Review – Swords of Legends Online
I think we can all agree the this game’s name is terrible. What a mouthful of generic game words right here. I understand it’s named after an incredibly popular Chinese cross media franchise. I understand that we don’t really have room to complain with names like Final Fantasy and New World. But still when I first heard about the game, I immediately sold it off as a P2W F2P waste of time. Just another Black Desert ripoff. It was only after hearing so many good things that I actually took a real look at it. Thankfully I did decide to check it out for myself, because Swords of Legends: Online is actually an incredibly fun game and a solid MMO.
First things first. While the game is technically new for us, it’s actually been out in China for a while. Also, it’s based on a Chinese media franchise that spans games, books, and even a TV show. None of which has much of a presence outside of China as far as I know. So it’s an old game based on things few people here know exists. Not the easiest sell, especially for a game with this name. So you can hardly blame me for at first giving it a complete pass over. It’s an absolute shame though, because the game’s a total gem. Not with out it’s issues, for which your mileage will vary, but I’ve genuinely never played an MMO where the minute to minute gameplay was just so engaging.
Let’s start with the problems. Because when you’re getting into an MMO where you could end up spending hundreds of hours of your life, you wanna know the issues. As far as I’m concerned there’s three main problems. One is a core issue that will effect everyone, the performance. Then there’s one that’s a bit more dependent, the translation. Finally there’s the issue that I’m still not sure if it’s even an issue, the linearity.
The performance is the biggest issue by far, and also the most fickle. I don’t know if it’s due to client optimization or server issues (or both), but I frequently, but not constantly, would run into minor frame rate drops. Nothing major as to make the game unplayable, but just enough to be noticeable and annoying. Hiding other player models (yes that’s an option) did help a little, but I wasn’t able to find the secret graphic setting combination that fixed it entirely. I’ve seen lots of others facing the same issues, so I’m very confident it’s them not me. Thankfully I encountered little to no lag, which is always good for an MMO.
To me the translation issues are so minor as to be unimportant, but I can understand others would feel very differently. The easiest way to put it is it seems like the entire game was put through Google Translate, and then just typed right into the game. It’s bad. Sometimes almost incomprehensible bad. It takes extra effort to keep up with what’s going on in the story because the dialogue, both written and spoken, is just so clunky. For me though, I only really needed to keep a basic play-by-play of who’s butt I’m kicking right now, so the broken translation was amusing if anything. But if you’re a story heavy person, you’ve been warned. It’s very very very hard to keep track of everything that’s going on. Not impossible, but way harder than it should be.
It should be noted that translation issues don’t apply to game elements. I never once had an issue figuring out what an ability did, what a new item would change, or how a new mechanic worked. So they at least put effort into what was absolutely needed for the game to function. Just not so much effort into the flavor of the game. Which for some people is understandable a dealbreaker. Even I who don’t have a issue with it personally can more than recognize that Gameforge could have done way better here with the localization. The world of the game, the characters, and story taking place are all so vibrant and intriguing, they deserved more work put into making everything that gives them depth understandable.
The final issue might not even be an issue. It’s one of those depends on who you talk to things, and more just an opinion on how the game plays. It’s standard in MMOs now for there to be the leveling game and then the endgame. I admit to not being the biggest fan of how big the divide between the two has become, but it is what it is. Sadly, Swords of Legends: Online has taken this to the next level. The leveling story game is an incredibly tight, super linear, story driven experience. This a single-player character action game. That’s basically what you spend the first 15-20 hours of your time playing. Keep in mind, it’s quite a good action game. But it might not be what some are looking for when they jump into a brand new MMO.
Once I realized what was going on, I quite loved it. While a lot of these openings serve little purpose other than to get you to max level, where the real game begins, SOLO‘s has a purpose. And that purpose is to highlight just how phenomenal the combat and movement systems are. In every action game, those two elements are critical. When your game is built around it, you need to make sure combat is engaging and movement fun in order to keep the player going. SOLO does the exact same thing. You won’t spend your time doing standard MMO quests (mostly). I rarely ever had my Quest Log filled to the same level I do in literally every other MMO. Instead I spent my time being lead through beautiful areas filled with things to be jumped over and enemies to slice and dice. What more could I want?
The thing is though, this experience does end. Well kind of. There are Chapters that take place after you enter the endgame, and I’m hoping that more will be added in the future. But your main gameplay loop switches from tight character action linearity, to more traditional open-world MMO activities. There’s Reputations to be grinded, a Battle Pass to be completed, dailies to finish, you know the drill by now. But this is all accentuated by the phenomenal combat and movement, which at this point you are fully accustomed too. It’s so much better to do monotonous tasks when the very act of doing them is the exact opposite of. So as far as I’m concerned, a leveling/endgame split like this is perfectly acceptable.
Now I’ve talked about how fun the combat and movement are without actually saying anything about them. Basically, both systems would feel way more at home in a full action game, but I’m certainly not complaining. It’s proper action with dodges, combos both on the ground and in air, and a wide variety of abilities per class to play around with. It’s not just memorizing a rotation, it’s learning how to play your class. Skill-based versus memory based. Movement is equally competent and properly fleshed out. Biggest of all, is the triple jump. Yes. An MMO with a triple jump. The stuff of dreams, I remember the hype when WoW added a double jump for the Demon Hunter. And this is a triple jump, so mathematically three times the hype. And it lives up to it.
There’s three main mechanics to movement. The titular triple jump, a short glide, and a plunging attack (because this is a action game at heart). Also, you move very quickly which is a nice change from the snail’s pace MMO’s seem to think humans walk at. Moving in this game is something else. You don’t walk around buildings, you jump and glide over them. If that wasn’t enough, there’s also mounts, all of which seem to fly. And because this game is about going all out, mounts also come with a boost button. And when I say boost, I mean boost, this ain’t some +15% to movement speed. All in all it kinda reminds me of Shadow of War, another game that was very generous in giving out plenty of options to traverse the world. Each more fun than the last.
Still though, this is an MMORPG. And a core part of the RPG experience is character customization. And personally, I find many Asian MMOs lacking here. Choice usually ends at choosing a class and/or weapon. I was hopeful upon seeing SOLO‘s small class selection that it would lean more towards the western version of doing things, and thankfully for me I was spot on. Each class comes with a full skill tree, and two specializations to choose between. Each spec is focused on one role in the triangle (DPS, healer, tank), and is either melee or ranged. Sometimes pets enter the equation as well. Gear is standard Asian MMO fare and is either for one spec or the other. Very little customization here beyond getting bigger numbers. Still I was more than satisfied by what is here, and if anything appreciate an MMO without a gear focus. Classes matter.
There’s still so much I could talk about. I haven’t even mentioned the story which revolves around a semi-dead demon dragon and some talking swords. Or the beautiful locations that range from a floating city to otherworldly meadows. There’s the raids, the dungeons, the side-activities, the reputations, PvP, but the thing is it doesn’t matter. Because for one of the few times in MMO history, content doesn’t matter. The gameplay does. I play this game for the same reason I play any action game. Not because of a brand new updated raid tier, but because I simply enjoy playing the game so much. And I never knew how much I wanted an MMO like that until I started playing Swords of Legends: Online. And I personally can’t think of any higher praise than that.
While not technically a new MMO, it’s still more than capable of duking it out graphically with the biggest titles we have here in the West.
Combat is great and all, but where the game shines is the absolutely phenomenal movement system.
The English voice acting is incredibly obnoxious, but you should be playing with the Chinese voice acting on anyway.
I’ve literally never played an MMO where the minute to minute gameplay is so fun and exciting. Movement is amazing, combat fast and fluid, and the world is something new and exciting.
Final Verdict: 9.0
Swords of Legends Online is available now on PC.
Reviewed on PC.
A copy of Swords of Legends Online was provided by the publisher.