"Blade & Soul fills a niche other MMOs don't, with fist-flying combat more akin to an action game than a traditional dice-roller. "
We here at RPGFan make no secret of the fact that we're diehard Final Fantasy XIV fans. For most of us, Square Enix's gargantuan MMORPG is, as far as we're concerned, the only one on the market. But there are other MMOs out there doing perfectly well — thriving, even — and E3 serves as a perfect opportunity to remove our proverbial blinders and see how the competition is faring.
As it turns out, NCsoft's Blade & Soul is stiffer competition than we were led to believe.
I dabbled in Blade & Soul when it launched in 2016, but only long enough to get my character up to level ten or so. Kick, punch, it's all in the mind, and hey, wait, my friends are calling me back to Eorzea. I didn't get far enough into Blade & Soul to penetrate its endgame, or even its PvP, really; its combat system held promise, but I found myself lured away from the game before I could dig into everything it had to offer. In the meantime, its playerbase soared beyond four million registered users. This month, it celebrated its first anniversary, complete with a limited-time event that awarded players a bevy of useful in-game items. Our eyes, however, are on the horizon: What's waiting in the wings for Blade & Soul's most diligent devotees?
First up is a brand-new dungeon called Irontech Forge. Launching June 28th, this steamy, mechanical zone is an endgame challenge for a party of six players. The footage I saw featured a burly fistfighter with mechanical ARMS — er, wait, that's Nintendo's thing — who bore a coincidental resemblance to Barret Wallace of Final Fantasy VII fame (!@#s pizza not included.) Also in development is a new character class, the Gunner. As the tenth class to join Blade & Soul, the Gunner is a dual-wielding ranged DPS character who fights with twin pistols. The Gunner has already gone live on Korean servers as of this writing, but it doesn't release in North America until late summer or early fall. This is good news for PvPers, too; a new class means a new endgame meta, new team compositions to consider, and more.
For the hyper-competitive, NCsoft recently launched an eSports initiative
that aims to bring Blade & Soul to the world stage. Registration has already closed for the 2017 Blade & Soul Championship Series, but this high-stakes competition is offering a prize pool of over $75,000. The best players in each region are currently competing for the chance to represent their countries at the World Championship in Seoul, South Korea.
Whether your focus is on PvP or PvE, Blade & Soul has plenty of new content in the pipeline. My time with the game on the E3 show floor was enough to renew my interest, particularly in one-on-one dueling, after I ravaged my co-editor Chris as an axe-wielding Destroyer. Blade & Soul fills a niche other MMOs don't, with fist-flying combat more akin to an action game than a traditional dice-roller. It remains to be seen whether it can continue to stand up to its behemoth (heh) contemporaries, but with a solid first year under its belt, Blade & Soul shows more promise than I imagined it would.