Currently in beta, I invite you to discover the new martial arts game from Perfect World: Swordsman.
But before we dive into medieval China, a little history is needed to retrace the difficult past of this game which is not that new. Indeed, it was initially announced in June 2010 on the occasion of E3. 4 years ago almost to the day, we were able to discover the trailer for a promising game, based on Perfect World's in-house engine, Angelica III. And since then, there has been great silence. It was not until March 2014 that the project rose from its ashes, presented with great fanfare.
Revenge has no limit in Jianghu. The ten big schools all want power. Rigor has competed with originality for years. Jianghu is entering a bloody decade. Only a true hero can be victorious and dominate the Jianghu forever.
The character creation screen surprises with its whiteness and simplicity. Indeed, there is no race or class to choose here, we just create a man or a woman and personalize their physical characteristics.
There are many options, generally allowing you to create whatever you want. The Advanced Settings button provides access to the model's gauges, allowing her to create a huge bust and tiny legs. Watch out for the monsters!
Once you have chosen your name, the adventure can begin! I present to you a new Onidra:
The first time you connect, the interface can be a bit scary. We immediately find ourselves with various windows open and a first choice to make: the control mode. Indeed, Swordsman is played in 3 different ways.
Once the mode chosen (I recommend the 3D mode), we close the windows and we finally discover the interface.
And there, we remember that the game is 4 years old. There's no denying it, the interface is dated and a bit messy.
At the top, a long bar gives us different information on the time of day, the area where we are, our character, the level, the experience gained. There are also the first menus: info, mail, heroes and teleportation.
At the top right, the small arrow hides the list of quests. The same arrow style at the bottom left allows you to hide chat channels.
Along the right edge, there is a second menu, allowing access to the game's features: character sheet, inventory, techniques, quests, team, friend list, social, market, achievements, rankings and settings. The names are pretty self-explanatory, I think. A good point despite the appearance of the interface: all windows can be freely moved. Small demonstration with all the menu windows open:
Convenient: windows remember where you put them after closing / opening.
Travel and interactions
The character conventionally advances with the keyboard or the mouse, depending on the chosen game mode.
Very practical feature for lazy people: just click on the name of an NPC in the current quest on the right for our character to go there automatically. It will not necessarily take the shortest path (following the roads very conscientiously) but you can during this time go and make yourself a coffee! And if you get lost (have to do it anyway), there are even little arrows to indicate where to go. Isn't life beautiful?
This feature is really vital on busy days. Go find the NPC in this crowd without!
Likewise, if we click on an object that has a quest objective, then our character will automatically activate, break or take it. No need to look for where it is in the scenery!
From level 8-9, things speed up with our first mount: a horse (bay or chestnut)! And what's great is that the horse is automatically summoned when we click on a distant NPC: our character clings to his mount and jumps in the saddle! As you can see on the tooltip below, it is 2 places. Convenient for walking around with friends. It can also speed up (although I don't find that obvious).
Once in your school (maybe before but this is where I first noticed this feature via a quest), it is also possible to teleport directly to the location of your choice by addressing a teleporter NPC. Note that if we are near a teleporter and we must go to an NPC in a very remote area, the game automatically teleports us there by clicking on the NPC.
The quests are to be taken from NPCs with an exclamation mark above the head and returned to those with a question mark. It is also possible to talk to those who have a small bubble.
I say the quests but in fact I could just as well say the quest. Indeed, the missions are linked and I always had only one quest to do until level 13 (school quest). It's rather classic: kill x monsters, interact with an element of the scenery or bring back y elements. However, all of the quests are scripted and interspersed with action cutscenes. Initially, our character is pursued by the vengeance of Zoh Tin, the son of the Grandmaster of the School of Eminence and will do everything to escape, not yet feeling strong enough to fight.
Until the moment when confrontation is necessary. The moment when we jump from roof to roof is particularly enjoyable. We feel here totally immersed in ninja movies!
A certain originality also for this quest where I am in a trance and the elements in which I am interested are colored while the rest of the world remains gray.
Towards level 5, you have to choose your school. There are 9 schools you can join (two schools are gender specific, so you won't be able to join 1 of the 10 available). The choice is not obvious so take a good look at the small animations to see the fighting style.
For my part, I chose the school of Harmony, the idea of the swordsman appealed to me rather well.
Equipment and refining
I haven't taken the time to focus on crafting (if it exists) but it is possible to refine its equipment to level it up (to level 10 or 11). The button is accessible from the inventory (Improvement). Once there, right click on the object you want to improve, refinement stones (there are different levels) and presto, the equipment is improved.
The pieces that can be equipped are rather classic with spaces that will be unlocked later (amulet and ring at level 20, pendant at level 25). As a Harmony swordsman, of course I carry a two-handed sword!
Since you are certainly sensitive to your character's appearance, rest assured you won't have to sacrifice your style for stats. A mode system allows equipment to be put without statistics. Our first set is given to us when we arrive at our school.
Here is my character on the right in his combat outfit and on the left with his Peacock dress and his peacock Hairpin (which changes the hairstyle) for a disciple of Harmony.
At the start, we only have two abilities: a technique at will (on either side of the portrait below) and a power. As you advance through the quests and choose your school, you gain new abilities. But even at level 60, you can only have a limited number of abilities in your shortcuts (a priori 1 technique at will and 9 powers), making the choice particularly strategic! The techniques are linked to a fighting style. Our first style is a starting style, automatically configured by the game, in my case Harmony fencing. The other two shaded styles will be available at levels 20 and 40.
But if I don't like this style, I can very well create a custom one and combine different techniques to choose my way of fighting!
When we raise our Rage enough, we can launch a particularly destructive special technique which depends on our school.
Finally, we have utility skills, some passive and others related to quests that we will get as we progress.
As the levels progress, we have the possibility of increasing the capacities of our choice.
All of these techniques have zones of effect, telegraphs. Although we can target our enemy (depending on the control mode chosen), it is necessary to be within range for our technique to bear fruit.
The fights are classic but rather fast. So far, enemies don't last long in front of me and die with just a few hits. The only defeat is scripted, a big bad too strong for me who forces the masters of the big schools who accompany me to channel their Ki on me in order to allow me to beat him.
Suddenly, we move quickly for our greatest pleasure. The animations are also rather nice.
And if we have taken damage, a little meditation and a few seconds later, we leave!
The majority of fights take place outdoors, in competition with other players. I was not able to see if the loot and the deaths were counted for each player who participated in the fight but the question does not arise when it is an important element of the story: we go into a personal history phase.
The combat becomes all the more dynamic with the obtaining of the Rush, at level 10, allowing to dodge the attacks by pressing twice on a key of displacement. And don't expect a small side step, it's a real leap to take our character.
The same goes for the jumps, which are particularly impressive. Without forgetting once again the cutscenes that make the arrival and death of enemies much more epic.
In short, from classic fights, we arrive at rather dynamic fights and perfectly in keeping with the theme of the game: action, laughter and tears, all in excess!
The store is already present on the game. It is difficult for the moment to judge its importance, not knowing enough the game to know. According to the categories, we have nothing absolutely necessary, finding the usual frames and outfits. To see then if the proposed improvements (stone of extraction, embedding and charm of inlay and gems) are recoverable in a satisfactory way in game so as not to give too big an advantage to the players spending real money.
When I first launched the game, the interface and the somewhat dated appearance did not make me want to continue. Especially since I had activated the Action control mode (similar to Neverwinter) which I personally find unplayable. Since I had to do the preview, I persevered and tested another control mode: a great idea! After returning to the more classic 3D mode, and advancing in the quests, I gradually took pleasure in immersing myself in the world of martial arts with guys who jump from roof to roof, enemies who arrive in waves, flowers that trip the big bad or my character who escapes by flying on a hang-glider.
The cutscenes are well found, we really feel like a hero embarked on a dark scheme between martial arts schools and the levels are linked without being aware of it.
I am well aware of having only scratched the surface of this game, which is still in beta, through the first 20 levels (out of a maximum of 60). I haven't had a chance to try out PvE instances or PvP yet. However, I can't wait to find out more. If you find a key, I can only advise you to take a look at Swordsman, which will be offered under a free-to-play model anyway that will allow you at the time of the open beta to test! The only thing that might currently prevent me from playing it on output is the inability to bind keys on the numeric keypad (which I use for all of my main attacks).