Does anyone know what it’s like to have a relationship-ruining, life-threatening addiction? Feel like starting a new one?
Ratings System: | Awesome! | Good! | It’s Alright! | It Sucks! |
Snail Games, responsible for the crack cocaine of free-to-play online MMORPG’s like Ministry of War, Throne of Fire, et al., has recently rolled out their latest, most ambitious project to date! After having played through this game for a whole day (and night, because who needs a sex life, amirite???), I can honestly say that Age of Wushu is a mixed bag. In some ways, it can be a chore and a grind, with its incredibly complex user interface and awkward controls. However, in others, it’s a fantastic, true, open-world sandbox title that allows its players to experience ancient China in every minute detail that you learned from a White guy in a cultural studies course. Either way, if you can allow yourself to be encapsulated by rich, sprawling 3D landscapes in an ambient social atmosphere, Age of Wushu can be insanely engaging.
Jet Li as Re-run on “What’s Happening!”… I mean, as Wong Fei Hung in “Once Upon A Time in China”.
With a North American release date on April 10, 2013, and with the waning popularity of massively-multiplayer online titles due, in part, to cost, demand and high expectations, it seems an incredibly risky move for Age of Wushu‘s developers to put so much at stake on this project. With martial arts legend Jet Li as the official sponsor and in-game NPC (non-playable character), and a promotional beta tournament held on March 29 of this year (just two weeks shy of release), it seems developer and publisher Snail Games is putting everything they have into their new killer app.
Is it worth your time and money?
Of course it is! It’s FREE (after a 7.4 GB download)! Seriously, don’t be that person that complains about free stuff like a self-entitled bag of douche!
If you’re not going to be excited to win, we won’t give a **** either. Chairman Mao doesn’t allow smiling!!!
Here’s The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly…
The Good: Graphics, Sound, Atmosphere, and the Gameplay Behind It
Age of Wushu is, without a doubt, one of the most visually captivating games to come out of an independent publisher. With its impeccably detailed high resolution environments, shadow, light, and water effects, and fluid character movements, it almost feels like a real place. Magic becomes as exciting to watch as the moves in one of 8 martial arts disciplines grounded in each separate path and job you chose. Your choices are, for the most part, almost entirely your own.
In game sound and music only add to the aesthetic elegance of nature in permanent daylight, as environmental sound effects are dictated by your proximity to objects in the environment. If you’re standing next to a pillar of fire, for example, you can actually hear the fire slowly fading in the distance the farther away you get from it, just like the time my parents left me when I was 12! The same can be said of animals, or wind, or rivers and streams. Everything in the environment has a type of auditory push and pull in the distance between you and the in-game world, and that’s damn impressive!
Two Different Ways to Play:
MMOHut’s Interview with some dude at Snail Games (Seriously, not specified)
Random Youtube video showing a top-down perspective
An interesting graphical feature of Age of Wushu is the ability to zoom between a first-person view and a top-down view, reminiscent of the camera controls in CD Projekt Red’s The Witcher. It helps orient the player into two different playing styles, whether you prefer to basque in the atmosphere and the environment and don’t mind being ambushed from behind, or if you’re the type of player that prefers to be in control of everything around you, being able to pin-point and form strategies around your opponent’s next move.
The Good and The Bad: Character Customization, User Interface, and Controls
The complexity and depth ofAge of Wushu can be attributed to its complete customization, which can be both a blessing and a curse. Newer players have to orient themselves with the incredible amount of features built into its interface alone, with menus in almost every part of the screen that represent different aspects of the game buried in tiny buttons that are meaningless to the everyday gamer. However, buried behind those buttons are little gold nuggets that you may find useful somewhere later on. For example, if you chose to play as a complete altruist, there is a small, barely visible arrow (that actually looks like part of the background, actually) to the left of your avatar that creates a drop-down menu with radio buttons that can be ticked to keep your character from attacking villagers, other members of your guild, friends, and what-not. It takes some adjustment, but clicking around the menus actually helps in viewing and customizing your experience the way you want to play it.
Its map interface, when zoomed out entirely, shows a map of ancient China’s climatology, with two rivers formed from the ocean joined together at two points before one of those river beds dried up. Anybody who feels like verifying that information is welcome to post in the comments section below. I’m honestly not that interested in ancient Chinese climatology, but I did notice. It was a nice, historical touch by the developers and really deserves an honorable mention. You know how the Chinese like their honor, amirite? Yay, stereotypes!
The camera is junctioned to holding down the right-click on your mouse and moving, which can be somewhat disorienting. This also takes a bit of adjustment as well. Left-clicking sends your character running towards whatever you decided to click on, which can also be a bit of a nuisance, as the standard W, S, A, and D movement controls would move you wherever you needed to go anyway. Combat is an interesting feature of Age of Wushu. As “combat mode” is engaged, the right mouse button is changed to block, which can be a little disorienting and clunky, as you’re not sure whether you’re running or defending if you’re trying to use your camera while fleeing from an enemy off-screen.
Character creation is mostly fully customizable. You can choose between 5 default faces for either orientation (male or female), and are mostly able to tweak some facial features to your liking. Although there aren’t any fat people in the land of Age of Wushu, there also aren’t any other body types besides skinny hipster, so you’re pretty much left with what you’re given. Sammo Hung never existed in ancient China. Genetically imperfect people were murdered like holocaust babies. I’m definitely going to Hell for that one.
The Bad and The Ugly: Gameplay, Quests, and Guilds
Let me say something good before getting into the bad. You will never run out of things to do in Age of Wushu. It offers feature rich mechanics and gameplay that has kept me personally engaged for 22 straight hours. There is no way that I can even begin to cover every single feature in that time. It’s like going to Disneyland for an entire day and trying to go on every ride while you’re there.
The in-game rewards system is also pretty intense, as you’re given free stuff for just being signed into the server for a certain amount of time. This is kind of a staple for Snail Games and is actually pretty satisfying, to be honest. Who doesn’t like getting free stuff? I still get all googly-eyed over free shampoo samples in the mail. I like getting dubious amounts of presents and money just for existing. It makes me feel like a Welfare recipient.
However, while the combat system is actually pretty fun and intuitive in Age of Wushu, it can be a bit clunky, as was previously explained. Fighting is defined by choices you make through combinations and moves that are dragged and dropped into boxes at the bottom of your screen and represented by the numbers on your keyboard. The “White Lotus” move can be selected by pressing the corresponding number, which can be chained into another move or combo and so on and so forth. There is a rage meter that fills, allowing you to use special moves that deal greater amounts of damage. With different martial arts disciplines built into each weapon (including your fists of fury), combat customization feels almost endless.
On the other hand, damage detection is almost pointless when there is very little reaction by either opponents to being hit by an attack. It almost boils down to button-mashing, “Rock ‘Em, Sock ‘Em Robots”-style, if not for the ability to run freely and Hadouken fireballs from your hands. Also, in the interest of being historically accurate, Chinese people had magic powers and flew through trees in the air in the old days.
Combat is basically broken down between long and short-range attacks, which really doesn’t mean a lot in the overall combat system, as most hits feel like they can be deflected by holding down the block key. Some attacks can push the enemy back, or shake the floor to knock your opponents off their feet. Also, there is a chance that you can still take damage while blocking, though, so the fight mechanics aren’t completely non-existent. There is still some fun to be had with battles, but sadly, in terms of strategy, it does feel somewhat stale in practice.
The quest system also needs a little more improvement as well. Some quests, such as The Battlefield, had yet to be implemented into the game, which caused a lot of confusion for a lot of players who were curious to know what that experience would be like. Some locations were hard to reach, and swimming across the vast expanse of large rivers proved somewhat pointless as an unchecked bug kept one of my new in-game friends stuck in the water before she could even reach the shore. However, a double-jump and a skip later, and she’d been taken back to dry land on her destination, so it wasn’t a total loss.
The quest system is, however, incredibly confusing, as story quests are almost non-existent after completing the in-game tutorial, as far as I could tell after my first play-through. The quests that you are given are ultimately tied to schools and guilds, and were incredibly confusing to start. For the few quests that I’d attempted, the NPC’s that were supposed to issue the quests didn’t initialize any interactive dialog boxes, which meant that I couldn’t really do any of the quests. I spent most of the game killing random bandits and animals and trying to live a simple life of leisure through fishing and farming. It felt like I was off the grid for a bit. It was kind of nice, really.
You can also kidnap offline players and sell them to illegal human trafficking, which is actually incredibly fun and funny.
In my first and only play through as of writing this article, I joined a sect of Beggars and had yet to be accepted into a guild, so I had no quests that I’d actually been qualified to do at the time. I really did spend most of the game trying to figure out how to make the quest system work, only later to realize that I had to join a Guild, which was, honestly, pretty frustrating.
A game mechanic that I have never been fond is having your character get hungry. It creates a lot of unnecessary busy work and really doesn’t do a ton to add fun to a game. It really just becomes a chore. Age of Wushu utilizes hunger as a game mechanic in the funniest, most frustrating way possible.
I was a Beggar, and I’d learned to save my money, but I sold my last meat bun to help me buy a sword because I figured that a sword would help me a little more with my battles. This great, kind man gave me a fishing pole and taught me how to catch fish just outside the large metropolis that is Jinling. I’d begun to starve, so I traveled back into town in an attempt to purchase food from a vendor. There are food vendors littered throughout the entire city, but no one actually sells any food. I wasn’t even allowed to learn to cook from the Chef in the restaurant (you can actually take jobs and play mini-games tied to separate occupations), as my level in a particular skill was too low to suffice learning. I felt like a kid with a learning deficiency. This hurt me emotionally.
I went to three different towns trying to beg for food, only to be given meaningless quest items and trinkets that I couldn’t use, but hoped to sell. Most times, I was dismissed and beaten for begging (this actually happened in-game). Needless to say, my morale grew thinner as my appetite threatened to kill me.
There’s a Chef who opens a restaurant in every town and only sells cooking utensils. Apparently, he does serve a soup that only cures hangovers and sells a roasted duck that you can’t actually eat. Furthermore, you can only buy seasonings and base ingredients while you’re starving. You can’t even buy all the ingredients from the Chef, who mocks you by stating that you couldn’t handle his food for being too spicy! All he does is sell you recipes! Is this how we treat the homeless???
In order to eat, you actually have to go to the farmer to buy the seeds to grow the crops! Also, you have to purchase some Vegetable Oil. Then, you have to buy a bowl and some Dew from the Chef, but only after he trains you in Basic Cooking!
…and this entire time, I had about 45 fish fillets in my inventory that I couldn’t cook because there was no way to build a fire.