Age of Washu previews: And the beta played on

Age of Washu betaWhen offered the chance to take over the evaluation of Age of WuShu, I was pretty excited. From a distance, it looked fantastic, boasting a whole host of innovations it looked to be just the shot in the arm that today's tired MMO template sorely needs. And, on many levels, AoW does not disappoint.

First, of course, it the overall look of the game, which is drop dead gorgeous. The overall feel of the setting extends not only through the landscape, but to its population as well. So far, everything is clean, pretty and shiny. The bad guys are clearly marked and are, of course, bad, but they're not too bad; with certain brutish, real world activities thankfully not present in the game. (When players are offline, player characters can be kidnapped and forced into manual labor for a time, but nothing more egregious, if you get my meaning.) Even the beggars are tidy.

But before you start thinking AoW is a martial arts world designed by Disney, know that underneath the peaceful and pastoral surface is an undercurrent of cynicism, as if appearances are just that and little more. From the "child in trouble" that turns out to be a scam artist with no patience for your interfering heroics, to the aforementioned casual kidnappings, the visual beauty of AoW is definitely skin deep. It may look like a house made of candy, but there is a definite whiff of decay behind all that sugar. I like that.

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