A different take on the fantasy MMO...
Do you remember Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon? Well, imagine that movie as an MMO. Imagine people jumping 40ft into the air, gracefully kicking each other with exaggerated martial arts moves and pirouetting down from historic Chinese architecture. Well, thats what Age of Wulin (Age of Wushu in the US) is like. Its a massive Chinese MMO that's been several years in the making. We've seen it and we're impressed. So let us show you why it's worth keeping an eye on...
It looks beautiful
better than Final Fantasy: A Realm Reborn if we had to make a decisive visual summation. It runs on loer-spec PCs, but doesn't appear to suffer from the shadow draw-in issues of the Final Fantasy MMO. It's beautiful, expansive and varied. It's free-roaming too - jump off a bridge way above a valley and you'll glide down to the floor and continue unabated.
It's fantastic but based on reality
The game is set in the 14th Century and is based on Chinese literature. But while the locations and clothing are realistic, the gameplay itself adds some fantasy elements (like the aforementioned mega-jumps) to ensure things are kept more interesting than real life. Story-wise, there are four settings, each of which giving you a different home city.
The game takes place around 8 schools
From familiar Shaolin and Wu-Tang schools through to some new, original disciplines, schools each have some 45 different fighting skills to master. Learning skills requires meditation, which can happen in real-time or sped up by visiting areas of intense spiritual significance, such as an enchanted area of forest. You can also strive to become the elder of your school, through being voted in by your fellow players.
You can kidnap your mates
If it all sounds a bit arty farty, rest assured theres plenty of mischief to be enjoyed. While youre not online, your character will become an NPC and continue living in the game world. You can trade with these away-player NPCs, or do something a bit more extreme, like kidnap them and hold them to ransom. Your actions might pay off, or you might get arrested, in which case youll need your friends to break you out of jail.
How does 130 square kilometres sound to you?
That's how big the game world is. But don't worry about losing loads of on-foot progress if you die. you can go to a healer or a hospital in the nearest town, but you can also call on your teammates to heal you. Healing a player can also get you good reputation points which can please your chosen school, so it helps to help out.
It's a big world but full of people
The Chinese server for the game is already in beta stage, but English, French and German servers will be set up for the European launch, each supporting 13,000 players. That number isnt just a bullet-point for the box, either. You will be able to wage war with 1,299 other players simultaneously as you fight for control of one the 40 Guild Castles on the map. Thats 400 vs 400 in terms of two guilds, plus 250 players of drafted-in help for each side. Yowser.
It's a grown-up world but not adult-themed
The game never overtly states that any of its themes are adult, although certain mature themes are implied, like in the missions where you have to free women from 'Flower Houses'. The game has yet to be rated but could be granted a 12 or similar.
Your character has their own life even while you're not playing
The game is extraordinarily pretty for an MMO and the progression system of schools, moves and jobs seems a lot very rewarding from what we've seen, especially seeing as each discipline has its own code of conduct you can adhere to or rebel against. The idea of your character working for you when youre not playing is a great way to avoid the grind, too.
An air of reverence that's rare in MMOs
Age of Wulin will go into beta in Europe early this year. If youre looking for something fantastical that doesnt involve orcs and goblins, this looks well worth checking out.