Swordsman Online is a 3D MMORPG with a focus on action-oriented combat. Pick from ten classes, each with a unique playstyle, and fight with a dynamic combat system in a world that reacts to your choices.
|Publisher: Arc Games
Release Date: July 03, 2014
Shutdown Date: June 5, 2018
Pros: +Polished environments. +Ten unique martial arts classes. +Deep character customization.
Cons:-Lacking skill progression. -Repetitive gameplay.
Swordsman is a 3D MMORPG by Perfect World Entertainment and set in Ancient China based on the novel, The Smiling, Proud Wanderer, by Louis Cha. An extensive character creation systems means no two characters look exactly alike. Select from one of ten martial arts schools (classes) that each have a unique playstyle and skill set. Further your training by leveling and master your school's art form, unlocking new abilities that enhance your character's combos. A polished environment and ornate architecture set to soothing music creates an atmosphere of exploration. Wuxia acrobatic moves let you jump across rooftops and dodge enemy attacks. An auto-navigation system will guide you to your next objective with no need for input. End game features instances with multiple boss encounters and a stat-balanced PvP arena.
Swordsman Key Features:
- Ten Martial Arts Classes – offering unique playstyles.
- Auto-Questing – navigates to your objective automatically.
- Three Different Control Schemes – cater to every player's preferred control scheme.
- Polished Environments – visually polished and create an atmosphere invoking Ancient Chinese mythology.
- World PvP – hunt other players or fear for your life as you quest.
Swordsman Featured Video
- Shaolin: Legend says the Shaolin monks created kung-fu centuries ago. That would explain their mastery of both melee and defensive skills and their superior hand-to-hand combat. Wielding a Bo staff that can be separated into three pieces, students of Shaolin deal considerable AOE damage. While control is their weak point, they are able to withstand the assault of enemy attacks and pull them near. They are most renowned for their superior defensive skills, often standing at the front of the battlefield to shield their companions.
- Wu-Tang: An understanding of nature’s Yin and Yang, the wane and waxing of life, enables students of Wu-Tang to understand how water flows around the rock and utilize their knowledge to overwhelm enemies. Support skills power the attack and defense of companions while Wu-Tang disciples use ranged skills to slice away enemies health. They are masters of Taoism, harnessing their inner strength to buff themselves and allies while using a diverse range of AOE skills.
- Splendor: Understanding the natural flow of Chi through the body, students of Splendor channel energy into their longsword to quickly shred opponents. Swift attacks deal devastating damage in a short time, often before enemies have the chance to raise their hands or beg for mercy. A one-handed sword is handled with elegance, agility, and the clarity to know exactly where metal must meet flesh to send an opponent to the next life.
- Infinity: Drawing on the teachings of the Buddha, students of Infinity channel Endo to protect themselves while blasting enemies with powerful attacks. While their school is mainly composed of warrior nuns, they do accept men. Dashing towards enemies while controlling their energy perfectly enables them to endure attacks without taking damage and release harnessed power in an explosive burst.
- Harmony: Some may look at them and mistake them for a wandering minstrel, but Harmony school creates warriors with unequaled melody and rhythm. Hiding their weapons in their instruments, the student of Harmony inflicts both melee and ranged attacks using two swords. They are masters of illusion, and excel at controlling enemies at close range and exhibiting blurring speed to strike down enemies in an instant, the assassin class of Swordsman.
- Sun and Moon Cult: Using Sun and Moon daggers, members of the deadly cult control their skills to inflict both ranged and melee attacks. Agile and strong, they inflict overwhelming damage on single targets. Avoiding close combat, they can throw daggers from afar or sneak in close to drain the life-force of enemies.
- Five Venoms: Branching out from the Sun and Moon Cult, students of Five Venoms are gorgeous women whose beauty betrays their deadly ways. Fooling lusting enemies, they use a Soft Whip to poison and kill slowly like a venomous spider. They are experts at controlling crowds and dealing AOE damage; and are the perfect combination, beautiful and deadly.
- Zephyr: An off-shoot of the Taoists, the Zephyr uses fold-fans to inflict ranged damage and powerful palm strikes when up close. Their chi can freeze water and air, rendering ranged enemies frozen in place. Fire and Ice AoE attacks inflict excruciating pain on groups of enemies while defensive ice shields reduce the movement speed of enemies around them.
- House Tong: Using only ranged skills, disciples of House Tong pierce enemies with precise fire while deploying traps to snare enemies who venture too close. They can deal damage to multiple target with handguns and use throwing weapons to knock-back enemies. Traps can control and stun opponents, while firebolt pushes enemies back allowing them to escape.
- E’mei: Mainly composed of formidable nuns, though they do accept men, the E’mei cultivate both Exo and Endo, making them excellent at offense and defense. Though their specialty is supporting their comrades and mitigating their enemies defenses they dish out high AoE damage with ranged attack skills but suffer in 1v1 PvP due to their supportive playstyle.
By Sean Sullivan
Swordsman is an action MMORPG set in a world based on Louis Cha’s novel, The Smiling, Proud Wanderer, a wuxia book capturing the adventures of wandering martial artists. As a fan of martial arts and Eastern history, I was excited to launch Swordsman. Of course I would create my own hero, a character who represented my essence in an ancient world seeped in bloodshed. As I’ve come to expect from Perfect World, Swordsman Online’s character creator is fantastic. Unfortunately, I cannot create the most heinous, vile, creature to walk ancient China like it's Perfect World. Nevertheless, I can create the most handsome gentleman to grace martial arts.
The Perfect Warrior
Character creator sliders let you adjust size, height, placement, and depth of particular body parts such as your character's nose. In Perfect World, you could rotate your eyes upside down or make cheeks look like they were caving in on a wormhole. It looks like the developers learned their lesson. Still, you are given an extensive amount of freedom to create that is not found in Western MMORPG's. After discovering that “Keith,” “Mango,” and “Chad” were taken to my great disappointment, I turned on my creative juices and settled for “Provolone,” the World’s Strongest. There are three control schemes for playing the game: Swordsman Classic (Mouse-click), Traditional 3D (WASD), and Action. I’m a traditionalist so I picked Traditional 3D and set out to test my five finger death punch.
The game's environments are polished and easy on the eyes. Although the ocean water effects rendered at a different frame rate than the rest of the game—rendering ran at maybe 3 FPS—the rest of my game ran smoothly. It was strange. Ornate architecture inspired by Ancient China makes city environments charming and a pleasure to travel through. Distance blue and lighting are expertly combined to give faraway environments the sense that there is more detail behind the glossy haze. The world is engaging with a bygone atmosphere that inspires the sense that Swordsman is a world ripe with adventure and mystery. It’s a well-balanced approach. I felt eager to run down the beach and see what lay ahead. Open world MMORPG’s need to evoke that sensation to feel immersive. Otherwise, they fall flat. Provolone was eager to make his mark as an Ancient Hero fit for mythology. But first, we had to introduce some ruffians to our fists.
White Belt Initiation
Combat is simple. Run up to an enemy and press right click to attack, watch fist and flesh connect ending with pressing “Q” to pulverize NPC’s with a well-placed front kick. It's well animated and satisfying to watch an enemies fly back as the ball of my foot connects. They fade into nothingness, too ashamed to leave their corpse in this realm. Once I proved myself a warrior, I started hacking away at the quest line.
NPCs speak Mandarin with english text to relay what’s being said for you non-Mandarin speakers. I wonder if it was laziness on the developer's part or if they cared about the integrity of representing Louis Cha’s wuxia universe. Either way, the Mandarin speech creates a more immersive experience and I appreciate it over some non-suited English translation.
Picking up my first quest to collect wine, I was lost as to where to go. The game hyperlinks quest targets in the upper-right hand corner of your screen and you can double-click the yellow text to send your character where they need to go. Perfect World employed a similar feature and it’s one I appreciate. It negates the trudgery of navigating fetch quests in games where all I care about is combat. It also lets you alt + tab to browse the internet while your character hauls oversized jars of wine. On the other hand, that breaks immersion from the experience and leads to passive play. I ignored the issue at first, eager to break free of the tutorial.
After you’ve completed the game's mandatory tutorial—running around the city and collecting gear—you’re prompted to choose one of the ten classes, or schools. I didn’t need to ponder much. Having researched the classes prior to playing and compiling them for this review, I knew that there was only one choice for Provolone. He is a warrior monk, a disciple of Shaolin from the first day he set foot in this mystical land. With an oversized Bo staff on my back, I was ready to embark on an adventure to make Miyamoto Musashi proud.
You don’t begin with too many skills. I had three hotkeyed skills (1-3) and one smash attack, bound to “Q,” where I raised my bow staff over my head and spanked the earth, exploding any craniums between my staff and the dirt. Not until level 20 do you expand your skill library. It’s a rough separation. The skills I was given weren’t exactly the most engaging or for that matter necessary. I was never low on health so Stone Shield proved a waste of a keybind. Holy Chant and Tiger Roar were a buff for me and debuff for enemies respectively and made little difference in the tide of battle. Combat was essentially me pressing Q to slam my staff while alternating between an overabundance of target by pressing tab. I played with one-hand once thrust into combat. Other classes are also given a limited library, and you don't expand or have any input with those skills until later levels.
Then at level 20 you can forget those menial skills you’ve been using and be equipped with a whole new loadout. It’s like training for your brown belt and then when you pass your test, your Sensei says “Yeah… about all that stuff we did, forget it.” Your new set of skills is completely separate from your initial set and changes the way the class is played to an extent. I joined the Shaolin Expiation sect and learned active combat skills. I was happy to finally press my number keys with a purpose. Using the same skills to level 20 was monotonous and not creating a progression tree is a fine choice if done properly but its initiation felt too little too late.
It means that leveling up isn't satisfying. I didn’t even notice my level half the time because there’s no reward for leveling. There’s no skill point allocation or active stat allocation. It just happens. And that keeps the player disengaged from the experience. Why am I killing robotic mobs? What’s the point? To spam the same skill ad infinitum? For the pay-off of some later reward? But I continued to kill NPCs. It was satisfying in its own right.
Questing On Automatic
You accept a quest from an NPC—dialogue ignored of course. Then you click the hyperlinked quest text to run to the objective. If you're sent off to an engage enemy the game will automatically start attacking for you. It’s boring and breaks immersion. At first, I was happy to auto-path my way to every objective but it quickly became evident that doing so made me not care about this world. I played on auto-pilot and thought about whether Philip K. Dick was schizophrenic or a liar. Ultimately playing the game felt like a chore, like washing dishes before you can make dinner. There was no fulfillment in completing objectives or moving to the next area because I was barely playing.
The sound effects in combat are immensely satisfying. The sound of the bo staff slamming an enemy rings with a prominent thud that creates the illusion of actual connection. Additionally, its animation is well rendered. Combat is intrinsically rewarding but excellent animation and sound effects can only carry gameplay so far. The grind become tedious, though there are plenty of enemies to kill.
NPC enemies are abundant, more abundant than bamboo. And they look like beasts of burden being sent to slaughter. At least in games like Global Agenda, the NPCs made sense for their location. Cyber-robots patrol corporate offices because it's the weekend and who else is going to stand guard? But thugs roaming a bamboo forest only make sense to give players an overwhelming number of enemies to practice their skills on. And they are overwhelming. They're essentially armies standing around idly contemplating their honor.
The Story So Far
What story? There’s a story to this game? Following tropes, a village is attacked, you get some sword, village slaughtered, and adventure time. After that I didn’t care and the game didn't lead me to care. The story is irrelevant in part because of the monotonous gameplay. The cinematic scenes don’t help flesh out whatever’s happening in this mundane world full of stationary nomads.
As the game translates the text, it does so right-to-left because the developers replaced Mandarin Characters with English ones but it still scrolls left-to-right so by the time you can make the text out the cinematic is over. The transition phase after cinematics leaves large gaps as you move from one seemingly random point to another. It feels like somebody's inebriated evening as they blink and find themselves in a bar, apartment, or car but have no memory of how they arrived. At one point, I’m flying on the back of an immense Condor, only to cut to a load screen and find myself in a field of enemy NPC thugs. Am I drunk?
Hunting For Players
Swordsman does have PvP where you can let loose some of your frustrations. In the arena, all players stats are balanced to match each other so PvP becomes a test of skill and knowing your class in and out. There is world PvP and I commend the game for it. World PvP is always fun, sometimes arduous, and adds a layer of depth to questing on your own when death can be waiting after the next NPC kill or while you’re auto-pathing to a quest giver.
Surprisingly the cash shop is unobtrusive and I never even thought of it until writing this review. Open the marketplace by pressing “J”—that one took some digging to find—and you'll find plenty of cosmetic hairstyles for sale, including one that looked more appropriately suited for Dragon Ball Xenoverse. Needless to say, I wanted that hairstyle. I did not see any overpowered items. The majority of merchandise consisted of fashion items and mounts.
Final Score - Good
As usual with a Perfect World game, the character creator is phenomenal and hilarious and engaging. I create a sculpture fit for Ancient Athens but his background is mundane due to repetitive mechanics. But the world is quite beautiful and evokes the sensation of exploring a mythological China. If you’re a fan of Louis Cha’s The Smiling, Proud Wanderer or wuxia novels in general you will find something to love, especially the soothing music set to a handsome character frolicking through bamboo forests.
Operating System: Windows XP, Vista, 7, or 8
CPU: Intel Pentium 4 2.0 GHz and above
RAM: 2 GB RAM (3 GB or more recommended for Vista/7/8)
Video Card: DirectX 9.0 level CPU (Geforce 9800GT or newer) with 1GB Video RAM or more.
Hard Disk Space: 8 GB Free Space
Operating System: Windows XP, Vista, 7, or 8
CPU: Core 2 Duo E4400 2.0GHz
RAM: 3 GB RAM
Video Card: GeForce GT 740
Hard Disk Space: 8 GB Free Space
Swordsman Additional Information
Developer(s): Beijing Perfect World
Publisher(s): Perfect World Entertainment
Game Engine: Angelica III
Closed Beta: June 16, 2014
Closed Beta End Date: June 27, 2014
Open Beta (Early Access Keys): July 1, 2014
Open Beta (Official): July 3, 2014
Steam Release Date: January 28, 2016
Release Date: July 3, 2014
Shutdown Date: June 5, 2018
Development History / Background:
Swordsman is produced by Perfect World Entertainment and can be played exclusively on Arc. The game was released on July 3, 2014 to all players. Swordsman is based on the best-selling Chinese novel The Smiling, Proud Wanderer (Xiao Ao Jiang Hu) by Juan Hu. It is a wuxia novel, literally translating to "martial hero," that concerns the adventures of martial artists in Ancient China. The term "wuxia" was introduce to Western audiences in Ang Lee's 2000 film Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. Stylistically, Swordsman emanates many atypical wuxia characteristic such as exaggerated acrobatic prowess and martial arts skills. Perfect World Entertainment is famous for bringing Chinese games to an English language audience, including Perfect World, Jade Dynasty, and Ether Saga Online. The company is also famous for publishing the Dungeons and Dragons MMORPG Neverwinter. Swordsman Online was released through the Steam platform on January 28, 2016. Swordsman shut down on June 5, 2018.