Sega CEO Hajime Satomi says he wants to improve the quality of their games moving forward. That could mean a lot of things. It's nice to hear, but what they do next with their games is the real answer.
MMO Woes: Entering The Age Of Wushu
Age of Wushu has the potential to confuse anyone from the start, with its plethora of versions, regions and names. Originally titled Nine Scrolls Manual (or Nine Scrolls True Classic) at its birth, the game has since been re-titled to Age of Wulin, Age of Wushu, Age of Kung Fu, and Legends of Kung Fu, respective of country of release.
If you’re in North America, you’ll be playing – for better or worse – Age of Wushu. Initially, I was of the mindset that Age of Wushu was just ‘one of those hardcore MMOs from Asia’. All these vague and confusing phrases were thrown around like ‘experience cultivation’ and ‘sandbox MMO’, which naturally I took to mean ‘boring and time-consuming’. The UI was also a nightmare to navigate, and as a result the entire game, including the tutorials, were a nightmare to navigate as well. Bored, and with nothing currently scratching my MMO itch, I decided to try to garner some patience and give the game a chance. Little did I know the actual degree of patience required to truly experience and appreciate what it had to offer.
If you’re looking for a game with non-stop action — as seems to be the trend in MMOs lately — then you’ll be underwhelmed with Age of Wushu. That is not to say that the combat system lacks a sense of action, as it definitely doesn’t; however, the frequency of combat in this game is on the low-side.
The experience and levelling system in Age of Wushu is a much more complicated affair and for the sake of this article, I won’t be going into it detail. The general gist of the system is that the experience you gain from actions you choose to do in the world are put into pools. These pools are then converted over time into another pool. This final pool can then be used to ‘cultivate’, over time, any skills or abilities you’ve acquired.
There is emphasis on cultivation of your chosen school’s ‘inner ability’, which is the closest thing Wushu offers as a traditional MMO character level. This system is bound to put off anyone with a short attention span — having the potential to confuse and overwhelm the player — as the extra micromanagement comes as a distraction or chore. Does this mean it is a bad system? No. It’s simply a system that requires a lot more thought than what has been required of the MMO scene as of late, generally speaking. This system is not such a new concept, having been utilized in some form by many MMOs out of Asia already. It is, however, a concept that will feel awkward and uninviting for a lot of newcomers looking to pick up Age of Wushu.
The experience system is definitely not the only complex system within the game. Age of Wushu boasts a whole lot of new features and does a decent job at bestowing a sense of freedom. Unfortunately, with all of the complexity and variety these elements bring to the game, there is huge potential for the player to feel lost. The game itself, as well as not being nice to navigate nor user-friendly, will not hold your hand on your journey.
You won’t be told when you get new skills or when it’s time advance with most tasks, and you’ll very rarely have any one quest that takes priority over the other. If you look hard enough and attempt to navigate the horrible UI, there’s a good chance you’ll find the answer you’re looking for, but an equally likely chance you’ll want to shut the game off then and there. Luckily for players that choose to stick around, a UI change has been promised and is already in the works. Although this doesn’t solve the whole equation, so to speak, it will be welcomed with open arms by every single player.
As an inherent result of the systems chosen for Age of Wushu, players generally won’t find themselves able to operate using a traditional MMO mindset. Gratification, in this game, should be sought in the satisfaction of long-term investment in character, and requires a great deal of patience. The acquisition of new gear is far from standard, and unless you feel like paying money more cosmetic options, you’re generally not going to stick out from the crowd. Since the leveling system and general aesthetics of the game are all over the place, you’ll often find yourself completely unable to defend yourself against mobs or other players that seem as if they should be mere ants you can crush. It’s hard to grasp any real sense of continuity, or experience the intended world without ridiculousness and clutter constantly in your periphery.
All gripes and problems aside for a moment, there’s something beautiful about Age of Wushu. It’s just a pity this beauty has been sullied with such a messy UI, and by design requires a great deal of patience.
The skill system is vast, and the combat is fluid — with huge potential for PvP — but combat itself is far too infrequent and inconsistent. The leveling and quest systems offer a great deal of customization and freedom, but require you to dump a whole lot of time essentially running around doing nothing. The whole game has a very bi-polar feel. You’ll find yourself at some moments staring at the screen doing nothing for huge chunks of time, most likely resorting to minimizing the window until the game essentially finishes playing itself. At other moments, you’ll be in the middle of a huge battle, or hiding, heart-racing, trying not to get detected as you spy on other schools.
A game like this is definitely not for everyone, and at the end of the day, the success of Age of Wushu is going to come down to how well it is received in North America. It is still in beta at the moment, which does allow a lot of room for growth, however, it’s a distinct possibility that a lot of people just aren’t ready for it yet, with too many MMO habits already established.
Then again, Age of Wushu might just be a welcome deviation from such trends found ad-nauseum in many bigger, flashier MMO releases today.