Swordsman Online First Thoughts

A few days ago we started playing Swordsman Online, which for me is an alternate to STO (but “the next thing” for my gaming buddies). This game is evidently relatively new to North America but has been around for a while in Asia, in a sense it’s similar to traditional fantasy-themed MMORPGs, but with some uniquely Asian elements that can be jarring to North American players. To me though, it’s refreshing, and here are my first impressions:

ShuangShuang02

A rooftop view of the town. Isn’t this pretty?

PROS:

  • It’s damned pretty, even though from what I’ve read, is not uncommon with Asian-developed MMORPGs. The scenery is breathtaking; the graphic models of buildings and landscape feel authentic of Ming-China.
  • Character customization is fun — you can definitely make some funky-looking toons with it!
  • Animations/Emotes are amazing. Movement animations are smooth and graceful; best of all are the interactive emotes — no more faking holding hands! This game actually allows you to do that. It’s amazing how little emotes like that help with RP and immersion.
  • If you know the source material, it adds a whole level of texture to the game — Louis Cha’s wuxia novels are considered modern day classics, widely read and well-loved; the Swordsman novel in particular has had many TV and movie adaptations. If you lived in a Chinese-speaking region of the world, you would be hard-pressed to find anyone who doesn’t know anything about the novel.
  • Leveling — at least, at the lower levels — goes quick. A lot of the quests are easy — go talk to this guy, done! — and so far even the grinding isn’t so bad. Hint: Grinding is a lot easier if you’re teamed up with friends.
  • I love the music in this game! The dev hired a well-known Chinese musician Ricky Ho to compose the soundtrack, and the quality definitely shows. Take a look:

CONS:

  • Player control is kinda difficult, with way too many keys to worry about. I’m finding it very hard to keep an opponent in front of me, when everyone is jumping and running around.
  • Now I did say the game is pretty, and I understand the anime-style is popular, but there might be entirely too much anime influence here. The thing that I find most glaring are some of the extremely revealing clothes for female toons; some of them will make Ming-Chinese prostitutes blush!
  • While the landscape is beautiful, many areas are filled with huge crowds of mooks (mobs) you need to kill, who also respawn at an alarming rate. This feature gives a very “game-ish” feel and really breaks immersion; it also renders many parts of the landscape uninhabitable since you can’t even stop to admire the scenery.
  • The tutorials are extremely minimal. I barely got gear upgrades and socketing to work, and still completely lost with Skill Mastery, combo-styles and crafting,
  • The game takes Just a tad too much artistic license in some areas. The wuxia novels are fantasy by design, but they don’t veer into the western definition of fantasy. For instance, there are definitely no crawling undead giants or militant pandas in the wuxia genre, and their inclusion in-game is a bit of a head-scratch.

As a point of interest aside, the translations are iffy but forgivable; it’s nigh impossible to translate some of the cool-sounding Chinese names into English and expect them to have the same impact. For example, the character “東方不敗” is translated as “East the Invincible” — well, yes, it’s a transliteration rather than a transcription, but you really can’t take a person’s name and literally translate each word. It’s like translating the name “Robin Smith” to “Red-Bird Metal-worker”, which can be a bit jarring.

Right now this is an interesting alternative to STO. I’m sure as I learn more about the game I will have new perceptions of it. Stay tuned for some information on my toon on Swordsman Online!

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