Friday, August 17, 2018

Bless Online - Creating A Character

Bless Online hasn't had the best of receptions since it arrived on Steam. The lifetime rating stands at "Mixed", a 45/55 positive/negative split across nearly five thousand reviews. Even that flimsy fig-leaf is slipping. The "Most Recent" rating, tallying verdicts from the last thirty days, puts Bless in the "Mostly Negative" zone, with only 38% of just over 400 respondents willing to recommend the game to others.

NeoWiz must have been hoping for a better reception in the West. Presumably they wanted to improve on their experience back at home in Korea, where Bless tanked. Twice. It went on to fail again in Japan and Russia, which suggests either a dogged determination to bring the game to new audiences or a complete denial of reality. Given a track record like that it's perhaps surprising it ever made it as far as the West but I imagine they were eyeing the kind of success Black Desert has achieved.

I've played most of the big Eastern imports of the past few years. With homegrown games studios preferring to focus their attention elsewhere, literally the only game in town for anyone jonesing for a fix of fresh AAA themepark MMO goodness has been the translated and localized versions of overseas successes - even if some of those successes were actually failures first time around.

And by and large I've enjoyed them, for a while. I had some fun times in Blade and Soul and Black Desert, both of which I played quite intensively for several weeks, but by the time Revelation Online arrived, I felt the law of diminishing returns kicking in.

Nevertheless, I had thought about trying Bless. It looked moderately intriguing. I wasn't interested enough to pay £30 to satisfy my curiosity, particularly since the game was still in Early Access, but I put it on my wishlist. Then I forgot all about it until, as I explained towards the end of yesterday's post, I spotted it on offer at two-thirds off, making it cheap enough to buy with my IntPiPoMo winnings.

On Thursday morning, since I wasn't at work, I found the time to download the game. First I had to make some room. The minimum specs suggested it would need 55GB of free disk space but in the event it squeezed itself into 40GB. The download took about half an hour. I went and had a couple of bagels and a coffee and read a few chapters of Martin Millar's excellent Lonely Werewolf Girl and  it was done when I came back.

Creating a character took longer. Not for bad reasons. Very much the opposite. Bless might have the best character creation system I've seen yet. There are a ton of pre-sets, all of which are good. There are sliders and a weird "pull on the body part" gimmick that I played around with for altogether too long. I was easily able to make just the kind of character I was hoping to play (a very short, pudgy animal-girl with a big bushy tail), which made a nice change.

One of the reasons I pulled the trigger on buying Bless was finding out there are several non-human options. Natturally there are all the usual human-variants and elves. There have to be, since between them those probably account for 90% of all the characters that are ever going to be made and without them no-one would make any money at all. For the rest of us there are wolf people and furry Lalafels with tails.

Ok, they're not called Lalafels, any more than EverQuest's halflings are called Hobbits, but you still know what they are. They're actually called Mascu and there is one very major point of difference between them and FFXIV's mini-race - Mascu can be created using either "human" or "beast"mode.

If you opt for "human" they look like pre-adolescent children, a look that can be kind of problematic in the West even when non-sexualized, as these are. If you go for "beast", as I did, the addition of catlike ears and a tail largely defuses any potential culture bombs. The end result is cartoony and innocuous enough to pass most appropriateness tests.

Before the vital concerns of race and gender comes fact ion. Bless is a two-faction game built around open-world PvP. It may be crucial which faction you choose...if you plan on sticking around. If, like me, you know you'll be done and gone before you even hit the open PvP zones (Level 30) then I don't imagine it makes much difference.

I picked the one that had the more attractive promo shot. That turned out to be the Hieron. I think they are the establishment, whereas the other faction, the Union, appear to be the rebels. I very much doubt it will matter but if it does (and if I care) I can always come round again.

There's a good selection of classes, all extremely familiar. A couple were locked. I didn't check if that's for racial, faction or cash shop reasons. They weren't anything I was particularly keen on anyway.

After some consideration I decided on the Berserker, an axe-wielding maniac with AE DPS and the defensive potential of a thoroughly sodden brown paper bag. That turned out to be a major mistake.

Not because of any particular shortcoming of the class. I never got to find out what the Berserker plays like. In what was apparently an extremely controversial move, the developers recently removed Action combat from the game, with the exception of a single class. Guess which one.

As things stand right now, Bless Online is a tab-target, hot-bar combat game with a free mouse pointer...unless you play a Berserker. No class can use action combat except the 'Zerker, who can't use anything else.

Given my dislike of action controls, the moment I discovered my error I benched my Berserker and re-rolled as a Ranger. Luckily I'd taken advantage of the option to save my character build while I was in character creation so I was able to recreate my look without going through all the options yet again.

Back in the world once more I set about mastering the controls and tweaking the UI to my satisfaction. There didn't seem to be a lot to change. I was happy with most of the defaults.

I then proceeded to play for about half an hour. Or so I thought. It was only when my stomach began to complain that I checked the time and realized I'd been playing for a couple of hours. Long enough for a First Impressions post.

I'll try to get to that tomorrow. If I'm not too busy playing.

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