Age of Wushu is an open-world PvP sandbox set in a fictional Ming Dynasty China where traditional MMO elements like sorcery and character levels are eschewed for martial arts and proficiency in a wide variety of different skills. I'm fond of saying that Wushu is "like EVE in China." Many of AoW's features are similar to EVE's systems, including an emphasis on leveling breadth versus depth, a true player economy, and social maneuvering and backstabbing. At the same time, Wushu is a fundamentally different creature, with skill-based gameplay and a much clunkier interface. It's also a bit simpler than EVE, but the barrier of entry is still pretty high.
The Art of Wushu column is about lowering that bar a bit, and I'm simultaneously proud and sad to say that the English fan-made wiki still currently provides much less in-depth information than this column does. If you're already playing the game, check out some of the previous articles as they are pretty useful things that I link people to regularly. If you're not a new player yet, well... this one's for you.
Why play Age of Wushu?
Probably the biggest reason to play the game is a love for sandboxes without spaceships. I've debated getting into EVE quite a few times, but I didn't like that my character in the game (walking in stations doesn't count) was a flying hunk of metal on a black screen. Age of Wushu is not just more visceral than EVE (Microsoft Calculator is more exciting than EVE); it's more visceral than most MMORPGs on the market. While levels do matter, combat is more built around moment-to-moment decisions and less on what gear you outfitted your team with. Again, gear and character skills matter, but the best of both won't make you the best fighter. Most of the best fighters I know have average gear, and only one really pushes her gear advantage enough for it to be a big deal at all. I can still beat her in 1v1. Our fights mostly come down to who plays better.
None of this is to say that there aren't advantages to be had through planning. Making money, organizing a guild and leveling a character all favor the player who spends more time playing. I want to underline this because people are still saying Age of Wushu is a pay-to-win game. If anything, it's a play-to-win game, with "play" referring to "logging in and doing stuff."
Almost everything in Age of Wushu is time-capped. Life skills have daily caps, team and martial practice have daily caps, skills don't level unless you log in to switch them (and won't level offline unless you're VIP), and if you're not online, you're not harvesting, selling, or making money. Managing a guild (or at least a relevant one) requires building a lot of social connections, and that necessitates that you log in and talk to people all the time. If you are a casual kind of person (and I know a lot of you readers are), Age of Wushu is probably not your game. If you don't like occasional bouts of "emergent gameplay" (to include spontaneous, random PvP), it is definitely not your game.
For instance, one of my friends joked that miners are the best PvPers because they are constantly fighting over mining resources. However true that is, it is true that there are fights over mining (especially lead), and it is quite likely that if you are mining anything but iron, there is a chance you could be killed by a bigger fish than you. Heck, I've heard of friends ganking someone who was mining an iron node they fancied.
Well then, why play? The answer to "why play a sandbox" is troubling to me. If you like sandbox gameplay and have a fairly large amount of gaming time available (greater than an hour or two a day), I would definitely make an account and try it out. Don't do it when you need to do something else, though. This very column was delayed for hours thanks to random PvPing with friends.
Blue Dragon, of course! Next question!
OK, OK, that was mean. When Age of Wushu launched, a new server opened, White Tiger, for new players to get a fresh start. Meanwhile, all of us on Blue Dragon will continue into the live servers with our beta characters intact. Naturally, I think that going to the established server is better than going to the new one. Why?
On a new server, everyone starts fresh. You might think that this puts you on an equal footing compared to everyone else, but you'd be wrong. A fresh server doesn't benefit the newbie at all. It benefits the prepared players with no lives. I don't use statements like "no life" lightly. When Blue Dragon first opened, I didn't sleep for about 50 hours. Even after that, I timed my sleep around when I would level up my skills, so I would never miss any training time. I leveled everything every day. I got 100% fatigue in team practice and spent the daily cap on martial practice every day. I was even on the bleeding edge of PvE for a while, doing mini instances in full guild teams just to get flying skills that you can get for a bit of pocket change now.
If you are going to White Tiger without that kind of mindset, you will be behind in a matter of days. There will be people two-shotting you in PvP on day five. I know this extremely well; I had friends who were doing it on day five of Blue Dragon.
How is that any different than Blue Dragon? Well, as an informed player (with a bit less gaming time), you won't join the elite right away, but you will a lot faster than you will on White Tiger. You know how to play the market if you've read my guides on doing so. In Blue Dragon you can easily do low-level things to buy high-level stuff. 99% of the stuff I sell can right now can be produced by a lowbie; there's a lot of rich vets that buy materials to make gear. The Blue Dragon vets are starting to normalize their game time; we all hit max level long ago, so we have a lot less need to log in and play for 15 hours a day. We're harvesting less and buying more so we can still produce high-end gear (or low-end gear) to sell. As a lowbie, it's easy to get in on that.
Blue Dragon also has the benefit of numerous head-started guilds who have already been through a lot. My current guild -- which is also the guild I joined on day two -- had a lot of upheaval centering around a certain guild leader and a certain outspoken Age of Wushu blogger. It's a story for another time, but the point is that my guild has been through numerous wars, alliances, and internal drama and has weathered the storm, all before the game even launched officially in the west. There are others on Blue Dragon who have done the same. If you join a top guild on Blue Dragon (and it's not hard, especially my guild), you have immediate access to people who know the game and have been playing it for a long time -- some on the Chinese servers before we could ever play in the English-speaking world. On White Tiger, you're on your own, and unless you're one of the privileged few with access to hidden information resources, you've got no good source to learn the game besides this column.
On the other hand, if you're a person with very little real money and a lot of free time, play on White Tiger. There are more people to help you on Blue Dragon, there will be less crazy social drama, and it will be a lot easier to catch up because it is easy to earn money. If you've got some advantage that will be reduced by hidden information (and the ability to collect more), a lot of real money to spend, or absolutely no life, White Tiger is a good choice.
For free players the difference is huge. You can play as long as you want! This allows you to really leverage your no-lifing skills. I joke about no-lifing a lot, but I see market stalls with stacks of over 2000 newly hatched silk, which basically tells me that someone is either a bot or has no life (and with 2000, it's kind of on the edge of what is humanly reasonable). Joking aside, there's no limitation on the game so you can try it as much as you like. You might even find that you don't mind the non-VIP restrictions, though I find most people who like the game find $9 a month to be incredibly reasonable for the VIP benefits.
If you're a current player or otherwise are a VIP, there's quite a bit of new things, including meridians and a lot of localization changes. I am planning on covering meridians next time as they're a complicated thing (I know about them from the CN version, though), and the other changes... well, I don't know all of them, mostly because I am writing this in the past and the game hasn't launched yet for me.
For those of you who haven't heard from my twitter (@mackeypb) or some other social media, I'm Xiaofeng in game, I play on Blue Dragon and I'm a member of Shu. Looking forward to seeing some of you in 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.