Perfect World International’s new MMORPG Swordsman Online transports players to a feudal land of warring clans, ancient magic and a whole lot of kung fu. The game is a loose adaptation of the Chinese novel The Smiling, Proud Wanderer by JinYong. During the story quests the player will travel throughout ancient china and interact with various characters from the novel.
Swordsman Online places a great deal of emphasis on its story. It features a slew of cut scenes complete with voice acting. Unfortunately all the voice over work is in Chinese and uses subtitles. By its self this is not very problematic, but none of the character models use facial movements. This ends up being a huge distraction. The lack of mouth movements takes away from the overall cinematic experience and lowers your sense of immersion.
The written dialogue is quite remarkable. The writing for the most part feels very fluid. At times you almost forget it’s a translation. Everything feels natural and well thought out; every now and again there are a few cheesy lines or small language quirks. Overall the story content is one of the few shining jewels of Swordsman online
Character creation is fairly straight forward. Almost everything from nose shape, ear position and height are fully scalable. There are over fifteen different hair styles to choose from, but the color pallet for eye and hair color is limited to about ten different colors. It would have been nice to see a full color wheel to compliment the extensive choices implemented in the rest of the system.
Even with the wide variety of choices in the initial creation process, characters still feel pretty cookie cutter. More than a couple times I ran in to other players who were practically identical clones of myself. Swordsman does have a wardrobe system and allows for the dying of different items, but at the moment it does not seem well utilized. The lack of variety may be due in part to the game being new.
Aesthetically the game is pleasing to the eye. The environment is full of bright colors and lots of variety between the various zones. Almost everything in Swordsman feels clean, sharp and polished. The graphics engine is very scalable and even on low settings the world feels unique and alive. In High Definition Swordsman looks absolutely beautiful. The games engine employs a wide variety of lighting and environmental effects. The small graphical touches such as trees blowing in the wind add a nice level of depth to the world.
There are three different control schemes to choose from. You can change your control scheme at any time in the games options menu. None of the control schemes were terrible, but at the same time they all lacked a level of control and polish. It seemed a bit absurd to me why there were no custom key bind options.
At launch Swordsman is an enormously big game. There are over twenty open world zones to explore. Each one of the zones is pretty spacious and contains a wide variety of enemies to fight. The open zones feel well thought out and diverse. As is typical with a lot of asian MMOs it is absolutely littered with spawns. Despite the wide medley of different environments to wander through, the world ends up feeling cluttered and stale.
After a few short tutorial quests you get the opportunity to pick your “school”. There are ten different schools to choose from. They serve as the class system for the game. Each one plays slightly different, but every School is has a high level of survivability. Almost all schools in the game are equipped with some sort of sort of healing spell and AOE damage spell. The wide variety of skills enables every class to be played solo with minimal downtime.
At first glance the combat system looks fairly pedestrian, and in a lot of ways it is. Some effort has been put towards making combat interactive and exciting. Swordsman uses an acrobatics system that allows for the player to double tap a direction key to dodge enemy attacks. Acrobatics can even be used to recover quickly from knockdowns. In instances enemies will move around making them more challenging to hit. It’s a shame that in the open world zones enemies tend to stand still and take a beating. The lack of consistency is annoying and makes the acrobatics system feel impractical.
As you progress through the game every class will unlock two additional combat styles, one each at level twenty and forty. The added combat styles add much needed variety to the mundane combat system. If you are patient enough to grind to the later stages of the game you will find the combat system has some level of diversity. Even with the added combat styles, it’s still not enough to keep most people interested for more than a couple weeks.
Questing practically runs on auto pilot. Swordsman Online features a pathing system similar to other PWI games. When you receive a quest, you simply click on the corresponding link in the quest log and your character will automatically run to the location. While this does cut down on confusion and streamline the game ultimately the babysitting gets rather dry and boring.
Currently there are thirteen different instances available for play. The system is pretty intuitive and streamlined. The instance menu can be accessed from anywhere, and there is no need to travel to a specific location. The interface includes a party search feature, For the most part this works pretty well. Regrettably, all the instances I encountered were effortlessly completed solo. The entire time I played I was not in a group once. Almost every instance has several difficulty levels, allowing for maximum replay value. With the harder renditions it’s a possibility group play becomes more of a necessity in the end game.
One mechanic that is sure to frustrate a lot of players is the use of an “energy system”. Every activity in Swordsman online uses energy. Once you are out of energy you cannot run instances or fight monsters in the field for XP until your energy replenishes the next day. You can still complete any quests available to you for full reward. This might be in effort to fight the health concerns of playing games for long periods of time in a single sitting. It might also an attempt to keep players from grinding through the content too quickly.
At level 20 players get a “companion”. You can purchase and equip your companion with different skills and your companion will help you out in battle. For some reason the companion can only be used in the open world and not in instances. This limitation seems non sensical and renders the companion practically meaningless. The system is also very confusing and unwieldy, It could be explained better via a more thorough tutorial. Overall during my play, it felt like a useless addition.
The games crafting system is run of the mill for asian MMOs. Monsters will drop Items that can then be used in crafting. There are no “gathering” skills implemented in Swordsman, all crafting materials are obtained from killing various enemies. To use the crafting system a player goes to the appropriate tool in one of the main cities and uses the crafting menu. As you level up your crafting you will get access to crafting higher level items. Each item available to craft comes in several different rarities. You can add a “luck item” to the crafting menu to increase your odds of getting a rarer item.
One of the more interesting features of Swordsman online is the guild functionality. There are two types of guild, Bandits and mercenaries. Each of the two guild types have several different daily missions available to them. Completing daily missions will help your guild level up and build up their guild hall with new additions. The guild types also indirectly compete with one another. Mercenary guilds can escort caravans which Bandits try to hijack. Bandits can try to steal artifacts from mercenary camps. Missions tend to take place on open world PVP maps. Players who contribute to guild missions receive awards such as bonus XP and money.
Swordsman online has a lot of features. It’s regrettable that it takes so long to unlock most of them. The game introduces mechanics at a gruelingly slow pace. Crafting and PvP aren’t unlocked until level 30. Some progression systems don’t unlock until as high as level 50. Unfortunately, after about level 30 the game becomes a tedious grind. If you have the patience, you might find some of these mechanics enjoyable, but overall it’s just not worth the time.
When the dust settles and the sun sets, Swordsman Online doesn’t pack the power of a Bruce Lee punch. Most players will find themselves moving on in a few days time. If you are a huge fan of Kung Fu movies or Chinese culture there might be something here for you. Otherwise you’re probably better giving this one a round house kick to the curb.
• Polished Art direction and Visually pleasing
• Engaging guild events
• Well thought out story and cinematic sequences
• Mediocre combat system
• Very little emphasis on group play
• Leveling pace is obnoxiously slow
Overall Rating: 2/5 out of 5
Related: MMORPG, Perfect World International, Preview, Swordsman