Bless Unleashed hasn't exactly exploded onto the MMO scene since its PC launch earlier this month. But with the upcoming release of Amazon's New World (opens in new tab) and Final Fantasy 14's surge in popularity (opens in new tab), that's no big surprise. Couple that with its association to failed MMO Bless Online, and you can understand why people may be wary of jumping in.
Bless Unleashed is a fantasy MMO developed by Round8 Studio. It's set in the same world as Bless Online, uses the same assets, and has Neowiz as the publisher on PC—and that's where the connection appears to end. The MMO has been around on consoles for a couple of years now, but as the Steam version has just launched with a new update, I thought I'd take a look.
I enjoy action combat when it's done well, and for me, no MMO has been able to top Tera in that regard, so I was surprised to find that Bless Unleashed's take is actually pretty fun. You're introduced to it the moment you leave the character creation screen when you're thrown into a mini tutorial level that pits your character against increasingly powerful enemies. I say powerful, but your character has a temporary level boost which gives you an indication of how that particular class will play as you unlock more skills and abilities through the normal levelling process. It also means the tutorial enemies are a bit of a pushover. Still, it's a good way to throw you straight into the action.
As helpful as the tutorial is in figuring out if a class is for you, it's also a little misleading in the fact that you have to mash buttons to see what they do. There's no way to check the tooltips for the different skills until you finish the tutorial—or none that I found anyway—but while it's slightly annoying, it certainly doesn't stop you breezing through the enemies that are thrown at you. Because of this, you may be forgiven for thinking that the combat doesn't have any nuance, and you can just mash buttons to win. While that's certainly true for the tutorial, once you start the game properly at level 1, you'll get to see exactly what your abilities do and when best to use them.
As well as regular class skills that are bound to keys, you can perform combos using your left and right mouse buttons If I hit the right mouse button at a specific point during a combo with my mage, I'll teleport to the enemy, hit them with a blast of arcane damage and knock them back.
You'll soon see that you get more abilities than you have slots for, so you can pick the ones you enjoy the most and focus on levelling those up. Once you unlock different blessings, you can further customise your playstyle by passively enhancing certain skills. For example, my mage's Mark of the Wolf blessing adds a damaging blizzard effect whenever I hit an enemy with Frost Nova.
Every class can dodge, which seems a little strange at first. While I get that you need to be able to move out of the way of incoming attacks, seeing a priest rolling around the battlefield seems a bit odd. But it works, and the beauty of this type of combat is you don't have to rely on defensive stats to stay alive—you'll get hit because you didn't move in time, not because you didn't stack enough dodge or parry.
Once you're a couple of levels in, the game quickly reminds you that you are playing an MMO rather than just an action RPG. As well as the usual 'kill X number of Y' objectives, several of the early quests have you tackling formidable enemies, and you often find yourself as one of many players trying to take it down. There are also world bosses to tackle when you're out and about exploring, and there seems to be no shortage of players ready to lend a hand. One particular world boss—a harpy that has a ridiculously ranged one-shot mechanic—killed about five of us in one hit, but others rushed in to resurrect us so we could jump back into the fight.
The first ten or so levels feel pretty linear, but the zones start to open up after that. And if PvP is your thing, you can jump into instanced battlegrounds at level 30 or go for open-world PvP in disputed areas.
It's also worth mentioning that Bless Unleashed is pretty graphically demanding. I've got all settings on low with my ageing GTX 970, and I've still noticed the occasional issue with frames and stuttering. It's not ideal if you're in the middle of a fight and you miss the timing of a dodge because of it, so it's something to be aware of.
There's nothing groundbreaking about Bless Unleashed, and while it seems to tick all the boxes in terms of gameplay, I don't feel any real desire to keep going with it. I'm not sure if it's the dullness—aesthetically speaking—of the starting zones or if having just stepped away from World of Warcraft, my expectations are just set too high for any new MMO to stand much of a chance.
It is free-to-play though, so you're not going to lose anything other than the time it takes to download to take a look for yourself and draw your own conclusions. At the very least, it might fill that MMO-shaped hole in your life until New World launches at the end of September.