Would you like some hack-'n'-slash with your MMO?
After 72 hours of media touring and five game demos (not to mention obscene amounts of alcohol), things start to blur together. Core Blaze, Gamania’s flagship title for their 2012 lineup, was presented last to the US journalists at the Gamania Game Show. But even in the haze of an MMO-saturated few days, it still managed to leave a strong impression—which, I suppose, is why you save the heavy-hitters for last.
In the greater scheme of things, that haze is also indicative of the MMORPG market as a whole. It’s become so saturated, especially in Asia, that making a game unique becomes more and more difficult by the minute. Action MMOs are now on the rise, with games like Tera and Vindictus looming. And with three of the four big titles that Gamania showcased this year featuring action-oriented gameplay, it’s clear that the traditional MMO gameplay is giving way to a new wave (a sentiment echoed by Gamania CEO Albert Liu in our interview with him—but that’s a discussion for another time).
It’s in this environment that Core Blaze is aiming not only to succeed, but to also lead the charge into the Western market. They have the first part of that down already with the controls—unlike the other games featured at the show with gamepad options, Core Blaze was clearly designed first and foremost with a controller in mind, despite being a PC game. Rather than utilizing the typical MMO action bars, there is very little UI present on the screen, with normal and special attacks relegated to particular button combinations.
The pace and strategy of combat varies greatly depending upon your chosen weapon, but it’s all based squarely in the hack-n-slash realm. We could choose between four weapon types: greatsword, dual blades, long bow, and sword ‘n shield. Core Blaze doesn’t appear to have classes in the traditional sense; each character’s style and abilities are dependent on their weapon, which can be changed before heading into a dungeon.
Holding a shoulder button, you can also flip through a dozen item shortcuts in battle. The developers stressed that combat in Core Blaze can be whatever you want it to be. You can load up on bombs and other offensive items ahead of time and use them as your primary form of attack, or use support items to keep buffs up and heal, or—like most of us—just run in sword a’swinging and roll some heads.
The sword and shield does allow for a tank (though threat mechanics were unclear in our demo run), but I found it particularly interesting that there’s no healing class. In fact, aside from one long cooldown that the tank has, there are no healing abilities to speak of. We only healed ourselves through the use of items, giving everyone an equal opportunity to kill legions of cave monsters.
As a result, most of the time you handle damage preventatively through dodging and positioning, rather than reactively with healing spells. This aspect of the gameplay is what contributes mostly to Core Blaze feeling like a hack-'n'-slash console game, à la God of War or Devil May Cry. The double jumping, platforming, and climbing also add to that impression.
Our demo culminated in a boss fight against Liang Qu, a huge ice-breathing panther. Liang Qu had a number of targetable body parts, which can affect the fight dynamically if you do enough damage to them. We didn’t do it this way, but I expect if you smashed his legs enough, it would hinder his ability to jump around so fast. You might also be able to activate “hard modes” in this way—we’re told that if you break his fangs with a greatsword he goes into a berserk mode that significantly increases his difficulty. [I just shot him with a bunch of arrows from the cliff. I'm devilishly smart that way. ~ Ed. Nick]
It’s patently obvious why Core Blaze is Gamania’s flagship title next year: It looks extremely good for a free-to-play, sports console-like controls that are unlike anything in any other MMO, has dynamic environments and encounters, and allows you to approach a battle the way you want to and not the way the developers dictate it. We fully expect it to appear in the US soon after it debuts in Eastern territories in the second half of 2012.