"An Age Worth Living"
I've always found reviewing MMORPGs to be a particularly daunting task. How does one condense what is essentially an entire world down into a readable format? Such was my dilemma with Age of Wushu – Snail Games' latest free to play MMO. It's a title I've been looking forward to ever since Snail Games first announced it nearly a year ago. I've been following the development ever since, and hence I developed some pretty high expectations for the title.
I'm happy to report that Age of Wushu has met those expectations, though I'll be the first to admit that it does have its problems.
The first thing most of you are probably going to notice about Age of Wushu – certainly, the first thing I noticed – is the title's art design. In a development landscape where everyone seems to be shooting for Darker and Edgier, Wushu is unabashedly colorful, painting a picture of Ming Dynasty China with bright and airy brushstrokes. This design extends to characters as well as backgrounds, with in-game models stylistically fashioned after modern Chinese Animation. Character attire and weaponry look crisp and sharp, and combat animations are fluid, smooth, and aesthetically pleasing.
Age of Wushu's sound design is top-notch, too. The music is incredible, and it contributes a great deal towards the game's atmosphere, while none of the sounds Snail has ascribed to the various martial arts maneuvers feel out of place. My only gripe here is that there could have been a bit of voice-acting added in for cutscenes, but it's a small qualm that's hardly worth mentioning.
The gameplay is where Age of Wushu really sets itself apart from other MMOs on the market. We'll start with one of the most oft-discussed features during the title's development period: the combat. The battle system in Age of Wushu is deceptively complex, and it often emphasizes mobility above all else (though things only really start opening up when you start unlocking more flying moves for your character).
Every single move falls into one of three categories (some of them actually fall into two): green moves are parries, which deflect, block, and redirect damage; red moves are attacks; and blue moves are feints. Attacks are defeated by blocks and parries (though hitting someone enough will break their defense), while feints crack through blocks and parries outright, but don't do much against attacks. In addition, each character has a "rage" meter which fills up based on how many attacks you pull off and how many hits you take: once this meter is full, you can unleash a devastating martial arts combo on any foe unfortunate enough to be nearby.
Age of Wushu's combat system is tied to a particularly robust PVP environment, which allows for a whole array of different combat opportunities. Spar with a friend or rival, duel a hated foe to the death, participate in organized tournaments, steal from and kidnap other players, or simply engage in wanton slaughter (though expect the law – and players who uphold it – to come down on your head like a hammer if you're doing the latter). If you're particularly vengeful, you can swear a blood feud against another player, place a bounty on their head, or even kidnap them (more on that in a moment).
Defining this system of battle is a unique class system – or rather, a lack thereof. Your character's skillset is actually defined by the school they join. There are eight in total, each one with its own martial styles, philosophy, Internal Skill (essentially, this represents your character level and impacts your stats), and code of conduct. Which school you choose to join is entirely up to you, and you're not actually tied to any one school. If you choose to leave a school you've joined, you'll retain all the martial arts abilities you learned there, and only lose access to the Internal Skill.
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A gamer at heart, Nick started writing when he was a child. He holds a BA in English, works as a freelancer, and loves every minute of it. One day, he hopes to net himself a career in game design - but that's something for the future.
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