MMO combat has driven me crazy for years, all based on one simple problem -- monsters/opponents don't really react to your attacks. Sure, they may light up, or they might move a little bit when they're struck, but they don't cinematically react. Your sword doesn't cut into them as they stagger back from the blow. Parries are pathetically late sword blocks that occur only after your opponent is entirely done with his attack. Swords and shields can't clash together in a spectacular display of sparks.
Blade & Soul is offering attacks that actually have observable responses. Right at the opening of the gameplay video, one character gets atop another and begins to beat him senseless. Later in the videos, the person on the receiving end of that brutal set of attacks even responds to the position by flipping her opponent off before jumping up high in the sky and landing on her feet.
Contextual situations and animations are always impressive and lend to the flow of gameplay, in my opinion. MMO combat begins to lack freshness after a while because it you never get the feeling of hard hits outside of the numbers appearing on the screen. It's too much telling, and not enough showing.
"If the gameplay lends itself to perhaps evolving it a bit more, why don't we take advantage of it when we have the chance?."
Is all of that asking too much? No, I don't think so. We have the camera system down to a science these days. If the gameplay lends itself to perhaps evolving it a bit more, why don't we take advantage of it when we have the chance?
There's still more to come
All of these observations are simply that -- observation. Right now, it's still very early in the development process for Blade & Soul, but what has been shown has been simply fabulous. The game seems to be taking many steps towards being something truly new and exciting, and not another rehash of the same old stuff we've been seeing.
Will Blade & Soul completely throw off the Korean design shackles in favor of a more stylized fighting experience? Well, if you were paying attention to that video, then you already know my answer -- no. It still looks like players will be grinding mobs, and not all of the attacks and skills have the same amazing traits as the ones I discussed above. Some of it still looks like the same old, same old.
But hey, it's a start. That's all I can ask for.
Edit: Corrected the mention of CryEngine 2 for Aion to CryEngine 1, the correct engine. Thanks Thachsanh!
Seraphina Brennan is the weekly writer of Anti-Aliased who likes her front just as much as her back. When she's not writing here for Massively, she's rambling on her personal blog, The Experience Curve. If you want to message her, send her an e-mail at seraphina AT massively DOT com. You can also follow her on Twitter through Massively, or through her personal feed, @sera_brennan.