The End of an Age (of Wushu)

I wish I had been able to experience Age of Wushu when it initially launched. So much of what has been missing from my experience would be alleviated by the presence of other players yet I’ve seen only one, and that in Shaolin, the entire time I’ve been playing. I really enjoy the setting, the world building, and the clunky yet strategic combat system but for a sandbox world intended to be played with others, the loneliness is palpable.

Perhaps there were others online, but they were all on some end game continent that I would eventually reach in a few months, but with the way Age of Wushu plays, I desperately needed other players right away. Or perhaps if I had found a player run stall or marketplace where I could have purchased some of the items I needed, I would have been able to manage, however if such stalls were available I was unable to identify them and the only marketplace UI I found appeared to have nothing in it.

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Maybe I’m just missing something all together, something that would readily be fixed with a little research but to what end? Ultimately that’s what lead me to the decision to pass on Age of Wushu and give Black Desert another try, the realization that I was fighting an uphill battle with a game that apparently did not want me to play it for an experience I could have been getting elsewhere and easier. Yes, that’s right. Age of Wushu makes Black Desert’s systems appear simple and user friendly by comparison.

So what lead to this realization? A few things really but it all began with bag space. After the 48 hour waiting period my Shaolin character was finally deleted and I was able to start over as a Tangmen. With the offline cultivation from the Jianghu VIP service I was able to elevate my inner skills to 10 which along the way opened up my school storyline. This meant that I was not left feeling quite as directionless as I had been before.

At this point I was having a good time with the game despite feeling the limitations from an 18 slot item bag. I had learned from my first play through not to open any of the bags of goodies I received for leveling or being a new player because they quickly crowded my inventory space. Better to hold onto them until later when additional bags become available and my inventory was expanded. I even checked the cash shop for bags and they were available— $12 for 36 additional slots in all four tabs— but the price was for a 30 day rental of said bags so that was not an option.

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A little research and I realized I could either make them as a tailor or buy them from another player. With no other players in sight I went to town to learn to make my own. Here in lies another problem though. I also needed to be able to cook my own food to keep my nutrition levels up and already had the skill but I was not able to learn both cooking and tailoring. What’s more, my cooking profession and the farming skill required to harvest cooking materials plus the quest rewards I was receiving created a never ending mini game of “what else can I discard.”

Suffice it to say, the combination of having to be self reliant in a game built around cooperation and the lack of sufficient storage lead me to the realization that despite my interest in Age of Wushu, the end result was not going to be worth the struggle, not on an apparently dead server anyway. And with Snail Games tying the Jianghu VIP service to the server and not the account, switching to see if another server was more populated was not an option. I would have even considered buying the baggage space were it permanent at that price but not as a rental.

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Instead, I decided to cut my losses and give Black Desert another try. They’re vastly different and as I said I would have liked to have been apart of Age of Wushu when it first began. So much of what I experienced would have been different when other players were prevalent and trading, guilding, and mutual protection was readily available. I will miss Grandma Tang and seeing the beggars and street sweepers in town, and I’ll have to go elsewhere if I want to kidnap another player whilst they’re offline, but otherwise Age of Wushu simply made it too difficult for me to get into the game. From the limited baggage space, the lack of other players, and a subscription style service tied to a specific server, the effort wasn’t going to be worth the reward. And that’s unfortunate, because underneath it all Age of Wushu appears to be an MMO that I would really like have liked to explore.

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My First Two Days in Age of Wushu

Not long after posting on Age of Wushu: Dynasty I downloaded the client for the original title on my laptop, eager to give the game a try. My primary reservation to Age of Wushu in the past had to do with the open PvP nature of the game however the mobile version had me interested in the combat, the progression, and the action animations had me hungry for some Wuxia style combat. However from the moment I logged in it turned out to be a great big mess. Despite my first two days being almost entirely negative, I’m still determined to push further into what the game has to offer.

So what went wrong? What didn’t go wrong would be easier to describe. The first hurtle I ran into was in downloading the client itself. Navigating to the Wushu website was easy enough, but then once there I had to create a folder of my own and download ten listed files into that folder. Only after this was completed was I able to use any kind of installation program. Although unusual, it was simple and painless. In very little time I was staring at the launcher ready to log in to my account with Snail.

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During those first few steps into the game I selected a server, the Golden Panda, a backdrop of some kind (which it repeatedly asked me to choose every log in until I realized how to make it stop), and then I was prompted to make my first character. Customization was limited which I was expecting and after tweaking the few options available to me I was able to choose one of eight Kung Fu schools to join followed by a main storyline to progress through. Quizzically, when I created a character on another server the story was the first thing I chose and it was presented as an animated library and my school was not selected until I was past the tutorial. Why the difference, I have no idea.

The first twenty minutes or so of gameplay went smoothly, although they were a bit confusing. Age of Wushu features a combat system that is antiquated but has an interesting “rock, paper, scissors” twist to it. The storyline began exactly how I expected it would with my character meeting an old master, facing off against the big bad, and ultimately turning out to be a hero with untapped super-human Kung Fu potential. And then the tutorial was respectable despite the many complex systems being introduced. When I ran through it all a second time I was able to pick up on even more but even the first run through was enough to get started.

Eventually I reached a point where I was shuffled off to my school of choice—the Shaolin—where combat was taught for a second time along with a few of the other progression systems in Wushu which I’m not going to even begin to describe. However about twenty or thirty minutes into my time with the Shaolin I turned in a quest to the head of the school, the Abbot and then… nothing. No quest popped up, no prompt to move to a different part of the map or to go back to the starter village, just nothing. So I asked another player nearby who had been vocal in chat and he was also unable to explain the sudden tutorial silence. “Just do whatever you want, go explore,” he said and so I did to no avail.

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I get that this is a sandbox game, but it seemed pretty clear to me that the game either did a terrible job indicating it was time for me to leave the nest or (far more likely) just didn’t complete the tutorial experience and left me at a loss as to where I could pick it back up. I ran all over the school grounds, clicked on nearly every NPC, and even explored the surrounding area where I had a right good time punching things in the face until even tougher things spawned that I would also punch in the face but even more. Faces were punched all around and I enjoyed it but I still had no clue what I was doing.

I googled everything I could on the new player experience, the Shaolin, the tutorial sequence but nothing helped. At that point I tried a couple of things in desperation. Firstly, and quite impulsively, I bought the VIP status for 30 days for the low, low price of $9. My whopping 18 slot bag was constantly filling up, mostly with the free crap they were giving me at the beginning as a “gift” and I (wrongly) assumed that being a VIP member would help with my storage woes. It did not.

Secondly, I went ahead and focused on leveling up my Inner skills or whatever they’re called until they reached level 5 as I remembered reading somewhere that this unlocked other options. It’s another reason why I went with the VIP service because it would allow me to continue training them while I was offline. Reaching level 5 did open up a few new quest options, but not the school storyline or main storyline that I was hoping for and that the game was telling me I had yet to complete. I still felt like I was lacking the second half of the tutorial experience.

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In frustration I decided to start over again with a character on a different server. I would have rerolled on the same server but you can only have one character at a time and deleting that character requires a 48 hour waiting period before creating a new one, even if you have the VIP membership. About twenty minutes into my second play through I was feeling much better about both the complex progression system and the school I had chosen, the Tangmen. Then I noticed something. The bonuses I should have been receiving for having the VIP subscription weren’t active, in fact the game was telling me I did not have the service at all. It turns out it only applies to the server you were on when you first purchased it.

That should have been the straw that broke the camel’s back—and it almost was— but there’s something alluring about this game and I really wanted to continue playing, so instead of rage quitting, I went ahead and deleted my Shaolin character on Golden Panda and prepared to wait the two days before starting fresh with the Tangmen on the correct server. This is probably one of the worst starting experiences I’ve ever had with an MMO and why I’m still determined to play it is either a testament to the game’s intriguing systems or my own stubborn streak. Either way I’m going to go a little further before calling it quits.

I did write a letter to Snail USA letting them know that I was stuck on one character and irritated that the paid VIP service only applied to one server even though this was never stated (at least that I saw) at the time of purchase. Their response was quick, which I applaud, but it was clearly written by someone using google translate to provide a response in English which I though odd given that this was supposedly the western office for the Chinese publisher. As was expected, it was not a helpful reply, merely a request that I provide more information about where I was stuck and confirming that yes, the VIP service was just for one server.

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Hopefully in a couple of days I’ll have something more positive to write about with regard to Age of Wushu, but for now I’m in limbo. I still have about 24 hours left to wait before I can play the character I want on the server with the VIP membership I paid for because that makes all kinds of sense. Maybe Snail is just preparing me for the end game in Age of Wushu. By the time I get back in the game and reach the point where I can be openly killed by another player character, I’ll be ready for the kill or be killed scenario. I mean, two days in and I’ve already been griefed by the developer. How much worse could the players be?