Call me crazy, but an MMO's aesthetics can go a long way towards making it stick out from the rest of the pack. That's how I first noticed Core Blaze, an action MMO in the same vein as Vindictus, being made by Taiwanese developer Gamania. This hack-'n'-slash RPG is quite the looker, using an appealing Chinese art style built in the Unreal Engine 3 to give your monster-slaying an extra coat of polish. Read on to see gameplay footage and a grip of sweet screenshots that'll put the fear of Liang Qu in you.
Core Blaze reminds me of some of my favorite Sony games of the past, with combat reminiscent of Mark of Kri and intense bossfights against titanic monsters ala Monster Hunter. You've got four dynamic weaponsets to choose from: sword and shield (tank), great sword (slow-but-hefty DPS), dual blade (lightning-fast DPS), and long bow (ranged DPS). What's nice is that you can switch between these styles whenever you want (provided you're not in combat), meaning you're never locked into a role that won't benefit your party. Combat emphasizes twitch reflexes, with evasive maneuvers keeping you healthy and combos being a necessary part of maximizing your damage-per-second. A gamepad is recommended, but know that button-mashing won't get you very far in CB's cooperative battles.
As you'll see in the above trailer, bossfights don't pull any punches, demanding quick thinking and even quicker sword-slashing. That blue panther-monster is Liang Qu, the ice-empowered guardian of the Hunter's Cave instance. Fighting him will be about reacting to his lunges and dodging properly when he bounces off the walls, claws bared. You can also damage various parts of his body, granting a boon that could turn the tide of a fight. For instance, if a player shatters Liang Qu's fangs with a great sword, he'll unleash a super-charged berserk mode for extra damage.
Besides battling against feline monstrosities, Core Blaze sounds like it could offer interesting discoveries for those players who prefer to explore the world. Depending on what time of day it is, and what the weather's like, you may be able to access side-quests on previously-unreachable paths. For instance, while trekking through the Forest of Meditation, rainy weather will raise the water levels in a nearby river will allow adventurers to access a hidden encounter in a seemingly-inaccessible cave. Other items, like a hook shot (Legend of Zelda, anyone?), will bolster your beast-hunting ability.
Core Blaze is preparing for a Q2 2012 release in Asia, with a North American release date not yet determined. We'll be keeping an eye out on this one, and be sure to check out our upcoming exclusive interview with the developers (as soon as it's translated!).