Core Blaze Hands-On: An Action MMORPG with A Twist

Trying to find innovation in the MMORPG genre is like trying to get blood from a stone. Still, a title that accomplishes just that comes along every blue moon, and Gamania’s action MMO Core Blaze has the potential to be one of these rare innovators. I had the opportunity to get some hands-on time with the game at E3 2012, and as a Magic 8-Ball would say: outlook good.

As I sat down to play Core Blaze, I immediately reached for the mouse and keyboard — a gamepad was available, but after my humiliating experience with Aliens: Colonial Marines, I needed redemption. Being a PC gamer, my ability with a gamepad is on par with that of a dung-flinging monkey, so I didn’t even consider using anything but a good ol’ KB&M. Besides, the controls for an MMO are far too complex for a gamepad, right?

But one of the Gamania reps recommended — nay, insisted – that I try playing with the gamepad. I grudgingly accepted, figuring I could swap back to the mouse and keyboard later. I didn’t want to be rude, after all.

I played with the gamepad the entire time.

Don’t get me wrong — I’m still a staunch advocate of the mouse and keyboard. I have had no gamepad epiphany. But Core Blaze handled so well on a gamepad that even a console noob like myself felt that the controls were fluid, intuitive, and natural.

This was thanks to Core Blaze’s action-oriented gameplay. I’ve always felt the weakest aspect of the MMORPG genre is the combat system, but Core Blaze’s is more akin to a third-person action beat-em-up than an RPG. Combat is engaging. There’s a lot of movement: dodging, positioning, leaping and mid-air attacks…

Apart from your basic attack, a variety of special moves fill your arsenal, as well as different consumable bomb-like items that deal different types of damage, like fire or thunder. These are especially useful during battles against “boss” monsters, who may have specific vulnerabilities.

Which leads us to Core Blaze’s weather system — a feature that walks the line between gimmick and innovation. Apart from a day/night cycle, weather cycles also influence the world. Some monsters are more powerful depending on the time of day or prevailing weather condition — and some powers and items are also affected.

I fought one boss monster that was a Tolkienesque ent — a walking man-tree — and learned that he is especially susceptible to fire attacks. Intuitive enough, right? Well, carry that intuition one step further, because when it’s raining, fire attacks are less effective. And torches are put out.

Torches?

Yes, in Core Blaze, night is actually dark. Dungeons, as well — a feature I quite enjoyed. Sure, there may be some ambient light, but the dungeon atmosphere is altogether ominously dark — the way a dungeon should be. Characters can swap from weapon to torch to light their path, and I was told that in a party, it’s expected that one player serves as the designated torch bearer.

This sounds neat in theory, but probably isn’t very fun for said torch bearer. However, there will apparently be bits of environment that can be set ablaze to provide illumination, allowing torch bearers to get back into the action.

The action-game feel persists in the world itself. Rather than offer an open wilderness to travel as you see fit, paths guide you from area to area. Paths branch and fork, so you aren’t railroaded from one area to the next, but invisible geometry prevents you from just wandering off the beaten path.

There were four characters to choose from, all based on different weapon loadouts: sword & shield, great sword, dual blade, and long bow. The dual blade was, by far, the most popular, accounting for over half the players I came across — and my own choice. There appeared to be little in the way of character customization, but that may have been for demo purposes.

The experience wasn’t without its hiccups; movement isn’t entirely fluid. There’s sometimes a landing delay after jumping, or too long of a pause after an attack, but the developers have plenty of time to work these issues out. Core Blaze shows promise, and as long Gamania continues to fine-tune the overarching concepts they’ve set into place, the game may leave its mark in the MMO genre.

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