At E3 2012, I had the chance to take a look at martial arts MMO Age of Wushu. During this time, I had the opportunity of discussing the various aspects of the game with Robert Brown and Derek Asato who were very knowledgeable about the game. Age of Wushu is not your typical MMORPG with classes, levels and cooldowns as shown with games such as World of Warcraft, Star Wars: The Old Republic, as well as others that have a similar structure. It actually follows in the direction of an Action-MMORPG with a twist. Age of Wushu deals with combat through the way of eight martial arts schools. These eight martial arts schools as well as the game’s concept is based around what is known as wuxia or what some of us might relate to is Hong Kong Action Cinema. So if you can remember classics like the old Shaw Brothers movies or if you want something a little more recent like Hero, Iron Monkey or like Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, the setting is very much the same.
Some of the schools that are going to be present in this fictional time in Ancient China that you can learn from are going to be familiar groups like the Shaolin monks, or you could learn from a school of beggars as an example and possibly learn drunken boxing. While this may seem strange in typical MMOs, AoW is staying true to the tradition of this kind of lore and storytelling that is still popular in many parts of the world today. With that said, just like in most of these kinds of movies, you too can run on water, perform acrobatic attacks, and run up walls very much like the characters that we have seen. As Derek explains, all these amazing abilities are determine by your skill level. While I stated earlier that neither classes or levels were present, a skill list would determine what you can and can’t do as a character.
As I said earlier about not having classes and levels, how would one compete in this progressing world? Since this is a skill based game, many of the techniques that you will learn from one of the many schools in Age of Wushu will have rock-paper-scissors kind of an effect for the player. Meaning, no one attack is perfect since there is always a counter for it. The good thing is that as you use your skills more, they progress by adding in skill points as you interact with the rest of the world. However, if you have a lot of time on your hands, I have been told that you can possibly learn all the skills in the game since there isn’t any kind of skill decay and not be limited by just being a great martial arts master. Some of those non-combative skills that were brought up were typical crafting skills such as blacksmiths or fishing. With that said, the in game economy will be greatly dependent on diversity of skills that players possess. Meaning that plenty of skills will always be in demand, like being a cook. But you don’t have to be always online to progress your skills. Since the world within Age of Wushu is constantly moving, you could be in the middle of doing some wood cutting out in the forest or some other task which you then turn into a NPC to other players that are online. However, this can be a bad thing for players who have made a lot of enemies in the community as they can be kidnapped while offline at which they can attempt to escape or be ransomed to their guild. But that may not necesarely be an option as they can be moved and find themselves far away from where they originally started or in the middle of an enemy base. Now of course this also applies to actual guild wars as well, where real estate that is purchased and placed in the world by groups can be defended and attacked. This of course can involve as many as 500 players in the fighting, which is certainly a plus for those of you who enjoy large scale combat.
Since I skipped ahead and talked a little about the mechanics and how a player might interact with this world, there is the question of how Age of Wushu looks in comparison to other MMOs. Despite not having magical effects and limiting them to superhuman feats such as running on water or a wall, Age of Wushu as I’m told by Derek allows for the game to be displayed so detailed and vivid. Effects such as tall grass parting around your character is achievable because of that kind of thing not being in the game as well as the game engine itself being proprietary and perfected. As the demonstration went on, the frame rate for Age of Wushu was very stable and was quick, allowing the fast pace combat that Snail Games shows in the many trailers for Age of Wushu. Though unfortunately I wasn’t able to experience and deliberately frustrate myself with learning the combat system, just by all the details leading up to this alone shows the game’s potential. Anyone who is looking to break from the status quo of the standard MMOs and are looking to try something different should keep their eye on Age of Wushu.