A Fully Fledged Mobile MMORPG
Blade & Soul Revolution is out now on iOS and Android devices, bringing NCSoft’s own high flying martial arts MMORPG onto the small screen. After launching earlier in March 2021, the mobile version of this wuxia inspired story is set to pit even more players against the likes of the Black Ram and Jinsoyun as they punch, kick and slice their way through a mobile MMORPG, like few others on the market.
A Different Stance?
When we got time to talk to Blade & Soul Revolution’s Development Lead, Hyun Jin Jang, it was clear that fans of the original were in for a very familiar experience when Blade & Soul Revolution finally launched. With expectations that we would see a truly authentic MMO experience and promises that this would be as close to the original as possible, we’ve spent the last few weeks fighting our way through dungeons, flying kicking opponents, and taking on enemy clans. now, we’re ready to deliver our thoughts on Blade & Soul Revolution.
Launched in 2012, Blade & Soul was something of a trailblazer when it came to PC screens. In a world full of fantasy MMOs where stand and spam skills or ‘don’t stand in the fire’ dances were commonplace, this action-oriented online adventure came out on the attack. Mixing a very different eastern aesthetic and the sort of free form combat systems that would be more at home in 3D beat ‘em ups, Blade & Soul changed a great deal about the way we viewed the MMO genre. Whatever it’s long-lasting influence, Blade & Soul managed to weather uncertain times and even has a mobile sequel coming out. Before that follow-up gets here, however, fans of Blade and Soul can experience that same adventure again thanks to the team at Netmarble. Already experienced in bringing NCSoft’s Lineage franchise to mobile screens, this time around Netmarble took a much more literal approach and attempted a port of Blade & Soul onto handheld devices.
Like many mobile titles today, Blade & Soul Revolution looks far prettier than you would imagine it really should. With the Unreal 4 engine powering this quest for revenge, the original’s aesthetic is flawlessly replicated, from the bright-eyed Lyn to the backdrop of the opening Hongmoon School. Despite the flashy antics that flow through this world, Blade & Soul Revolution is still a port of an 8year old title. Blown up to 32 inches that might be something of an issue but slapped onto a 6-inch display and supported by a Snapdragon 750G, we found the free form combat and crazy graphical effects looking very impressive when firing off a chi bomb or blocking enemy attacks. For systems with a little less oomph than my own midrange chipset, Blade & Soul Revolution even provides an impressive range of settings that allow gamers to modify textures, aoe effects, character models, and even anti-aliasing if you can handle it. The result is that this impressive aesthetic is accompanied by some admirable in-game performance throughout, and it really is welcome.
Blade & Soul is an MMORPG played up close and personal. Unlike Lineage 2 Revolution, this title takes a more traditional 3rd person view of the action, mixing in free form combat systems and character controls that are a step away from the marginally challenging top-down ARPG approaches of other MMOs. Whether it’s taking down ten inept pirates or overcoming an enemy faction in a gargantuan 50 player PvPvE encounter, the Blade and Soul revolution combat mechanics demand just as much attention as its big-screen counterpart. Players kicking off their time with any of the launch Classes will find that Force Masters, Sword Masters, Kung Fu Masters, Summoners, and the intimidating Destroyers are still able to chain together free form combat techniques to deliver a range of devastating combo attacks. In many ways, combat movement and interaction in the wider world of Blade & Soul Revolution is similar to Pearl Abyss’ own mobile MMO, and this can only be considered a positive comparison. Just like Blak Desert Mobile, blade & Soul revolution reorientates its skill bar clustering player skills around a set of on-screen skill wheels that are indicative of the minimum necessary approach to Blade & Soul Revolution’s mobile combat changes. Despite the obvious UI changes the ability to actively block, parry, leap, dodge, and direct a crushing defeat upon your enemies makes the fluid action combat of Blade & Soul revolution is a refreshing change from the more stagnant automatic action of other mobile titles.
Auto questing, pathing, and combat are, however, concessions that any mobile game needs to make. Blade & Soul Revolution is no different. Players eager to cut through the chaff and get into the end game can make use of the autoplay feature to walk away. While this isn’t something I enjoy, I do understand the need for this addon, especially when I have no real desire to sit through the same overarching narrative I’ve seen time and again. That said, there are plenty of ways to grind out gear that doesn’t involve either the main or side quests littered around the massive open world. Whether it’s early kill ten pirate quests, daily dungeons, PvP, or massive Clan Warfare instances you’ll never find there’s much slow down in either the content or the action in Blade & Soul Revolution.
Getting through those mundane story quests or more engaging raids isn’t always a guaranteed certainty, whoever is in control. Autoplay regularly led me levelling straight into a brute with a bigger axe than me, and a need to get on my training arc. Progression in Blade & Soul Revolution provides plenty of choices, an abundance of loot, and a series of systems lifted almost wholesale from the desktop MMO. This makes progression both a blessing and a curse. Blade & Soul Revolution doesn’t particularly engage in much of the gacha style pay to win that many other mobile RPGs milk but its adherence to the traditional enhancement and loot systems can make it a chore to trudge through. I’ve spent days simply logging in to sift through my bags and sit by the crafting stations, disassembling loot, all to upgrade a couple of accessories. While this level of tedium doesn’t always blend well with mobile attention spans, there are a ton of other progression systems in Blade & Soul Revolution, from standard to levelling stats to combat skill upgrades and taken as a whole I would much rather grind out a few more dungeon tokens than drop another $20.
Get through the early levelling curve and what you’ll find is a very traditional MMORPG that you’ll want to kick into autopilot and come back to later. Sure, it looks amazing for a mobile MMO but it leans heavily on nostalgia to get past the initial tedium. When it begins to excel, however, Blade & Soul Revolution brings something truly refreshing to the mobile experience. Once you’re through the grind you’ll find PvP, Faction warfare, and massive clan dungeons on the radar, all providing an enormous challenge, tons of player interaction, and direct interaction with the rest of the community.
While Faction battles and PvP arenas are open to all, allowing players to settle scores or just make new enemies, clan exclusive dungeons are probably the most exciting prospect for any player picking up Blade & Soul Revolution. A dedicated space for you and your friends, these enormous environments provide a huge array of enemies split over a massive map, with a purported 50 layer capacity. Ok, so we haven’t managed to fill a full 50 person dungeon but this sort of scale, in faction warfare and clan dungeons, is where skills, communication, and combat prowess really come to the fore and make Blade & Soul feel unique.
The more interactive elements of Blade & Soul Revolution allow this unexpected small screen title to stand apart from the increasingly crowded mobile market, papering over some of the more ill-fitting imperfections that port over from NCSfot’s earlier Blade & Soul. This new version doesn’t follow many of the more logical choices for a small screen MMO. It doesn’t attempt to streamline complex crafting systems, shield players from failure, or dial down the combat complexity for new students of Hongmoon. Instead, it demands the same level of dedication that you would give to a fully-fledged MMO because it is a fully-fledged MMO. If you can handle the grind, the endless shower of achievements, the kill ten Black Ram Pirates, and a familiar storyline then you’ll be rewarded with a gorgeous looking, fast-paced adventure with some very unique features that don’t ask for your credit card first and your friendship last. Grab Blade & Soul Revolution if you have the time and get in a clan because this truly is a faithful port and will easily fill up the time until Blade & Soul 2 comes to mobiles. Check out more about Blade & Soul Revolution or play for free via the official website now.