Last Friday Liore published a post on her return to World of Warcraft that caught my attention. It wasn’t that she was playing WoW again, lots of people do that, but rather the way she described its place in her gaming habits that got me thinking. Liore begins by stating that she always has two games she’s playing at any given time; one that demands a greater deal of attention, usually with an engrossing story and involved gameplay elements, and another that can be played with one eye on the computer monitor and the other on a TV show.
I can definitely relate to this desire to have an engaging gameplay experience as well as a relaxing one, and I think that’s why I’ve settled on playing Blade and Soul alongside The Secret World as of late. One of the reasons I’ve slowed down in playing TSW has been due to the intensity of the game. It’s a remarkable MMO with excellent story and combat but it is also an exhausting game to play. There are nights when I sit down at my computer and simply do not have the energy to complete an investigation mission or battle an army of werewolves (be careful, don’t pull that other one over…crap.) Those are the nights I’ve started playing Blade and Soul with its colorful atmosphere and easy leveling process.
Now that I’ve seen someone else write down this balance in a way that really resonates with me, I think I am going to be more intentional about maintaining that balance. For now, The Secret World will be the game I am engaging more intently while Blade and Soul will be a far more casual affair. And when Black Desert launches I think I will approach it in much the same way, as it sounds like a game where you can just go out and mindlessly grind mobs or spend time fishing on your boat.
I think it’s important to note that “intense” doesn’t mean time consuming, as I can have quick one or two mission sessions in The Secret World. And “relaxing” doesn’t mean I’m not invested, with sandboxes like Black Desert requiring quite a lot of hours played in order to get your characters established. Either way can take up either more or less of my weekly allotted MMO time, depending on which approach I prefer at that moment. Looking back on my gaming habits this past year, I can see how my preference for one or the other type of MMO gameplay has shifted back and forth and back again over time. So I’m going to be more intentional with this “rule of two,” and try to make sure I have a game to play when I want to be focused, and a game to play when I want to put things on auto-path without worrying about which approach I’m favoring more.
One of my pet peeves in an MMO is when they give you a weapon to replace your normal skill set and it’s cumbersome or boring. If I have stayed with a class for hours of gameplay it is because I like the way the combat plays out, so if a game is going to take me away from what I enjoy, it should be for something better (it never is). I understand wanting to change things up but seriously, make it interesting developers or don’t even bother.
You would think a game like Blade and Soul, which is praised for its combat more than any other feature would just avoid this all together or at the very least save it for later on in the game but nope, around level 10 the game was already handing me a one-click flame thrower to clear out mobs in a cave. That wasn’t the end of it either; over the next four levels I had to use two other temporary weapons—a spear gun and a torch—neither of which added much to the game. Thankfully the torch was more of an “opener” used to rack up a little damage before going into combat as usual but with everything still being fresh and every encounter an opportunity to solidify combos to muscle memory, I would much rather go about my business as usual.
“All clear sir, no demon crabs in sight on this beach.”
For this to have worked in Blade and Soul, I think the developers would have needed to play to their strengths by making a simple set of abilities that could be used in a combo. If I could have used my flame thrower in a series of abilities that ended up with a stun, knock back, or larger flame attack (and maybe damaged myself for messing up the combo? Flame throwers aren’t exactly safe to play with, kids) then I would have been okay with the change, but to take me out of an interesting combat system and give me the one-click wonder? No thanks. It should also happen much later in the leveling experience. I’m sure by the 30s and 40s players might welcome a secondary set of abilities attached to a new weapon to play around with. It would need to be usable for longer than a brief quest of “kill ten pandas” to be worthwhile and making it optional would also be a win in my book, but too early in the game and I don’t think players are ready for the change; I’m certainly not.
Am I the only one who feels this way? What do you all think about MMOs that make you use a different weapon and skillset than your typical class abilities?
When I downloaded the client for Blade and Soul, it was with the understanding that I had no long term interest in the game, I simply wanted to kick the tires and take it for a spin around the block. Having played for about a week now, I am enjoying the game quite a bit more than expected, but still see no real future. That’s okay though, not everything has to be a lifetime commitment and who knows? Given enough time I might find myself at level cap with at least one character, not that I have any aspirations to do so.
In fact, that’s one of the things I find so enjoyable about playing Blade and Soul; with no real interest in staying long term, there’s a lot of freedom in how I spend my time in game. For example, when I was creating my first (and later second) character, I was a far more experimental than I would generally be with a first character. For example, when I made my Gon Kung Fu master I decided to give him purple skin and raspberry hair, a descendant of the great, Grape Ape. Later, when I was making a Lyn Blade Dancer (why are they the only race that can play this class?!?) I went all kinds of crazy and ultimately ended up with a cross between Tom Selleck and Sonic the Hedgehog.
And there have been other advantages to playing an MMO that I have no real future with. Inventory space in this game is a premium with items I have no idea whether or not I’ll need them in the future quickly taking up all my space. No worries though, since I’m just passing by I vendor that junk and move on because I won’t stick around long enough to regret it. With a game I’m really committed to, I generally try to be thorough—reading quest text and exploring as much of each zone as I can (at least until higher levels when I get antsy to reach the end) but I don’t really care with Blade and Soul. Sometimes I listen to the voice actors but mostly I skip through and get back to the pew pew.
I like setting down roots in the MMOs I play and I’m not looking to change that in The Secret World or in Black Desert when it releases next month. But in a game like Blade and Soul where my interest is marginal it actually makes for a relaxing experience. Perhaps what I should take from this is that even in MMOs I do enjoy and plan to stay with for the long haul I should relax a little. Go ahead and give that character pink pigtails and a lobster tattoo. Skip that boring fetch quest and don’t worry about completing every last thing in a zone. And for the love of all that is sacred in this virtual world, stop eyeing the end game as if it’s going to disappear if I don’t get there quick enough.
How long will I be playing Blade and Soul? I can’t say for sure but I’ve got a feeling February 29th will be the last time I look at the game for a while. But until then, I’m going to enjoy playing as a tiny blue squirrel-man and go beat up some bandits. After all, what’s the point of playing games if you can’t have a little fun?