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Martial arts MMO Blade & Soul coming to North America, here's your first look

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Blade & Soul has been out in Korea since 2012, but eager MMO fans in the West have been left wondering if or when publisher NCSoft would decide to bring the game to their shores. Wonder no longer: NCsoft has announced today that Blade & Soul will come to North America and Europe this winter.

Setting itself apart from most massively multiplayer games, Blade & Soul is based around martial arts, specifically drawing from the "wushu" style of Chinese kung fu stories. Think Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon but with a bunch of friends online.

With that inspiration comes a focus on narrative that's also fairly unique to Blade & Soul. NCSoft community director Omeed Dariani recently told Polygon that the game's lengthy story — which has the player trying to avenge the death of their master — will be enough to take players from level one to the current level cap of 45 without the need to do any side content. The journey will take players across four in-game continents, only two of which will be unlocked at the start.

That side content will, of course, still be there. Blade & Soul will include completely optional player-versus-player activities, as well as dungeons for teams of two, four or six players. The end-game will include a giant 24-person raid. All of the dungeons will include cross-server lobbies to make finding parties easy.

As a game focused on martial arts, Blade & Soul’s combat is much smoother and faster than that in many other MMOs. There is no traditional targeting lock-on, and players must play reactively, no matter which of the six classes they take on. There's no healing class, and no class focused on a pure support role.

"Different classes play differently, but they're all active," Dariani said.

Blade & Soul 1080

In stark contrast to what many players expect from Korean MMOs, Dariani said NCSoft is committed to balancing the North American version of Blade & Soul so that it is not too grindy. It'll be using the game's beta test later this year to figure out what players are comfortable with. As of right now, Dariani said it only takes two or three weeks of regular play to hit level 45.

And what waits beyond level 45? As you may expect from an MMO that's technically been out for three years already, Blade & Soul has had a lot of new content added in Korea. While quality of life and gameplay balance improvements will be implemented at launch for North America, many of the story updates and new areas will be coming later on, with NCsoft promising lots of continued content for the game in the months after launch.

Blade & Soul will be free-to-play, but Dariani said that no main content will be gated or require payment to access in any way. The game is currently in what he called "pre-pre-pre alpha," with a closed beta planned for fall. The full launch is currently planned for this winter.

Check out the video preview at the top of this article for a look at some footage from the game, or click the video below to see the game's first story trailer.

UPDATE: The initial version of this article stated that the will be 50. NCSoft has informed us that the level cap for Blade & Soul at launch will actually be 45. The article has been updated to reflect this information.