Bless Unleashed PAX West Impression
At PAX West, I took the road less traveled and wound up at the Grand Hyatt in a nice, quiet conference room to demo Bandai Namco’s first free-to-play MMORPG coming “first” to Xbox One, Bless Unleashed. First thing’s first: This is not a sequel, or developed by the same studio that created Bless Online, which is currently available on Steam. NEOWIZ’s Round 8 Studios is the developer behind Bless Unleashed.
There are five classes in Bless Unleashed that can be highly modified: Ranger, Berserker, Defender, Mage and Priest. I was able to try out the first three at PAX. I started as a Ranger, which was kind of frustrating to get the hang of the controls. However, once I did get the hang of it, I saw how I really could enjoy it more in an MMO setting. The Ranger is the only class that has crosshairs to target the enemy with, and when they turn red is when you can shoot. The only thing that was somewhat frustrating was that my character’s head would generally be in front of the crosshairs when they turned red, making it difficult to aim correctly. There are many different types of combos — including close-range attacks — but no distance gauge to indicate when you’re able to hit the opponent. You just have look for the color change on the crosshairs.
Of the other two classes I tried, Berserker is a fun tank class, and the easiest to use. I enjoyed just running up and hitting things and doing all the combos in a manner that was a bit akin to button mashing. Defender is the most difficult for me. There are a lot of complicated combos, so you can’t just button mash, you really have to pay attention to the order and number of times you hit certain buttons to unlock more combos.
Even though Mage and Priest were not in the demo, I asked the developers more about these classes. Priest is the healing class, but is more of an area-of-effect healer. The Mage is more of a damage dealer that uses elements for power, and the direction your character goes as a mage is heavily story-based. The player will have to use the right skill at the right time, as some elements will be weaker and others will be stronger depending on how the player builds the class.
This brings me to the next question: How do players build their characters and improve their class? Bless Unleashed has a unique skill blessing system. As players progress in the game, they will complete certain goals and unlock certain skills known as blessings. Progress in the game will also provide passive skills for your class. Characters will have a max of four blessings active at any one time, which correlate to the combo system. However, players will be able to switch further unlocked blassings in and out. This also allows players to both make distinct characters and concentrate on making combos, as opposed to being overwhelmed with all available skills or blessings.
The game also includes a quick slot bar on the bottom left that can slide left and right to display various usable items. These can be potions, mounts, etc. There is also a target locking system in place, but it’s still a work in progress. I had to have one of the developers turn it on for me, because it’s still kind of clunky. It definitely helps though, and will be a definite need for players at release.
As a free-to-play MMORPG, there is the question of monetization. The developers told me that there are no play-to-win items in the cash shop. Only costumes, consumables, and so forth. There will be in-game vendors, and places to sell items, but no trading between players.
Bless Unleashed is set to be released in 2019, with a closed beta set to begin within the year. Players will be able to sign up a chance to get into the closed beta at the game’s website when it opens.