As my time in Blade and Soul moves onwards through the Cinderlands and its lovely desert locales, I’m brought forth to another Wheel of Fate dice roll pit stop in the form of the Golden Deva. As I farm the big guy for his trinkets to get my spins at the Wheel, I’m brought back to a lengthy Twitter conversation I had a few days ago. It got me thinking about what keeps me coming back to this game and I wonder…is the MMO part superfluous? Is playing this game just as a game missing the point? Where’s the community, the driven playerbase, the folks to interact with during downtime? In short, where’s the stickiness?
Groups and Glue
The ability to solo MMO’s has long been a complaint I’ve heard bemoaned among the MMO community for a long while now. Making quest chains that largely can be handled by yourself without anyone else needed to interfere takes away from the core of how the genre was meant to be played or how it used to be back in the olden days. I’m still not completely convinced that soloing is the poison people believe it to be, yet I’m still also willing to admit that a game like Blade and Soul and its self-centered flow and class design feels more and more like anathema to the promise of MMO’s. Hell, even skills you can use are capable of taking the enemy away from others’ damage output as you punt the baddie in to the air. Seeing the line of bots farming the same World Boss monster I am doesn’t really help these feelings.
This kind of ties in to my oft-repeated complaint about this game’s soft trinity concept, but then I consider a game like Final Fantasy XIV and its forced grouping gameplay and I kind of feel like I’m thinking in the wrong direction. There have been myriad dungeons I’ve tanked in XIV that have started and ended with barely a word as each party member uses the other like a tool instead of acknowledging the player. Sometimes when words are exchanged, they can often be the acidic type as others in a large group rage about other players unable to do their job, openly flagging themselves as completely missing the point of what a game is. So with that in mind, I don’t believe a lack of trinity is the chief thing to blame for the lack of stickiness, even though it’s out of my preferred type of MMO gameplay.
I looked around for community websites a few weeks ago (and was rather dismayed to find one of them was shutting down), and while doing that did give me a sense of community that I was looking for, it also seemed to fall just a bit short of what I was looking for. Not to say that any o f these community sites are bad, mind you – far from it. But there still seems to be this hard-to-define lack of excitement and fervor in these fan sites.
Take a game like WildStar for example, or even City of Heroes. These are games with fanbases that are absolutely electric. Fanbases that make you smile a little when you see them around in the digital world or when you think about them. While I don’t think Blade and Soul’s fans are any less dedicated, there still is less sense of fire and more of simple enjoyment. I suppose that’s not wrong, and in fact it’s something to embrace. Simply casually discussing the game or otherwise just being among folks comfortably can be just as good as being around a swarm of excitable fans. It’s the difference of enjoyment between being in a cigar lounge with a nice cocktail or being in a football/soccer stadium with chanting and singing fans. They’re both their own kind of delight in what they love.
The Tie That Binds
Perhaps, then, that’s the answer. Or, rather, embracing the reason for enjoying the game and coming to terms. Sure, I’d like to really be further and deeper in to this game and its players. I’d especially like to find some roleplay and further develop my character. Regardless, there’s more than enough people who create fanart of the game or who otherwise still maintain fan sites or are otherwise invested. In the search for greater stickiness maybe it’s not such a bad thing to simply play this game like it’s a game.
I still am greatly enjoying Blade and Soul even after I run in to aggravating design decisions like the weapon breakthrough farms and Wheel of Fate farms. The combat of my Assassin still charges me up and makes me feel like an anime ninja badass. The vistas of this game are still some of the prettiest places I’ve seen. A lot of the flavor of this game is still fun to witness and watch, even if the lore is shallow. And I’ve got to admit, I’m growing to love my little bouncy pigtailed kunoichi. While there’s a lot of stuff that I wish the game did better, I’m happy with taking it for what it is.
Community and the engagement of other players heightens an MMO. It lifts this genre above others and provides experiences that are beyond the kinds of games I grew up playing back in the Atari 2600 days. Yet once in a while, it’s also not an entirely bad thing to just have a place to visit and have fun. To just revel in the combo-centric, high-flying, action manga madness of it all. MMO’s can be a home and looking for that home is great, but having a playground in the backyard is not awful either, in my view.
If you’ll excuse me, I’m gonna go dart around in said playground all ninja-like. I think I’ve got another little dungeon instance to run, and maybe more of what my Assassin can do in groups will start to become clear. In the meantime, hope to see you in the field or soaring through the air.Related: Blade & Soul, Column, Community, Tower of Mushin