Monday, 16 September 2013

Test Drive: Age of Wushu

I have been wondering recently about exactly how much you can do in your first day within an MMO, how much of the story can you see? Are you able to get in to any crafting in a meaningful manner? How much combat is there? So I thought I would try and find out.
The brief is simple pick an MMO and play it for a day, see what happen and how much I can do. This is not a speed levelling run, just a chance to see what you get when you spend your first day in the games environs. Now on to the main event…

Age of Wushu is a martial-arts roleplaying game set within a game-world influenced heavily by Ancient China (no surprise there for a martial-arts game). I found out about this game through an article in a PC gaming magazine, but never really had much of a reason to try it out until now! It took a bit of a while to register my snail account, with about 20mins of registration failure before I got set up. The client is about 8 GB, so make sure you have a DVD on hand to watch, or maybe do the ironing.

Poor Brian
PoorBrian in all his ragged glory!

Having downloaded the client and logged in, I begin creating my character. At present there are a limited range of visual options, but I manage to find something suitably bedraggled for my scruffy-faced character. I also need to select my origins story (which affects my starting place and probably my story-arc) and, having reviewed the option, plump for the ‘abducted sister in need of rescuing’ option (it seems suitably heart-breaking and I have decided this character is definitely going to be a tragic one). Then comes that most crucial of moments……….. the name! Given the rough-shod look and depressing backstory, one name leaps to the fore and thus PoorBrian is created!

So PoorBrian enters the world of Wushu and is lost within about 5 minutes (how unfortunate!). The quest pointers don’t always pop up on the map and so I have to mouse over the markers to find where I need to go (shock, horror!). The fact that there are so many markers on the map makes this feel like a needle in a haystack at times and I even find that clicking on the person’s name in the quest makes PoorBrian automatically walk to them, result!

The first hour or so is spent with the initial tutorial quests learning a few combat basics and fetching things for NPCs, a lot of things. I am even treated to a lovely cut-scene where PoorBrian relives the tragic abduction of his sister, before meeting a strange veiled lady who is stalking him (I wonder who she will turn out to be?). During this time there is a lot that you have to take in, particularly the interesting way that levelling is dealt with. You gain experience, which is gradually converted into cultivation (representing the fact that all that fetching has taught PoorBrian a lot, but he must first reflect on it). You select a skill to cultivate and it levels up as your experience is turned in to cultivation, voila reflecting on my time spent fetching a kite from a roof has increased my skill to fire a ball of chi. 

Who can this be
This is definitely NOT your missing sister!

After the initial introduction quests you are asked to choose a school of martial-arts to study (akin to choosing your class in other games), with 8 choices on offer. My eye lights upon the beggar school, that looks like the destiny of PoorBrian and I add a mental note to his backstory (namely he bankrupted himself after the abduction of his sister, spending all his money on products for the incredibly well-styled hair he has). However before he can join PoorBrian must first learn to beg, a task easily accomplished by finding the begging trainer and thus PoorBrian becomes PoorBrian the beggar!

For a group of alleged beggar the village in which they live is pretty plush, with a central stone building containing the head beggar that PoorBrian is desperate to meet. After a series of small quests, in which Poor Brian is taught the way of the beggar, our hero is sent back to the starting village and so armed with a new set of skills (and a begging bowl) PoorBrian heads off to help expel some snakes and thugs from a local tea forest.

Everything is going swimmingly, snakes are dying left, right & centre and guards fall beneath my hands (and I even manage to propel a few off of cliff). Suddenly from nowhere another player attacks and kills me in 2 hits, although dying is no big thing (you simply revive on-site or at the nearest town) it still feels a bit unfair, but griefing happens in any mmo and Age of Wushu even warns you each time you go in that it is a PvP environment. I hastily click revive on-site and PoorBrian is back on his feet, the next section of the quest asks me to form a team and try out a 3 man technique in an instance. The game shows me how to form a team and search for other players, but there are none around. It is at this point I hit a bit of a wall, with no-one around I cannot further the story (I did try to solo it and it ended up Reaper 2 PoorBrian 0) and so I decide to try my hand at crafting.

Begging Brian
Begging is a skill and you can even try to sell random bags to other players!

Learning the necessary gathering skills is a simple matter of finding a trainer and paying for the skill, so armed with a pick-axe and axe-axe PoorBrian sets off to become the EasyJet of the mining and logging worlds! It all goes quite well and I soon have a good number of logs and ore, but you can never have enough, when the game suddenly tells me I have reached my skill cap for the day and should try again tomorrow. I have to admit this irks me somewhat, but no matter I will simply go make something with the resources I have gathered. Having learned the blacksmithing skill I quickly make my first item and am introduced to a gem matching mini-game which allows me to increase me mining skill further, this is a fun addition. However, I quickly hit my skill cap again and then another bystander kills me, again! This calls for drastic action…….

Therefore PoorBrian, who has come so far since the day his sister was abducted (who is obviously NOT the mysterious girl who follows him at every turn) and who dreams of becoming the greatest beggar of all time, sets off once more for the tea forest. The plan; to stand outside the instance and kill every enemy npc in sight, hoping that someone will help me complete it. PoorBrian stands, the body of a fallen tea guard at his feet, chi radiating off of him and the next one targeted. The in the distance heading toward him, another player, finally he can get that one bit closer to saving his sister, it’s the guys who killed him earlier. Oh dear……………………

You will end up seeing this a lot!

All in all, Age of Wushu was fun to play, but I don’t think I will be returning to it, or at least not until much later in its development (as it is still a work in progress). It is a beautiful world, but one that is hampered by unnecessary skill caps and the sometimes confusing quests. In addition the in-game store rents items out rather than offering an outright purchase, this would make me reluctant to purchase and spend any in game currency. However it deserves a lot of credit for its unique approach to levelling and for the fact it succeeds in creating a game which feels believable. While it’s not something I like personally, it does have a lot to recommend it and could be reward for someone willing to dedicate the time (and money) required to work through the early stages. It’s free to create and account on Age of Wushu, so if this sounds like your game, give it a go!

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