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.

Framed: A Review

I don’t delve into the world of mobile gaming too much, but a while ago when Joystiq was still a thing and the site produced a weekly podcast I heard about the game “Framed” developed by Loveshack. Recently it went on sale so I went ahead and lavishly spent a dollar on the title and I’ve been slowly playing through the levels. My encounter with the game makes me miss the Super Joystiq podcast and its hosts all the more, it was a great group of journalists and the only place I frequented to learn about games other than MMOs.

The concept of Framed is simple, you’re aiding two protagonists of a film noir tale by rearranging the frames of a comic book page so that the story ends in their favor. As far as narrative goes, this means you are maneuvering the frames in such a way that the authorities and an antagonist I like to call “Mr. Sideburns” are eluded. Mechanically, you are changing the order, rotating the frames, and even reusing previous frames so that you can navigate the hero and heroine to safety.

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In this level I had to reuse several frames repeatedly to ensure that the heroine was always sneaking above, below, or behind the law enforcement officers chasing her.

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You can see here how the top, middle frame in the first picture is now in the top left with the policeman uh, taking a nap. Yes, that’s what happened…

Having played through several levels I don’t see the replay value for this game, but even a single play through is well worth the dollar I spent and then some. Now if you’re expecting the Sin City styling of Frank Miller, Framed will be a poor substitute with regard to artwork and storytelling, but the game mechanics are really clever and the art assets are still attractive in their own way. The biggest criticisms I have thus far are with the limited number of tracks used as background music, the apparent lack of a main menu (seriously, I’m flabbergasted by this one), and the all-too-repetitive scenario of “sneak behind the police officer and bop him on the head” like you’re little bunny foo foo.

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For this level I had to cause the policeman to stumble by pulling the alarm. Then, as he chased me into the next room (bottom left) I released the luggage rack causing him to take another “nap” (he’s got a newborn at home people, give him a break).

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See that key in the officer’s left hand? Once he’s lying unconscious on the ground I’ll have to rearrange the frames once more so that our heroine passes back through the room with the luggage rack in order to take the key from his cold, dead… err, sleepy hand. Otherwise Mr. Sideburns will catch up with her at the locked door (bottom right).

I have yet to see how the gameplay and narrative will develop more fully (or less) as I progress but as far as game mechanics, Framed is fantastic; I’d love to see the idea stretched even further. Imagine a game of this sort equally focused on narrative elements so that not only does the arrangement of the frames determine the successful completion of a level, but also plot development and character relationships. Now that would be a title with clever mechanics, story, and replayability.

And while I’m thinking about the folks of Super Joystiq podcast, I want to say thank you for all the informative and entertaining hours you gave me during my daily commute. The talent, commitment, and heart you demonstrated at Joystiq was irreplaceable, much like the folks from Massively-that-was (whom thankfully I did not have to replace). I often attribute my determination to blog to the closing of Massively which is true, but I was equally inspired to quit delaying and start writing when I listened to the final series of podcasts you all produced, in which you shared your individual journeys into gaming journalism. Thank you for all of your reviews, opinions, and for the stares I received from adjacent drivers as I laughed at your humor in a car all by myself. I wish you well.