Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Bless Online : First Impressions, Part Two

I played Bless for another, longish session last night. Steam tells me I've put ten hours into the game. My Mascu ranger is level 14. I know just enough about the game to be dangerous. Let's go!

The Tutorial

I am not a big fan of Tutorials. I particularly dislike it when they make you finish an entire instance that has nothing to do with the game itself - especially when it takes up most of your first hour, draining any excitement and interest you ever had and making you wish you'd never bothered. Looking at you, Rift.

Bless kind of has one one of those but it doesn't really count because it's so incredibly short. There's an airship trip. I can't even remember how it starts. Almost immediately it's interrupted by a crisis. A beetle attack. (Beetles? Really??) There's a fight which goes by in a blur and then we're docking and that's it. All over.

It's reminiscent of the original opening to FFXIV (go figure) but on fast-forward. It also reminded me of EQ2 as well as several other MMOs I've played. Originality isn't an issue here, that's for sure.

Making the threat a horde of flying beetles does set the tone for what comes next, inasmuch as it's low key and slightly strange. Once the airship lands the rest of the tutorial melds seamlessly into the game proper. You begin doing the kind of things you're going to go on doing, only with hints, prompts and treats when you do it right. It's well-paced, helpful and unobrtusive. I appreciated it.

Questing and Story

Bless Online is a themepark. No question about that. But it's an odd, off-kilter kind of themepark, not the straight-up, quest hub WoW-clone kind.

There's a Main Quest sequence and a smorgasbord of side-quests. The questgivers have exclamation points over their heads but they're understated and easy to miss. The non-narrative questgivers are scattered all over the place, not gathered in little clumps. There's something of an old-school feel, although thankfully you don't have to hail every NPC just to check if they want something.

I was rather taken with the early questing. It's unusual. The first quest I got had me joining some NPC organization, whereupon they sent me to choose the new uniform for the guild. I went to see a tailor, who showed me several options hanging on mannequins. I had to select the most suitable. The reward was a uniform of my own.

After that I was interviewed by the guild leader and given a mission that sent me to investigate some trouble in the sewage treatment plant. There was some banter about that. I found it amusing. Almost as soon as I got there an animated suit of armor popped out of the waste-water and battle commenced.

From there things escalated to a show-down with a mad scientist who was sticking giant rats into plate armor for some unexplained reason. That led to his lab getting wrecked and somehow it was my fault and I found myself owing damages to the city, which is how I ended up working for the Government.

Or something like that. To be honest, it was all a bit of a blur. It was also entertaining and absorbing, two words that describe all the questing I've done so far.

That was all part of the main questline. I think. There's a very good quest journal with onscreen prompts and a detailed summary but mostly I've just been trucking along, enjoying myself, not worrying too much about the structure.

The plot has some twists I didn't expect and a narrative I'm finding quite interesting. It's linear without being pedestrian and familiar without being enirely predictable. I do tend to enjoy the questing in Eastern MMOs more than that in Western ones, though, so factor that in.

Also, I've read that there's an entirely different main quest and starting area for each race. If that's true it adds a very significant degree of replayability to the low-end game. I'd definitely play through a few more like this one.

Translations, Voice Acting and Polish

I put this in as a separate category because it's been a big part of the backlash. There are long, angry threads on Reddit bemoaning the awfulness of the translation and the bugginess of the game. There are also white knight defences of the work NeoWiz has put in to change all that.

My experience has been mixed. The very early part of the game is well translated. The quest dialog is idiomatic and lucid. The game instructions are coherent and grammatically correct. There are very few spelling errors and little that seems off or odd. I was impressed.

Unfortunately, that level of quality doesn't last. By around level ten or so the quest dialog reverts to the kind of quasi-English all-too familiar from many other hastily localized MMOs. At no point does it become difficult to follow but the characters start sounding less like individuals with personality and more like print-outs from Google Translate. Which is most likely what they are.

That doesn't always apply when it comes to the main quest. There, at least on the sequences that are voiced, things continue to be fully translated by someone with a sound grasp of spoken English.

The voiceovers themselves are all done by people who at least sound as though they're speaking their mother-tongue. Not all of them sound like their day job is acting but some of them are quite convincing. I've heard a lot worse.

As for bugs, I haven't run into any at all. For Early Access Bless seems solid, at least at the levels I'm playing.

Mounts and Taming

Another Eastern feature I strongly favor is auto-questing. I love being able to click a button and have my character find her own way to the next NPC or location. It seems to me to add immersion rather than remove it. My character should know her way around better than me. She lives there. I don't.

The auto-pathing in Bless is good, except where it doesn't play nice with things like the paternoster lifts. I found myself running into a corner a few times when the lift platform was up not down. Also I ran off a few high terraces once in a while. Health and safety isn't much of a thing here. Fortunately neither is falling damage. I guess if you can drop a hundred feet then get up and walk away you might as well save money on railings.

Somewhere along the questline they gave me a horse. Quite early on. I think I was maybe level five or six. He's a bit on the skinny side. You can see his ribs. Still, a ride's a ride.

It's definitely faster on horseback but mounts have a stamina pool and it depletes. Slowly, because I didn't notice for a long time, but eventually, on a long cross-country canter, my horse up and vanished.

There's a whole feeding system for mounts. They level up and acquire skills. There are  ground and flying mounts and mounts are a sub-class of Companions, which also includes Pets, which you tame. You can have up to forty Companions. That's about as much as I know but I'm guessing it's a significant part of the game.

So far I have two Companions and I was pointed to both of them by the extended tutorial (still popping up hints and quests at level 14). To go with my under-nourished horse I have a hamster the size of a Pomeranian.

I tamed the hamster using a taming scroll. Actually, four training scrolls. Taming is a mini-game where you have to stop a moving cursor as it passes across a green line. It's not hard but it's not a gimme.

I imagine it gets a lot harder as you go for bigger animals but that's just speculation. I tried to tame a giant rabbit (that's us, hanging out, in the picture above) but I didn't have the right scroll for it. So far I only have the hamster. He doesn't appear to do anything except follow me but he does level up. A cosmetic pet with levels is a new one on me. I may be missing something here.


It's easy. And fast. So far.

Killing mobs and gathering materials both give xp to the same leveling pool but the amounts are relatively small. The huge bulk of xp comes from quests. The main quest sequence doesn't give enough xp alone to hit its own gates but so far I've not really needed to supplement my quest xp to keep pace with the requirements. I did hit a couple of markers a tad early but a few side quests fixed that.

I read a couple of leveling guides, not because I was having any issues but because I'd heard that Bless can be very grindy and I wasn't seeing it yet. The guides tend to be written by and for people who want to skip as much content as possible as they race to the endgame. It was much the same in BDO. I don't believe anyone who enjoys questing and exploring is going to find the low levels in any the Eastern MMOs too much of a grind.

If anything, leveling may be a little fast for my tastes. I'm not keen to hit 30, at which point we move into open PvP zones with questing shared by the opposing factions (the exact same model as Allods, come to think of it). I already have an unavoidable xp buff granted by the game and some xp potions from a quest, which are staying in my pack. I don't foresee any difficulties in getting to thirty. After that... we'll see.

As well as quests Bless also has Monster Books. Sadly, these are not twenty-foot tall tomes with giant wheels. They're kill quests for specific creatures, familiar from many other games, most obviously FFXIV (Surprise!).

It's impossible to avoid these because, well, you have to kill stuff. I haven't focused on any yet but it's good to see them ticking away in the background.

Gear and Loot

This is a strange one. Before I'd even received a single piece of gear from a quest I happened to browse the wares of an NPC merchant. She had full sets of armor, with stats, for every class. More surprising yet, it was all cheap enough that I could afford it, just with the coin I'd been looting off regular kills. So I bought a complete outfit.

That significantly upgraded my gear score (which is an actual stat you can see on your paper doll). I was very happy, if a little puzzled. I can't think of many MMOs where you can just buy all the gear you need, for pennies, from an NPC.

It got even odder when, almost immediately afterwards, I received my first piece of gear as a quest reward. It was literally identical to one of the pieces I'd just bought, except it had a diferent name.

This is how armor works, it appears. The system was confirmed when I hit my first Dungeon in the main quest sequence. It's gated both by level (13) and gear score (1665). At 13 was well under the bar but there's an armor vendor right outside the dungeon entrance. I bought a new set of gear from her for peanuts and boom! In I went.

It seems like an odd system but only because it's just the baseline. You can be assured of functional armor but you're going to want a lot better than just functional.

For that you need to upgrade. There's one of those systems that lets you salvage unwanted gear for a resource you can use to improve items you want to use. Armor can also be crafted, as can accessories like Jewellery. I'm just at the tip of that iceberg so I can't say much more about it, except that if it follows the pattern of most imported MMOs it will be a spiral of ever-increasing costs for ever-diminishing returns. That's where the real grind usually lies.

Then there are your all-important weapons. Vendors don't sell those. They come as drops from mobs or from questing. I'm unclear whether they can be crafted. You can also buy them on the auction house. Boss mobs in dungeons always drop either gear or weapons. Other mobs have a much lower chance but can still drop useful stuff.

That is my preferred loot system and always has been. Hunt stuff, use what it drops. Can't improve on perfection. Add a vendor that has you covered for the basics and a way to recycle all the Paladin and Assassin stuff you're never going to give to an alt and you're in a sweet spot. All we really need from there is for some stuff to have unusual and exciting procs and we're home free.


Oh, no. Not yet. I've seen my first one and it didn't go well.

Dungeons in the context of Bless, as in many Eastern MMOs, mainly means solo instances. As mentioned above, they have entry requirements, which you can find here.

I had no difficulty with the regular mobs in the first dungeon, the Underground Prison of Balmont. They dropped some weapons for me, too, albeit not ones I could use.

The fun ended when I tried the first boss. I did get him to 50% but it was clear I'd need a few more levels to finish him and since the gate to the rest of the dungeon doesn't open until he dies I've bookmarked him for another try at Level 15.


I have even less to say about this than I do about Dungeons. At level 14 I got the prompt to visit the craft mats vendor. There, I got to pick a Main Profession and a Sub.

After some consideration I realized I had no clue what to choose. Rather than do any out-of-game research I just picked the ones I fancied, which happened to be Handicraft and Cooking. Handicraft makes accessories and cooking, as well as the obvious, makes stamina recovery items for mounts.

The mats lady then sent me to see the workshop guy and I used his workbench to make a bar of silver. It's the standard "have items in your inventory, hit button, watch progress bar" deal. Nothing fancy.

And that's as much as I know. Oh, except for the odd quirk that recipes, as well as being auto-granted by level, are found in "Dwarven Chests" that pop up around the world, both outdoors and in dungeons. By luck I'd already run into one of these under a bridge somewhere. Unfortunately the recipe I got was for Tailors. Still, it's a nice idea.


So far, so good. I'm enjoying myself. What's more, when I'm doing my dailies in GW2 I'm thinking about Bless and hankering to get back to it. I like my character, the world, the questing, the story and the games systems I've seen so far.

On the other hand, I could say the same for a whole raft of MMOS imported from Korea, China and Japan. Black Desert, Blade and Soul, Revelation Online, Twin Saga... I've really enjoyed all of them. They're all just different enough from each other that it feels a little bit fresh every time, yet familiar enough now that it feels comfortable.

I don't think there's much chance I'll ever play any of these games to the level cap, let alone go on after that. At low to mid level though, I find they all pass the time very pleasantly and have a good deal to recommend them.

Bless is in no way going to change anyone's mind about anything. If you didn't like previous Korean MMOs you're not going to like this one. If you did, you might well find Bless a little lackluster. It doesn't even pretend to be original and in Early Access it lacks some polish.

If you're easily amused, like me, though, it's definitely worth giving Bless a go. I'm sure there are a good few more hours in it for me and the odd blog post, too.

What more can you expect for a tenner?


  1. It still looks and sounds pretty good. Why did I think this was an all PvP game? I tested a game once, Mythos,I think, that was really different and cool, but the translation was very rough, to the point of seeming almost incomprehensible. I couldn’t get past that.

    1. Well, it is PvP from level 30. Unavoidably so, I think. But if there really is a different starting area and main questline for every race then that's a lot of PvE content before you get to the PvP.

      On the translation, it's functional enough but it's not great. If they polish it the way they've polished the first ten levels or so then it will be fine. I would guess they won't, though, unless the game does better than it seems to be doing at the moment.

  2. Thanks for going over it. I tried it for about 20 min last night and it didn't exactly make a good impression. Looking forward to sitting down with it some more.

    1. I think the tl:dr would be "It's a middling Korean MMO. If you've enjoyed others and you're at a loose end, this will fill some time". I wouldn't put it any more strongly than that. It is pretty, though, and the story seems better than some, from what I've seen so far.

  3. This speaks to my post of today. It's sad how formulaic games are in the genre from a systemic point of view. Eastern MMOs must impose forced PVP at later/end-game for instance. Actually releasing one of these graphically sumptuous games without forced PVP would be pretty revolutionary.

    1. I don't think it would be exaggerating to say that MMOs are now a PvP sub-genre. What was the last major MMO, domestic or imported, to release with no PvP at all and no plans to add any? Project: Gorgon I guess and that's a niche indie title. And even the days of the PvP and PvE audiences being served separately on different servers or in self-contained instances are largely over.

      I like PvP and I like open world PvPvE but I fail to see how the current offer serves the market. You'd think someone would see the potential to sell to a full carebear demographic but I guess it's just so much easier and cheaper to let PvP handle that need for content that never runs out.

  4. I played some as well last nite - as the dark elf race, tank class, and yes totally different intro then what you described. My balloon ride went off without a hitch. I actually really like the combat - something about timed. Combos that require at least a little bit of reaction adds enough to make it so much more interesting then full tab targeting. Cities do look good and yes have a bit of that BDO organical feel but nothing can match BDO for actual walking down a dusty road and wandering into a well realized village/city after a few outlying buildings. Still I can totally see getting my $30US for it - enjoying the gameplay so far like yourself.

  5. Hmmm. I kind of want to play this, much as I kind of wanted to try out Astonia Reborn when I stumbled on it on Steam last night. But I know that investing in this means I will neglect other things I'm playing, and right now that's Warframe and I'm really INTO Warframe. So I'll probably hold back.

    I'm glad you're reporting on it.


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