Bless made its return to PC this past week, when Bless Unleashed, the console re-birth of the franchise, made its closed-beta test debut on Steam. It ran for a total of 5 days and ended today, but not without making significant strides in repairing its reputation with MMORPG players. In comparison to Bless Online which launched in 2018 – shutting down a year later on Steam, Bless Unleashed is a completely different beast, and the CBT gave PC players a window into what console players have had access to for a year now.
New Game, Objectively Better Than Bless Online
It’s clearly obvious to anyone paying attention that Bless Unleashed is a separate game albeit being made from remnants of the same studio, Neowiz. With Round 8 Studios and Bandai Namco at the helm for this one, many of the changes are for the better. Bless Unleashed runs on Unreal Engine 4, allowing it to flex updated graphics, textures and animations that look and feel great to play in. The hardest hurdle for the game to overcome, is to prove that it’s not Bless Online 2.0 and it’s accomplished that.
Bless Unleashed takes place in the same universe, but it has nothing to do with the original PC MMORPG. In that game, players had to suffer through unoptimized gameplay, and a torrid, stiff combat system that was neither inspiring nor engaging. Unleashed remedied this with a new, built-from scratch all action combat system that draws inspiration from games like Monster Hunter, Dark Souls and Dauntless. It maintains the core element of Class Skills, combo attacks and dodging, but the experience is an upgrade for the better.
Keeping Up With The Times
Another positive is that Bless Unleashed is very aware of what generation we’re in, reflected by Round 8’s decision to implement many trendy MMO systems and mechanics. The UI is cleaner with gorgeous and easy to read tooltips, for example. In other areas, the game does away with the traditional MMO hot-bars, opting for a quick cycle-able skill wheel on one end, whilst consumables, potions and character emotes can be found on the other end of the screen. It’s a very stream-lined and fresh experience for a South Korean MMO, which many will argue benefits a game that was designed for consoles, and this is very true. While there is full controller support for PC players, playing with mouse and keyboard does feel out of place at times.
In other areas, Bless Unleashed makes it less of a headache to get into progression systems like crafting. Gathering can be done out in the world maps, with plants, trees and ore all being marked on the mini-map, easily harvested which increases your gathering skills. To process them, simply head to a town where public crafting workbenches are stationed to earn quick profession XP, turning your yields into beneficial gear that actually helps.
Most strikingly of all are the inclusions that actually offers better convenience to players instead of hindering them. On the map screen, players can now quick teleport to discovered points for a small fee, making travel nice and easy for those that don’t want to slog in on mounts. It’s also a big treat that the map is interactible, something most modern MMOs offer.
Finding an Identity
While Bless Online was a clear cut cookie-cutter MMORPG, Bless Unleashed isn’t, and from what little we’ve previewed so far, it appears to hover between a few identities. On one hand, it’s a modern-day MMORPG that benefits from remedying and building upon the lessons learned from Bless Online. On the other, Round 8 wants an action-RPG that not only caters to MMO players, but also to ones that like the thrill of difficult, engaging boss fights which seems to be a main focus in the game. Open world bosses are aplenty, and be warned for they are incredibly difficult and will smite you with ease. The same is also true for small scale dungeons that were available during the beta, where two players party up to take down bosses in a few scenarios. With no adds or side-monsters, it’s just two of you dancing with a boss, and it’s one of the best things about Bless Unleashed so far. Without knowledge of what your class abilities and what your combos actually do, you’ll end up taking a beating.
Long Way To Go, But It’s A Good Start
What the CBT has shown us so far isn’t much, but there’s genuine excitement from PC players of what’s to come at launch. Bless Unleashed is a free to play MMORPG unlike the disaster that was the buy-to-play Early Access launch of Bless Online. While we don’t know what Unleashed’s cash-shop holds, we can draw hints from the console versions, and it’s tame. There’s an emphasis on season pass style purchases, which is mostly harmless.
From a gameplay perspective, the game is going in the right direction and we hope Bless Unleashed will return in December for an open beta on Steam. Otherwise the game’s full launch will take place sometime in 2021.