Monday, March 3, 2014

Why no Art of Wushu?

A few people might wonder why I'm not continuing The Art of Wushu as well. Unfortunately, the answer is that Age of Wushu has strayed much too far from the game I loved in beta. There is, for the most part, still a game worth playing at the highest level. There's a lot of interesting mechanics and it really is the only MMO that combines dynamic economy with fighting game style combat. I really wish that it could be more than it is.

What Age of Wushu is, unfortunately, is a money sink. The game is designed to take your money. With each new major expansion, Snail releases new stuff that takes more and more time to accomplish. For a new player, the advantage old players have is virtually insurmountable. It will be 6+ months before a new player can even realistically scratch an old player in PvP, and even then, with leveled meridians, cash shop skills and superior power level inners, the 6 month "newbie" has no real chance of winning.

For top players, it's a grind. It's a constant, neverending grind to stay on top. I suppose at some point it will end when inner 10s are out, but by then, how many meridians will you be able to slot at once? Only the most dedicated will actually have a "max level" character with everything they use perfected. Instead of skill, levels will be the determining factor for most conflicts. Keep in mind that a single meridian channel right now gives about a third of an inner in HP and MP, and about 70% of an inner in stat values (though not all stats like a normal inner skill) and those numbers will continue to scale up. Every new inner released makes those values more and more ridiculous. A maxed out inner 4 right now with full meridians gives probably 8 times the HP of a maxed inner 1. What will inner 10 with even more meridian channels at even higher levels give?

The worst of it all is that it's basically all a ploy to make money. You can buy chi pills. You can buy silver (silver tickets now?) to level up faster. Once you're leveled enough you can buy even more silver to trade to players to get inner skill books so you can level up your meridian channels. You can get cash shop fighting styles, which sadly are overpowered (maybe not gamebreakingly so, but definitely not good for balance) and mounts that are faster and better. Everything is a ploy to get you, the consumer, to spend money.

Don't confuse me here. It's OK for a gaming company to make money. Encouraging players to spend money is a great thing. I see games with cash shops that have useful things and I think that is great. I think LoL should have instant level 30s for money, just like WoW has instant level 90s. I am definitely on the side of publishers monetizing their games because they need to make a living too.

BUT I'm not OK with making the game worse in order to make money. I don't get that. Age of Wushu is a game that is designed to milk whales, and that would be OK if the non-whale experience was also good. For a while, it was. The time to level cap was like 2 months, which is comparable to the time needed to train to be a useful pilot in EVE. There was lots of variety in gameplay, even if Shaolin was and still is too strong. There were no meridians, no combo points, no busted stuff. The best gear in the game wasn't that big of an impact either, you could have fairly average gear and be fine. There were a few corner cases like +30% skill damage stuff but that was really rare and it didn't guarantee victory. Probably the best thing was that you could win a fight with 1 or 2 good guesses. There were really powerful 70-80% damage setups and one touch of death 100% loop. It meant that good players were good, but OK players could step up too. If you could land a good hit, you could take away 30-80% life. Upsets could always happen.

But the more HP people got, the less this was the case. Right now it's not so bad at the top level. You can still win a fight in 3 or 4 hits. Some in 2, and the 100% combo still does 100% since it's an infinite. But it's only going to get worse and worse. The low damage builds will not keep up, either, so that also means less viable styles (where before there were many) and certain other styles will be too strong. I have my theories. I think WV is probably going to be the best school in the long term, either because the WCB infinite will dominate (unlikely) or because BCP has the best stat scalars of any school style in the game. Of course this is all moot because of cash shop sets but the WV sets (especially BCP) have the best longevity by design.

Anyway, the end of the story is that I'm done. I'm sick of what Snail has done to Age of Wushu. I've sent in questions asking why X is the way it is or why they haven't iterated on Y and all I ever received was terrible PR-speak answers. I can accept that for a game I don't care about, but a game I write features for, I expect better of the devs.

Ultimately, the game has become an enormous mountain of grind, with good things discarded in favor of easy money. I'm sorry, Snail. I can't stand by you any more. In the end, what happened with Black Gold also happened here -- a good game ruined in the name of money.

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