I’m a big fan of Chinese martial arts novels set in ancient times(武侠小说）. I in fact own the whole set of novels written by my favorite author of this genera, Jin Yong (金庸). Yes, all 12 chronicles totaling 36 books.
In my early childhood, before I even reached school age, I was immersed in traditional Chinese culture. Of the four traditional arts (琴棋书画), I got Music from my musician father, Chess from my CEO grandfather, Calligraphy and Painting from my landscape artist (山水画) grandmother. From my grandmother, I also learned many ancient poetry and fell in love with historical China.
I remember as a very young child, I always felt that I was born in the wrong age. I yearned for the ancient times portrayed in the books and poems. A time of heroes, of honor, of love of country, of natural and unrestrained elegance mixed together with all the pains and sorrows of life in a society where reputation was everything. As I was born in modern times instead, the best that I could do was immerse myself in fanciful martial arts novels and TV shows set in ancient times. In them, with hard work, anyone can achieve incredible powers. Powers that allow people to run on water, fly across rooftops,. With combinations of luck, fate and hard work, those at the apex can even achieve powers liken to that of demigods. Where power fails or is corrupt, there is the power in numbers, with people connected through blood ties, through clans, through martial sects. I fell in love with the world where nothing is impossible through hard work, a world filled with culture, a world where people would know where they belonged in the world. And no matter how ridiculously powerful someone is, there’s always someone stronger.
Age of WuShu review (九阴真经)
Finally, a virtual world has been created that preserves the culture of the ancient martial world. Called Age of WuShu in the US, the English version of the game is just starting to gain in popularity, the game has been popular for a long time and has won 47 awards. I ended up downloading the global Asian version with Chinese language.
Looking at the YouTube game play of the English version the feeling is very different. The Chinese version is very true to lore within the books, complete with all the history, back story, culture, everything. It seems clear that the creators made this game to preserve and promote the pugilist world (江湖） culture. This means to the casual gamer, there’s way too much information and the game menus are a bit overwhelming. Even in choosing your characters name, the game invokes the book of last names with a description of the origins of all the Chinese last names available when you hover over the name. Some are really quite interesting. The English version seemed to have dumbed it down a bit, or rather, there is just so much poetic meaning that’s not translatable into English. For example, the Chinese title 九阴真经 is Nine Shadow Sutra which is a lost martial arts text.
Your character starts with a choice of four story lines. You could be an orphan in search of your sister, you could be a happy go lucky guy that gets wrapped into the martial world, you could be out for vengeance against a masked man who killed your whole family, or what I chose was a protagonist who suffers from amnesia after being saved from pursuers by an old master, who happened to be the person who lost the Nine Shadow Sutra in the first place because he gave it to his old girl friend who was out for vengeance and turned evil and stole half the text… You know how it goes.
Based on your storyline, you start in a different area, learn basic skills, then eventually decide to enter one of the 8 martial arts sects or schools. You can also chose to not enter any school, but that’s quite disadvantageous. The 8 sects are well known to those of us familiar with the novels. There’s of course ShaoLin temple monks that everyone knows of, the GaiBang or begger’s Sect that is popular in all movies, there’s also EMei nuns who’s founder is the daughter of… well it’s more interesting for those who’s familiar with Condor Heroes and other connected JinYong novels. I of course chose the sect of Scholars or JunZiTang (君子堂 Noble/Scholar Hall). What the English website failed to mention about them is that the school was created by two who were dissatisfied with the government and created a place for them to focus on scholarly pursuits instead of being part of worldly troubles, thus making them neither good nor evil. To enter you need a Life Skill in one of the Cultural skills of Music, Weiqi (chess), Calligraphy, or Painting. A close second was Wanderer’s Valley which in Chinese is 极乐谷 or Bliss Valley. It’s from one of my favorite stories, and is filled with misfits from society that does things their own villainous way but protects those near them and are thus loved by the surrounding villagers.
When the game first came out in China, the game was highly anticipated and was quite popular for a long time. But these days people’s attention span is really short and there’s a lot of competing MMORPGs out there, a lot more than in the States. Now a days, there’s only half as many people as when it games first started. Many have stopped playing, only a few have stuck it out and there’s also fewer new players in China. Right now in the Chinese version of Global Asian US server there’s about 300,000 players, so not too bad. We’ll wait and see how the English version does. Certainly seeing a lot of ads for it in Crunchyroll.
This is one of the most beautiful games I’ve ever played. The people are beautiful, especially the girls, and you are free to customize your character to a good extent. The outfits and tools are quite detailed. The landscape captures the essence of Jiang Hu beauty: in the south east there’s the bridges and creeks and gardens one appreciates from the SuZhou region, and in the north the lively cities and impressive architecture. And the music… makes me just want to keep it in the background and do work with it there.
Unique game play
I just mentioned I like to leave the game running in the background. This works out well because my character can level and meditate and gain experience as she trains her internal chi without me having to actively play. Also cool is that when players log out, their characters become NPCs that wander the lands in their absence and continues to gain experiences in various ways. There’s a lot of different things to gain experience in: inner chi, outer power, endurance, reputation in the land, etc. etc. etc. etc. Might be a bit overwhelming in the beginning as there are soooo many different menus and information and options that are just windows that open forever if you chose to check them all out. My suggestion is to just focus on the quests at hand and not fuss too much about all the menus, you’ll get used to them eventually.
What’s amazing about the fighting system is that every move you learn is recorded in detail, providing it’s uses, background, and most interestingly, a small video of the move made by your character. I tried the moves myself. Yes, I watched the movements and mimicked the sword techniques while calling the name out. Felt really cool afterwards. haha… -_-; But actually, it really is cool because all the techniques are motion captured from real life kongfu masters. So in a way, through this game, I can sneakily learn secret techniques in real life. Hopefully I won’t 走火入魔 （no English translation available for that… it’s when you go over board with meditation and it messes you up and you go crazy).
Bag space… not enough. Especially since you get a lot of special items and gifts through events and awards. You can make more bags with crafting life skills though, so not that big of an issue. To get more advanced items and to level more when you are away from the game, you need to pay for premium membership, but most of the game play does not require payment of real money at all. For a free game, this is an incredible MMORPG even without a love for the Wu Xia world like I have.