We got some hands-on time with the game at this year's E3, so follow along after the cut for our impressions.
Age of Wushu (or Wulin, depending on your region) isn't looking to be just another MMO. Tab targeting is gone, but we've seen a lot of that this year at E3.
So how do you improve on that? First, introduce a little aerial combat. Most of the moves in the game can be used while jumping or gliding, so bunny hoppers won't be doing anything that special. If anything, other folks may have to figure out how much jumping they need to do in order to keep up. However, that isn't the only combat addition. As odd as it sounds, AoW also uses a rock-paper-scissors mechanic. Red-rimmed skills are attack, blue skills tend to break defenses, and green skills block or buff -- for the most part.
Between aerial combat and rock, paper, scissors, I was fairly overwhelmed by the combat, which hasn't happened to me in a long time. However, I was also thrown into combat with little time to read my descriptions, and unlike in other demos, I got to fight a real person, so that could be the source of the issue. I would have loved to have more time with it, but in order to understand combat more, I had to learn a few things that affect combat in the first place.
AoW is a skill-based game. The more you do certain activities, the better you get at them. There's no skill decay, though, and since you can cross-train with other schools (like classes in other MMOs, but they're also factions you can align yourself with), it's actually possible to master all the skills in the game. Of course, this is supposed to take a very long time.
However, when you start the game, you can join only a single school, which also dictates some of your respawn locations in case you die (no items drop, but your stats will be lower so you'll need to take the proper steps toward fixing them, such as eating food so you're no longer hungry). Eventually, you'll be able to take other skills.
According to the reps at Snail Games, they spent about five years researching, interviewing, and motion-capturing various martial art styles as the basis of the game, all of which can be viewed in your spellbook-type UI panel. While you may be hundreds of feet in the air fighting your opponent in a highly improbable fashion, someone was mo-capped to make the animation used on your thousand kicks and punches executed on your way down.
Aside from a lack of outright flight, players can really move around the world of AoW. Your character will eventually be triple-jumping, and you can do a bit of an air glide after that. If you run full speed, you can run up the side of a wall and get some major air. You can swim, dive, and even run on water. What's surprising, though, is that these travel modes come after you get your horse.
Your horse in AoW isn't just an increase in run speed, though it does that and can sprint to make it even faster. Your horse is also another character that has its own levels and skills, so it can be used in combat. Should your horse die, you'll have to wait around a bit before it respawns (the exact time is still being discussed). I didn't have my horse for long, and it never saw combat, but I felt an immediate attachment to it and would have liked to see what other kinds of moves I could have unlocked on it.
Becoming an NPC and offline skill gains
One of the most interesting parts of AoW is the fact that your character never really leaves the game world. When you log out, your character will actually start doing things, like fishing, working as a guard, etc. When you log back in, you'll see what sorts of things happened while you were away, and get the benefits, ranging from simple skill-ups to even earning money if your character has a job.
This sounds nice, but this is probably when players will be kidnapping you. Upon logging in, you will not only collect the nice things you got for working but will be notified if you were kidnapped. You can try to escape or hope your guild pays a ransom to have you returned. Your captors choose your new location, though, so even if you do escape, you could end up in a place you've never been to or even an enemy fortress!
Combat isn't the only aspect of the game. Guilds of 300 people can claim one of 32 areas in the game and build it up. This isn't a simple "donate 100 bricks for a wall" type construction, either. Players can actually choose where to place things. Now, this does tie in for guild wars (about 250 vs. 250), but players can use the guild housing for recreational purposes as well, such as dance-offs. Players can actually coordinate dances as the game gives them directional keys to hit to ensure that players are moving together.
Crafting in AoW is also supposed to enforce a sense of community in that you actually need food and armor from your fellow players. For example, if you want armor, you'll need someone who can spin silk, and that silk has to be obtained by someone with a silk farm (because silk doesn't exactly grow on trees).
You can have up to four crafting schools: cultural, marketing, manufacturing, and collection. But one potential issue is that people might use multiple characters to be self sufficient. You can have more than one character, but how many is still being decided. Somewhere between three to eight is the current guess. At the very least, players need to know a chef to fight off hunger, so that's at least one market that should have a constant demand.
AoW honestly has support for both the griefer and the griefee. Those who are killed by another player can add them to an enemies list, post wanted posters, and even offer a bounty for either capturing or killing them! The crimes the griefer commits will warn local authorities and force them to react, and you may be thrown in jail as a time-out, though you can pay to get out or try to escape. Even if you escape prison, you'll be seen as an enemy, and you'll need to find a place to hide until your "villain" ranking goes down (yes, there's a hero ranking too).
However, players who want to be infamous can potentially be recruited by boss mobs to fight their fellow players, either in the open world or in some instances. Of course, you'll won't exactly be welcomed in towns, but there are safe havens for the griefer. The game does have arenas, but players will need to understand that the game does have support for open-world PvP.
Now, it's important to keep in mind that the game's in beta because the instances at the moment are... a bit extreme. Some are literally taking about six hours and 20 people to complete and are "way too hard," according to testers. In fact, they're currently being referred to as the "forbidden instances."
Some of these instances are supposed to be raid-like in that you do them once in awhile. There are smaller, simpler instances, and you can even do single-player instances where you challenge a sect.
The cash shop
A free-to-play title always has a cash shop. While Snail Games wants to stay away from letting players buy power, the devs said that the cash shop will sell a lot of vanity items and high-end, rare crafting materials. The emphasis was on vanity, but since the game's still in beta, it's hard to tell what kind of impact selling crafting materials will make. Still, with all the other features in the game that just aren't available anywhere else, some people may be willing to overlook the cash shop and focus on selling off a few close friends for a profit.
Massively's on the ground in Los Angeles during the week of June 4-7, bringing you all the best news from E3 2012. We're covering everything from PlanetSide 2 and SWTOR and ArcheAge to RIFT's and LotRO's upcoming expansions, so stay tuned!