Bandai Namco made a huge announcement just ahead of PAX West 2018: It is releasing Bless Unleashed, a console-only, action MMORPG. The team asked me to hop on a class or two and play through the demo that it created just for PAX. The team introduced demo-goers to the Defender, the Berserker, and the Ranger. I played all the way through the demo twice, first with the Berserker then the Ranger. The classes play exactly like you think they will. In fact, the only real surprise about my playthrough of Bless Unleashed was that it was not anything like Bless Online.
After spending about an hour playing the demos and talking at length with the developers, I came to the conclusion that Bless Unleashed has to be played to really understand how it’s different from the other game. In fact, I was told by Lead Producer Jehanzeb Hasan, “The biggest difference between Bless Unleashed and Bless Online is that they are actually completely different. Even though they share some resources and some graphic designers, the teams are producing some very different gameplay styles. So technically speaking, there are not even any common areas, actually.”
A demo is a demo
I do not own an Xbox of any kind, but I am not console-opposed. My family has two Nintendo Switches, a PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, and a handful of older consoles. But I have to admit, I have not been good at playing with a controller since playing Star Wars: Podracing on the Nintendo 64. I figured that I could fake it with a melee class at first, so that’s why I stepped behind the controls of the Berserker.
The demo was very simple scenario built to demonstrate each of the classes. I was told later that the demos were made specifically for PAX. An NPC with clearly temporary voiceover and animations asks that you take care of a group of orcs that are giving her trouble on the other side of a ward she created. During the fight itself, there are five groups of orcs increasing in number as you walk along the path. The Orcs don’t have any strong mechanics; your goal is to just hit them before they hit you. The leader of the group will rush you, but it’s really the cyclopes that you have to worry about.
This giant monster had its own cutscene and arena. It also had the most complex mechanics of any NPC up this point. It would leap to you, do a targeted AOE, strike the ground to send a shockwave on the ground in a straight line out in front of it, and lastly, it would shoot a laser beam out of its eye because why not?
I wouldn’t say there were any real surprises with the class itself. It plays kind of how you would expect it to play. It’s a heavy AOE, high DPS class. The hits are hard but slow, and it requires more movement to avoid being hit in its weak armor. Its combos were a lot of fun for me given that this is the kind of class that I enjoy playing the most in pretty much any game.
The first thing that anyone should notice between Bless Online and Bless Unleashed is that there is zero tab targeting in Bless Unleashed. This, in theory, should make things more difficult, but I believe that the hitboxes might have been undertuned for the demo because it seemed like I couldn’t miss. I was thankful for this because I am terrible with the controller, as I mentioned. I was also thankful for the hints at combos that would pop onto the screen after the first hit, suggesting which way I should go next.
The biggest criticism I had for the class as I played it was that it didn’t appear that the class had any versatility. I kind of felt like the combos where hit, hit hard, and hit harder. Maybe I shouldn’t expect more than that out of pure DPS class.
I despise ranged classes in third-person action games, and I don’t like them very much in traditional MMORPGs either. I guess I just like to dive head-first into the action. But for the sake of trying out a range of classes (pun intended), I decided to give Ranger a shot, too. (The pun was intended there, too.)
The combos for the Ranger were actually a lot more fun to work with than the Berserker. It appeared that there was more utility because you could combo between long and short range, single and multiple targets, or even do knockbacks. For someone who typically does not like ranged classes, I actually had some fun with this one.
Of course, the class wasn’t perfect, and it seemed that this class ran into the inverse of the hitbox problem that I talked about with the Berserker. There were many times during the cyclopes fight that I was hit by whatever the boss was throwing at me even though I seemed to be out of AOE range.
I mentioned this issue to the developers, and they said that they are still working on that, citing PvP as the biggest reason for this oddity. The player characters range from the very tall to the ones that only come up to the waist of the average player.
Setting itself apart
I did enjoy myself in during the demo for Bless Unleashed, and I certainly see why they want to separate themselves from the other team. It really is a different game. In fact, the developers even mentioned that the lore comes from a different perspective. They liked to say that it was a different but parallel world. The premises of the games are even different. Bless Online focuses on the political systems of the world and Unleashed tells a more celestial story, according to the Unleashed developers.
If there were a $60 or even $30 price tag attached to this game, I’m not sure that I would recommend this game. However, when this game releases sometime next year, it will be free-to-play and feature all of your expected MMORPG amenities: trade, social hubs, dungeons, and of course, PvP. And it will cost you nothing to jump in. It’s probably worth your time to check it out. Of course, you’ll have to buy an Xbox One first!