Bless Online – First Look
Bless Online has been a highly anticipated game in the West for some time now. Western audiences have been clamoring for an MMORPG that breaks away from traditions and genre standards set by the likes of EverQuest and World of Warcraft. So, is Bless Online the MMO that we’ve been waiting for? The short answer is no.
Bless Online is a PowerPoint presentation about a massive open-world MMORPG from Neowiz. Unfortunately, Bless Online is such a mess that I hesitate to even call it a game. Normally in these videos, I take you through my experiences and thoughts of the first few hours of the game. I try to keep them focused on the gameplay, presentation, and monetization. This one is going to be a little different, though, because part of the gameplay experience for Bless Online is getting the game to launch and connect to a server.
The game will only launch in a windowed 4:3 aspect ratio by default, and any attempts I made to change it from in game caused the client to crash. You must change the resolution from the launcher, and then access the game’s shortcut from the local files option within steam. Once there, you have to right-click, go to properties, compatibility mode, and click the “Disable Full Screen Optimizations” checkbox and run as administrator to launch the game. If you do not do this, the game will do one of three fun things. You could get a blank window that automatically closes itself after a few seconds. You might get a hanging black screen that constantly cycles through resolutions and the game must be force stopped through task manager. The worst of all is when the game appears to be loading but hangs on the loading screen at 80 percent or so for about an hour and then crashes.
Once you’ve mastered the loading sequence, you’ll get to craft a character. The classes are standard MMO fare. You’ve got Berserkers, Guardians, Rangers, Mages, and Paladins. There are plans for assassins, mystics, and warlocks in the future. The character creation is pretty in depth, allowing you to customize finer points of your body shape and details like hair and skin colors and patterns. The character creation itself was one of the best experiences I had with the game, and really shows the underlying potential of the game.
The real trouble for Bless begins when you load into the world. The game has almost no optimization, so your frame-rate is going to be all over the place. My machine has a 7th generation i7-7700k processor, 8 GB of ram, and a 1050 GTX and I was dipping into single digit framerates. The game was struggling to draw in objects as I was running through the first major town. The constant stuttering and locking up made the game nearly unplayable. I attempted to lower the graphics settings to see if it helped, and it changed nothing. This is a huge disappointment, because when the game does manage to eek out a proper frame-rate, it looks gorgeous. A lot of effort went into the design of the environments and character models. It’s just a shame that it’s near impossible to enjoy them.
The combat in Bless Online feels like a hybrid of Guild Wars 2 and WoW. It still uses a tab targeting system, but you’ll use skill combos that can change which enemies your attacks can hit and how. It’s not terribly new or interesting, but when the game is running at a decent framerate it looks flashy and the user interface shows you all the different branches of your current stance combo trees. Being able to change the path of your combo part of the way through it is another fantastic example of what this game could be if the team behind it would spend more time optimizing it.
Another one of the game’s big flow-breaking issues is also one of its biggest conveniences. The auto-run feature allows you to click a button and have your character automatically move toward their next quest objective. This can make finding things easier if you’re prone to getting lost, or unable to properly read the mini-map, but leads to problems. For one, you’ll be doing this a lot. A lot of the early game flow is running long distances to various talking quests. You don’t start hitting more combat focused quests until level 10 or so. The second issue with the auto run system is that it takes you on a path set by the game’s internal pathfinder no matter what that might mean for your character. I was using it during one of my sessions and the game skirted me through an area where the enemies outclassed me so badly that their level numbers were question marks. A large group of them aggro’d on me while I was running, and I almost didn’t make it out.
This is to say nothing of Bless Online’s monetization. We’ve touched a little on it in Jason’s press preview event video, but things haven’t improved much. Pay for convenience features include the standard experience buffs, inventory expansion tickets, and cosmetic skins. This is just the tip of the iceberg however. Don’t want to resurrect away from your quest objective? Pay real money to warp back to your body instead of walking or finding a spirit healer. Are you tired of the opposing faction camping you in contested zones? You can pay money to make it stop. You have to pay real money to teleport to dungeons. You have to pay to change skill trees or respec. Bless Online drives players to their “Pay for Convenience” system by intentionally creating inconveniences. These kinds of practices are expected in a free-to-play game but are downright inexcusable in a buy to play game with an optional additional subscription.
If you’ve been considering jumping into Early Access for Bless Online, my honest advice to you is this: don’t. Even putting aside, the entirety of the cash shop, the half-finished and shoddily optimized state of the game is reason enough to avoid it like the plague. Once the game has seen some work and retooling and gets closer to an official launch, we’ll check back in and see what’s changed. Until then, don’t waste your time or cash.
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