is looking fun, but nothanks, I’ll stay away from the naked warriors, kawai creatures, lolis and bouncing boobs.

    • jrodman says:

      I wonder what a cross-section of the general and the gamer populations look like in reaction to these elements. I for one say NOPE.

    • CptPlanet says:

      Not really, the art director is very popular and has worked on the Magna Carta and War of Genesis franchises which have been praised for their environment and character design despite not being anything amazing regarding gameplay.

  2. Cryo says:

    You’ve missed this video.

  3. Skipperoo says:

    I recall Silk Road had the exact same sales pitch, “authentic asian folklore! Real kung-fu treachery!” and that turned out to be a big sack of shit. So.

  4. RaytraceRat says:

    Every time I hear that developers are doing something aggressively I imagine bunch of people frothing, biting their keyboards and from time to time smashing a monitor on co-workers head.

  5. Wolvaroo says:

    The only completely legit asian culture themed game I’ll ever need is that Arcade Rail shooter where you play as a Tao priest roaming Chinatown shooting up evil spirits with a gold plated .45.

    At least I think that is what was going on.

  6. rookery. says:

    Sorry NCSoft, I’m not inclined to get involved in another of your games communities only to have you pull the plug on it.

  7. destroy.all.monsters says:

    What I liked – the costumes were less skimpy, as well as the characters being less hypersexualized, than I’m used to. The graphics look good and I liked the effects. Can’t say I’m a fighting game fan however (since at least Tekken 3 anyway).

    I suspect this is what NCSoft meant when they were refocusing their business – slapping an already proven (?) asian game into NA and EU.

    On another note – please help save City of Heroes. For those that didn’t know NCSoft is ending the game Nov. 30th unless the fans can change their minds or cause a sale. Keep in mind that it was a profitable game and was, by some estimates, earning them about 10 million a year net.

    Easy things you can do: sign this petition – http://www.change.org/petitions/ncsoft-keep-ncsoft-from-shutting-down-city-of-heroes

    And peruse this forum if you would: http://www.cohtitan.com/forum/index.php/board,134.0.html

    • jezcentral says:

      Do you have any sources for these 10-million-a-year estimates? Also, pounds, dollars or Thai bahts?

      • Arglebargle says:

        I saw a translation of the yearly finance report for NCSoft that referenced something to the tune of $875k per month. Cannot directly attest to the accuracy of this.

    • Arglebargle says:

      I don’t think there is any hope for getting NCSoft to rescind their City of Heroes death notice. The aim should be to get them to sell out the game or IP to some other organization, one with some sort of sanity.

      NCSoft is pretty much dead to me now. And they (and I, truthfully) are lucky I bought GW2 before their latest shenanigans.

      Too bad though. I love the idea of martial arts/kung fu fighting games, just not the actuality of most of them. Bushido Blade for the win!

    • ShrikeMalakim says:

      “What I liked – the costumes were less skimpy, as well as the characters being less hypersexualized, than I’m used to.”

      Unless you’re used to hardcore pornography, this is not true. Tera’s Castanics are basically the only thing worse than the female models for this game, and having Hyung Tae Kim as the art director means it will get far, far worse. At least he won’t be able to make his signature anatomy errors when there are actual modelers and animators around to fix his horrible art.

  8. jezcentral says:

    Is that Adam Jensen in the top pic?

  9. Shooop says:

    Korean MMO. English translation: Grinding grinding grinding grinding grinding…

  10. JBantha says:

    Once upon a time our entire guild step up a flying ship to answer one simply question: why does WoW sucks so much?
    The answer: it does not. We just grow tired of it. Not the mechanics, those are fun, but the whole WoW Lore. So we then departed to a galaxy far away from our home on the underworld: SWtOR. But the speaking characters while great, just did made the use of a ventrilo guild really difficult, so instead we all played the game as a single player experience with guild member as special guest, á la Borderlands. And then it was death.
    But this game launched about 3 months ago in Korea: Blade and Sword. Does it looks like it’s mechanics are something outstanding? Not really. But it definitely has some great aesthetics and perhaps the best looking “stealth” animation I’ve ever seen.
    So one of this days I was simply walking next to a train on City of Steam when… guess who? Half of my guild! you steam punk bastards!
    None of us did never told each other about City of steam, but yet, half of us were there. The other half were on Secret World, but many of us would like to read that as a novel instead. And we just start speaking why were we there: Aesthetics!
    And I remembered about this game and so we play it on a private server for less than a week: This is such a fun game! Sadly is only on Jap or Korean, so I was just guessing what does what.
    What’s my point.? If you ever enjoyed WoW you are gonna enjoy this game. And if you like what you are seeing you’re gonna love it. As we did.
    And the assassin is just the perfect badass. <3
    My rogue stealthy pretty woman. (As much fun as Bounty hunter on SWtOR + Assassin on Ragnarok Online)

    • Highstorm says:

      After reading that, I feel like I’ve gone on a journey. I’m not sure where it’s taken me, but it was certainly an experience.

  11. Jupiah says:

    The art style and aesthetics looks *exactly* the same as TERA. Like, literally, if you hadn’t mentioned the name I would have assumed it was a new expansion for TERA.

    And now that I think of it both those games pretty much look just like Magna Carta. Were they all made by the same art director or something, and they are terrified of leaving their comfort zone and actually trying to make anything they do look unique or different?

    • CptPlanet says:

      Don’t generalize things. Tera does not look like Blade and Soul. Magna Carta does because they were made by the same art director and the style is actually very unique and was praised by the reviewers. The reason you yourself mentioned Magna Carta and not some other game means exactly that.

    • Miltrivd says:

      Wasn’t this the source of the lawsuit that NCSoft did against the Tera producers? People from NCSoft went to work for Tera and then blam!, lots of similar content, art, and design appeared there. Lawsuit ensued, agreement was signed and Tera had to lay off a pretty big number of people.

      • paterah says:

        Actually, the people in NCsoft who left did work for Tera while in NCsoft and when they left they took the game code with them. The team for this game is called Bloodlust and is not in any way related to the Tera team and it clearly shows since the two games dont look remotely close (outside of being both korean of course).

  12. svendelmaus says:

    From the title, I was hoping it was going to be about a Mount & Blade East Asian total conversion; I’m not sure why.

  13. MadMatty says:

    I wish we could have a hardcore “realistic” martial arts mmo, like the old “Way of the Exploding Fist 2″ where you´d walk the land like Cain in Kung-Fu, stop at different masters to learn new moves and get more HP.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v4YRJ155z7w&feature=related

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