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PAX West 2018: Bless Unleashed has Great Potential on Xbox One

Robert Baddeley Posted:
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Sometimes at PAX, you have to leave the beaten path and walk away from the convention centers to get hands on a game with the developers and that’s just what I did for BANDAI NAMCO Entertainment America’s first free-to-play MMORPG being released as an Xbox exclusive: Bless Unleashed.  If you’re familiar with Bless Online on Steam you’re likely familiar and a bit upset about Bless Unleashed even existing and you aren’t alone with how you feel, but, that’s not what this article is about.

Tucked away in a conference room at the Grand Hyatt in Seattle I was given the opportunity to test out a small demo of Bless Unleashed with my choice of playing either a Guardian or Berserker.  I chose a Guardian, familiarized myself with the controls a bit, and got to work.  The graphics will catch your eye immediately and look familiar if you’ve played or seen Bless Online but the fidelity is far superior to the PC version given the use of Unreal 4 over Unreal 3.  The similarities also have to do with the fact that there are graphic artists from Bless Online that were brought over to the Bless Unleashed team.  Movement and camera feel standard for third person RPGs and it isn’t long before I’m getting my first taste of combat.

In the demo, you pick up a quest shortly after you begin and I was surprised to find that in addition to the familiar, ESO-esque question dialog display, there was full voice acting of the quest dialog but no facial animations to coincide.  When I asked about this the developers states that in the final game there would be voice acting for dialog as well as animations - we won’t be staring at a stone-faced NPC while they talk to us.

A great feature in the combat in Bless Unleashed is the combo system and the developers have done a great job of leading players to the next line in the combo without being intrusive.  As you connect with your weapon a small UI window tells you what the next options are in the combo as well as the mapped buttons that correspond with that ability.  The combo animations flow together seamlessly and carry a satisfying weight when they connect with your enemies.  My only beef came when fighting some of the bigger baddies in the demo - it was almost always the case that you didn’t have enough time to complete a combo before you had to dodge or were interrupted in some way.  It made the combat feel a little anticlimactic and jarring.

The demo was short and showed off the basics of what you’d expect: combat, animations, camera locking onto enemies, a few abilities, and a boss fight.  In addition, it was completely linear in fashion - as most demos are - but the developers state that actual game will be the more open world that MMO players have come to expect.  Something I was very surprised to find out in my talks with the developers after the demo was over is that there are no plans for passive HP generation at this time.  In order to regen HP, you need to use food, which is craftable or find bonfires called Soul Pyres that are scattered around the world at which to regen your HP.  Players will have the ability to craft their own soul-pyres to be placed for limited times while out adventuring but there are no details on what they will cost at this time.

The Bless Unleashed team is looking to start their first beta before the end of this year and from what I was told there aren’t any plans to be taking real-money in the cash shop during the testing phase.  That’s not to say the cash shop won’t be tested, however, just that players will be provided the currency to do the testing.  In this vein, they used the term ‘pay for convenience’ using examples like XP potions but specifically states they did not want any pay to win or pay for power mechanics to be present.  At this time there are no plans for a PC release and a PS4 release “remains to be seen.”  All said and done I think XBOX users are in for a potential treat with Bless Unleashed and as long as the team does almost the complete opposite of what the Bless Online team did at Early Access launch I think they’ll be just fine.


Robert Baddeley

Robert got his start at gaming with Mech Warrior on MS DOS back in the day and hasn't quit since. He found his love for MMORPGs when a friend introduced him to EverQuest in 2000 and has been playing some form of MMO since then. After getting his first job and building his first PC, he became mildly obsessed with PC hardware and PC building. He started writing for MMORPG as his first writing gig in 2016. He currently serves in the US Military as a Critical Care Respiratory Therapist.