I’m not a big fan of MMOs. I find them much too grind-heavy and often find the gameplay of titles like World of Warcraft to somehow be both unnecessarily complex and boring at the same time. More traditional games in the genre fell out of favor throughout the 2010s, which is why Amazon’s concerted effort to corner the MMO market recently intrigues me. Has it found the secrets to creating a compelling modern MMO?
This Bandai Namco Studios developed, anime-inspired MMO plays a lot like a traditional fantasy adventure game, with a detailed character creator, vast worlds to explore, more traditional characters classes that all feel viable on their own, and involved combat that feels straight out of an action game. I even had the opportunity to complete a dungeon with other players, and it seemed like a good time for everyone involved. I don’t know that I’m ready to sign over hundreds of hours of my life to Blue Protocol just yet, but I am interested in playing more when its next beta rolls around.
My time with Blue Protocol began with a brief combat tutorial that taught me how to move around and fight enemies as a being of light. Its controls weren’t far off from that of a standard action game, as I could run, dodge, and attack enemies. While I got the hang of the controls, it was impossible to win this fight as too many enemies overwhelmed me, leading to my player character exploding. Following an animated opening highlighting many of the characters players come across in the game, it was time to create my own hero.
The MMO boasts a decent character creator, with ample options for hair, face structure, and other facial customization options. I tried my best to recreate my editor, Giovanni Colantonio, making a character with a short beard and hair sweeping across his face (Editor’s note: you did what?). It wasn’t perfect, but I also didn’t have much time to spend in the character editor before I was shuffled to the next part of the demo, roleplaying as my boss. I chose to start as the Spell Weaver class, which is this game’s version of a mage, which meant it was best for me to attack from the distance once my newly created character spawned in the Cliffside Ruins.
After taking down a goblin by myself, I was brought later on into the adventure. Here, I got a taste of Blue Protocol’s open world and tried the Foe Breaker class. Foe Breakers use heavyweight hammers that also double as a gun, meaning I was now good at dealing considerable damage from a medium range against enemies. This slowed the game down a bit, but it fits with this part of my demo, as I was also taking time to explore the open world.
The valley I was exploring seemed vast, although I know it’s just a tiny part of the game, with varied cliffside landscapes and many waterfalls dotting the land. Its open-world exploration felt right out of games like The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim and The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom, so I’m certainly interested in traversing Blue Protocol’s areas further when I get a chance to play the game again. I didn’t run into any other players while exploring either, so I’m curious to see how those MMO-specific interactions work in the launch version of the game.
Before I knew it, though, I was pulled into a “Dungeon Survey” mission, which is a more linear affair that can be played with others. It took place in a deep canyon called Dragon’s Rive, and I had the chance to play with the other people playing the demo around me. The survey kicked off, and my team was given a 30-minute timer and ten revives to complete the mission.
It didn’t take long to fight enemies, and we all started working together. Blue Protocol’s combat is intuitive and engaging enough to where it’s fun on your own. Still, there was multiplayer-style fun to be had in watching everyone pull off the flashy anime-style abilities of their classes together. The classes also complement each other; I felt the benefits of having long-range classes and healers behind me as an HP-heavy tank class.
My group progressed from combat zone to combat zone, looting anything enemies dropped along the way before finally coming to a boss called Tyrant’s Tusk about 10 minutes in. This wild hog-like enemy would charge at us, dealing some significant damage if it hit, although it still felt like an early-game boss. This is where the game’s MMO roots showed the most, as Tyrant’s Tusk had a beefy health bar that’d be tough to whittle down alone. I
It’s here where the repetition common to these games settled in, so I hope some of Blue Protocol’s later-game bosses offer more than basic damage sponges. Great boss design goes a long way. After taking down Tyrant’s Tusk, my demo was over, leaving me with the most fun MMO experience I’ve had in quite some time.
It wasn’t a revelatory experience that made me look at World of Warcraft or Final Fantasy XIV differently. However, Blue Protocol makes a strong case for itself by having a strong action-adventure hook at its core. And who knows, maybe playing more of Blue Protocol will be the gateway into MMOs I’ve been waiting for.
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