Age of Wushu is one of the newer free-to-play MMORPGs out there, and is trying to make a name for itself as a kung-fu RPG. Set during the Ming Dynasty in China, when the Feudal Empire reached the peak of power, the game offers two thousand years of ancient Chinese wuxia tradition.
"This game is not for the casual player. It is a hardcore, deep, huge game that takes a long time to learn."
Players begin by choosing which character prologue they want, which can range from a standard tale of seeking revenge for family deaths to one of humble beginnings and a desire to help the needy. After selecting their story of origin, players then dive into the expected character creation including name, gender, face, and hairstyle. Players aren't required to pick a specific class or job, but they are limited to one character per server. After a time, players choose one of eight schools to enroll in; these schools compete against each other, and players are expected to help spy on their rival schools. Once in the game, my foster father took me under his wing, thrusting me into the storyline and one of the game's "guide quests." Guide quests make players start a group, add friends, and join a guild. I appreciate the fact they are trying to teach players, but I felt the "You must have X friends to complete this task" aspect unnecessary. However, guide quests are extremely helpful in understanding certain game mechanics, including combat. In-game guides tell you which mouse buttons to click when icons pop up, yet fail to explain where things are or how to get there. Menus come up automatically, which may confuse players later when they need to do this on their own. Wushu throws a lot at new players without explaining much.
The game has an auto pathfinding tool, though it does not always work and players may need to find key NPCs on their own. This task is complicated by the fact NPCs are not shown on maps. Unlike other MMOs, NPCs are a bit more reactive to their surroundings. Players can crash into them, whereupon they will cry out "My toe!", "Are you drunk?", and other one-liners. When on a mount, NPCs are seen diving for cover.
One of the things this MMO does brilliantly and differently to any other MMO I've played is the player-run legal system. I've never been a fan of PvP, however, I can get on board with this. This is not an open-PVP world where players gank weak or new players. This game seems to house a different breed of PvP, where there are only duels for actual reasons. I love the fact players can place bounties on other players for killing them. Players can then can try and find these players, defeat them, and sesnd them to jail. Notices of fugitives that are close by appear at the top of the screen to help people find them. Players can decide whether to go on the good guy track or the bad guy track. You do get penalized for being thrown in jail, and if you build up enough infamy, you could be executed, which results in a major 24-hour debuff. I rather like the PvP consequences, rather then just killing people for the fun of it.
New abilities are awarded to players after they complete certain quests. Certain weapon abilities require Rage, which is built up by blocking or being hit. As Rage builds, small fire icons will light up below a player's health bar. Once Rage has been consumed by an ability, it's back to blocking or being hit. The combat is real-time, like that of TERA, but is much slower. Fighting is just a slow process in this game and could be sped up a bit. With no traditional levels, players grow by increasing their skills via "cultivation." This process largely runs in the background and is fueld by XP gained via questing and combat. Cultivating Internal Skills (which provides bonuses to various character attributes) is a simple process of activation, but players can cultivate their skills faster by using the "practice martial arts" or "team practice" options, both of which require doing a small mini-game. The environment can alter how effective their skill cultivation is. For example, a busy marketplace will not allow players to focus. While in-depth, the skill progression is dull and it can take upwards of four hours to cultivate just one skill.
An important aspect of combat and staying alive is nutrition and energy. If energy runs too low, the player will faint until revived. If a player faints during combat, the enemy will continue attacking until the player dies and the player can't do anything to stop it except call for help. An aspect usually overlooked by other MMOs is the human aspect of your character. By this I mean players have to eat to live, not necessarily eat to improve a certain feat. If players don't eat, then their HP continually drops until their hunger is satisfied or they simply faint and die. While a good idea, this is the most frustrating aspect of the game because it is just not explained well. It wouldn't be that big a deal if the player can just find a chef in town to buy food from, but you can't. Players have to learn how to cook from the chef first through a series of minigames. The player must beat the chef at these minigames to advance. Players can buy food from other people, however, they need that elusive unbound silver first.
Another area poorly explained involves the game's three different types of currency: bound silver, unbound silver, and gold. Bound silver is the currency players start out with and earn through completing quests, which can be used to buy items from NPCs and to be raised from the dead using on-site healing. However, it cannot be used to buy items from other players. Players can travel long distances by stagecoach or they can rent horses with bound silver. Unbound silver can be used to buy food and to buy items from other players. Players have a few options to earn unbound silver, including kidnapping, bounty hunting, selling crafting or other supplies to other players, or simply by converting their gold. Gold is acquired through a real cash shop on Snail's website. Players can use real money to buy mounts in the store if they choose.
Just because you log off doesn't mean your character is safe. I came online once to find that I had been kidnapped and sold, and starving. I seemed to be able to do instances as normal, but I had to pay a fee to free myself. I didn't have the cash, so I ate some buns and did a few instances. I'm not sure how this happened, besides remaining visible to players once I logged off.
Age of Wushu is overrun by real-money trade (RMT) spam. While all games suffer from this plague, Wushu lacks an ignore option and RMT runs rampant, with no end in sight. To make matters worse, only people with titles are allowed to chat, so new players have no way of asking for assistance or avoiding the never-ending spam. The chat is clunky at best, and in dire need of improvements.
Age of Wushu has enormous potential with unique concepts, but is overly complicated. This game is not for the casual player; it is a hardcore, deep, huge game that takes a long time to learn. I love the aspect of a player-run legal system with some breaking the law and having warrants out for their arrest, while others try to capture them. Even when talking to other players, they didn't seem to grasp the concept or even understand currency. If Age of Wushu wishes to continue on the same track, they need to explain more about critical game concepts including cultivation, money, and nutrition in-game.
In the beginning, I liked the game. Certain concepts like the player-run legal system got me interested and the fact your character is still wondering around when you log off were fascinating. However, the frustration and lack of direction made playing the game further an unattractive proposition. I want to play an MMO to have fun, not to hurt my brain in frustration. Overall, the positive parts of Age of Wushu were unfortunately not enough to counter the negatives, and the result is a slow-paced game that I have little desire to return to.