A long time ago, I looked at the Closed Beta a long time ago and eventually a test server, but now that NA has finally gotten its full release, it's time to look at it once more. If you're looking for something vastly different, then you'll be disappointed. It might just be the three years that I needed to wait for it building it up and ultimately making it disappointing.
Revenge. That's more or less what it's about. The big difference from the old version of the game is that the story slows down drastically in favor of teaching you the game through the story mode rather than immediately jump into the old revenge story like it used to. There's voice acting, so that's a big plus though the voice acting is a little off in some places due to the tone of the characters. I don't like this change to the story mode as the early levels of the game more or less serve as a tutorial rather than an actual story mode. It creates a massive break and shift from the story that returns much later on.
The graphics are what stand out for Blade and Soul. There are few MMOs out there at the same visual level as Blade and Soul, especially ones that are free to play. There are nice customization features and a nice selection of clothing options to choose from provided you get far enough into the game, but there's a problem with the customization and PvP that I will get into at the gameplay section. There are more options available in the item mall, but they seem to be available in rotation only. There are few unique enemy types outside of instances with most of them just changing their appearance. They also do not do anything to differentiate themselves form one another and it feels like you could have replaced any non-boss enemy with anything really. The environments are pretty good, especially if your computer can handle to have the lighting on. Just be careful of the frame rate drops because it also gives you immediate lag.
The first thing you will notice in character creation is that there are quite a lot of options. There's a lot of sliders, hair styles, hair colors, and facial decorations to choose from. Few games give you the ability to customize that much. If you want to redo your character's appearance, you'll need to pay up some real money to do it. The only downside to it is that there are some character classes that are tied to the races of the game, meaning that you cannot have a summoner unless you play as the short Lyn race. Even their maximum height barely matches up to the short version of the other races. If you want to play a specific race, the preferred class might not be available to you.
The big change since the closed beta is that they removed auto attacks for the players. Instead, you have an attack that you can mash left click with and do a three hit combo. You also have skills, but it requires the orbs at the bottom of your screen to use in order to prevent you from just spamming attacks n due to the lack of mana in the game. There are also numerous skills for each class with special effects, such as knock down. Some of these skills are meant to be chained together for different combinations and the game does it best to teach them to you through an NPC. Each weapon seems to have a few things that makes it a little unique at least with some relying more on chaining skills together. It would have been nice if they were taught to you earlier as the skills are usually available two or more levels before you even reach the NPC. The problem is that a lot of the big bosses are resistant to the effects or are at least resistant to knockdown so that you have to do it multiple times on the boss before you can use a stomp attack or some kind of special provided they're not immune to it.
Enemies in the game function like traditional mobs, so they do not use targeting outside of skills for higher level mobs. You just have to predict their attack and activate the block skill so that you take reduced damage and counterattack them. This is the one thing that seems to separate it from what should be an action oriented style because the basic attacks of enemies function by completely different rules. They will launch like 4 attacks, but it will only hit once. If you're trying to time a block, this looks very confusing as the enemy is clearly attacking you yet it is not registering any hits.
The enemies will also sometimes drop one of eight shards that can be put together on your character for different effects. There's bonus effects depending on how many pieces you have equipped in the same set up to eight. It's easiest to just hunt the ones dropped by special bosses as you will not spend enough time grinding to collect most of the other ones and it is also much easier to just get them from killing the special bosses with a dozen other players. The only reason to backtrack is if you want to complete a full set for an achievement, but it does basically nothing.
The main story quests are basically fetch quests, but the good part is that you can do many of them at once. They'll ask you to get kills and drops, but all from the same general area so you don't have to revisit the same place multiple times. For the most part, they grant enough experience for you to move on to the next area. The problem is that it is long and drawn out and you won't really get to enjoy the game until you actually finish the story. Sadly, experience that is not from quests is very bad because of how little it gives you. Dungeons are the same though the boss battle at the end makes it a little more exciting.
One of the good things about Blade and Soul compared to other games is that there are at least a nice amount of costumes available in game. You can get them as rare drops from special enemies or from completing quests. The problem is that wearing many of the costumes automatically opens you up to PvP, which I absolutely hate. If you find a costume you like, hope that it is not tied to any of the PvP features because otherwise, it opens you up to be openly attacked by others, which is a dumb feature to include in the first place. Either make PvP for all or for none. The middle route is pretty lazy and it feels like they were trying to satisfy both, but basically made it worse for those that like PvP and those that hate it.
Once you get to high enough levels (I would say at 40+ or level cap), PvP is not bad because it scales the gear of both players. The reason I say at level cap is because only equipment is scaled in PvP and skills are not. A higher level player has access to more skills and thus automatically makes them stronger. In a game that is trying to emphasize PvP, having this kind of problem and not scaling down the higher level player is just awful. If it at least matched you with similarly leveled, you would have access to the same tier of skills to make it more fair.
At higher levels, there's crafting and gathering guilds with two gathering guilds to support a single craft. I generally found it to be a waste of time and money. In fact, it's better to just do the survey and get the special items to unlock the special drops. I just hate how the special drops require you to buy item mall keys or receive a limited amount from some weird dice and movement minigame you can do twice a day if you stay logged in for more than an hour. The problem is that a single item can have multiple locks on it. A good example of this is weapons, which technically have three locks on it. The first lock is weapon experience you get from sacrificing items to it. The second is that the boxes that contains the items for sacrificing are locked with a key that is available from a limited number of quests or from item mall. Within that box is a sealed weapon that has the same problem. You gotta hope you have the right one and unlock it. Then after you sacrifice enough other items to the weapon, you can get another very limited item to upgrade that weapon.
The game has several different ways to divide players, but the main one is red or blue first, then you can organize a guild. This is different from the crafting and gathering guilds in game. I hate that they do this to divide the players. If one of you chose blue (Cerulean) and the other chose red (Crimson), then you cannot be in the same guild together. It's tough enough trying to get onto the same server together unless you start over on a less populated one (which will become a problem quickly because of bots), but even tougher to pick the same faction because the game forces the two to be evenly divided. If the numbers are too uneven, they will immediately lock out the other one, forcing you to wait and hope that you get to pick the other one once other people are forced to join the faction that you are trying to avoid.
Blade and Soul has a good combat system and character creation, but the main story of the game is slow. Many of the early levels do nothing other than to contribute to fetch quests. They divide players into so many factions that it is ridiculous and have players forced into PvP just because of the clothes they are wearing, thus severely limiting your options if you want to avoid PvP. PvP itself is poorly done due to scaling not being properly applied to skills. As a result, PvP is not exactly fair until you are near the cap. Dungeons provide a small break from the grind, but the stupid need for sealing keys and chests makes even farming for loot tedious.
6/10 - A decent game if you can make it past the story mode and to the level cap, especially if you are in the game for PvP. However, that means that you must be willing to sit through many hours of a pretty lousy story quests, sometimes even having to wait for boring queues. If PvP is not what you are interested in, then this game is a skip.
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