Blade & Soul on being the chosen one, button-mashing combat, and free expansions for all | PCGamesN

Blade & Soul on being the chosen one, button-mashing combat, and free expansions for all

Blade & Soul

Few eastern MMOs can claim to be as fervently wanted by the West as Blade & Soul. After waiting four years for it to make the leap from Asia to America and Europe, more than two million players signed up within the first month of release. It’s safe to say that Blade & Soul is pretty popular on this side of the globe. 

Just getting started? Then you need our Blade & Soul beginner's guide, full of tips for dominating the Earthen Realm. Or try Blade & Soul now for free.

It’s a game with big ideas that differ from the MMO norm. We had a chat with NCSoft West’s Nicolas Coutant, producer on Blade & Soul, to discuss how the betas influenced the western adaptation, making expansion packs free for all, and how button-bashing can lead to tactically-deep combat.  

Blade & Soul

PCGN: What were your findings from the beta, and how have you used them to ensure the grind balance is just right? 

Nicolas Coutant: The first thing we noticed is that our beta players were finding the first zone, Viridian Coast, too easy. Monsters would die too fast preventing players from learning their combos. So, we increased the difficulty in the zone, and received positive feedback from the players following the change.

The game’s levelling speed was already pretty fast, so we didn’t have to do many adjustments on that front. Most of the changes were focused on quality of life features, such as better UI elements, a brand new web-based Marketplace (item auction house) or a new hotkey to quickly skip quest dialogue.

The game is set to have many story chapters, rolled out over time post-launch. Can you detail the plan for this, and how people will access new content? 

The game’s story is currently comprised of seven Acts (the last one just came out in Korea), and we launched with the first three. The fourth Act will be released soon, alongside a major content update called Silverfrost, since it’s basically a major new chapter in the story. We are also planning to release Acts five and six later this year.

All new content we release is free to everyone. It’s linear though, so you need to have completed the previous chapters to access it.

Blade & Soul

You’ve discussed that cosmetic appearances and armour are separate elements in Blade & Soul. How does the armour system work if it’s not tied to specific appearance gear? 

Blade & Soul’s armour system is unique because it is decoupled from your character’s appearance. “Soul Shields”, which are armour pieces in Blade & Soul, are comprised of eight different pieces which can be mixed and matched together giving you different stat bonuses depending on the Soul Shield set you are wearing. Changing your Soul Shield doesn’t affect your character’s appearance.

Costumes, however, are purely cosmetic and can be found all over the game. We have hundreds of different costumes to wear and some of them are pretty challenging to obtain.

Weapons ‘grow’ with players, and they can use the same weapon for the entire game. How have you crafted this system to make it as appealing as finding new weapons and swapping gear?

The appeal of finding new gear is still there in Blade & Soul, but it simply takes different forms. Players will be hunting for rare costumes or doing dungeon runs to find crafting materials to upgrade their main gear. Weapons can also be re-skinned with other weapons you find when hunting.

Blade & Soul

It’s notoriously challenging to tell effective stories in MMOs, especially those based around a ‘chosen one’ character. How does Blade & Soul overcome those challenges? 

Blade & Soul is actually much better suited to telling a story focused around a single lead character than many other titles given the genre it is set in.  Wuxia fiction is built on this concept, following the exploits of a daring hero through many challenges.  Blade & Soul manages to maintain just the right balance between focusing on the single player character and acknowledging the presence of other characters during game play.

Far too often in MMOs we see the storytelling pitfall of the player being built up as a unique chosen one, only to spawn into the field surrounded by a thousand others just like them. It breaks the immersion immediately.  Blade & Soul sidesteps this because of the sense of community that is built into the world of martial artists in the setting. The fact that there are many warriors, clans, and factions within the world is emphasized as an important facet of the story; it makes sense to see the uniforms these different groups wear and the fact that the player can join many of them.  

Blade & Soul

During key points in the main quest line, the player will be accompanied by, or come to the aid of, noteworthy NPCs who are powerful martial artists in their own right, fighting alongside them as peers.  The player feels much more included as part of the world, as everyone else running around just seems like other warriors from other clans going about their business.

Having said that, while the sense of a living world and abundant community are important, the player is never left feeling like a face in the crowd. The main story emphasizes the player’s presence and relevancy to the events themselves, allowing your avatar to be present in – and directly involved with – the cutscenes telling the tale. Without going into too many spoilers, the plot also revolves around the potential the player character has – not that they specifically are the only “chosen one”, but that they (among others) have the potential to become it.

Blade & Soul does a lot to make sure the player always feels directly involved with the story rather than just being an onlooker who has to run a few fetch quests, which is a significant flaw many other titles succumb to. There’s even an option in the game’s settings to toggle the visibility of other players on screen, which is great for capturing a sort of one-player adventure feel, or just grabbing a perfect screenshot without having a crowd in the background.

Blade & Soul

Combat uses a lot of contextual elements to make it accessible. With that in mind, what is it about Blade & Soul’s combat that is tactically satisfying, especially for more seasoned MMO players? 

Blade & Soul’s combat is extremely satisfying because it’s a very fast-paced, skill-based system. You constantly have to be on your toes and time your abilities right in order to be effective. That’s not to say that the combat is hard, it’s actually not punishing at all and you can get by just mashing buttons if you don’t care for effectiveness (except in dungeons), but there’s nothing more satisfying than pulling off a well-timed combo watching the devastation unfold. Combat animations and fluidity are also fantastic.

Do you think Blade & Soul is the best new MMO of 2016? Let us know how you're finding it in the comments. Try Blade & Soul now for free.

Sign in to Commentlogin to comment
Sorcorer21b avatardiblob avatar
Sorcorer21b Avatar
2 Years ago

Blade and Soul is turning in to the biggest let down of any release. Lack of communication, other than the weekly uninformative live stream, is alienating the community. Add to this they had 4 years to prepare for a western release and then release a poorly optimized pile of garbage, with no support or communication on what's being done to fix it.

As to the story line, most of the story line is run and fetch, so that's out the window there. The story is pretty decent in Viridian Coast, but once you hit the Cinderlands it turns in to mostly droll run and fetch. Leaving you feel that your character is little more than a side note in the game.

As to the sense of community. Well if you take the mass outrage and exodus on the forums. Then, yes, there is a since of community in leaving the game. Adding to this, almost all the content can be soloed, well there goes the community right there.

The crafting in the game, isn't even crafting. It is more akin to ordering a pizza, only to be told it will arrive in 12 hours.

The combat, while fast paced, is plagued with skill input lag and FPS drops for no reason. Again referring back to the poorly optimized pile of garbage. They had time to prepare for the Western release. They failed horribly with it. Gameguard blocking people out of the game for using software that comes with their gaming mouse or keyboard. Registering them as 3rd party programs and banning them as bots or hacks. Skill input lag so bad that you can use a skill, only for it to never go off. Turning if from a button masher to a button spam game, just trying to get your skills to work.

As to the amount of people that signed up on release. I'll be nice here, looking at the state of the game between launch and now, a good 1.5 million of those accounts are nothing but Gold farming bots.

As for the Customer Service that NCSoft has provider with the western release. This game isn't going to last long. If you file a support ticket, expect to get a copy and paste automated response. If you do get an actual Customer Support Representative, don't expect them to be very helpful to you, as they tend to side with NCSoft's decision instead of actually helping the player.

All in all, NCSoft has deliver the western release of Blade and Soul: Offloaded Garbage.

diblob Avatar
2 Years ago

^^ All of the above. This article reads so much like a paid puff piece. Now I'm off to go and play Black Desert :)