When it comes to PvP, I’m about as threatening as a corgi in battle armor. Luckily for schlubs like me eSports is there for me to get my fix of seeing PvP operate correctly without feeling like a speedbump in the way of some other player’s progress. While I work a schedule that makes watching live tournaments difficult, I’m still able to keep an eye on how Blade and Soul has entered the growing world of digital competition. While it’s not quite at the same level of popularity that League of Legends or Heroes of the Storm sit at, it is awesome to see how this title has entered the field. In this week’s column, I’d like to showcase some of my favorite displays of Blade and Soul PvP without getting my pigtailed face beaten in.
The World Championship Grand Finals
This one comes from Korea, where most of this game’s best play understandably comes from. What struck me the most about this match-up was watching the Warlock operate at such a high level. My meager taste of the class had me intrigued, but watching some of those lockdown tricks that Sinkyum Kim displayed were absolutely astounding. I honestly feel like the Warlock could take down a boss monster entirely by itself.
While Force Master player Jungho Yoon put up a pretty valiant effort, he just didn’t look to have enough tricks to handle all of the trapping and smashing that Kim was dishing out. Not even some well-timed use of Frost Armor was enough to save Yoon from defeat. It definitely reaffirmed my feelings about both classes, as the Warlock looked just as fun to watch as it feels to play.
Korea S1 Group B Semi-Finals
More Warlock action here but this time, it’s against a Kung-Fu Master. What delights about this fight is watching the KFM impose their will and kick the Warlock around like a slightly overdressed soccer ball.
I always had a feeling that KFM’s operate their best when they’re being attacked and this fight pretty much proves that theory. Considering the first video showcased how many tricks Warlocks have to seize up their enemies, watching another class break through those traps and close in definitely had me impressed. The punishing retaliation of player Hyeongju Kim reminded me of matches I’ve watched of fighting games like Marvel vs. Capcom 3, where strings of combos sent their opponent bouncing off the ground and sailing through the air.
Korea S2 Final Playoff
The action for this video starts at marker 15:32, but blink and you’ll miss Set 1, as another Warlock makes an absolute meal out of the Blade Dancer opponent. We also see the literal growth of Blade and Soul’s PvP scene as this season takes us out of a small audience studio to this sprawling, gorgeous beach arena.
Trust me on this. Get through the runtime of this video. Skip ahead if you have to because if you do, you’ll be rewarded with some of the best PvP I’ve ever laid eyes on. The first match features another Warlock facing off against a Blade Master in some of the most compelling fighting I’ve watched. Perhaps it’s my soft spot for the Lyn speaking but watching that little Blade Master go to work was awesome. What’s better, the Warlock gave a great account of itself as the two go blow for blow. The second fight features the same Blade Master against my personal favorite class, the Assassin. Pity they didn’t fare so well but again, watching both classes operate at such a high level was a real treat. And it also got me excited to see which of those ninja toys my own character would get to use.
Why This Works
The thing about PvP in Blade and Soul is that it never really feels like it’s utterly impossible, even if I am one of “the bads”. I had only ever gotten in a few matches myself – every single one a resounding and hilarious loss – but it never really felt like it was out of my control. It really felt like it was just a function of me not fully appreciating all of the things my Assassin could do. Usually in PvP I have this overwhelming sense of being both undergeared as well as underskilled. But in Blade and Soul, I got the sense that I could honestly improve, given enough time and effort. Obviously, these displays I’ve pointed to are above any level I could reach, but even they had to start somewhere and I feel like playing effectively in PvP is about as attainable a goal as anything else in the game.
The way combat moves in this game really lends itself well to competitive play, with strings of skills and combos to be dished out, traded or broken. While a lot of the abilities blasting off in the videos showcased above may look complex, they really aren’t, as most combinations are available with a few clicks of some shared keys. The mobility and reactive style of combat in Blade and Soul makes it truly competitive and in eSports, that’s the best thing to showcase.
Not only is it about ease of play and a reasonable sense of accessibility, it’s also about dynamism. To me, the way Blade and Soul moves is as thrilling as watching most fighting games. Skills blur along in to each other in a rapid series of dashing movements and mix up in pyrotechnic flair, while still being recognizably distinct and at a breakneck pace. It really is one of the better spectator sports I’ve watched. It charges me up with the desire to mix it up despite knowing that it would only end in tears, much like most people feel like they’re Steven Seagal after having watched a mixed martial arts fight.
Where this goes from here in the eSports community is anyone’s guess, though it certainly has made a small but dedicated following in the West. With ESL Community Cups already entering their tenth rotation in Europe, there seems to be a pretty solid group of players. That said, inter-community battles and larger sponsored fights are two completely divergent things, and Blade and Soul doesn’t seem to have the sort of claws that a game like Heroes of the Storm or League of Legends have. All the same, it’s still an absolute blast to watch regardless of which country the tournaments come from.
As for me? I’ll likely be keeping far away from the arena floor and taking a seat in the spectator bleachers, thanks. Until then, hope to see you in the field or soaring through the air.Related: Blade & Soul, Column, eSports, Korea, MMORPG, NCSoft