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The MMO genre is saturated with titles that are all too similar to each other, and finding a game that stands out has become pretty difficult. Age of Wushu from Snail Games USA dares to offer a lot that's different from other games in the genre, and because of that, it's a game that jaded MMO players should definitely keep an eye on. Plus, it's endorsed by Jet Li, which is all kinds of badass.

Age of Wushu takes place in a fantasy setting, but it still has a strong focus on realism. Players won't find mythical enemies in this title; instead, your enemies are the other players roaming the land. That said, I was told that Age of Wushu's theme will be based on Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, so despite the realism, there's still a lot of craziness to keep the game from ever getting too serious. For example, players will be able to run on water, dash across rooftops, and engage in crazy fights reminiscent of old school kung fu movies.

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Character animations are motion-captured from martial arts experts to give Age of Wushu's battles an authentic look. Not only will players be able to take each other on, but more advanced individuals will be able to jump into the air and actually pummel each other for long periods of time before they come back to the ground. Yeah, that's definitely similar to the kick-ass kung fu movies of old.

Character progression in Age of Wushu will be handled very different from most other MMOs. My demo guide referred to the game as "level-less" and stated that character growth is more sandbox-like. You'll be able to join one of eight schools, each with their own set of unlockable skills. While you can definitely try to learn multiple skills from different schools, this probably won't deliver better results than if you were to just focus on one school and make your character a powerhouse in a specific division. This freedom to choose what you enhance rather than just leveling up will not only provide a sense of freedom, but it will give players more control over how their character plays.

Age of Wushu will feature 17 different professions such as cook and poison maker (a respectable career no doubt), but you'll also be able to choose from 20 different offline jobs for your character to undertake when you log off. So if you make your character a beggar, the moment you stop playing, he'll still be roaming around the game world as an NPC asking other characters for a handout. You could also go the non-lazy route and open up a shop to sell goods to other players, or engage in other jobs.

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If you think your character is safe when you're not playing, though, think again. If someone wants to be a total jerk, they can kidnap your character and sell them to slave owners. Luckily, if another players sees the injustice, they'll be able to stop them. If they don't, the kidnapped player will have to fight his way out of his predicament. Oh, and don't worry, being kidnapped doesn't cause you to lose any items.

What stood out to me the most about Age of Wushu was its gameplay, which is a lot closer to an action-adventure game than an MMO. Snail Games USA has something special with a lot of potential here, and if the company can deliver a compelling product, this free-to-play title will definitely be worth a look by longtime MMO fans and newcomers alike. Age of Wushu has been in development for five years, and it is currently in open beta in China. Watch out for it when it drops in North America sometime between Q3 and Q4.

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Games: Age of Wushu

Tags: E3 2012

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