This week, I wrap up my Blade & Soul adventures in the Cinderlands and move to the Moonwater Plains…overcoming plenty of game design obstacles in my way.
Developer: Team Bloodlust (NCsoft Developer Division)
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, I completed the longer-than-expected adventure through the Cinderlands and began to explore the Moonwater Plains–a journey with plenty of positive discoveries (such as the crafting system) but not without its obstacles and frustrations.
Flower Picking, While You Wait
Crafting and gathering guilds become available through a sidequest in Jadestone Village when you first arrive and appear in every major city (and some minor ones) afterward. You can choose two gathering professions and two crafting professions, and can swap at any time, though your rep will reset to zero when you abandon one guild and join another. Building rep will, surprise, allow you to craft/gather better and better items, building up eventually to late-game recipes that will both save you from having to buy some of the game’s most prized items, and sell the excess on the player market for major moolah.
Gathering guilds function by producing raw materials for crafting while you play the game. Find a sprig of flowers, a puddle of a certain type of fish, or a particular mineral while you’re out adventuring, and report the location to your guild. You can then request that they bring you that item, and 30 minutes later, they’ll have it ready for you. That item can then be taken to a crafting guild, and used to create different useful items, depending on the guild. For example, the Earthseers create Unsealing Charms; The Silver Cauldron makes potions. Certain gathering guilds match up with certain crafting guilds, so be sure to check which ones go together, or you’ll have a lot of unused material.
More from Reviews
- The Walking Dead: Michonne Episode 1 Review
- The Legend Of Zelda Twilight Princess HD Review: New Light
- Corsair Void Surround 7.1 Universal Gaming Headset Review
- ‘Dying Light: The Following’ Review
- SUPERHOT Review – Super. Hot. Super. Hot. Super. Hot.
Overall, the crafting and gathering guilds are efficient but boring. Crafting and gathering are all accomplished in a set amount of time, so you can log out or play the game while the guilds do the work. The only real adventure is finding the new raw materials for the gathering guilds to produce from, which are (to their credit) cleverly hidden in the world, with a few hints given about where to look. It’s boring if you’re used to complex and engaging crafting systems, but if that’s not your style, it’s convenient to get free stuff every 30 minutes or so.
Localization Woes and Social Foes
Thus far, Blade & Soul has played very much like a single-player RPG in which other players happen to be visible. The only real purpose for other humans in this game, thus far, has been PvP and the highest level dungeons in each area. Otherwise, I may as well be the only person in the world. It’s disappointing that there’s less party content while leveling (I can solo most minor dungeons), but perhaps this improves in the endgame.
Given that other human players add very little to the leveling journey, I was sort of hoping they wouldn’t detract from it, either. Instead, the Blade & Soul community has managed to utterly frustrate and hinder some critical aspects of the game. I’m talking about rampant spamming in chat from gold sellers, making it virtually impossible to use Party Finder or Faction Chat. You can’t have a civil conversation in either of these windows without blocking about 20 people first…and you’ll have to block 20 more an hour later for any reasonable discussion to be visible. This makes Cross-Server dungeons the only reliable way to form a party for a dungeon–chat has drowned the Party Finder system in irrelevancy.
So, I tried to report and block these people. And it worked, for awhile, even though it was an extra five minutes of effort blocking every spamming individual before I could use the chats. Unfortunately, after a few days of this, my “Block List” became full. I could still report spammers, but now I’m stuck with a flooded chat and no ability to clear it. To make matters worse, when encountering other human players in the world who are behaving badly, I have no more recourse. I can’t block them, and the Report function only extends to Botters and Spammers. There’s no way to report harassment in Blade & Soul.
When encountering other human players who are behaving badly, I have no more recourse…the Report function only extends to Botters and Spammers.
And since I’m on the subject of broken systems, the localization has gotten more and more spotty the further I’ve adventured. I keep running into paragraphs of dialogue with no voiceover at all (the screenshot above was not voiced at all, but the lines before and after were, for some reason). There are major typos, including on quest objectives. I was told to kill 7 Baiters in one area–but there was no NPC called a Baiter. Instead, I got credit for killing Trappers. Some quest objectives don’t direct you to the right areas, leading you on a wild goose chase trying to figure out where to go. And the loading screens between major areas are way. Too. Long.
Mushin’s Legacy, Mushin’s Wings, Mushin’s Heir
While the community and social systems have frustrated me to no end, the storyline in Blade & Soul continues to shine. I highly recommend reading every quest that pops up, and doing all the sidequests on at least one character to experience the full range of writing Blade & Soul boasts. The gorgeous environments and music supplement the story effectively, windwalking and exploring are a blast, and the main characters you encounter in the Cinderlands are the strongest yet. Though critiques of Blade & Soul’s heavy objectification of its women are fair and true, this is mitigated some by the powerful personalities at play. Trope subversion, especially in the later areas of the Cinderlands, is a delightful part of the experience both in the main questline and the sidequests. To put the icing on the cake, the Cinderlands zone ends with an actual, meaningful choice made by the player that will change up the storyline going forward depending on which direction you take.
I’m looking forward to next weeks adventures in the Moonwater Plains as I wrap up the main storyline and push into the endgame content. There’s still tons of dungeons ahead, two major zones, and about 12 more levels worth of play before I reach the cap, and I’m eager to see Blade & Soul has in store!
Check out 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.