Bless Unleashed coop thoughts

Having played some more Bless Unleashed as a trio I have some thoughts to share on just how good a MMORPG Bless is when playing partied-up with friends. In general the game is good fun to play in this mode: there are large packs of opponents in quest areas and it makes for efficient and somewhat more relaxed gameplay if you have a friend or two as support. As yet I haven’t seen much in the way of synergy between characters, but my Mage’s ice magic does freeze foes in place, which can be useful tactically for the Priest and Ranger that make up the group.

One rather annoying restriction we’ve come across so far, is the Arena ‘dungeon’ that we found in the Amphitheatre area. This is a queued and instanced single-fight activity. It’s repeatable, which is the one saving grace since it’s strictly limited to a party of two characters. Why a trio can’t join I have no idea: that seems a rather arbritrary restriction. This makes me worry about the accessibility of group content going forward. There are four more of these duo-only Arenas going up in levels. Then the matchmaker shows dungeons that are all 5 person. I suppose these too will be strictly limited to 5 players or not at all? Pugging group members may be common to this type of game, but it’s never been our style.

This first Arena experience was interesting enough. Mechanics to deal with that are familiar enough to anyone versed in the same type of fights in older games: dodge telegraphed attacks, look for gaps in a wall of glowing shields before they fire bolts in both directions. Playing the fight twice each, we made our way through the instance with the three different possible combos of our characters. That is annoying to have to do, we all want quest completion and want to keep our character XP/ level in step – so the only way to achieve both is to do each of these Arenas three times in a row in varying pairs.

After that as we quested through the zone en route to Galloppa Farm and we came across our first giant. Just another ‘zone boss’ fight along the lines of the big wolf we’d fought previously: we then had a tough battle but successfully vanquished this towering foe by some careful observation of his bigger attack ‘tells’ and judicious health potion use. These early zones are replete with mobs, but very quiet player character-wise. The main city buzzes with other players, but we rarely have help from others on these tougher group fights, so it’s a very good thing I have a ready made party! That’s a noticeable difference from when I last played the game solo.

After a few hours of questing, zone boss fights and Arena battles we’d gained gear, a level or two and explored our character build options some more. It was then we noticed how strangely red the sky was. It was upon turning another corner that we saw the mighty sky-tentacle! As a veteran of Rift’s titular world quest events, and Elder Scroll Online’s Anchors, I was immediately excited at the prospect of a public event to join. Sadly, upon charging over we realised that our level 8 characters were not up to joining the fight against the level 28 monsters spawned below this oddity. I look forward to eventually being more engaged in public content though!

Overall, so far, we’re enjoying Bless Unleashed as a coop game. The game could do with rethinking some of the restrictions – fixed party sizes are so last decade. Also, the game’s heavy phasing system can make it hard to even see fellow group members – not just based on main quest progress but also, sometimes, side or zone quest progress as well. We’ve gotten better at working out from the quest log what is going on, but the game could do more to communicate any discrepancies.

One final issue I have is that my 2014 gaming laptop is finally showing its age. More than other games I’ve played I find Bless really makes it struggle. The game runs fine for a while, but both times that I’ve played with others I’ve had more issues with mobs not showing at all – my Mage starts taking damage and my fellow party members can see the respawned threat but I can’t see anything or interact with them. I feel like this is likely my game client struggling to keep up. Boss fights can become difficult if I start to lose too much frame rate as well. I guess its about time I consider an upgrade…

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