Every man has his breaking point. Little smiley faces were mine.

I wasn’t there in the beginning, but I imagine that the marketing for early MMOs consisted of the following: “It’s a 3-D game you can play with people on the Internet, any time you like.” That was it. End of sales pitch. In 2000, that was all you needed and hundreds of thousands of people would fling their money at you. Tack on a popular license, like Star Wars, and it was even easier.

A big reason for that was lack of choice. With only a handful of MMOs in the early, pre-WoW, days, you played EverQuest and if you didn’t like it, you could go play… EverQuest. Or maybe, if you were really bored with EverQuest, you could play… EverQuest. Or, like, go outside. But who did that?

MMOs could have a lot more warts then and still be hugely popular because there was nothing else. Sure, you can note that World of Warcraft and its follow-ups have made MMOs easier, more convenient, more accessible, whatever you like, and you wouldn’t be wrong. Maybe that’s a good thing, maybe it’s a bad thing.

But even the most jaded, old-school players with the thickest of rose-colored glasses have to admit that there was some seriously messed-up stuff (this is a pseudo-family-friendly website) in those early games. Nowadays, you’ll fling a new title aside if you don’t like the nose shape choices in the character creator. If a game launched with some of the things that old MMOs (and old MMO players) boasted of, you’d torch it on Reddit with all the flames and fury of rioting World Cup fans.

On to the real point of this article: The characters in Swordsman Online have nice noses. In fact, the game is very pretty, visually, giving you a clear notion of where you are – that being an old world China-esque setting, with striking architecture, elaborate outfits, and a suite of flashy special effects to accompany your attacks. You’ll select from one of 10 fighting styles early on and practice it to deadly efficiency, slicing your way through countless foes.

Swordsman will invariably be compared to Age of Wushu, Snail Games own wuxia-inspired MMO. I found Swordsman to be a fair bit easier to understand, as opposed to Age of Wushu’s “pop-up spam” that accompanies the early levels. The menus are better laid out and simpler, too, and I never lacked for knowing what I was supposed to do or where I was supposed to go. Translations were, as usual, spotty, but that’s pretty much inevitable when dealing with this type of imported game.

“This type of imported game” pretty much sums up the experience, though. Swordsman Online is what it is: a grindy, tepid adventure that has its charms but is so rooted in archaic conventions that it’s a struggle to keep going. Enemies with ironic names like “Ambushing Swordsman” stand around passively waiting for you to attack them. If you have action controls, you have to quickly tap Ctrl-click to get a cursor, and then tap again instead of a sensible solution like holding the Alt or Ctrl key. There’s no invert Y-axis option, a necessity for many gamers, myself included. You can double-jump but it’s not really necessary; enemies hit like wet paper and the cool cinematic action is done in cut scenes with no player input required.

Already having a grand time, as you can tell, I finally came upon a quest where I had to do a kneel emote in front of an NPC. I pulled up the emote menu and was greeted with 50 cute little faces. None of them screamed “kneel” to me and there was no hover-over text. I tried a couple, to no avail. I then decided I had better things to do than go through the other 48 and shut down my game, never to return.

And that’s the point of it. If Swordsman Online had launched 15 years ago, even with lesser graphics, it would have been the biggest thing ever. Now, though? There are literally hundreds of other MMO choices out there.

If you like this style of game, and want a Chinese flavor added to it, you might like Swordsman Online. If you don’t, you won’t. That’s really all the analysis needed. I don’t need to get into PvP and dungeons and all that to learn this. It drove me away in its first four hours. Maybe that makes me a bad reviewer, but isn’t the goal of a reviewer to try a product until he’s come to a decision on it, whether that takes four hours or forty? I know some people will shout “It’s only alpha!” but we’ve all played enough alpha/beta/early access games by this point to know that not much significant will change. And we also know that so many of those games are just marketing exercises, meant more to get you to like that game and interested in spending money than in actual testing. And what I saw of Swordsman Online simply isn’t good enough to make me want to play it over all the other options I have available.

That’s subjective, of course, and there are people who will absolutely love Swordsman Online. It apparently has 80 million players in China, and even in my brief time, I saw people advertising for high-level group content in chat. You can try it for yourself on July 3, when the open beta begins, but don’t go in expecting a revelation. You’ve already played this game before. You’ll love it to death, grow tired of it quickly, or grow tired of it very quickly, as I did. You already know the answer. Let that be your moment of zen.

Michael Dunaway has been part of the MMOBomb team for years and has covered practically every major Free-to-Play title since 2009. In addition to contributing First Look videos and news articles, Michael also serves as the Community Manager for the upcoming MMORPG, Skyforge.

31 COMMENTS

  1. I agree that the game isn’t the best out there, and it does then tend to get boring.

    But this review… could have been a little better. Apparently I found out his introducing sentence was just a complaint in the end about his failure of realizing the difference between an emotion and an emoticon… Especially when the kneel button was in an obvious place. He went on talking about early MMOs to stating obvious facts about this game, talking about the noses and menus… then quitting because he went to chat emoticons… in which he should have read the tab title…

    Then he went on talking about him that makes him seem like a “bad reviewer,” and tries to defend himself. Tip for future review: If you believe that your review is good, don’t even try to bother defending yourself in which you believe other people will complain. Try to fix it then…

  2. I agree with the author. I really wanted to like the game too. I played 9dragons but didn’t play Age of Wushu (but I watched videos), I didn’t see much of a difference. I would love a game like this with fighting similar to Vindictus, or even Watch Dogs, or even Fable. I also HATE games with NPC’s that just stand there waiting for you to attack them, I think now a days thats a total cop out. I don’t know why this does so well in China, it blows me away 80 million people, that blows my mind for a game that is so unoriginal, and bland.

    I want a game that’s like a good single player game but thats an MMO. So far the closest I’ve played is Defiance. There have been games that had potential and games that are coming out that have potential, but Swordsman isn’t one of those games. Actually this game reminds me a lot of Black Gold online which also lets you pick between click target and aiming. I left with the same empty feeling playing both games.

  3. its a great game and those who auto think its a fail cause its pwi are wrong and those judging from the first 20 min of game play are even worse get to lvl 40 than complain its great open world pk is amazing and who ever wrote this article is an idiot cause there is a button called “R” that it states during the tutorial is used for interacting with npc’s like the kneeling action needed no opening of the emote screen was even necessary there is also a floating text button on the bottom right that says kneel get ur head out ur butt and stop judging a game before you even are an hour into it (that quest is about 30 min into the game)

  4. Another FAILURE from PerfectWorld just like Raiderz where everyone jumps on the hype-train at first.

    They might as well just give up on MMORPGs.
    All MMOs coming from PW die in 6 months,unless It’s over-hyped like neverwinter,been like that for a few years by now.I’ll just wait for the 1-4 actually good and innovative ones that come out a year from real developers.

  5. This man did not review crap he probably went to lvl 5 and based it from there. I must say it was alittle boring at first not being able to jump around and do all the things I want. As I leveled that changed there is no where I cant go. Once you get ast lvl like 17 the game becomes interesting it does not fully start till 40 the more you lvl the more you see the more styles you get to see. for pvp gear and lvl is nothing ive seen people with legendary gear loose to eople with lvl 20 gear on its all about skill and combo. This game is WAYYY better than any previous kung fu games. This one will stay around for a while. I cant wait till july 3rd to play obt. Please try not to review games you have not really played.

    • Fine, than I’ll review the game, considering I’ve hit lvl 30+. The game doesn’t get any better, it’s still a stand still game that pretends to be an “Action” combat game. Where when, and if you do choose the point and click fighting style, makes the game easier, and it’s worth it in the long run, because you’re doing the same thing as you would pointing and clicking, trying ti play in “True Combat”.

      Perfect World wouldn’t let one of their babies die. But they’d definitely pick one up. And this, game. Is garbage at it’s best. Fancy visuals don’t make a game by any means.

      But hey, everyone has their own game. I hope you enjoy the Open Beta.

    • He did not review crap cause it’s not a review, your comment was therefor pointless. Also if a game doesn’t start till level 40 then it fails as a game. It should start and be interesting from the get go at level 1.

    • I don’t understand MMORPG players… why should i have to spend weeks grinding just so i can finally start having fun?

      The lower levels should be enjoyable, the game shouldn’t feel like a boring slog up until endgame.

  6. Most new games are crap. This is one of those. No need to play for impressions. Pay to Win must Die. Epic title for a good game. some rpg tps fps modes

  7. I can totally agree with you. If Swordsman Online had launched 15 years ago, even with lesser graphics, it would have been the biggest thing ever. Now, though? There are literally hundreds of other MMO choices out there.

    • please tell one, I’ve been searching for a good mmo all my life and to hear there are hundreds of choices! thats amazing.

  8. the game is nothing but no lifers rushing to high lvl and group spawn pking low lvls and stopping them from leveling. them pro pvpers wont pvp eachother but pk low lvls day and night… that sums up the game.. and in turn it will die in months and become just like any other dumb pk system game = DEAD

  9. The kneel button was on the bottom right corner. Anyway, I quit a little after you did. It’s boring. It’s a well-made game overall. It’s just boring…

    • The fact that it’s boring is already a statement that it’s no good, games supposed to entertain, if they fail and that task then they’re a failure and it’s creators had failed.
      But the story is a bit different if the game was never meant to be made for entertainment in the first place… like today, today they mostly make games for profit so how in the hell can such a game ever be fun? you can’t make a pie taste great if you keep thinking about everything and anything except making it taste great during it’s creation process. So yeah, this is what happens when they make a game not with fun in mind but with profit in mind.

  10. This review pretty much sums up how I feel about all Chinese MMO’s.

    Hopefully ArcheAge will have enough new and creative features to interest me in MMO”s again.

  11. The thing that i didn’t like about Swordsman online was the combat system. It just felt so clunky and unresponsive…

  12. well someone will like a game someone will hate it, that is part of a every mmorpg
    i played jade dynasty for about 3 years now and swordsman online is nice change but game is not perfect of corse but if they give it nice updates and events swordsman will be best wuxia game.

  13. this game is damn good the pvp is some of the best in any mmo and the smily thing is a pwe thing they are just dumb like that you dont actually have to pull up that list to do the quest you can jsut click on the kneel icon the pops up when you do to the npc no idea how the hell you could even miss that pretty shit review i gotta say

    • one of the best PvP in an MMO is in World of Warcraft, i cant imagine this game having a good PvP when you have to stay in place when attacking

      • i have to ask have u even played this game?
        lol standing 1 place to attack u have to keep running from bosses mobs attack and in pvp movement is evrthing so before u say stuff like that PLAY THE GAME first

        • i did play the game, and WoW is still the best MMO (PvP-wise) the rest of WoW is now inferior to many other games, but the PvP is still top-notch

      • omg, wow the best pvp wise? omg You know nothing Allwynd. WoW pvp sucks a lot, I could consider wow pvp mediocre or ordinary, but best is a wow fanboy dream.

  14. exactly what I tought. I just want to smash the buttons and that would be enough for me. but this game worse than jade dinasty which was a cool game back in the days though. I tried it. no one can say I didn’t. I was like: It will be better at higher levels. but no, because It doesn’t even let me to move when I attack someone, and this is just the first problem. After all, It feels like a I’m watching someone play the game and not actually playing it.

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