With the semester winding down I played a chunk of Age of Wushu the Martial Arts MMO that released on April 10. It has a lot to recommend it, including what appears to be significant depth, a big world, very nice graphics and some significant sandbox elements. Its learning curve is very steep, and understanding the game is additionally hindered by sometimes dodgy translation, a lack of (English) online resources and a UI that is both complicated and not always intuitive (but well above the average for Asian MMOs.)
Westerners, at least the old, grumpy kind who are set in the ways they’ve been doing things forever and hate having to learn new stuff, may find they have a hard time with Age of Wushu — it is very significantly different from the western MMO play experience, both because it is an unconventional sandbox and because it’s from offshore. Nevertheless, I judge that while its appearance of great depth may be fooling me, it may also be worth the effort. I have already given it more time than I have any other Korean or Chinese MMO, and I haven’t written it off yet.
Weirdly, though, Age of Wushu reminds me of a game designed in North America but recently bought by the Chinese — Star Trek Online. Which is not a sandbox in any sense but is so complex that it sometimes looks like one in the right light. Both games are well above the MMO average in terms of complexity. STO is easier to get into by quite a bit, but that’s largely because it’s been out for a while and there are plenty of English-language guides out there if you get stuck or confused. Both have a baroque quest setup with different kinds of missions and objectives, some of them delivered like traditional quests and some of them not. Both are also rich in minigames, although AoW’s are, as far as I can see, better integrated into the virtual world.
Playing Age of Wushu made me want to play Star Trek Online, when I got a little frustrated with it. But Age of Wushu, while it does have crutches like fast travel on short cooldowns, does have the stronger and more atmospheric virtual world. Which in turn made me think, again, of Vanguard.
I haven’t been playing much of anything at all, but I currently have twelve MMOs — true MMOs, not stuff like World of Tanks — installed on my PC. Which to be honest is way too many, but I’m fickle. The issue that arises is when a game like Age of Wushu or EVE Online or Star Trek Online or Vanguard makes and appearance in my personal Weltanschauung, one that really demands, if one’s to even approach the game’s potential, greater dedication over an extended period than I have put into any single game for any length of time. With maybe one exeption for World of Warcraft, but that’s one of the (now) many MMOs that doesn’t require any dedication.
This is frustrating for me personally, and my life as it stands won’t let that change anytime soon. So I rejoice that there is such a deep-looking game as Age of Wushu, but I’m sad that I’ll never get as much out of it as those happy few who can commit themselves to it will.