You may have missed it what with all the San Diego Comic-Con stuff going around, but there's a Bandai Namco MMORPG coming exclusively to Xbox One. It's called Bless Unleashed, and it had a closed beta last weekend. I happened to get a code for that beta. Not due to my TheGamer contacts, mind you, but because Bandai Namco has my personal email. Probably because I eagerly pre-ordered Jump Force and entered a contest for a trip to Japan. Somehow that qualified me for access to this "closed" beta.
So without further ado, let me tell you what it was like to play Bless Unleashed as someone who had no idea what he was getting into.
What Is This Game?
It turns out that Bless Unleashed is a successor to Bless Online, a game called "The best new PC MMORPG from Asia" by its own website. It's also a game with a 5/10 rating on Steam and a pending closure set for September. Bless Unleashed will be picking up the torch with what seems to be a very similar visual style and gameplay to Bless Online. Only this time Asia's greatest RPG is headed to Xbox One.
For me, a first time player, that meant a promising-but-slow action RPG with a passionate fanbase who really want this one to outlast its predecessor.
A Tale Of Sexy Elf Girls And Gods
The character creator had options for various facial features, body proportions, and colors, just like most RPGs in 2019. I even had a range of voices to choose from that all sounded like they came from the anime dub acting academy. My female elf could have been a cold, dangerous woman. She could have been painfully shy in a way that some probably find adorable. I ended up going with the determined voice that always needs to declare her morals. Not that it mattered. She never actually spoke during my time in the beta.
A sidebar on the elf girls. There were four races in the beta: humans, elves, tall catlike people, and tiny fuzzy people. As I picked my class, I was presented with default characters. The paladin-looking class was represented by a human male, naturally. The mage, meanwhile, was a scantily-clad elf lady with rather accentuated proportions. I believe the priest was as well. I later learned that I could change the genders/races and was not locked into sexy elf. But the game definitely wants voluptuous elf girls to be one of the first things you see.
I picked the mage because I usually go mage or rogue, and there wasn't a rogue equivalent. I toned down my elf because the seductive default didn't match the determined voice. I then found out that I didn't need to worry about it. Upon finalizing my character, the skimpy armor was replaced by a long, plain robe. It felt like the game was saying "you want the sexy armor, you gotta play for it!"
Then the story kicked in. Something about a world of multiple gods. The dark goddess rose, my hometown was attacked, and I was the sole survivor. After a getaway griffin crash-landing, the tutorial was complete and I was (Bless) unleashed into the world.
The Waiting Game
The starting area, a farm and the adjoining countryside, played home to my first set of quests. I gathered herbs. I fought wolves until I killed enough to meet my quest quota. There was also a boss wolf that demanded I fight it alongside other players. He dropped some nice gloves. Overall it was pretty fun. My only complaint was that I sometimes had to wait for wolf and herb spawns if too many other players were active in the area. Little did I know that was the tip of the beta's biggest iceberg.
After I proved myself to the farm's owner, he allowed me to travel to the big city. Along the way I encountered a sobbing woman. Bandits set upon her and took all she had. My quest became killing two bandits. After a few minutes of searching, they eventually spawned right near the woman. The other players, about ten or so, killed them before I could land a hit. So I had to wait for two more to spawn. Somewhere between 5-10 minutes of waiting. A crowd formed. Again, they ganged up and killed one before I had a chance to hit. I did get the other, but had to wait another 5-10 for the next spawn to get my required second kill.
Later, too much later, I was in the city taking fetch quests when an announcement rang out. There was going to be a costume contest! The theme: superheroes. Except... they never specified how it would be judged. From what I saw, all of the game's armor is fantasy-style. No Iron Man suits for sale. You can dye your clothes, so maybe the goal was to don a comics-esque color scheme? Some people asked for details in the global chat, only to get a "we'll choose the closest ones" response from a GM. I signed off before the contest got underway.
I Pray For Success
All that said, there's something addicting about Bless Unleashed. It could be the combat. You can string together neat button combos as though you're playing a brawler, and unlock more combo options as you level. A dodge roll adds a fluid defense option. Or it will, once the animation is better timed to the input. There's some serious input lag in the beta build.
I think what really makes me want to root for the game, though, is the passionate fanbase. A lot of these people come from Bless Online. They give detailed feedback on the game's small subreddit. The community manager thanks them, keeping in active contact. The GMs are present, right there in town to chat or hold vague costume contests.
The devs just need to do something about this game's pacing. From the spawns to the input lag, everything feels way too slow. I'm waiting for better armor, for basic enemy spawns, for a contest that I don't even know if I qualify for. If it keeps up, they may end up waiting for players who will never come.