Maybe you are new to the Bless universe and got excited about Bless Unleashed, an upcoming MMORPG for PC and consoles. However, we're talking about an infamous franchise that already let us down several times in the past, so are there real reasons to get excited?
Last weekend, we got to play the PS4 Closed Beta, and we want to share our impressions with you. But first, a history lesson to put you in context!
Bless Online? More Like Mess Online
Almost 10 years ago, MMORPGs were definitely more popular than they are now, but still a fading trend. That's why the announcement of a game called BLESS was so significant to all of us, making us look forward to this impressive game and ultimately giving us hope about a decaying genre.
There were banners all over the place. There was no gaming website or forum you visit that wasn't promoting this Korean game, but we were all sad to know there was still no word about a worldwide release. When they finally announced a western version, we couldn't believe our eyes... but Aeria Games shut down the project in 2017, foreshadowing what we all know now. A few months later, though, NEOWIZ announced the game would not only still release but also include several new features, now scheduled for 2018.
On June 2018, Bless Online was finally available as an Early Access title, but it ended up being a soulless grindfest game with too many problems for a modern MMORPG: not only the grinding was too intense yet unrewarding, but the story was bland, the core gameplay mechanics felt outdated, and the business model was unappealing to the average player; after all, why would you pay for a faulty, unfinished, P2W-inclined game?
Only 4 months later, the global branch of Bless Online was ready for its final version, but people were already aware of all these problems. In fact, the Korean version of Bless was closing its doors at the very same time: the western release was on October 23, while the last KR server closed a few weeks later. The interest was long gone, and not even Bless' conversion to F2P was enough to keep it alive.
On September 9, 2019, Bless Online was officially dead, but NEOWIZ and Bandai Namco were already working on a console reboot: Bless Unleashed.
Should You Give Bless Unleashed a Chance?
Bless Unleashed will be a free-to-play title, so that's a huge change. For the general audience, that could be reason enough to give this game a chance, but for us, that can't be an excuse if it fails yet again.
As for the story, it's a lore-rich game that has a lot of potential, and this new version definitely takes the time to introduce you to this world and its characters. Of course, it's too similar to other fantasy MMORPG titles, so you won't find anything unique or groundbreaking, which shouldn't be a problem considering it uses a time-tested formula. It's not the most original nor the best plot in the world, but it's better presented than in Bless Online.
Just like in the first game, the graphics are breathtaking and way better than your average MMORPG. That being said, some games from 5 or 10 years ago have similar graphics, so although Bless Unleashed looks and feels really good, we're not talking about a game that pushes the envelope either. We have to say that some textures and animations still need some work, and we found several bugs here and there, but fixing the graphic aspects is not that hard if they really want to focus on that.
So this game has more-than-decent graphics and a cool story to match; that should be enough, right? Well, not really...
Bless Unleashed's biggest issue is how outdated the core gameplay mechanics feel. As time goes by, fetch quests feel less appealing, but no MMORPG has come up with an alternative that's both interesting and fun. Regardless, most of the quests here feel tedious even for those who love grinding, especially because they also feel unrewarding. To make things worse, Bless Unleash features a combo-based combat system that already proved to be divisive. We like real-time battles, but you can't have good fights with clunky animations and boring combos that force you to mash the same 2 buttons over and over again. If you survive an encounter, you're pretty much forced to craft some health items as regeneration is not a thing in this game... oh, and forget about relying on your stamina (it drains as fast as you run for a couple yards or perform a couple of actions) or skills (cooldown times are not ideal).
As you can see, Bless Unleashed is too busy trying to avoid Bless Online's countless mistakes that it forgets about innovation. Need more proof to finally accept how out of touch this game is? Just try creating your first character! All classes are locked to specific races, and we all know how stupid a seemingly robust customization system feels when you can't play as your preferred class/race combination. Sorry, we definitely should have mentioned this earlier... but most of you would have left after reading that.
If it was a new IP, we would say that Bless Unleash is an OK-ish MMORPG for those in need of a new virtual world. It's far from perfect, it doesn't bother innovating, but at least it's free and offers a fresh start and the same old rules we're used to. Sadly, it's hard to ignore this franchise's past, and even harder when you see some things remain the same.
Bless Unleashed will be out in 2021 for PC and PS4, but it's already out for Xbox One. If you're not too picky, you might like it; just don't get too attached to it, as it has a record of not making it to the second year!