Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games (MMORPGs) have long been a stalwart of PC gaming, but Bless Unleashed is an MMORPG with a combo-combat system that is ideal for console gaming. Loving nothing more than to smash a sword, arrow, or spell into a massive monster with loads of players around, consider me intrigued.
I went into Bless Unleashed looking to understand how an MMORPG plays out on consoles, and to see if it brought anything new to the genre that would make this particular fantasy world more appealing than many others on offer. At this point, it’s worth mentioning that Bless Unleashed is a reboot of Bless Online, a title released on Steam in 2018, so it is not entirely new but is getting new content on a fairly regular basis.
Diving first into character creation, Bless Unleashed offers 5 classes to choose from: Crusader, Berserker, Ranger, Mage, and Priest. The Crusader and Berserker are melee options, with the former using a shield and generally performing the role of tank. The Ranger, Mage, and Priest all offer ranged damage-dealing potential, with the Priest also offering some healing abilities.
Your choice of class then determines which of four races you will be able to choose from: Human, Elf, the wolf-like Varg, and rodent-like Ippin. Humans are able to access Crusader, Mage and Priest, Elves can access Ranger and Mage, Varg are exclusively Berserker, and Ippin have access to Crusader or Priest. The choice of race seems primarily to be an aesthetic one, and the game provides a nice range of pre-sets for every race that can be further and fully customized to your choosing. For example, although many of the Ippin presets resemble adorable little rabbit-folk, you can equally create a possessed doll that would fit right in with Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas.
Character creation is followed by a “dream-sequence” in which your character is provided with advanced gear and skills for a short period of time. While it can be a little overwhelming to receive so many skills and abilities at once, this short sequence is a great way to sample the 5 classes and get a feel for their combat potential against single enemies, groups of enemies, and even bosses. You’ll be doing a lot of combat with your character, so it’s worth getting a feel for each class so you can feel confident about getting invested in your character.
After the dream-sequence, there is an optional prologue which provides a bit of additional world-building. The dream-sequence - rather more nightmarish on reflection - results in you awaking late for festival day in your safe-haven hometown. This is well-trodden RPG territory that involves you completing a few short quests before inevitably just about everything your character knows and loves is no more. Then, it’s off to the mainland for adventure, quests, and perhaps most importantly, other human players.
The quests are typical RPG fare – kill 5 wolves, collect 5 mushrooms, go speak to my brother in the next town. While not breaking any new ground, these quests are relatively quick to complete and you’ll find your character moving through the world at pace. Quests get more interesting in later zones with variety being introduced through world bosses which require multiple players to complete, and story missions which sometimes take place in an instanced version of the game world (i.e. away from other players).
The first few zones provide a good sense of progression and some environments are particularly impressive, notably the approach to the second city, Navarra. You can later move around the map more quickly, through “teleposts” dotted throughout the world, in exchange for a small amount of gold. It feels like a pretty substantial map to explore, with a decent amount of variety and some very cool locations to find.
Turning now to combat, Bless Unleashed relies on its impressive combo system to achieve effects that have utility in different situations. Adding to the combos and a couple of class specific abilities, you also choose a “Blessing” which provides additional abilities mapped to your controller buttons. Blessings are unlocked as you play through the game and allow you to build your character to be better at specific functions. The priest, for example, has the option of choosing between utility type blessings and healing blessings. Blessings can be switched fairly easily, but it takes some time to gather the skill-points to unlock all the benefits of each blessing, so you should invest points wisely.
The class combos, blessings, and cross-cutting abilities like Dodge make for a satisfying and engaging combat system. Enemies often have a slow wind-up before hitting your character, and bosses telegraph their most powerful attacks meaning that combat is often a matter of choosing the combo you can pull off before needing to jump out of the way. The best of this combat takes place in arenas and dungeons (at level 20), which provide 2 or 5 player missions against bosses respectively.
Outside of combat, there are resources to be gathered, professions to be leveled, and faction reputations to be developed. Bless Unleashed doesn’t break any new ground here, but what it does have is implemented well and provides enough gameplay variety that you always have some objective to be working towards. The game does have boosters in its in-game store which can make some of these things happen more quickly, but you also get some just from playing so it never feels like a necessity.
This core gameplay loop works well on the whole – around level 17, there is a bit of a drop off in terms of quests to get your character to levels 20-21. There aren’t quite enough new quests, so you’ll need to repeat some quests and repeat killing some bosses over a couple of days - this incentivizes playing in sessions which is no bad thing. As you get further into the game, access to more dungeons (PvE), arenas (PvE), and battlegrounds (PvP) mean that repeating quests feels less of an issue.
Bless Unleashed is not without a couple of areas for improvement - I found the music to be rather intense when not in combat or in a city and ended up turning it off. I also found a couple of issues with the targeting system and with input lag, which can be frustrating when it results in a missed combo or death, though this was by no means a frequent experience. There are also some issues with server lag, though the one or two times I experienced this, it returned to normal shortly afterwards.
Drawing to a close, players looking to spend a few hours here and there will find a rewarding leveling experience, with plenty of fun to be had in PvE content, PvP content, or both. Players looking to make a significant investment of time in an MMORPG may find the pace of Bless Unleashed a little slow without purchasing experience boosters from the in-game store, and it may lack variety for players very familiar with the genre.
Ultimately, Bless Unleashed is a very solid MMORPG with a fun and engaging combat system, an interesting world to explore, and a high degree of accessibility for players due to its free-to-play availability on consoles. Bless Unleashed is well-worth checking out if you are looking for your next MMORPG fix. 7/10