It’s quite surprising that there aren’t many MMOs that have utilized the theme of martial arts. You’d think with the advent of The Matrix and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, and a slew of older Kung Fu-related movies (cheers to you, Bruce Lee, Jet Li, and Jackie Chan), someone should have banked on making an MMO that incorporates swift punches, high-flying kicks, and flashy throw downs early on. There is just so much potential in a game that allows players to become their very own martial arts masters, and Snail Games have tasked themselves to capturing that prospect with Age of Wushu.
Age of Wushu is the martial arts-inspired, Free to Play, sandbox MMO from Snail Games which has its players experience controlling their very own Hero while learning various martial disciplines in the backdrop of Ancient China. With such a very interesting angle for an MMO, does this title live up to its promise of bamboo-jumping, fist-flying, and sword and staff-wielding goodness? Or does it still need more time to focus by means of meditating under a waterfall? Let’s find out – here’s the review for Age of Wushu!
Over the Mountains and Far Away, Hero
There are a lot of things I can say about the Age of Wushu’s aesthetics – the game environment is very pleasing to look at as far as the other MMOs are concerned when it comes to sticking to their theme. Age of Wushu does this staying true to their source material well by providing players with grand maps and instances that really look and feel like you are actually set back in time during China’s dynasty eras complete with rustic villages, bustling cities and towns, gushing waterfalls and mountain ranges overlooking lakes and rivers as well as larger-than-life temples.
With regard to the character designs, Age of Wushu provides players with avatars that don beautiful and ornate robes, headdresses, and weapons. These are fully customizable and players can get more powerful versions as they play the game further. The flowing attire and nicely crafted armaments further complements the already breath-taking sceneries and landscapes gamers will trudge onto as they progress into the game. One can truly feel that the developers took great pains in giving a majestic, and grandeur that Ancient Chinese antiquity possessed long ago, and to this, the results are more than favorable.
Choose Your Own Path
Being that this game is a martial arts-themed MMO, Age of Wushu does not skimp on the Chinese martial art styles. Players have a wide variety of Kung Fu schools at their disposal – they can choose between the eight different martial arts, from the classic Shaolin, Wudang, and Tangmen, to the more unorthodox styles like the Beggar’s Sect which uses the Drunken Kung Fu variations (Jackie Chan fans will drool over this), Emei, Scholar, Royal Guards, and Wanderer’s Valley. Each school has its own specialties and weapon specifications, so it is up to the players to choose which school he or she wants to belong to, and in doing so will set them towards the path of mastering that Kung Fu style. And no Kung Fu-themed media would be complete without having a story; Age of Wushu incorporates different storylines players can choose to complete or they can opt to venture forth and travel the game’s vast world in search for their own tales.
That being said, Age of Wushu employs a different take on what is considered an MMO standard when it comes to skills and grinding for levels. Instead of leveling up one’s character, players are tasked to level up their skills by means of Cultivation. Think of Cultivation as another word for practice, and anyone who has watched many a Kung Fu movie should know that martial arts espouses that any one person who wishes to master his or her craft should meticulously and religiously hone their craft until they become one with it. Age of Wushu does this honing by having players not beat up enemies to rank up experience, but through completing daily quests and engaging in self or group practice sessions until the skills they want to level up becomes more potent; they can also Cultivate their skills when they log out, but they need to buy some in-game currency in order for the cultivation to continue while players are out of the game.
What’s also quite novel in Age of Wushu is that when players log out, their characters become NPCs and are able to get jobs that will earn players in-game money which players can use when they log into the game again. This is quite a fun concept, because your character can either be a banker, a woodsman, a clerk, or hold pretty much any occupations that are available to the game if you want to get out of the game for a spell, but you have to make sure you log back in, because your character can be kidnapped by other players and you might end up in a completely different place when you last logged in.
Martial Arts is a Way of Life
Despite its interesting approach, Age of Wushu does have some issues. It is commendable that they incorporate a different system with regards to “leveling up” characters, but for those players who are more inclined to level up by means of grinding and pub stomping, they might get turned off by Age of Wushu’s Skill Leveling system. There seems to be too much going on for players to level up their preferred skills, and the way the game tries to explains it falls flat, as it’s mostly a wall of too-long and too-boring to read text that takes away too much from the gameplay. I’m all in for complex skill progressions, but if it takes players to go to different web sites in order to fully understand the system rather than use the in-game explanations, then there’s got to be something the developers are doing wrong in that regard.
Speaking of the unique leveling system, it sucks that players do not get experience when battling hostiles, NPCs and other players in Age of Wushu. While the game itself does not bar you from beating up anyone in the game (being that it enforces a PvP element right from the get-go), most of the time it’s not worth it because you’d just end up using your HP items because the enemy you inadvertently or intentionally did three-punch combo to is more skilled than you.
There is also the issue with following the main storyline. For the most part, there is a quest tracker available for players, but for some reason, the main storyline quests trackers might get usurped by other more menial quests that players unintentionally agreed to. This proves frustrating because once you’ve completed the menial quests, the game just seems to up and leave players to fend for themselves and explore the world because they chose the wrong side quest. Also, the quests themselves are not as diverse as one would think, as it often involves going from one point and traveling to another point only to talk to an NPC or collect or give an item to an NPC; even the beautiful backdrop and scenery can only save the boredom of traversing from one place to another for so long until it loses its novelty. While there are some instances where you have to fight enemies, it seems like an afterthought at times, which is bad considering that players who expected to kick some ass with one-inch punches, debilitating combos and such are subjected to errand boy like quests and duties; the game becomes somewhat of a life simulator where you have your character attain a profession, be it a cook, a fisherman, or whatever job is available in the game that caters to your fancy. Then again, one can argue that martial arts was not created for the sole purpose of beating and maiming other people, but as a way of life that strives to find peace and harmony within one’s self and with the people, places and things surrounding him or her, and having a profession is the logical thing to possess, as each one has to earn a living, even when it’s within a virtual game world set in Ancient China.
Pros and Cons
That being said, here are the pros and cons of Age of Wushu:
– handsome and beautiful character sprites
– great-looking and grand background instances
– different story arcs to choose from
– MMO feels a bit like a sandbox game
– complex and unique skill progression
– Player versus Player is perpetually on
– NPC Mode for players who are offline
– The game tries to be a lot of things too much
– Skill progression might be hard to get the hang of
– Story arcs needs some work to be memorable
– Quests tend to become repetitive
– Players might get lost due to the expansive world
– Player versus Player world might lead to Pay to Win situations
Age of Wushu tries to blend the wonders and discipline of many martial arts into a life simulator MMO, the result of which is a somewhat mixed bag of good visuals, an ambitious leveling system but at the same time lackluster storylines and a detached and haphazardly put-on explanation on how the game works. There is Kung Fu here, as promised, and while it does warrant importance in the overall gameplay, the life simulator aspect seems to trump it a little too much. Overall, Age of Wushu is a decent enough game, but you’re probably better off playing versus games if you want to satiate your Kung Fu urges.