Age of Wushu MMO aims to channel your kung fu
Snail Games is a developer based in China, having developed games for over a decade. Now they look to punch their way into the free-to-play MMO genre and, rather than venture into familiar territory that their competitors have already explored, Snail is taking a look into its country's history. Age of Wushu is a reinterpretation of Chinese Wuxia culture that brings players to the age of the Ming Dynasty.
In terms of world space, Age of Wushu players will get to play around in a historically accurate, reality-based interpretation of Ming Dynasty-era China, with each region home to different martial arts disciplines. "In a traditional sense, it's not like other MMOs," said Content Lead and Product Manager Tyler Rawlins. "There's no leveling and no classes. In replacing of classes, we have schools of Kung Fu. There are eight schools of Kung Fu and each one has their own requirements. You have a guide period once you create your character and you learn about the school before you join."
The eight Kung Fu schools include Emei, Wudang, Shaolin, Beggars' Sect, Scholars, Tangmen, Royal Guards, and Wanderer's Valley. Each school contains an emphasis on certain skills and techniques. Rawlins notes that there's a sense of dishonor that comes with not being affiliated with a school. However, players should choose wisely before committing to a school, because their choice is permanent.
Age of Wushu forgoes the traditional leveling system in favor of cultivating individual combat skills. Rather than increase the attributes of individual characters, players will work to increase their proficiency with weapons or martial arts. Character traits can be altered, though, depending on what school they have joined. For example, the Wudang will have increased stamina and internal power.
BOOM video 14396
"While you're in your school, you have to adhere to your school's code," Rawlins added. "Your school reputation will lead you to eventually becoming the school's headmaster. School reputation is doing school quests and adhering to school rules." He uses the Shaolin as an example, pointing out that they cannot increase their reputation by attacking random players or getting drunk, as those would be violations of the school's code. In contrast, evil schools like the Royal Guard and Wanderer's Valley are encouraged to kill random players and loot carriages in distress. Becoming a headmaster will lead to new quests and school-specific clothes and titles. Headmasters, which are limited to one for each school in a server, can also initiate war with other schools.
In addition to finding a school to affiliate with, players must also decide on professions, which are pivotal to the Age of Wushu experience. "The meat of our game economy comes from our professions," Rawlins explains. He adds that there's a sense of co-dependence between professions. For example, even the best blacksmith in the game would need help to craft the best sword. He would need a master craftsman to create a hilt and a master cook for expertise on cutting through flesh. Manufacturing professions, such as farmers and herbalists, are particularly suited to help feed the game's economy by crafting goods for sale.
But what would a martial arts-themed MMO be without combat? Age of Wushu promises hard-hitting combat. Though it carries the standard combat control scheme, with attacks mapped to number keys, the game will set itself apart through its counter system. "The combat is rock-paper-scissors style," explains Rawlins, who points out that each attack is labeled with a red, blue or green circle. "The red is your overt (rock), the green is a parry (paper), and blue is called a feint (scissors). When you block somebody in combat, you can block normally, but if you have a parry activated, that parry automatically activates on my block. Some parries do damage to the players, some parries do damage to their weapons, some parries heal--there's a different array of parries, depending on skills and weapons. Feints are a trick--it's a light attack, but its purpose is to break defense. If somebody's blocking my attack repeatedly, I use my feint attack to break their defense, so now I can go back to my red attacks to bludgeon them."
Of course, even the most avid of MMO players can't be logged on all the time. So it's nice to hear that Age of Wushu will allow players to passively gain XP while logged off for up to a period of 2-3 days. Any time a player is away from the game, their character will continue to inhabit the world as an NPC. Of course, those characters are now subject to be kidnapped by unsavory types. Players that are kidnapped may log back into their game to find themselves enslaved and with their passive XP lost.
Age of Wushu appear to be cut from the cloth of films like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and The Man with the Iron Fists. It definitely carries a distinct look and setting that contrasts sharply with its MMO competitors. The game's economy, rock-paper-scissor combat, and method of passive XP offer some interesting twists on the MMO formula. It remains to be seen whether Age of Wushu can capture the imagination the way its film contemporaries do, but its mixture of ideas do merit at least one trip to the dojo. The closed beta begins on December 20, with the full release coming early in 2013.
Click to see the new screenshots