But either way, the expansion is out and I have to talk about it. It includes a new, cool PvP battleground, some new features I'm not really fond of, and some other features I really like. It also had quite a bit of controversy at launch, and the player response was... interesting, at least.
The VIP gathering controversy
When Mount Hua launched, there was a huge controversy over gathering skills. Non-VIP members were no longer able to gather materials! I know that all of you guys who don't play Age of Wushu would be up in arms over this. Limiting free players from gathering is pretty bad news, and I am definitely opposed to the decision. However, let's look at the other side of the issue.
It is no surprise to anyone that bots are a problem. Free accounts can be used with bots to harvest tons of resources, and the only real answer for us as players is to kill them and/or report them. Snail is pretty aggressive about banning bots, but because they're free accounts and there aren't that many restrictions on gathering, it's not that difficult to make a new account if your old one gets banned.
Limiting gathering to VIP members doesn't solve the problem, but it does curb it. Botters can't harvest constantly anymore without paying a subscription fee, which limits botting mostly to people willing to pay for VIP on their gathering alts. Of course, this includes gold sellers, who can easily make the cost of VIP back from farming. However, it would cut back on the bot population, and I can see what Snail was trying to do.
Fortunately, player backlash caused this change to get reverted. I'm upset that this wasn't communicated with the playerbase ahead of time as a "possible option" to deal with bots, but I am glad that Snail listened to the riots. Some players are still upset that the changes got rolled back. I am one of the people who would profit a lot if materials were farmable only by VIPs, but it just isn't fair to punish the legitimate free players out there just for my own profit margins.
I was as excited as anyone about the Youyun Sixteen Prefectures battlefield. I'm an assassin, constable hunter and duelist, so I focus more on individual PvP than group PvP. However, new battlefields are always fun, and they're nice as a no-consequences way to fight against lots of other players.
Either way, the new battlefield is being touted as a MOBA-style map, which it really isn't. It has a lot more players, there's no "gold" or "XP" resources in the same way that MOBAs have them. It is a strategy-based map though with a lot of moving parts, and it's pretty fun to play.
Like most strategy-based maps with lots of players, it has a lot of player zergs and a lot of lone wolves running around being useless. I didn't really get a good feel for how the map is supposed to be played in the time that I had. Still, it was fun. I had a good time with the map, and I'll play it more to get a better grasp of it (and possibly write a strategy guide or something).
Probably the single best new mechanic in Age of Wushu
The mentor system is truly the coolest thing to come into the game. I'm sort of asocial so I haven't taken on any apprentices yet, but the mechanic is very good.
If you're maxed in inner skill 2, you can accept apprentices of up to Spiritually Balanced (inner skill 1 level 36, or inner skill 2 level 20). While both mentor and student are online, the student trains faster, and at certain inner skill levels, both characters get some nice rewards.
Additionally, the student can fast-track to a few quests that he would otherwise have to wait for, which is kind of crazy. You also get rewards for doing things together (even team practice!), even after the apprenticeship is over. I wish this system had been in place sooner, honestly. I was mentoring a lot of people prior to the inner 3 launch, so having a mechanic in place that encouraged me to do it more is definitely great.
Maxed Inner 3 martial artists can mentor players up to Expert of Self (inner 2 level 25), which means that apprentices can quickly level up to the area where they're competitively viable. Training will still take time, but this new system helps a lot. I absolutely think it's fantastic.
Incorrectly called "Huashan Mountain Competition" (which is like saying Mount Hua Mountain), this event showcases the strongest fighters in Jianghu. I don't really like it -- or adding new martial arts -- at all. Don't get me wrong; both of these things are pretty cool and I like the spectator mode for Huashan matches, but what I don't like is what these things add. Anything that adds power to the game is an unnecessary hurdle to newer players, and while new martial arts styles don't directly add power, the new treasures and rewards definitely do. New martial arts add new matchups to the game, and if the styles are at all useful, they add an extra layer of power to already powerful heroes.
Astonishing Goose Blade in particular seems really strong, though I haven't seen anyone use it yet (it's a rare drop from a new instance that people are having trouble with). I would be much happier with the Huashan tournament if the rewards were purely cosmetic.
Still, none of the rewards is comparable to meridians. If we compare the impact of meridians to the impact of the entire power scale of the Mount Hua expansion, meridians totally win. I still don't like vertical power creep, but there's much less of it than I was expecting. I was really anticipating something as bad as meridians, which thankfully didn't happen.
Overall though, my opinion of the expansion is way more positive than I thought it would be. The sworn brother mechanic of mentoring is great, and the other features are fairly well-implemented. For a first expansion, it definitely seems to be an overall positive for the game.
Age of Wushu is a wonderous place, full of hidden secrets, incredible vistas and fearsome martial arts. Join Patrick as he journeys through China, revealing the many secrets of this ancient land. The Ming Dynasty may be a tumultuous time, but studying The Art of Wushu will give you the techniques you need to prevail.