In the beginning you will go through the usual process of character selection. Once you have crafted your unique character you can begin your journey through the dusty streets of ancient China. It is the Era of Nine Dragons and the Ming Dynasty sits upon the throne. The most obvious pressing concern is to get some combat skills and you won’t be able to join a clan until you do.
Once you have learned from a local master and got some nifty moves you need to choose from one of the six playable clans. Martial arts fans will recognise some of the names and you can select from the Shaolin, the League of Beggars, the Wu-Tang, the Heavenly Demon, the Brotherhood of Thieves and Sacred Flower. Later you may get the option to join one of the three advanced clans, the Union of Noble Families, the Disciples of Iron Fist or the Black Dragon Clan. The process of levelling up is based on training and you need to use skills to master them. You can do this in a training environment or by embarking on quests and engaging in real combat. Outside the villages there are wild animals, monsters, bandits, loners and the deviant clans. You can also party up and embark on challenging quests.
If you don’t fancy monster hunting or questing with other players there is always the clan war. The clans are split into two opposing groups, the White clans are loyal to the Emperor and the Black clans are not. Each clan has their own style, different techniques to learn and preferred weapons. There are also different classes represented in each clan. You can take part in Storm vs Storm battles where two armies face off and compete for control of a fortress.
There are PvP servers where you can be attacked at any moment and non-PvP servers where you need to agree to a fight before it will happen. The game is packed with items to discover and there is some attempt to expound on the philosophy behind martial arts. The game also draws heavily on folklore and some of the characters and clan histories are very engaging. The gameplay definitely has some depth to it. The website mmosite.com actually gave 9Dragons the best PvP, graphics and storyline awards back in 2006.