Change of Plans
This morning I was all ready and prepared to go on an angry tear about the change to specs in World of Warcraft on Legion Alpha. Then I thought to myself… my blog has already hosted more than enough “I’m Angry at WoW” posts that I really did not need to add another one to the pile. I still think the idea is quite possibly the dumbest I have seen yet, but I figure if it does go in… I can either deal with it, or stop playing again and no amount of gnashing of my teeth is going to make a change. I have next to zero clout when it comes to things like that, so better just to ignore it for the moment and try not to get worked up over it. In the meantime however I finally was able to pop into Blade and Soul and give the game a proper try. I talked yesterday about some of my misgivings…. of which there were many, so the game started off on negative footing before I even entered. Last night my friend Liore mentioned that the newly added servers had no real queues, so as a result I ended up rolling a new version of Squirrelghast on that server. I am guessing that names are game wide, since I could not create a “Belghast” on Gunma the server I ended up rolling on. So while I will always probably think of it as Squirrelghast I am guessing technically I am some sort of black fox… but the tail is so fluffy and curvy that it reminds me of a squirrel. Also if I was being super pedantic about it… I would be Squirrelgrave since I ultimately had to go with Belgrave for the reboot character.
The game is shockingly charming… and I say shockingly… because I really did not expect much. The localization team has done an amazing job of shaping the story into something that I cared about. I admittedly cannot really remember any of the names, but the opening story arc involves you training at the Hongmoon academy under a guy that I am going to forever call “Dog Grandpa” because he is a Lyn and grandfatherly. Then a lady with a name that I also don’t remember so I am just going to call her “Evil Bayonetta” comes into the neighborhood and causes a ruckus. You watch her kill your fellow classmates, and find out that one of them…. that is pretty much exactly like Byakuya Kuchiki from Bleach… betrayed you for the special school scrolls. At this point Dog Grandpa transforms into Akuma from Street Fighter and whipping some ass, until Evil Bayonetta threatens your life… and he pays his own life and the blade he had been guarding to save you. At which point you get blasted off of magical sky castle place into the ocean and are found by a village guard captain that also just happens to be a former Hongmoon student. With this you begin your journey to be the best that ever was… and I am guessing we will travel to other towns… and meet other conspicuous former Hongmoon students that have life lessons to teach us. The entire game intro really does feel like watching Anime, and while I made up names for people… it was enjoyable and I did actually have some feels when Dog Grandpa sacrificed himself for my characters life.
Rise of Cricket
Honestly I have to say the game itself is really rather fun, or at least fun in the same ways that TERA was fun. The primary difference here is that the quests that you do seem to have some merit to them… rather than just being random grindy nonsense. The localization team has given the various people you meet, including the random peasants… personality and humor and it makes going off and fetching five healing salves or slaying 10 blackrams enjoyable. The mechanics work out really similar to TERA where your left mouse button is used for your resource builder/default attack, and your right mouse button is your resource spender. Then in addition to that you have various numbered special attacks and openers that you can use during battle, in addition to some quick time events that occur that allow you to for example stomp your enemy when they are knocked down. The combat feels really fluid and the animations are awesome. While I don’t normally go for that running on wires nonsense from kung fu movies…. when you sprint with your arms swept back… it just feels nice and when you do the whole glide thing in mid air it is surprisingly addicting. The game progresses smoothly and most interactions are doing using the F key which serves the purpose of the generic “interaction” key that some other games have. If you are used to TERA or Neverwinter or an “Action” MMO of the sort… then you should get accustomed to this game rapidly.
The world itself is gorgeous… and works well. Sure the textures are not always the best in the world… but the overall presentation “works”. I think what adds the most to this is the fact that the soundtrack itself is really well woven into the game. It changes regularly based on area of the world, so when you step foot near the graveyard it suddenly becomes more sinister, and when you are back in town it becomes a happy market tune. The only nuisance so far is the fact that a number of the areas are instanced, and there is a slight hitch when you zone into them. I am not sure if this is due to server load, or if there will always be this little hitch but it gets frustrating at times. Some areas are completely seamless, so I am guessing this is mostly happening where there are phasing or in a location where the actors change frequently. For example the Mayors Office or the Healers building… are instanced… but in both cases I have had several different interactions in those buildings. Its a quirk and you get used to it, but just something to expect. There also seems to be quite a bit of delay on waiting for NPCs to load in on your screen when you first arrive in an area, but this is nothing worse than the stuff I am used to dealing with in WoW.
So far I am enjoying myself, but not sure if I am enjoying myself enough to actually spend money. Nor am I really certain how long I will remain playing. I was plenty fine with logging out and playing some Warframe after a few hours of gameplay, knowing that I would likely not make it through the queues again that night. So when you contrast that with a game like Final Fantasy XIV when we played at launch…. and I got so damned angry about the prospect of ever having to log out and fight the login boss again… that tells you it was enjoyable but nothing world shattering. There is also a lot of silly bullshit that is happening in the game that is super cringeworthy. When you first meet the character of Namsoyoo above, you get the impression that she is a very young girl… then when it pans out for the first time you see her wearing some sort of gauze based dress with insane anti-gravity boobs. The games bread and butter seems to be gratuitous T&A action in a way not dissimilar from the Dead or Alive franchise. All of this is sad, because the game and the localization are actually rather good… and don’t really need the oversexed window dressing. Now I have yet to run into super insidious, but right now it just seems a little much like somewhere the original artists were blushing and going “tee hee hee boobies”.
The game certainly has some character, and the first time you meet a really important character you get this cool cinematic intro thing…. which unfortunately has these insanely pixelated fonts that send my eye twitching like mad. I mean I realize that this game has been out since 2012… but we had better computers than that back then right? As far as performance… I am running this at 1080p on my GTX 960 card with pretty much everything cranked up as far as I can tell because their sliders are also somewhat nonsense, and I am getting a smooth 60 fps all of the time with little or no dips, so I am guessing the game will run smoothly on a toaster. So long as I focus on Squirrelghast I am pretty happy playing the game and being an adorable but super serious blade dancer. The other big negative right now is that everyone that I know seems to be spread out pretty evenly among the servers. However the gold spam is so horrible that honestly I am completely oblivious to the fact that chat even exists, so if someone were trying to message me and have conversations I wouldn’t notice. I have this feeling that Blade and Soul is going to be a very solo experience for me, and one that I will work out of my system in a few weeks, rather than a game I am going to set down roots. However if you are looking for a pretty fun action based MMO, you might give it a look. I didn’t expect anything… but enjoyed a couple of hours of running amok in this pretty landscape, and I suspect that if you also go into it with similarly lowered expectations you might enjoy yourself too.