"Its solid combat system and excellent control scheme have it off to a good start."
If there's one trend we spotted at E3 2012, it was a much heavier emphasis on action in MMORPGs. Games where it matters where your avatar is in relation to your enemy, and where you can't rely on auto-attack. Of course, the choice of which is "better" is subjective, but if action-based combat interests you, then you may want to keep an eye on Core Blaze.
Our resident newshound Liz joined me (and two others) in a hands-on session with the title last week and got to experience a bit of exploration, and we saw first hand how important teamwork is in battle. Before I get to combat though, I should get into the controls, since there are some neat ideas going on there. Each game station has a keyboard/mouse combo as well as an Xbox-style gamepad attached. Most of us opted for the gamepad, and it feels like the game was designed with a controller in mind. Different face buttons were assigned to different levels of attack, but it was the use of the shoulder buttons that caught my eye. Holding down either would bring up a four-icon cluster that's mapped to the four face buttons (X, A, B, Y). These menus are fully customizable, and allow you to insert items, ammo (I was an archer) and special abilities into the slots, making any of these as simple to use as holding L/R and tapping the appropriate button (X to use activate the left slot, etc). Further, a flick of the right analog stick cycles though more menu clusters. This enables you to have a wide variety of items and skills readily available and quick to get to. It's a small part of the overall picture, but this design choice made combat flow exceedingly smooth.
So how is combat? It depends on your weapon – without set jobs/roles or even levels (!), your abilities are determined entirely by your weapon choice. Pick up a great sword, and congrats, you're a tank. If you find yourself needing to keep your distance, equip a bow, and you'll have access to archer skills, which is what I spent my time using. It may have kept me out of the fray most of the time, but in one of our two boss encounters, my supportive role became a neccessity. The Dolar Fiend – a demon covered in tree roots – would hit fairly hard, and we weren't able to cause a decent amount of damage. However, I was able to switch to fire arrows (there were also piercing, lightning, poison and others), and firing enough of them into the wooden beast would set it on fire, doing more damage than simply hacking away. It was also possible for other "classes" to mix a combination of oil and torches to do the job, but the boss' frequent motion around the battlefield made this difficult. The encounter showed us that not only can you use some strategic thinking to win the day, but that everyone really needs to be coordinated.
Moving away from the combat, Core Blaze hopes to offer a realistic world that offers different things based on time of day or current weather. Both of these things can affect where you'll find NPCs, what quests will be available and more. While that could make tracking an NPC more difficult, it's easier to believe than a guy who just happens to stand by that bonfire in town 24 hours a day. Since another hot topic these days is player choice, it seems that quests and storylines can unfold differently depending on how you play and the choices you make, so the story won't unfold exactly the same for everyone who plays.
Since the majority of our time was spent exploring and fighting, that's mostly all I can talk about. We didn't get deeply into any quest lines, shopping, or PVP, but rest assured that they're all here. Core Blaze is built using Unreal Engine 3, so it's absolutely no slouch visually. Whether we were strolling through the Forest of Meditation or taking down a hideous antlered... boar... thing, we were surrounded by detailed character models and textures. We witnessed a few rainy spells, and waded through some rippling streams. All gorgeous, and I never spotted a hiccup in the frame rate. For a game not shipping until next year, I'd actually expect a bit of spotty performance, but I was happily surprised.
It's too early to tell if Core Blaze is going to reinvent the action MMORPG genre, but so far its solid combat system and excellent control scheme have it off to a good start, in terms of gameplay. In 2013, we'll look forward to seeing how the other pieces of the puzzle come together.