If there’s one thing that can be said for certain about the genre of online gaming we call the ‘MMO’, it’s that it’s a genre without boundaries. From the traditional MMORPG to the more recent MOBA, new game types emerge in the world of MMOs every year.
One of the more recent additions is the room-based Action MMO. Not to be confused with the Action MMORPG, which utilises active combat in a traditional MMORPG setting, the Action MMO does away with the typical persistent world style in favour of a faster-paced world made up of hundreds of dungeons surrounding a single town serving as a quest hub.
The best examples of the Action MMO come from Nexon with their widely popular titles Dragon Nest and Vindictus XE; though, it could be said that titles like Spiral Knights and BOTS and Dragonica follow in the same trend, they don’t offer enough ‘action’ to qualify in the genre; however, by utilising many of the same ‘Dungeon Crawler’ elements, offer an similar experience.
“The first of the surprises in Dark Blood appears during the character creation in the form of giant, physics-defying breasts on the female characters that can be manually increased or decreased in size and… buoyancy.”
Dark Blood, a new Action MMO from Outspark that began Closed Beta testing this week, is an interesting addition to the genre that find a place somewhere in the middle; while at its core it offers an obviously action-oriented experience, it’s the visual style that differs from the norm. Dark Blood uses a traditional 2.5 perspective with a side-scrolling playfield, which is common in room-based games, but not so much in Action MMOs.
In combining these two game style together, you get something that feels fresh and exciting, but also dated and traditional – an interesting combination to be sure, though, one that’s alleviated some by a number of less-than-common innovations.
The first of the surprises in Dark Blood appears during the character creation in the form of giant, physics-defying breasts on the female characters that can be manually increased or decreased in size and… buoyancy. Though perhaps not ethical, these will likely be the reason many players make it through the otherwise subpar character customisation and into the game – though, it’s likely that there’ll be a lot more female characters than usual. You can read more about my thoughts and opinions on the topic here, in The Boobs and Breasts of Dark Blood Online (Coming Soon).
Following the boobs, which, while fun, didn’t sell me on the game like it will so many others, was the tutorial phase, which I enjoyed immensely. Most particularly, I enjoyed the story elements here; you begin in an underground dungeon surrounded by enemies, and must find a weapon and fight your way out to survive.
“Limited armour and weapon options, alongside limited classes and fixed gender make sure that you’ll be seeing duplicates of your own class very regularly.”
Things get interesting when you’re faced with a much larger horde of opponents, introduced by one of the many regular story cutscenes found in Dark Blood; when all hope is lost, a group of characters, each representing one of the 4 classes, barge into the room, smashing and slaying everything in sight, and granting you an incredible buff to your abilities allowing you to do the same.
This is great, because not only does it give you a chance to learn the combat mechanics of your class at a higher level, effectively giving you a taste of the gameplay to come, but too, it’s a compelling story mode, complete with stylistic cutscenes, slow-motion effects and packed to the rafters with awesome.
Moving forward, the tutorial ends as you’re confronted by an even larger force of enemies and teleported to safety by your newfound comrades; safety, used loosely, to describe the forest outside town where you’re begin – naked and lacking much of your previous prowess – your first quest.
From here, Dark Blood follows a very traditional Action MMO style complete with poor translations to English and ancient font; you’ll accept quests, enter dungeons solo or in groups of up to 4 players and wreck havoc on hundreds of unsuspecting opponents.
“The animations are fantastic; combat looks great, enemies are often smashed around the screen by your powerful attacks, breaking into pieces and spewing blood across the landscape.”
Though, there are more than a few issues for concern. First, Dark Blood is played entirely with Keyboard, with no option for use of a controller. You can rebind and use click-to-move to create a more mouse-focused control scheme; however, this setup cannot be used in dungeons. Why? Good question. I wish I knew.
Second, the interface is poorly scaled; combined with the overall UI, item image and item description windows, this makes for an often unpleasant experience. Oh, and the opening difficulty level is pathetic; dungeons that recommend 3-4 players were easily topped with 1, without wearing armour, and being awarded with Rank A.
Limited armour and weapon options, alongside limited classes and fixed gender make sure that you’ll be seeing duplicates of your own class very regularly. The simple skill progression system should, in theory, help to ensure that the individual characters themselves are different from each other; however, thus far, that doesn’t seem to be the case.
And, finally, the lack of any alternate standard attack, such as a light and hard attack, prevent the ability to create unique combos without using skills – which are often on cooldown. This breaks the flow of combat, and leads to a lot of single attack combo repetition. That said, the super powered character you’re able to play briefly in the tutorial suggests that this won’t be the case at higher levels.
On the bright side, the animations are fantastic; combat looks great, enemies are often smashed around the screen by your powerful attacks, breaking into pieces and spewing blood across the landscape. This makes up for the majority of the gameplay in Dark Blood, making it a great choice for focus in what appears to be a somewhat limited budget on a rushed release schedule, and ultimately, it’s what makes Dark Blood a joy to play.
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