Bless Online and its “early access” launch has been a fucking disaster. I don’t often swear, but there are few words more appropriate here. Right from the off, Bless Online’s foray into western waters has been spectacularly appalling. It surely must, at this point in time, be the straw that finally breaks the genres back. No MMO fan can truthfully look at Bless Online with a critical eye and say to themselves, “This is a good game”. In fact, there’s no doubting that what Neowiz Games has done is little more than a cynical cash-grab, based on the fact the game has sank like the turd in every market its ever touched.
What’s frustrating about this whole experience, is that the MMO genre is already on its knees in the eyes of publishers and gamers, and seeing over 20,000 concurrent players flock to Bless Online - as of only 20 minutes ago - shows the sheer desperation of the MMO userbase, and perfectly demonstrates just how willing developers are to shovel shit at our door in the knowledge that we’ll lap it up.
It’s difficult to even know where to start when it comes to Bless Online, but there’s no better place than the fact the game has the audacity to call itself an “Early Access” title. This isn’t an Early Access title. THIS ISN’T AN EARLY ACCESS TITLE. It’s a game that was originally titled BLESS, revealed in 2011, released in Eatern and Russian markets several years ago, and performed badly in both. It was also dropped by Aeria and Gamigo prior to them committing to a Western Launch (despite once claiming BLESS was made for it)
Neowiz Games decided to go it alone, and in the process reworked the game to Bless Online, and did their best to pretend that BLESS and its chequered past never happened. In fact, trying to find anything on BLESS is hard work, with even the Wikipedia page stripped of any mention of its previous outings on foreign soil.
Besides the fact this is an old game pretending to be new, Bless Online has fluffed its regionalisation, offering flashbacks of Black Desert Online’s woeful attempts. Make no mistake, the translation of Bless Online is woeful, and perfectly demonstrates Neowiz Games’ lack of care. Simply put, if they can’t be bothered to accurately translate their game to a new audience - one that they’re relying on for the survival of their hobbled game - it doesn’t bode well for its future.
Poor translations aside, Bless Online issues go much deeper. As a game utilising the Unreal 3 engine, its aged badly and lacks art direction that’s anything other than cliched eastern rubbish. You could lump Bless Online into any number of free-to-play Korean MMOs and fail to point it out. Not only does the game lack identity, but it’s entirely devoid of soul: must we really have yet another MMO with a feline-light humanoid?
Issues with Bless Online don’t end there. There’s bucket loads of content missing from the client, no doubt so that Neowiz Games can add it in later (thereby providing the impression they’re actively producing new and exciting content). Worse still, the Founders Pack wasn’t originally eligible for a refund, likely because just about any MMO is enjoyable for 2 hours. Even Bless Online, in its sorry state, provides just enough entertainment to ensure you squander your Steam refund rights, should you have had any in the first place. Fortunately for many players who quickly saw the light, reached the “end game” and realized there’s actually nothing there, Valve were all too willing to refund players, even to those who’d invested dozens of hours into the game. That’s not entirely surprising considering the backlash, and the fact Sungjin Ko, the Executive Producer of Bless Online, scrambled onto Steam to grovel to the community about how his company failed to predict the sheer demand for any new MMO (not necessarily their product) is pitiful.
What’s frustrating about Sungjin Ko’s statement is that he completely glosses over the fact Bless Online has launched before. “Along with the performance issues, our top priority is addressing the reported potential item duplication bug. Once we can replicate this issue and solve it, we will let all of our players know.” This, to be blunt, is PR bullshit.
If performance improvements could have been made, they would have been made when the game was playable in Korea or Russian. Instead, many - including myself - have experienced horrendous performance issues (notably truly horrendous stuttering on utilising the UI, or just constant crashing). Pretending that these problems can be miraculously fixed, when Neowiz Games have already had an age to fix them, is nothing short of pie in the sky thinking.
The race selection in Bless, I mean Bless Online, are as generic as every other eastern MMO.
To add insult to injury, to then pretend that the item dupe issue is new to Bless Online is staggering. This was reported many times in its original territories, plagued its Russian release, and was undertaken here the moment the servers opened. To pretend this is “new” is duplicity on Neowiz’s part, and their “solution” to those who abused the bug hilariously weak. Are they so desperate for customer retention that they’re willing to hand out just a two week ban for serial abusers? Item duping has long term ramifications for the stability of any MMO’s economy. To cackhand it in this way, even if they do take the proceeds of the crime, shows a total disregard for one of the red lines of the genre. Anything less than a permanent ban to those who abused it, is nothing short of a slap on the wrist.
So where am I going with the editorial? Well, besides the fact I’ve yet to cover its obnoxious pay-for-convienience features, its woefully static combat (honestly, there’s nothing rhythmic about it), or its lack of basic features, Bless Online is everything that’s wrong with the genre. It’s a game that’s devoid of heart, soul and innovation. There’s no depth, no originality in its classes, races or world map. Its questing is generic, combat dull, and it’s all wrapped up in some obnoxious marketing that’s designed to entice and excite. Clearly its worked as there’s plenty of folks still playing Bless Online, and this - for me - is the most tragic part.
Are we as players so desperate for a new MMO that we’re willing to throw our hard earned cash at literally anything new? If there were some innovation in Bless Online - some sort of hook that’s undeniably brilliant - I could perhaps forgive the price tag. But to see almost 30,000 players take to Bless Online is staggering. This is a game that deserves our ridicule, not our cash. Rewarding eastern developers and publishers in this way does nothing to forward the MMO genre: quite the opposite. We’re effectively inviting this habitual cycle of hype, release, disappointment and anger. By supporting Bless Online, we’re killing the very genre we love by accepting the very worst it has to offer.
Even if you’ve played every other MMO on the market, everything else on the market is still better than Bless Online. World of Warcraft, Guild Wars 2, The Elder Scrolls Online, Final Fantasy: A Realm Reborn, EVE Online, christ, even Black Desert Online is vastly superior (and that’s saying a lot for a game that has some questionable design decisions). To abandon these games in favor of this just boggles my mind. Even if you’ve had your fill of those I’ve listed, and are craving a new MMO, turn your attention instead to the likes of Crowfall, Camelot Unchained, New World, or Worlds Adrift: support these growing communities.
All of these are daring to be different, and are attempting something new, while innovating in spades. Not everything they do may appeal, but I can guarantee that all four of them could launch now and still be leagues ahead of Bless Online. If you’re still choosing to support Bless Online, I can only come to the conclusion you’re either too heavily invested in the game to see its faults, or too desperate for an MMO that you’ll literally play and pay anything. If either of those are the case, there’s no helping you. For everyone else who might be on the fence, wavering as to whether to buy the game: just don’t.
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