Earlier today, I attended the Bless Online media preview event where various journalists, influencers, and ‘Bless emissaries’ had the opportunity to meet the Neowiz Games team and test out the new build for Bless Online. For those of you who haven’t been paying close attention to the title, Bless Online is a Korean MMORPG that has also been published in Japan and Russia but with limited success. Initially developed in 2016, Neowiz understood that the initial game build had many issue and has been reworking the MMORPG for Western audiences.
In this article, I will go over the specifics for the Bless Online North America and Europe launch, Q&A with the developers, and my own thoughts on the game.
Bless Online Facts
It has been confirmed that Bless Online will officially launch on May 30 for PC through Steam. Anyone who purchases a founder’s pack will have a 48-hour head start. The base game will cost $29.99 and there will be 3 tiers of founder’s packs: Standard ($39.99), Deluxe ($69.99), and Collector’s ($199.99). The biggest difference between the three founder’s packs are the amount of premium currency (Lumena), length of premium subscription, and cosmetics. Monthly subscriptions will be optional. Additionally, the most expensive pack also comes with ‘premium customer support.’
At launch, there will be 7 races (Habicht, Amistad, Lupus, Pantera, Sylvan Elf, Aqua Elf, and Mascu) and 5 classes (Guardian, Berserker, Paladin, Mage, and Ranger). The max level cap will be 45 and there will be 9 dungeons if you include both normal and elite modes. Game text will be available in both English and German, but voice overs will only be in English. Finally, servers will be located in Virginia and Frankfurt, and there will be region locks to China, Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Macao.
Discussion with the Devs
Due to the time constraints of the event and the large amount of media present, I tried to narrow the focus of my interview to the release and future of Bless Online instead of on game mechanics. When asked why Neowiz had decided to self-publish in North America, they responded that due to the large amount of changes from the Korean version that it would take too much time using another publisher as a middleman and this would also allow them more direct communication with the community. In order to properly manage the game, there will be Neowiz teams in North America, Europe, and South Korean working to support the NA and EU versions.
Community interaction will be a major priority with the game’s development, especially during Early Access. The team will be directly involved with the official Discord channel, social media, and the emissaries. Additionally, emissaries will be able to send tickets through a separate support channel, directly to the development team. If you have suggestions or concerns about the game, please reach out to your emissaries, which can be found on various social media platforms such as YouTube, Twitter, and Twitch.
The ‘premium customer support’ from the Collector’s Edition will have a priority queue for tickets but will be answered by the same support team (this is different from the emissary tickets). New content is expected on a three-month schedule. This will eventually include the missing classes (mystic and assassin), new zones, dungeons, raids, etc. There is no concrete timeline for the remaining classes because they are still being reworked and rebalanced for the new combat system.
The team repeatedly stressed that they do not want Bless to be pay-to-win. The cash shop and premium membership will only include cosmetic and convenience items; however, they were unable to go into specifics regarding these. There are no plans to add additional servers right now, but if deemed necessary it should not be a difficult process. Finally, most actions are server side and testing hasn’t shown any issues with lag or desync.
I had the opportunity to test out three of the five classes (Guardian, Paladin, and Ranger) in both a dungeon setting and the open world. Initially, I found movement and combat to be rather clunky and unintuitive. After years of playing more action-oriented MMOs (Black Desert, Guild Wars 2, Blade & Soul, TERA, etc.) it was a little difficult to get back into the full tab-target gameplay. However, once I had a chance to rebind all of my movement and combat keys, things felt much smoother.
The most awkward part of the revamped Bless combat system is that there are no auto-attacks and the combo system is incredibly important to take advantage of. Instead of clicking on a monster to attack it, you have to use a skill for every action. Furthermore, every initial attack will bring up 2 to 3 combo options that can chain into additional combos. This might sound confusing, but after a few minutes it makes a lot of sense.
The skill system is somewhat similar to Guild Wars 2. Instead of having multiple weapons, players can choose up to two stances to switch between. Each of these stances has 3 abilities tied to it and then players can slot up to four additional skills that don’t change when stance swapping. For some classes, stance swapping is required during combat. As a ranger, I would often run out of energy or be waiting for skill cooldowns, and swapping would grant me new skills and increased energy regeneration.
Choosing the appropriate stances for the situation is also important due to the lack of auto-attacks because you could end up as a Paladin without the ability to fight back. This actually happened during the first boss fight on my dungeon playthrough. My party wiped with 1 percent on the boss after I was the only one left and didn’t have any damage skills.
Also like Guild Wars 2, there’s an action camera mode in addition to the standard camera that can make the gameplay feel closer to TERA, or Neverwinter, and you will automatically target enemies based on the reticule location instead of having to physically click on them. Personally, I thought this game mode felt very smooth and I highly preferred it to the standard tab-target camera mode. There are a lot of telegraphed attacks in Bless and trying to attack or heal, dodge attacks, and fully utilize the combo system with the standard camera was both mentally and ergonomically straining. By changing the camera to action mode and rebinding the combo keys to my mouse, the overall gameplay became more fluid and the combo system was rewarding.
The dungeon itself was very typical of an MMORPG dungeon. There were a few traps and trash mobs between each of the bosses, but nothing really stood out. Despite having never played the game before, my party was able to clear it without much problem. However, I wouldn’t say that the experience was boring either. With the revamped combat system, there wasn’t any downtime during fights and things got pretty frantic when bosses spawn adds and used AoE spells simultaneously.
There will be a significant focus on capturing and taming creatures in Bless Online with 660 available at launch. This initially reminded me a lot of Riders of Icarus, but the taming feature just consisted of hitting space bar at the right moment. I only had the opportunity to test this on a few weaker creatures, and I hope this system is a little more rewarding against higher level enemies.
Despite playing in San Francisco, there didn’t seem to be any latency issues. Obviously, there weren’t a ton of people on the server, but there wasn’t any lag specifically due to playing on the other side of the country. My biggest concerns are still regarding the cash shop and premium subscription because the developers wouldn’t go into specific detail and the cash shop wasn’t implemented in the game yet. There was also a scroll that could make you PvP immune for every 10 minutes out of 20. This seems counterintuitive in a PvP game and I have concerns about potential cash shop implementations for this type of item as well.
Overall, I would say that I enjoyed my time with Bless Online after I got acclimated with the combat system and modified the settings to fit my personal playstyle. I didn’t get enough hands-on time to really judge whether this will be the next big MMO in the West or not, but the updated combat system does feel pretty good and it is a little different from the rest of the tab-target MMO genre. The visuals are great for the relatively dated Unreal Engine 3, and there weren’t any performance issues on the test PCs. The recommended minimum requirements are an i5 and GTX 760, which isn’t too demanding but I would bet it could run on weaker machines on lowest settings.
The high price on the founder’s packs doesn’t bother me too much, especially if it can help curtail pay-to-win systems in the cash shop or premium membership. The priority customer service is my biggest concern and my hope is that it doesn’t affect standard players too much.
Have questions, comments, or concerns regarding Bless Online? Please let us know in the comments below, and keep an eye out for our review once the game hits early access.Related: Bless Online, MMORPG, Neowiz, Preview, Steam