Listening to Tree of Savior

Thanks to the wonderful lad and lasses over at Battle Bards, I have a much more deliberate appreciation for MMO soundtroacks. As a result, I try to either purchase or listen through a YouTube playlist of the music for whichever game I’m currently playing to get a better feel for what the soundtrack offers. When I first started playing Tree of Savior I really enjoyed the game’s soundtrack however it quickly became repetitive and I assumed it would be a bore to listen to independently. While it’s true, many tracks follow a similar enough beat to be indistinguishable, there are some noteworthy tracks in Tree of Savior. It’s a distinct style of music with much shallower variation than what you’d expect from a fantasy MMO but it’s fitting for the style of gameplay and I’ve enjoyed exploring the tracks I haven’t heard in game. If you would like a little taste, here are five of my favorite selected from this playlist, in no particular order.

Etnica

The Dignity of Wrath

Triste

Evil Blood

Omerta

Issue 10 in Screenshots

It’s no secret that reaching Tokyo slowed down my progression in The Secret World. The city itself wasn’t as compelling to explore as other zones have been and the constant loom of death threatening my character at every corner had me running past everything rather than closely observing it. Issue 10 has been a marked improvement, both with regard to the story elements at play and the environments. What I like about this area in Kaidan is the color palette used. Unlike the city which is mostly grey steel and concrete, this area incorporates stunning greens, pinks, reds, and oranges while still feeling melancholic. It’s all the colors of innocence lost, a fallen Eden, and I like the conflicting emotions it evokes.

I’m going to try and avoid giving away too many spoilers, but I will be sharing a series of screenshots depicting my journey through (almost) all of Issue 10 with some commentary. If you haven’t played through it and would like to experience it yourself first, you may want to skip this post. Otherwise here’s a peek at what the story and setting of Issue 10 has to offer.

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I love the way this screenshot captures the lush grass, pink blossoms, and traditional architecture against the backdrop of a more urbanized Tokyo. Looming above them both is a toxic, yellow-grey sky and the four-winged dragon beasts that I’ve seen pass over the city from time to time. I don’t know what they are, but I’m sure I’ll find out eventually.

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Here’s Jung, a young boy who is all alone at the Kindergarten in the Orochi housing compound. He’s one of the kids with special powers that the Orochi are so keen to recruit. Jung is eerie in that he is child-like and sad yet possessing a power so great it would give anyone a god complex. While I’m unsure of all the details, he confirmed my suspicions about Fear Nothing, the Morning Light, and the Orochi.

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Funcom likes to send player characters through these facilities that were once intended for children or teens but now are full of death and monsters. They are one of the more unsettling environments in The Secret World, second only to “The Parking Garage That Shall Not Be Named.”

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I thought this would be like that movie Cocoon so I jumped in the water and ran around. It did not end well for me.

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It turns out the bunny killer is a girl, so my theory that the ubiquitous John and the bunny are one and the same no longer holds water. She’s probably someone else from the Fear Nothing facility but unfortunately I’ve played this mission over such a long span of time that I can no longer recall the names of any girls that may have been foreshadowed as the killer. I vaguely remember a non-Japanese member of the club playing a prominent role in the storyline but I can’t remember what happened to her, she may already be dead.

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Unless it turns out to be Daredevil under that mask, I don’t see how anyone can be such a deadly assassin with no peripheral vision. And who makes bunny masks with a  permanent scowl? I did like this brief moment between my character and the bunny killer though. She seems to be either daring me to stop the assassinations she has planned, or is simply letting me know she has a schedule to maintain. Either way, I really like this character Funcom has created. I’m hoping I get to face her in combat wearing my Chad the Chipmunk mask.

Age of Wushu: Dynasty, First Impressions

Mobile MMOs aren’t something I actively seek out, but with the amount of traveling I’ve been doing lately and a failing battery in my laptop (recently replaced) it seemed an alternative worth exploring. LEGO minifigures was on my iPhone for some time until the 1.5 gb of storage required became too much and I had to remove it. It was a fun game though, and over a 3-4 month period I reached the end of the story and leveled a few minifigures to the cap. Having purchased it on Steam as well, I actually found the title better suited for mobile. It never offered the depth of gameplay found in most MMOs but as a mobile alternative I found it to be charming.

During my most recent travels, I noticed an ad on Massively OP for Age of Wushu: Dynasty, a mobile version of Snail’s Wuxia MMO by the same name, sans “Dynasty”. I’ve never played Age of Wushu (it’s on my list though) but was curious about Dynasty so I clicked the ad and was promptly taken to TaiChi Panda on the App Store, another one of Snail’s titles. Nice one, Snail.

After manually searching for Age of Wushu: Dynasty on the App Store I was able to download the game and take a look. To begin you have to create an account with Snail. After registering you’re provided with five schools to chose from with two being gender locked, the Shaolin and Emei. I chose the Royal Guard for my first character which uses a clawed chain, and the Tangmen for my second which uses twin daggers. Not a lot of description is provided on the selection screen so I just chose the ones with the weapon sets I liked best.

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Character customization is nil beyond choosing the gender and age— there is an adult and teen version for each gender which I thought was interesting. Each class does have a unique costume however and your appearance can be selected separately from the gear you are wearing in game, so you can keep this starting outfit indefinitely.

After choosing a class, gender, and name you can log into the game where the first prompt you’ll receive is to click a quest indicator on the left hand side of the UI in order to be autopathed to an NPC. This will lead to a tutorial sequence where combat and base gameplay functions will be explained. This autopathing and directed progression will be a running theme with Dynasty, many features being automated and only requiring a single click to initiate or complete.

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That’s cold, Wang. Somewhere, a newly orphaned ninja baby is crying shuriken tears.

Gameplay is straightforward with your character running from NPC, to questing location— often in a separate instance— back to NPC for turn in and more story dialogue, all of which will be navigated by the autopathing feature. The game does an excellent job walking you through the many features of the game, including equipping and upgrading gear, improving class abilities, learning the various movement skills, and progressively teaching the combat system. You may not know why you’re doing any of it, but by golly you’ll know how.

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Combat is interesting in theory but by level 10 has required very little effort, it’s mostly just mash buttons—especially the glowing ones— and win. There are three ability types available: overt, feint, and parry. Feint attacks will break through an opponents parry, parry will block your opponents overt attacks, and overt attacks are your basic abilities that will mostly be spammed and occasionally will offer a combo. At level 5 you even have the option to automate combat, meaning you can sit back and watch the game play itself. I’m not sure what the purpose of this is, but it’s useful for getting action screenshots.

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Surprisingly the cash shop has not been invasive or necessary as of yet. There appears to be an energy system (called vigor) at work which limits game time and can be bypassed through cash shop purchases. However unless this becomes more restrictive at higher levels, I’ve never used up all of my vigor and it appears to be unique by character rather than to the account as a whole which means if you do run out you could always continue playing with an alt. You also receive rewards for logging in, leveling, and for playing certain lengths of time which include potions that refill a portion of vigor and even cash shop currency.

So far I’ve played for no more than an hour or two and it’s been entertaining if nothing else. The gameplay is weaker than LEGO Minifigures and the UI is a cluttered mess— at least on an iPhone 6— that would make the game unplayable were not everything automated so efficiently. But the combat animations are fun to watch, the feint/parry/overt system at least has potential to become interesting at higher levels, and overall Dynasty more closely resembles a traditional MMO than Minifigures does with regard to progressing class skills and gear. It also has a longer lifespan given what Funcom’s recent financial report suggests, which saddens me a little. However if you’re curious about trying an MMO of the mobile variety, Age of Wushu: Dynasty is probably worth a look; for science if not for meaningful gameplay.