The Soapbox: The western port of Bless Online feels like a curse

To say that the development of Neowiz’s high-fantasy MMO Bless has been somewhat beleaguered would be an understatement. Since the Korean import’s Western release was announced in 2011, it has weathered numerous delays; the loss of its would-be publisher, Aeria Games, which dropped out of the project in 2017 citing concerns about “quality standards”, and an ambitious “rebuild project” wherein Neowiz announced a massive overhaul of the game’s core systems and even considered “[abandoning] the current structure and [making] it from scratch.” Despite these obstacles, however, Bless made its Stateside debut last month when it hit Steam as an Early Access title.

Its launch, however, has been every bit as tumultuous as its development, if not more so: Alongside the standard slew of post-launch hiccups that tend to plague any major MMO release, such as login queues and server outages, Bless had to contend with constant balance issues, half-baked localization, community uproar over missing content, and at least a couple of potentially game-breaking exploits – and that’s just in the first week of launch.

But many a game has weathered a touch-and-go launch and hit its stride in the following weeks, so the question remains: How is Bless holding up nearly a month after its release?

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Generation 3 is basically Pokemon Go’s One Tamriel: How Niantic has actually improved POGO

A lot of critical things have been said about Pokemon Go and Niantic in the past. Professionals that tried to defend certain UI elements still had plenty of suggestions a non-professional could have made. Same goes for players and professionals that noted the need for quests. In fact, Niantic’s insistence on doing local events instead of global events created some huge PR problems, and that’s without noting that, for a social game, the game actually lacked a lot of social features.

But there’s a weird thing: Niantic’s addressed many of those issues. Several are ones I’ve previously suggested. There’ve been several UI improvements, new quests, at least two events per month since February 2018 that aren’t just cash shop sales, and a push towards community building. It’s far from perfect, like the glaring omission of in-game communication or a social media connection, but we’ll ignore that for now. What I want to focus on is how Niantic’s taken feedback and enhanced Pokemon Go.

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Hands-on with The Division’s beta: From character creation to Dark Zone PvP

A couple of weekends back, I — like many other players — took part in the beta weekend for Ubisoft’s upcoming MMO shooter, The Division. I also — unlike many other players — was actually able to gain access at the start of the weekend, and over the next few days I spent the vast majority of my free time exploring the game’s recreation of post-apocalyptic Manhattan and trying to see everything there was to see before the test came to a close.

As it turned out, that wasn’t too much of a challenge, all things considered, because the amount of content accessible to players was somewhat restricted. Despite the limited scope of the test, however, almost all of the game’s core systems were available in some form or fashion, and there was still plenty to see and do over the course of the weekend. But when the test came to a close and servers went down, I realized that, despite having spent a significant portion of my weekend in the game and having experienced everything that was available to me (as far as I’m aware, at least), I still wasn’t entirely sure how I felt about the game. Even now, I’m still rather undecided, but perhaps putting it all down on paper will help me to sort out my obviously conflicted feelings. At the very least, I hope it will provide an informative preview of what we can expect when The Division goes lives next month.

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First impressions of Black Desert’s closed beta test, part two: Crafting, gathering, and economy

On Friday, I took a look at the classes, combat, and tricky mechanics of upcoming sandboxy Korean-import Black Desert’s first western closed beta test. Today, I’ll pick up where I left off by addressing the game’s crafting, gathering, and economic systems.

Now then, as I noted in that earlier article, most of the things you do in the game will ultimately fall under the umbrella of resource gathering, item crafting, or trading; we’ll start with the first. Black Desert provides two ways to harvest resources. The first is the “standard” method that most MMO players will be familiar with: You find a resource node in the world, equip the appropriate gathering tool, and right-click the node to gather the goodies it contains. Harvesting from a node requires energy, so the number of resources you can gather at one time – at least in the early game when your maximum energy reserve is still paltry – is rather limited. We’ll talk about that more soon.

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First impressions of Black Desert’s closed beta test: Classes, combat, and mechanics

Over the course of my first day in Black Desert, I did a lot of the things you’d expect from the first day in a new MMO: I killed some imps, couriered some items for spectacularly lazy NPCs, and learned a few skills. But I also spent a much larger amount of time doing things that might seem a bit more novel: I built a raft and sailed the sea; I made a hefty profit buying trade goods in one settlement and selling them off in another; I bought out all the real-estate I could, set up a residence for myself, and used the vacant lodgings to house the workers who built my raft; and I, honest-to-god, spent a solid half an hour extracting blood from dead weasels.

Black Desert is a curious and sometimes arcane creature; for the majority of my first play session, I felt more than a bit lost. And I loved it. It’s been a long time since a game has managed to make me feel lost in such a way that I actually enjoyed the experience. Sure, there have been plenty that have made me feel lost through various means, including convoluted UIs full of flashing buttons, poorly translated quest text, and indecipherable tooltips that provide no useful information.

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Punching dinosaurs in ARK: Survival Evolved

Five minutes after I logged into ARK: Survival Evolved, I punched a fish. A few moments later, I punched a tree. Shortly thereafter, I mustered the courage to punch a dinosaur, and while that didn’t go as well as I would have liked, I did in fact survive.

ARK is one of the ubiquitous early access survival sandboxes littering Steam these days, but because of some glowing recommendations and because dinosaurs, I opted to forego my usual bias against paying to test and dropped 25 bucks on the title.

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First impressions of Skyforge beta, part two

In the first part of my Skyforge closed beta impressions, I took a look at the tutorial and character creation process. Suitably impressed albeit with some concerns, I advanced into the game proper by heading to the Divine Observatory.

The Observatory is sort of the headquarters for all of the immortals in the game. I’m informed that while I’m technically a god, I’m not almighty and will have to work for my pay. I can do that by answering distress calls (prayers?) from people around the planet, which is as good an excuse as any to zone-hop and test out my newfound skills.

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