Blade & Soul Revolution is an upcoming mobile MMORPG from Netmarble, the studio behind 2016's popular Lineage 2 Revolution. Although Blade & Soul Revolution is currently available in certain regions throughout Asia, Netmarble has officially set a global release for sometime in 2021. Ahead of its launch, I was able to spend a few hours working my way through the early levels of the game – getting a hands-on look at its narrative, complex combat system, and how it plans to set itself apart from the competition.

Races and classes

Like any MMO worth its salt, Blade & Soul Revolution features a robust character creator. You'll have four races to choose from – some of which are gender-locked – and five unique classes. While I didn't have time to dive deep into every class, it's clear that they'll each bring a different playstyle to the world of Blade & Soul Revolution. I opted for a human-like Jin and the Blade Master class. This is your standard, balanced class, excelling in both an offensive or defensive role. Other class options include the tank-like Destroyer and mage-like Force Master.

Once you've picked your class and race, you'll have the chance to modify their appearance to your liking before diving straight into the action.

blade and soul revolution preview

Unfortunately, things started a bit rough. The graphics weren't quite as impressive as I was expecting for an MMO launching in 2021 – even with the settings cranked all the way up – and I found the first cutscene to be a bit awkward with stilted animation. Those feelings started to fade after jumping into Blade & Soul Revolution's combat system, which is by far the star of the show.

Blade & Soul Revolution skills

In typical mobile MMO fashion, your combat skills are mapped to an action wheel on the right-hand side of the screen. Press a button, and you'll perform that action. However, doing so will then remove that skill from the wheel – replaced by a subsequent skill in that chain. Essentially, this means you can perform several different moves by pressing the same button in rapid succession. To further add to the complexity, you can take advantage of chain skills by activating different skills in a certain order. It's reminiscent of arcade fighters – where certain button combos will pull-off power attacks – and it's used to great effect in Blade & Soul Revolution.

That’s just the beginning of the combat system, however, as you can upgrade skills, unlock new variants for your attacks, and combine your skills with other players for Joint-Attacks. There are also two different ways to dodge incoming attacks – either backstepping away from your opponent or rotating to their back. Combat runs deep in Blade & Soul Revolution, and I was pleasantly surprised with how much fun I was having.

The game does offer you the option to automate combat and questing and – while it's great for a bit of grinding – you'll want to take manual control during intense boss battles. Although the Auto-Battle function might be able to execute some basic combos, it doesn't do a great job dodging enemy attacks. And that's perfectly fine – with a combat system this engaging, you're doing yourself a disservice if you run through the game on autopilot.

blade and soul revolution preview

While combat is a big part of an MMO, it'll take more than excellent fighting mechanics to stand out in the crowded mobile marketplace. And that's where things start to fall apart.

Blade & Soul Revolution's graphics

Despite running on Unreal Engine 4, the graphics leave a lot to be desired. After sinking way too much time into the beautiful Black Desert Mobile – and even dabbling with RuneScape – Blade & Soul Revolution's graphics don't do much to impress. They're not bad by any stretch of the imagination, but as a big name MMO launching in 2021, I expected a bit more than is currently on display.

Its narrative isn't fully voiced, either, although that's made up for with incredible cutscenes during major plot points. The story itself was compelling enough, although most people will probably stick around for the combat instead of the typical tale of revenge.

Then there's the usual assortment of crafting, upgrading, fast travelling, and exploration – none of which do much to innovate. The one standout here, however, is the gliding mechanic, which lets you cross large chasms and adds a twist to the usual modes of travel. I've only used it a few times in my preview, although I'm hopeful Netmarble will implement it more frequently as I progress through the game.

The only thing missing from my preview? Multiplayer.

The servers were expectedly quiet during my time with Blade & Soul Revolution, although I did my best to check out some of the content you'll be able to tackle with a couple of friends. Field Bosses and World Bosses give you a reason to group up with others in your area, facing off against some of the toughest enemies in the game. There's also a Faction War PvP mode that supports up to 500 players per server and a clan system to band together with fellow adventurers. I didn't get a chance to see this one firsthand, although multiple pop-ups during loading screens made sure I knew about its existence.

After spending the weekend with Blade & Soul Revolution, I'm excited to jump back in when it officially launches later this year. It's not perfect – with subpar graphics and the usual MMO trappings – but the combat system is innovative enough to deserve a bit more of my time. I'm also curious to see how all the social features play out, as it's impossible to fully judge an MMO without other players to hang out with.

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