I have found that RPGs in the style of Genshin Impact and Honkai Star Rail have been tricky to get into. Bogged down in nomenclature, muddled with complicated mechanics, and filled with intermingling systems that make trying to understand what is going on and what you need to do a chore. But after spending around an hour with Blue Protocol during a hands-on preview in London, I came away surprised at how those problems weren’t present here, despite being thrust into the middle of a character’s playthrough. I came away feeling like this may finally be the game of this style that I finally sink my teeth into.
There wasn’t a lot of clutter in the menus and they were easy to navigate, as was the map. My time with the game did have us move from gameplay section to gameplay section, experiencing the open world and a dungeon. So, I wasn’t able to see the full progression of a character in Blue Protocol from the starting moments of the game onwards.
But after selecting my class, I found abilities, pulling off moves, and combining skills easy to get to grips with as I explored the open world, looking at the lovely environments showcased in the game’s anime style. It’s a style that feels glossy and picturesque with its open landscapes, wide fields, and open towns all standing out against the natural green rolling hills and dirt tracks.
With five Blue Protocol classes to choose from in my play session, I ended up choosing the Blade Warden to have the smoothest and most familiar combat experience. Focused on axe attacks and up-close melee combat, the variety of abilities on offer was great and I really enjoyed being able to just chip away at mobs or a boss and use a variety of abilities, especially with the other players I was playing with in the dungeon.
One aspect that caught my attention is the fact that you can effectively play any role with any class, allowing for a really intense amount of flexibility. You can be a Blade Warden tank or a Blade Warden healer, and team up with a Spell Weaver assault class or a Spell Weaver medic. My hour didn’t allow me to see the effect this has on the game but this feature stood out and left me intrigued to see just how experimental you can get with builds in Blue Protocol.
As we made our way through that dungeon to fight the boss at the end, I found myself relaxing, mellowing out, sitting back, and switching off (but not in a negative sense) which is something I haven’t done with a game for a while. The fluidity of combat, the ease of jumping in, and the ability to combine attacks and abilities with your team meant that while combat was challenging it didn’t feel too intense – at least in the dungeon we faced.
Combined with how easy it was to jump in and explore the world, I could see myself playing Blue Protocol to chill out in the evenings or at the weekends, complete quests, wrap up some tasks, and listen to a podcast or watch a show at the same time.
It was enjoyable busywork in any way a good MMO should be. For those who may be a bit concerned at the lack of challenge I faced, there will undoubtedly be tough fights and endgame challenges come launch, but I came away wanting to play more of this relaxed and satisfying gameplay. While my time with Blue Protocol was brief I could see it filling that comfort game slot that was once taken up by Destiny and other live service titles.
Amazon and the team at Bandai Namco are promising a regular cadence of updates on a four-month cycle. Month one and month three are quiet months, largely focused on small updates, some new quests, and other small tasks and changes, with the second month offering a new class, and the fourth month offering a new story chapter. With the Japanese version already out, the studio is already acting on this cadence and this schedule feels like the perfect schedule for the type of game Blue Protocol wants to be from what I saw and played.
It doesn’t scream that it wants to suck up all your time. Instead, it seems to be a game that you can hop in and out of when new content drops, have fun, and not feel completely alienated from the current state of the game due to massive changes and tweaks. This is the experience I want from live services at this point – something that isn’t going to require an intense level of investment over months from me. I hope that is what this gorgeous, satisfying RPG ends up being when the Blue Protocol release date arrives in 2024 on PS5, Xbox Series X|S, and PC.