Explaining the Blade & Soul equipment system so you don't have to
Blade & Soul's equipment system is simple as can be, but it's completely alien when compared with other MMOs. New players are always overwhelmed by the game's seemingly convoluted equipment evolution system for one simple reason: it's not explained all that well.
If you're tired of explaining to your friends how they're supposed to upgrade their equipment and what to do with the average green and blue drops they get all game, link them here and save yourself the headache. Or hey, feast your eyes if you're new yourself!
Weapon breakthrough and evolution system
Blade & Soul's weapon evolution system is every player's first real hurdle. A quest gives you a purple Hongmoon weapon soon after you enter Bamboo Village and the game does try to teach you what to do with it to some extent. But let's face it: how many people really read quest text?
The Hongmoon weapon you're given at the start of the game is the first evolution of many toward your endgame weapon. And getting it there isn't easy.
Your Hongmoon weapon and you
So you have this sweet purple weapon before you're even level 10, and that is super exciting. But what are you supposed to do with it? Isn't getting a purple weapon at that point in the game kind of overkill?
First, it's definitely not overkill. The game is balanced around every player starting out with their Hongmoon and evolving it as they progress. You need that damage and utility from start to finish.
Second, you've got to level it up! And to do that you need to get to the weapon info screen. You can do this by clicking on the leftmost icon at the bottom of your inventory.
And once you're in there, you can feed other weapons of any type and Weapon Reinforcement Material to your Hongmoon to level it up.
Each level brings more damage, but you're going to hit a wall before you can get your weapon to level 6. This is where breakthroughs come into play.
Applying a breakthrough to your Hongmoon is your first taste of Blade & Soul's equipment evolution system. In order to do so the first time, you need a Stalker weapon and a Viridian Poison.
Your Stalker weapon can be obtained via the Wheel of Fate in Everdusk. Stones to roll at the Wheel of Fate are dropped by the nearby Stalker Jiangshi boss. It will probably take more than a few tries at the Wheel of Fate to get your class-specific weapon.
The Viridian Poison is given to you via a quest near the end of your time at that questing area.
Once you have both the poison and the Stalker weapon, you can breakthrough your Hongmoon weapon past level 5 and into level 6. From here you can feed more weapons to it until it hits level 10.
This isn't the end of your journey with your Hongmoon weapon. You're going to be using it until about level 20, after which you will be fusing it with your class-specific Blight weapon obtained via the Blackram Narrows group dungeon.
You'll start this process all over again with your newly-made Awakened Blight weapon and different breakthrough and evolution materials. This is how the game's weapon system works.
Now let's take a look at the detailed weapon info screen
If the above sounds vague, take a look at your Hongmoon weapon's information. You can do this by clicking on the leftmost icon at the bottom of your inventory, the clicking on the magnifying glass icon in the weapon's screen.
Here you can see what breakthrough and evolution equipment you need for your Hongmoon. This information can be seen on any weapon or accessory that can be evolved. You can even see the drop locations for each required piece of equipment by clicking on their names in the window so you don't have to wonder where you'll have to go.
The whole process isn't confusing at all once you know what to do.
Side note: How to tell which weapons (and accessories) are useful or not
This is so deceptively easy I'm not surprised most people overlook it in their first week or so. Check out any equipment's info (accessories included), and if it says 'Evolution Material' or 'Breakthrough Material', it's used for a specific evolution or breakthrough.
If you do not see 'Evolution Material' or 'Breakthrough Material' under the 'Advance' portion of any equipment's information, it has no functional use but to be vendored, broken down, or fed to other equipment for levels.
How you deal with accessories is very similar to weapons. Both equipment types are subject to the breakthrough and evolution system, though evolving accessories can be a more painful experience overall.
There isn't a ton more to say on accessories, other than it's important for you to keep them fed, break them through, and evolve them when possible. They provide a slew of beneficial stats that are worth keeping as high as you can get them.
Soul Shield system
This one's a little more traditional in that you don't keep evolving your Soul Shields to get them better like you do with weapons and accessories. Instead you just toss them out when you get better ones, like you do in most MMORPGs.
Your first Soul Shield set is obtained via the very same Wheel of Fate you get your Stalker weapon from. The set is more than worth the little bit of effort you have to put forth to get it and it's going to ride you until level 20.
Because you level so fast, it's not worth putting too much effort into getting Soul Shields at early levels.
Use your Stalker set until you reach level 20, then take eight of those Viridian Valor Stones the game has been throwing at you..
.. and take then to Jungja the Coin Exchange Merchant in Jadestone Village to pick up the Viridian Valor Soul Shield set to keep to afloat for a while longer.
Minimap location shown in the image.
Something to note about Soul Shields
If you take a look at your shields' information, you'll see 'Set Effects', which are stat increases based on how many pieces of that set you have equipped.
You get specific bonuses at 3, 5, and 8 pieces of a Soul Shield are equipped. At 3 pieces you get the first bonus, and 5 you get both, and at 8 you get all three.
Many players will mix and match sets at endgame based on a set's bonuses to match what they need, though this isn't something you should do at early levels.
What to do with weapons, accessories, and Soul Shields you just don't need
You're going to get a ton of equipment in Blade & Soul and you're going to need a very small percentage of it. True, it does seem like the game's throwing stuff at you to waste inventory space (and it just might be) but you can make use of the worthless drops you find everywhere.
Salvaging is the best way to deal with unwanted equipment drops throughout the game, and it's easy as can be. Through it you can get materials you wouldn't be able to get otherwise.
You can transmute items by clicking on the hammer icon at the bottom of your inventory, then clicking on the item you want to break down.
This process takes a couple of seconds per item and does get tiring after salvaging 15+ items in a row, and it doesn't help you get useless scrap for most of your salvaging. But the powders gotten via salvaging are valuable and well-worth the drudge of mass-salvaging.
Blade & Soul's equipment system isn't as complicated as it first seems, but it's understandable that new players get overwhelmed. You should have a solid grasp of how weapons, accessories, and Soul Shields work before level 20 if you remember the advice here.
If you're pretty much totally new to the game, you might also want to check out my Blade & Soul beginner's FAQ for some advice on your first few levels of the game.