Blade & Soul Review Journal Part 1: The Viridian Coast


Blade & Soul’s adventure begins on a verdant coastline rife with pirates, ghosts, and lots of really scared townspeople.

Developer: Team Bloodlust (NCsoft Developer Division)

Publisher: NCsoft

Platform: PC

Release Dates: June 30, 2012 (South Korea); November 28, 2013 (China); May 20, 2014 (Japan); November 20, 2014 (Taiwan); January 19, 2016 (North America/Europe)

Blade & Soul is live at last in North America as of the 19th. I had the opportunity to play this free MMORPG from NCSoft during two beta weekends back in December and report my initial impressions then. Given the fact that this title is an MMO and expectedly huge, I’ll be exploring the Earthen Realm in a series of review journals chronicling the leveling adventure and endgame content over the course of a month or so before dropping a final score.

This week, we return to the Viridian Coast with a new character and experience the major changes added to Blade & Soul since the beta! /

Once Again, Cricket

During the beta, I made a Summoner, so this time, I created a Force Master (Lyn) and Blade Master (Jin) to experience the different combat styles. I’ll be playing first with the Force Master, a ranged-magic-using class that balances the elements of fire and ice to do damage from a distance. The rating by the Force Master indicates that it’s a bit harder to use than the Summoner (which was the easiest), but still simple enough to get a grasp on easily. In character creation, it’s already apparent that they’ve added new appearance options from the beta. The sheer number of options available for designing your character is staggering.

Though I covered most of my Viridian Coast adventures in the beta, re-experiencing the trip was less dull than I imagined it would be. The gorgeous, well-varied settings and their accompanying tunes made the adventure serene and smooth. Although, I imagine I’ll be tired by the third or fourth go-around of the same plot, knowing what to do and where to go sped things along considerably. And you can always skip all the side quests in each area and just follow the main quest, too.

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I won’t reveal details about the plot of Blade & Soul here; the storyline is interesting, with good pacing. A solid plot twist at the end of Viridian Coast effectively brings the tale into its next chapter, and the dungeons are well-integrated into the story. There are, however, a lot of weird typos and mismatches between textboxes and voiceovers. I once saw two sentences in a character’s dialogue written in ALL CAPS that were not voiced at all and were written completely out-of-character.

There’s a major PvP component I haven’t mentioned yet. There are four “sets” of opposing factions in Blade & Soul. Equipping the uniform of a faction makes you hostile to the NPCs and players wearing the uniform of its opposition, and allows for PvP. Separate PvP quests and a reputation system based on kills exist, and the PvP quests are integrated into regular PvE questing areas, so you can do them as you travel or wait until the end. Though I’ve done a bit of world PvP, I’m going to wait to explore it more deeply for a later entry.

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Now Loading…

I played Blade & Soul on early access, so for the first three days, lag and population were acceptably low. Multiple servers and channels spread the population well enough, though, for some reason, everyone crowded onto Mushin server at the very start, filling it completely and forcing NCSoft to create more servers to handle the numbers. Though I didn’t play on Mushin or experience this problem, the fact that Blade & Soul didn’t even have enough servers to handle the early start users is absurd, and apparently the problems have only gotten worse.

As a Premium member, I get to bypass queue times and enter the game straightaway. Those playing on free accounts have no such luck. Reports of queues in the thousands, with hours of wait time, have popped up everywhere on opening week. The issue is that if there are ten people in a queue, all free-to-play, and a Premium member joins, he or she instantly gets bumped to the front. If Premium members keep joining, the ten people waiting in line never get in. NCSoft has resorted to kicking idle players out of the game more quickly than before to free up space, added more channels, and used funneling to encourage players to create characters on less full servers. But that doesn’t make this model any less crummy. Hopefully, the opening tide subsides quickly so that everyone who wants to can play.

The surge of population has made some quests difficult. If your quest is to kill ten mobs, and there are only fifteen mobs available, and twenty people trying to do the quest at the same time, it’s tough to get a shot in. Some classes, such as my own, can tag mobs from a distance, subverting this issue somewhat. But there’s no system where everyone who tags a monster gets loot, outside of rares. If you’re a melee class, be prepared to have a lot of tags stolen until people get out of the starting areas.

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Navigating The Narrows

The one advantage to the huge amount of players is that there’s virtually no wait for dungeons. I praised the virtues of the queue system in my beta preview, and now that everyone’s playing, queues are even faster. This is especially good because the difficult has been tuned up since beta. Though you can still enter without a full party if you’re tough enough, you’ll need the max of four or six members to tackle tough areas such as Blackram Narrows at level. Even solo mob-hunting and questing has been tuned up slightly, offering more of a challenge than the beta did…which is good. Things were erring on the side of easy before release.

And since I’m talking about dungeons, I should mention that the loot auction system has been clarified for me, and it’s interesting! When a piece of loot drops, you bid in-game money for it, with the auction going to the highest bidder. This seemed before like a terrible system, one in which gold-farmers profited…until I found out that the money from the auction is evenly distributed among the remainder of the party. Meaning if you don’t have the gold to beat someone’s bid, you’ll earn a portion of the proceeds and maybe be able to afford it next time. Neat-o!

That’s all for the Viridian Coast, but I’ll be back with Part 2 in a few days to talk about questing through the Cinderlands, higher-level dungeons, and crafting guilds.

Check out Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4!

A Premium Account for this game, including beta access, was provided to GameSided for the purpose of this review. Click here to learn more about our Review Policy.