Jade Dynasty – martial arts MMO first impressions
Jade Dynasty is called a martial arts MMORPG, at least that is what it is referred as in an ad I saw and which peaked my interest when I saw a link to it. The post here are some first impressions from playing around in the game for a little while.
The game is currently in open beta. I had never heard of it until a few days ago and it seems to be a Chinese MMO which is now scheduled for release in Europe and North America, at some point. The company behind the release is Perfect World International, which already have some other MMOs released already.
I am both intrigued by the game, as well as finding it really mind-numbing. If you like grinding mobs and doing countless kill ten rats quests, mixed in with a few FedEx type quests – then this game is right up your alley. But there are also elements of the game which are interesting, in a way.
I do not think that I will play this game much longer, but I think there is an element of exploring the game design that stills keeps me in the game for a bit more. Time will tell.
Starting from the beginning, the game installation itself is fairly straightforward, download was around 1.6 GB and after that a little bit of patching. The downloaded excutable first asks for a location to unpack it, and after that runs the installer itself – the first location is not the game installation directory.
In the open beta there is selection of three regions – USA West, USA East and Europe. At least for the European choice, there is one server to select from.
Character creation is quite basic. Everyone starts as an Initiate and there are 3 customisation options – sex (2 choices), face (7 choices) and haircut (7 choices). That is it. And when I got into the game the look of the character was still not the one I choose…
Once the character is created one can select a realm to play on a server. This seems to be different instances of the world. There is a mixture of PvE and PvP realms (15 in total for the European server) and one can jump into any of the realm with a character.
The story background for the game is that there exists 5 different schools to the path of enlightenment and eternal life – Jadeon, Sunsong, Vim, Lupin and Modo. The first two are considered “good”, the other three “evil” – although I have not seen any practical good vs evil differences yet – at least not in PvE realms. There is also some common enemy/evil called the Yasho, which I have not quite figured out what it is yet – other than that it is mentioned in various quests.
The different factions are pretty much the equivalent of classes/archetypes in other games – they control they skills/powers gained and the outfits that the players can wear. A faction is chosen when the player reached level 15, before that he/she is an initiate, which is the same for everyone.
The game has the option to wear up to eight different fashion costume sets, seelct which pieces to show and even automatically rotate between the different outfits at regular intervals.
Starting the game as an Initiate there is an optional tutorial shows the basics for moving around, talking with NPCs etc. In the beginning there are also a number of help text popping up as you go also. There are some initial quests to get some new gear and start going through various quests.
The quests are colour-coded based on type of quest; one quest line is Mandatory quests, which pretty much is the main story path. One will find the usual icons above NPC heads, a quest log and a quest tracker. They have a fairly good design, expect that it is not obvious when the list extends beyond the current view. Other quests types include reward quests, voyage quests, career quests, romance quests, classic quests and perhaps a few more also.
The quests themselves are mainly of fedex, kill ten rats or collect ten rat tails type of quests, without too much fancy story behind it. Hence there is a substantial grind potential here.
There is not much pretending that the mobs are there for anything but to be killed by players. In most cases they just stand docile in some field waiting to be slautghtered. They barely even walk around and in the majority of cases will only attack players when they have been attacked (there are a few exceptions though). Respawn rate is also quite high, so there is never any lack of mobs around. This might change in the higher levels, but at least up to level 30 this is the general case.
The game include a few other things to facilitate the repetitive killing and xp gain:
When a player is in a safe zone he/she can choose to meditate. This creates a bubble around the player and each minute that the player is in this state a certain amount of XP is gained. Thus if AFK in a safe zone, start to meditate and some XP will be gained while you are gone.
The same type of XP gain that meditation gives you can also be done while offline. However, in this case one has to buy Dreamlans Scrolls to be able to gain XP. Each scroll gives one hour worth of XP gain when dreaming and costs the equivalent of 25 US cents from the game shop.
This is sort of an auto-pilot mode which is available when they player uses an Esper (more on that later) and its energy charge is at least at 50%. When invigorate is turned on the character automatically kills nearby mobs and loots them. It just uses the Esper attacks and the standard auto-attack though, which makes it not that good unless heavily buffed, or really low level mobs.
The Espers mentioned are some magical entities which a player can equip. They give additional skills to use, which all seem to have pretty over the top animations which are more spectacular than the actual result. Depending on faction chosen, different espers can be gained. Which Esper is active can be seen on a players, since there is a symbol hovering near the player which indicate the type of Esper that is equipped.
Esper skills can become more powerful with usage. To get from level 1 to level 2 the skill has to be used 350 times, from level 2 to 3 600 times. Beyond that I do not know yet…
Most other skills are part of skill trees associated with the faction. For each level a player gains a skill point which can be used to put into the skill tree. There is one skill tree associated with the initiate, which everyone gets. The fact is that most powerful skill for my level 29 Modo is the attack power in that tree – it almost one-shots enemies at equal level and does not cost much spirit (equivalent of mana/power/whatever in your favourite MMO).
Other skills are more interesting, but does not do as much damage.
As with many other MMOs, there are also crafting in this game. It seems to be a pretty straightforward and simple model – learn recipes for items to craft, gather the materials needed and craft the item. Crafting can take place anywhere and also has its own leveling system. To be able to learn certain recipes and create items, the crafting levels need to be high enough.
For equipment it is also possible to add enhancements (imbueing) through various talismans. The talismans themselves are pretty frequent loot drops. However, imbueing an item includes a risk that it will fail and that the item will be destroyed. There are additional items to reduce or eliminate that risk – some may be bought from the game shop I think. I do believe that they are also available in-game.
For pet lovers there are also pets. Everyone gets a pet at early levels, which seem to randomly be either a pig or a dryadling. The pet will help you fight, has its own skill bar and will get XP when it participates in fights. It also has a tendency to get hungry when being out and about, so has to be fed or it can get a bit cranky.
There are also equipment specifically for pets to enhance various aspects of the pet. I have not equipped any of those I have received yet, since they have a level requisite on level 30 and my Dryadling is only in mid-20s yet.
For transport there are Skylords, persons in the major city of each zone that can teleport people to another city, for a small fee. There are also mounts that can be bought from the game store. The cool one costs the equivalent of USD 20, the less cool ones USD 15. There is a level restriction on these though, one has to be level 30 at least.
From level 45 it is also possible to use a Skyblade, which is a bit like a flying surf board which one can cruise around with. It looks pretty neat. Some quests require Skyblade usage to be completed.
Until reaching those levels it is a matter of running around by foot. However, there are also convenience functions here also – auto-routing. Click on any location on a map, an NPC name or an mob type and your character will automatically run to that spot, even if it is several zones away.
In total there are 150 levels, which seems to be evenly spread out over 10 zones, 15 levels for each zone. At least some of the quests are also level-gated, it is not possible to complete them until the appropriate level has been reached.
The whole environment feels very Chinese. Nature, houses, characters and the background music is all very fitting for the setting and does set the mood appropriately – although the mind-numbing mob killing does take away some from that.
All the different convenience functions make it also a game that is playable while you do other things. For some of the convenience one has to pay though the game shop though. I have not seen much teaming in the game. The party windows seems fairly ok though, it is possible to both set up search for teams if you are alone and also set up text info which I guess will be seen in search. One can also see which players are nearby.
But given the simplicity of mob killing and that there is no overlap between quests I seriously doubt that it would be any benefit or even more fun in teaming together. This may perhaps change at higher levels, but in the lower levels it is too simplistic. And since there is no quest overlap there is no benefit from doing multiple quests at the same time, other than saving travel time. If you have one quest to kill 20 mobs of type X and another to kill 30 mobs of type X, then you have to kill 50 mobs of type X. Some of the quests give quite a lot of XP, so the progression is certainly faster when doing the quests.
If you have 2 quests which requires 10 loot drops each from mobs of type X and each quest has a 20% chance of the item dropping, then you will have to kill around 100 mobs. Did I say the combat was mind-numbing…?
To perhaps alleviate some of that there are also plenty of different events happening – it can be certain mobs that spawn, fishing and various other activities. I suspect that a few of those do include regular mob killing also, but at least there seem to be other things beside the normal quests also.
If it were just for the standard PvE content with mobs and quests I think I would drop the game right away. But I still have some curiosity for some of the other gameplay mechanics and I wonder how it works out in PvP. I have been a bit hesitant to jump over into the PvP side, especially considering the 1-shot skill.
I cannot recommend the game as it is. But it is also just some first impressions and not a review, so I would not tell people to avoid the game either. But hopefully it shows a bit what can be expected initially.