If you’re anything like me then you’ll know all about the excitement that arrives when a new MMO is confirmed for console. For years us console owners have had to live life as the poor relative in the corner, hearing whispers from the main table of epic PC experiences; games like World of Warcraft or Guild Wars. But with this latest generation things have changed slightly, as the once PC-limited titles have started to come to console, finally letting us experience games from the genre. Since that time we have joined guilds, ground out level caps and traded potions. With Bless Unleashed and the power of Xbox One exclusivity there is the chance to entice in yet another new audience. But does Bless Unleashed manage to deliver a glimmer of excitement or will it have us all feeling like a level one mage?
Set in the lush and, at times, lovely world of Lumios, Bless Unleashed sets us off on an age-old journey, one that kicks off seeing us needing to choose a character. There are five playable classes in place – Crusader, Berserker, Mage, Priest and Ranger. And then within those are playable races like that of human or elf. For those who love the character creation that is provided via a decent role-player, there is more than enough attention to detail to keep everyone happy.
You start off Bless Unleashed in a dream-like state; one that becomes a tutorial for the combat you’ll find yourself relying on. Then you wake up, finding yourself visiting a town for a festival. There are friendly characters to talk to, fireworks in the sky and a promising theatrical show that narrates the story of this world’s history. Soon though everything goes pear-shaped, the town is invaded by monsters and demons and it is they who start killing everything in sight – including the head honcho of this town, a high priestess who is running everything. Thankfully you escape along with some other heroes, ending up far away on the other side of the world. Then the real game begins and you go out in search of answers…
If you haven’t played an MMO before then Bless Unleashed isn’t that far away from a normal RPG in terms of its key gameplay mechanics. You get several quests that you are requested to action, with these normally consisting of heading off to a specific place, killing whatever is there, grabbing an item and dropping it back at the quest giver. But alongside that there are smaller side missions: weird little fun things like picking up a number of pieces of hay for the horses, or taking down a bunch of pumas that are bothering some cattle. Whatever quest it is though, your hard work results in the receiving of gold coins and experience points, allowing you to level up your character. This is utterly vital too as the more you level up the better equipped you are to tackle higher level quests, bosses and dungeons.
The biggest difference with an MMO to an RPG is the fact that at all times there are a number of other real-world players frequenting the same world as you, going about the same business and taking in similar quests. This results in you being able to team up with others for certain quests or boss fights – for instance you might be fighting an enemy and suddenly you’re joined in battle by a random collection of bypassers all willing to lend a helping hand. This is especially helpful when it comes to the boss battles as they can prove pretty tricky if you are on your own. It goes further than this though, letting you party up, join guilds and traverse the fantasy world as a collective – earning big coinage and tons of loot in the process.
Bless Unleashed is a very solid game, and the best thing about it is that it is free to play. Frankly, that is amazing. However if you like what you are finding then spending a few pennies will let you in on the likes of the Founder Pack that brings extra bits of gear, some in-game coin and a specific currency – Star Seeds – that you cannot just use in the marketplace to buy and trade items, but also to resurrect on the spot after dying. You don’t really need to spend the extra cash on these packs, as the game is certainly very enjoyable in standard form, but if you want an extra bit of help then it allows for the advantage.
That said, Bless can feel like a big old grind at times, but that’s pretty much like all MMOs which throw you into a world and leave you wandering around collecting and killing things. It can occasionally get a bit much too, and if you like a story this grind can distract from the narrative somewhat. This is something that isn’t helped when foes keep respawning after you kill them, with the game readying itself for the next adventurer.
The combat is good though and it all works fine, however it is a tad slow in terms of the animation at times. It has a bit of Dark Souls about it with stamina bars, blocks and counters, and spending times in the early stages choosing your favoured character will pay off in the end. Due to the variety, it comes across as pretty damn great when you’re in a party, with you all using different skills and attributes to complement the group.
Bless Unleashed does however look a lot better than a lot of the other MMOs on the console market – except perhaps that of Black Desert – and it has a lovely colourful world that is not just interesting to explore, but great fun to play around in. It does occasionally feel a bit dated and familiar in terms of character and environmental design, and at no point has it ever surprised me with what it is doing, but it’s fine and does the job intended. The soundtrack though is a huge epic behemoth of a score; one that never disappoints as it gets the blood pumping throughout. This is accompanied by some decent audio effects and admirable voice-over that is delivered in spurts throughout.
Bless Unleashed on Xbox One is a game that is pretty much a no-brainer to play – after all, it’s free. If you love a good old MMORPG, then you will find that there is a lot to do in terms of quests and there is a whole ton of land to explore. The later level dungeons and arena battles that allow you to team up with others are exciting and will please a whole army of fans, and I can imagine that as the game keeps growing its fanbase a bunch of new content will be added in the future.
Personally, I’ve enjoyed going back to an MMO and especially when I’ve seen the benefits of having a whole team of people around, but it must be said that the constant respawning of foes is a pain, as is the need to grind. Get past that though and the sense of being in a big adventure with hundreds of people all sharing the same world is hugely exciting; it is here where it provides unique narratives and stories. It is the sense of wonder where Bless Unleashed excels, and it is with that where it will continue to thrive successfully in the future.