Title: Bless Unleashed
Developer: Neowiz Round 8 Studio
Publisher: Bandai Namco
Available on: Xbox One
Version Tested: Xbox One
Official Site: Bless Unleashed
Release Date: March 12th, 2020
Where to Buy: Xbox Store
An Xbox Blessing
If there was ever a time where players wanted to slay monsters with one another in an MMO world without paying an extra cent, then perhaps no look no further than Bandai Namco‘s Bless Unleashed. With the powers of Round 8 Studio taking on the gigantic helm of a free-to-play online adventure, this is one title Xbox One players ought to keep an eye out for.
As a survivor of an attack from an evil opposing force, you are set on an expansive quest to seek answers and aid those who have also been hurt. Selecting from one of five classes, you’ll travel across a fantasy-riddled land filled with activities and battles. The more characters you cross paths with, the more you will unveil – and the more you’ll unlock along the way.
A Journey’s Dedication Unleashed
As the journey of the player continues, they’ll find themselves learning more within the game, as opposed to being exposed to all of the content the world has to offer right off the bat. It’s a bit overwhelming to consume all of the potential the player can bring forth. Still, the main quest’s progression alongside the mechanics and works of the game don’t exactly line up: you’ll run into a merchant that can upgrade your equipment, but you’ll need to complete a main objective to understand their purpose fully. It’s this reason only that I believe Bless Unleashed was built for the hardcore MMORPG player.
The overall progression of a single character can take hours, and that aspect by itself can turn certain players away. Yet, all in all, there’s always something more that can be experienced that one could be potentially missing out on. Even after hours of dedicating my time to Bless Unleashed, I was finally figuring out how to upgrade my equipment and finding out which materials I need to gather for certain Masteries to progress even further in the game.
It’s a beautiful hybrid of Runescape elements and World of Warcraft gameplay with a nice taste of Dark Souls-esque combat. You can mine materials for whichever Mastery you’re aiming for while dodging away from unsuspecting attacks from killer mushrooms, ghosts, and/or wolves. And with dodging comes good timing, evidently as exemplified by the aesthetic of Dark Souls action: a good strike from an opponent can prove the death of your character to possibly the nearest Pyre sight, waiting to start again.
Slashin’ and Clashin’
The combo-driven combat system works excessively well with all of its possible combinations, and it helps that you’re given prompts to decide which attack to strike next with. It’s one of the primary focuses of the game, intentionally. Players can switch up their given combos or switch to a different power style via Blessings in the game to give players different options on how to approach their missions. Personally, as a Mage, I was excited to see what other combos I could utilize. Still, my disappointment in that wasn’t only driven by the lack of further combo development, but each Blessing only possessed new powers and their upgrades in lieu of a different combo style. It’s a small disadvantage in the game that didn’t tear down the whole action experience, but something I wish could’ve been toyed with more. I find myself using some of the same combos over and over again, and that repetition can go on for so long.
The sound design works and connects exceptionally well, eager to hear a nice landing shot on an opposing force daring to strike you down. And even with an MMO-based network of including multiple players at once, the sound barely breaks apart. Albeit an overage of sound effects can be irritating, yet it isn’t broken by any means. It just needs a nice re-working, and I’m certain it will be perfect.
But the music…the music is something else. When it comes to a free-to-play game, music can be seen to be ignored for a number of reasons. Yet everything from the main menu to strolling across the world of Lumios, the music in the game is pleasant to listen and smoothly rock your head towards. It’s well-orchestrated, and it worked very well for an open-world that isn’t entirely perfect. Even if one is casually gaming this title, I’m certain they’ll find the fantastical music to be more appropriate and therapeutic along with their adventures.
In terms of the game’s graphics, I’m pretty much split down the middle of being whiplashed to a previous generation of video games to appreciating what I’m presented with. Overall the graphics aren’t bad – far from it, actually. It’s just not as polished as one would expect from a game built and developed for the Xbox One. Character animations are a little clunky, with bad lip-syncing with the game’s oftentimes mediocre spoken dialogue; some of the environments are reminiscent of the Xbox 360 days and don’t exactly match up to the basic standards of just making it look believable; and framerate consistency is sadly subpar, not to mention that it takes a few moments for several items in the world to pop up (Teleports for fast travel take a while to appear, quest goals can sometimes be invisible and inaccessible to the player, and certain NPCs will be a floating blue orb until the game registers them into their character models).
Not everything about the graphics is negative, though. The action feels and reacts genuinely well when multiple players are attacking a number of foes on the battlefield. Every sword dash and mage spell look awesome, and there are rarely any breakages in the graphics even when the action is tensing up.
As aforementioned, Bless Unleashed is a beautiful hybrid of Runescape elements with World of Warcraft gameplay that it’s hard not to mentally mix the two. You can gather a small array of land goods from thin branches to stringy meat and iron ores to craft potions, armor, weapons, and food to aid you on your journey, and they can also be purchased through the in-game marketplace or through vendors you’ll cross paths with. And in the middle of all this, you can find yourself in fighting scenarios with random players that can greatly aid you in your objectives. There are a few ways to approach and muster up essential items in the game: all it takes is personal navigation and engagement – the more you put in, the more you’ll get out of it.
I do have a strange fondness for the mounts you can purchase and utilize with, though, in order to travel faster, and they’re easy to maneuver once you get the hang of them. Some players ride atop savage beasts in the middle of populated areas as if it was everything casual, and it just adds another fun layer to the world these developers have created.
The Battle Continues
Obviously, enemies play a big part in enhancing your character and gaming experience. It’ll be common to come across equal-leveled foes from footpad soldiers to giant bugs, but the real fun kicks in when other online players join in on the fight – without planning – and fight off against the bigger foes with better loot. You get a huge kick out of killing alongside strangers who just might be on the same quest as you (or just re-slaying the creature for the hell of it, which I do if I see a lower level warrior struggling with the battle). The online interactions are hardly disruptive, and it honestly feels humbly more engaging than one might expect.
There’s been a couple of instances where I’m fighting a mini-boss, and another player would just randomly show up and help strike the foe with me. We’ll both receive loot, experience points, and overall satisfaction from defeating one of many Bless Unleashed‘s monsters. Moments such as these make me want to go back for more adventures, and I sincerely applaud the developers for generating that sort of aesthetic into an MMO title for the console. Not only does it heighten up the replay value, but it also makes the player feel more involved rather than simply running from point A to point B with nothing to do.
Regardless of gameplay and replay value aspects, players will find a plentiful of things to do in Bless Unleashed. The side quests in the game seem to be never-ending, with some being repeatable quests, while others will bring players across lands to accomplish. You can queue into Dungeon sections and boss battles with other players through the game’s matchmaking if you want to get away from the monster-infested open-world that is Lumios. And of course, chasing down Blessings is another one of the goals you can achieve in your experience of Bless Unleashed.
Verdict: Built for the hardcore MMO players out there Bless Unleashed is far from a simple adventure. There’s so much to do this game that even after putting in 15+ hours of gameplay, I’m still discovering some new things to do. It’s easy to get lost in this world, and I think that’s what makes for a good fantasy journey for the Xbox One. Although the graphical atmosphere is outdated, the experience certainly isn’t. Imagine if an open-world RPG for a bunch of players being built specifically for the console, and you can start to mentally compare that to what other MMOs you’ve played before for comparing and contrasting. If Bless Unleashed was made for the previous generation of consoles, the negative aspects could easily be ignored – although this issue can be on the minds of some if they’re expecting a pitch-perfect experience for their current-gen machines.
I’m still having fun with the game, and I’m eager to see what the developers will accomplish as they push for more updates down the timeline. This will be my initial review for Bless Unleashed, as I intend to write a follow-up review in the next couple of weeks to give an update if anything has changed. Plus, for an MMORPG, I don’t believe one review is sufficient. It’s a big game, and I think it deserves a big review altogether to sincerely get all my thoughts onto the page for a game I’ve spent hours on.
- The open-world atmosphere and player engagement both blend very well with overall online interactions.
- Addicting gameplay only gets more exciting the more you discover along the way.
- Free-to-play indeed, and the microtransactions are almost futile to none.
- Solid mix of RPG elements with massive multiplayer gameplay, especially for the Xbox One.
- Graphics can get choppy, and the framerate unfortunately lags from time to time.
- Character animations are a little outdated, and rendering of certain objects and characters take a while to process.