Age of Wushu Hands-on Preview from E3 2012 -- I Know MMO Kung FuBy Stephen Johnson - Posted Jun 14, 2012
The most important question I had regarding martial-arts based MMO Age of Wushu was simple: Can I join the Wu Tang Clan? Ever since I was a nipper watching 1970s chop-socky flicks on Saturday morning television, I’ve longed to connect with the legendary house of rowdy Kung Fu miscreants. Plus, maybe Old Dirty Bastard is still hanging around. The answer: Yes, I can join up with the Wu Tang. Day one download for me.
Age of Wushu plops players in an idealized version of Feudal China where you can adventure, train, and otherwise live your Kung Fu dreams through the power of MMOs.
A free-to-play game that has a big buzz in China, Wushu is different from most MMOs. It offers no magic system, no classes, no spells, and no elves. Instead, it concerns itself with the legendary powers of the ancient martial artists. Yeah, you can walk on water and throw fireballs, but it’s not magic, technically. Think of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon as an MMO, and you have some idea of the Age of Wushu vibe.
Upon entering the world, I was immediately taken with the unique art style. Instead of fairy-tale Tolkien, you get a fairy tale China. The bright, colorful pagodas and Asian landscapes are beautiful and exotic, although most of my demo took place in a fully drawn city full of NPCs.
Speaking of, the NPCs, in Wushu most NPCs aren’t NPCs in a traditional sense. Instead, they’re mostly players who logged off. When you log off, you don’t disappear, you stay around as a MOB. So if my character, Long Duck Dong, were to log off while outside a restaurant, he would be seen by your character roaming around as a waiter there.
You could even interact with The Donger perhaps giving him a gift of some gold…or perhaps you are a member of the aforementioned, evil Wu Tang Clan and you’d rather kidnap an innocent waiter. Age of Wushu allows you to drug and steal logged off players, then sell them into slavery. When the kidnapped character logs back in, they’ll have to fight their way out or pay a ransom. This should keep griefers occupied, and since no one can take your stuff, human trafficking shouldn’t be too much of a hassle.
Combat skills are unlocked with points you acquire through combat, either PvP or PvE, and anyone can learn any skill he/she would like, if you have the points to spend on it. You learn skills from NPCs scattered throughout China, or through joining one of the game’s eight schools of martial arts; that’s where the Wu Tang come in.
If you’re a goody-goody, you can pledge allegiance to the Shaolin, or game’s six other, less legendary schools of martial arts. Some of the quests involve school vs. school, PvP rivalry and the theft of skill books from one group by another--classic karate movie action!
Once you’ve locked down your skills, combat is timed-cooldown style, with rock-paper-scissor elements--some skills perfectly counter others, while some defenses work poorly against certain kinds of attacks. Standard MMO stuff, but it’s pulled off pretty well here. While the combat is essentially turn-based, it’s frantic and fast enough to feel “real,” and you can even link moves together in combos. Not bad for a free-to-play game; not bad at all.
At E3, I entered an arena with another player, and we both mashed buttons for awhile, like two white-belts at a JCC Karate class, until eventually the match ended with no clear winner determined While it was clear that I’d need a lot of training before I was a long-mustached master of mystical Oriental combat arts, it was fun anyway.
Age of Wushu also offers a trade and crafting system that brings something unique to the MMO world. Trades are inter-dependent, so in order to craft weapons as a blacksmith, you’ll need a connection to ore, IE: a miner. Luckily, Wushu gives you a chance to sell items when you’re not playing. Just log off and you automatically set up shop; no auction house needed.
Age of Wushu is planned as a free-to-play game, and it’s currently in beta in China. Release is planned for Q3 or early Q4 2012 in the United States.