It feels like almost yesterday that I began my arduous journey into reviewing Bless Online, a PC only MMO developed by Neowiz, and released in several regions with varying degrees of success. In a striking turn not long after Bless Online’s North American release, Neowiz in conjunction with Bandai-Namco announced the release of a Console version of Bless that was starkly different than the PC version. With an updated engine, a new combat style and a console only focus, the interest of many in the MMO community was piqued. Now, with several hours under my belt of Bless Unleashed, and two different classes played, is Bless Unleashed really that different from Bless Online?
To answer the question on whether Bless Unleashed is different from Bless Online, the short response would be yes with a small caveat. The combat is surely improved, but in comparison to the North American release of Bless Online, it seems to travel in the same circles. In Bless Online, when they unleashed (no pun intended) the new combat mechanics, it revolved around a combo system that was largely inconsistent in function. You had a very linear progression in terms of what combos you could create, and some of them were kind of confusing, leveling ranged attacks with melee attacks that made the flow of combat really weird.
In Bless Unleashed they tightened the combat system. You could conceivably use the same combo over and over again, as they added regular combo attacks that utilize the X and Y buttons, with the B button mixed in depending on your class and level. You also have to aim your attacks, which, for me, was really awful to do as a Mage. More times than not, my spells as a Mage flew off into space next to my target if my reticle wasn’t positioned right and shortly thereafter, I found my low-defense Mage eating dirt. You also have special abilities which you can unlock and slot as you go, and they are utilized outside of your combos entirely. Meanwhile, my Crusader would mow down anything and everything in sight, with a face roll single button combo that disabled enemies. He also rarely took any damage as long as I kept my wits about me. Most of the skill lines are locked behind quests that you must complete. Despite some of the strange pitfalls of targeting, the premise behind the combination system is solid and an incredible improvement over Bless Online.
My main sticking point when it comes to combos and abilities is how weird the controller layout is. With the default layout, that you can only marginally change, the vast majority of attacks are done with the X, Y and B keys with a special ability on the left trigger. The right trigger is how you jump, and the A button is how you interact with things. You have to hold the Right Button in order to use special skills, and the Left Button to dodge, and, if you happen to get stun locked, in order to break free you have to mash LB, RB, LT and RT in a pattern, or another random button depending on the enemy and the attack. After several hours of playing on my Mage, I did get the hang of it, but it isn’t comfortable to play this way. Another major issue I felt, is that several of my abilities either took too much time to execute, or left me vulnerable after completing them. In most cases I forewent any usage of these abilities due to not wanting to get hit unnecessarily.
In the early game, the world is much improved over Bless Online. The starting quests really make you feel like you’re in a new living world, solely based on the design of the markets you travel through. After muddling through the initial quests, you get thrown into a world where you will face enemies of all walks of life. The initial battles with some roaming wolves feel mundane, until you get pushed into a public group quest where you battle a monstrous wolf that can easily kill you in a single hit if you aren’t careful. Battles like these are frantic and fun and you will find them throughout your quests as you travel the landscape.
The story aspects of the game will not be presented in detail here, but I will comment briefly on the story presentation. The storytelling is presented through general text boxes; many, many text boxes that are presented to you at a slow pace. There are sparse cut scenes within the first several missions, and those are luckily voiced, but there is no way to skip them, and the characters mouths rarely if ever move when they talk. Yes, this is nitpicky of me, but with such great character models, I found it interesting that even moderate gesticulations were forfeit during many of the conversations.
Bless Unleashed is already much improved over Bless Online. I’ve outline a lot of problems that I experienced, but as we always like to hope, Bless Unleashed is still in Beta, and the many crashes and performance issues I experienced will likely be fixed to some degree of scarcity in the future. There is so much that Bless Unleashed does right, especially for those that really wanted to like Bless Online, but couldn’t handle the flow of combat. At this point of development, Bless Unleashed, if nothing else, is a game to put on your radar.