Making an MMORPG feel right on consoles is a challenging task, especially when trying to turn a PC MMORPG into a console MMORPG. Many MMORPGs generally have various elements, including a slew of menus, to keep track of and handle. Since console controllers are limited in terms of buttons, when compared to that of a keyboard, MMORPGs need to be more streamlined and in a way, simpler so players can truly enjoy going on an epic quest in these types of games.
The Neowiz developed MMORPG, Bless Online, hit Steam in October 2018 and it, unfortunately, had a rough launch as players ran into a fair share of server and lag issues. However, the developer quickly worked on getting community feedback and making some much-needed changes. Now though, Bandai Namco has joined forces with Neowiz to bring us a new action MMORPG Bless Unleashed that sets in the Bless universe. Set to launch on Xbox One sometime this year, at GDC 2019, we had the chance to play an early build of the game and discover for ourselves how it’s different or similar to Bless Online.
For the build, we were first tasked with one of our favorite tasks in any RPG which is choosing a character. It’s important to mention that since time was of the essence, we didn’t get to really create a character. On the bright side of things, we were able to learn more about the five character classes (Mage, Berserker, Defender, Priest, and Ranger) and choose one that we liked. Recently, there was a Berserker character class trailer, so in hindsight, we should’ve picked that class, but we ended up going with the Mage class. Once we picked a class, we began our journey into Bless Unleashed’s world.
At the start, David Jaloza, the producer of Bless Unleashed, mentioned how the game is a completely re-built version of Bless Online, and it’s as clear as day from just looking at the game’s stunning graphics. While Bless Online was built on Unreal Engine 3, Bless Unleashed uses the Unreal Engine 4 and will even support 4K HDR displays. From what I’ve read about Bless Online, it suffered from some frame rate drop issues, but during my time with Bless Unleashed, everything ran pretty smoothly.
After taking a moment to appreciate the game’s world, I chatted with a few NPCs and then went right into a boss fighting quest. One interesting tidbit that I noticed when talking to NPCs was that they weren’t all that expressive, especially when it came to facial animations. However, I was told that NPCs are still a work-in-progress and that drastic improvements will be made.
For the gameplay side of things, it’s very different from Bless Online since Bless Unleashed uses a dynamic skill combo system that one would find in other action RPGs. I was told that every class plays differently, so players can find a play style that best fits them. One neat feature I enjoyed with the combo system is that it’s explained clearly. As soon as I started my attack, there was a screen that showed me what my next attack options were. More experienced players will probably find this kind of assistance to be a nuisance, so I can imagine that players will have the option to turn off UI features like this.
One sour note with the combat, however, is that it felt a little clunky and there were moments where didn’t really flow all that well. Perhaps this was only the case with my experience using the Mage class, but still. Also, there was a lock-on feature, but it wouldn’t work at certain times. However, the producer mentioned that the lock-on feature is a work-in-progress that the developer has been toying around with it and isn’t sure if it’ll be included in the final build of the game.
The boss fight itself was enjoyable, though, and put my action RPG skills to the test as the boss unleashed powerful attacks that I had to watch out for. One big worry that I generally have when going into an MMORPG is whether or not bosses are absolute bullet sponges (I suppose “spell attack sponges” would be more accurate for this preview), and thankfully, that wasn’t the case with the boss I fought in Bless Unleashed.
Once I was all finished playing, I easily came up with the conclusion that Bless Unleashed is still in its earlier stages of development, but it could become a fun MMORPG. The developer is planning on starting up their first beta for the game soon, so I’m sure that after that’s all done, they’ll be able to truly make Bless Unleashed a more mighty and powerful MMORPG for Xbox One. Time will tell what happens next, but here’s hoping that Bless Unleashed will have a smoother launch when it releases on Xbox One sometime this year.
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