The current date of this review is 4/23/08, therefore, it will only cover content that is currently in, and not content that will be added/changed in the future.
I am posting my own review for this game because frankly none of the other reviews have gone in any depth and have been riddled with bias comments. While you might think it's hypocritical of me to say this because I am a GM in the game, I can say honestly that this review will be one that is honest. I have tried my best to make this review as unbiased as possible, and I hope that the readers will get a good idea of what BLN is about based on this review.
I will try my best to review this game in the perspective of a player. I hope no one will take offense to my comments.
I will also leave comments open to everyone so that people can leave their opinions of the game, as well as the review.
Oh yeah, and I want to appologize for the format in advance. I originally wrote this in MSWord, and while it looked nice and pretty there, it doesn't look all that great here.
When you create a new character in BLN, you are taken to the traditional character creation screen where you are asked to choose your skin color, hair style, and name. This same character creation screen has been in place since BLN first released, and it’s relatively similar to the one you would find on WOTS, BOTLS, and their subsequent rips. Personally, I think this is a pretty stable character creation system. While it’s nothing particularly innovative, it gets the job done. Hopefully, they can come up with something new in the future.
After you establish the cosmetic aspects of your character, you are spawned in a room of what appears to be a small house. This is the tutorial room; here you can talk to several NPCs in order to learn a little bit about the game you are about to play. The first tutorial NPC discusses the training method, the second talks about the importance of “food” in the game, and the third gives the lowdown on the school system. Of course, this was planned with good intentions, but it’s not a very good tutorial overall. Gray pop up boxes are used in order to display messages, which I personally find to be unappealing. Furthermore, the details given in the tutorial are relatively superficial. Teaching people how to train is definitely important (especially with a complex training system), but the tutorial doesn’t cover other important information such as rules, classes, or anything else in the game. Moreover, the time it takes to discuss food is nothing short of a waste of time. Very rarely will players ever use food again outside of the tutorial; frankly, I’m not sure why it’s there. I personally think a more interactive (and optional) tutorial that goes at a much slower pace with more information would be far more beneficial to the players than what is currently in.
After you finish the tutorial, you can exit the apartment building and really begin your game experience. The map is you wind up in is a relatively large city. As for what you do next…. Let me put it this way: Think of a game such as Grand Theft Auto where you have a free roaming environment and you can really do whatever you want. Now imagine that after the introduction of the game, they don’t tell you where to go next. That’s pretty much how it is in BLN. After the tutorial, the game loses direction entirely. Of course, for more experienced players, this isn’t a problem at all, but all too frequently, we see new players asking “what do I do now?” Though, there are numerous guides on the forum that give new players an idea of where to go, but it seems to me that it would be better overall to guide players in game for the sake of convenience and to keep them interested.
Choosing your class:
BLN has several different classes in it that are relatively unique and have their own perks. The classes that are presently in are Shinigami, Hollow, Quincy, Vaizard, Sado, and Orihime (no Bounto.) The Shinigami and Hollow classes are by far the most popular in this game. Those classes in particular have a lot of content. There are about 21 Shinigami releases, all of which are different in terms boosts and attacks, as well as 10 Kido techniques. For Hollows there are about 8 unique releases as well as Bala, Sonido, and Cero abilities. While these classes are certainly fun and interesting, the other classes (excluding Vaizard because it’s basically the same as Shinigami) are neglected and haven’t seen updates in a very long time. Quincies receive several different levels of bow techniques and have enough abilities to keep them interesting. However, a finished Sado will have a few levels of Arm releases (the right arm gets 2 forms, and the left gets one), and two arm techniques: Blast, and El Directo. That’s really not a lot of abilities, or variety whatsoever. Inoue gets even less: They receive a healing technique, a shield technique, and a (pretty cool) Tsubaki skill where they can click around the screen to tell Tsubaki where to move. This causes a pretty significant imbalance in the game: There are always a lot of Shinigami and Hollow players while there are maybe 10 Quincies and 2 or 3 Sado and Orihime players.
As for Vaizard, the chances of getting that class are very low. I won’t get too far into the specifics, but to put it simply, you have a 25% chance of getting Vaizard, a 50% chance of failing and becoming a hollow, and a 25% chance of becoming a Shinigami that never learns kido. As far as I’m concerned, I would say those chances are pretty well balanced. There’s a high enough chance of failure that it discourages everyone from trying to get it, and yet it is still POSSIBLE to successfully achieve the class.
In terms of actually choosing your class, instead of choosing what class you want to be at character creation, you need to go through certain steps in game in order to get where you want to go. For instance, in order to obtain Shinigami, you need to train until you get a certain amount of reiatsu, and then get killed and make it to Soul Society (whether you get a player to send you there, or you make it there on your first death). Conversely, if you want to be Quincy, you need to get a certain amount of reiatsu and survive until you can talk with the Quincy Elder and have him test you to see if you are eligible to become one. In other words, if you die early, then you don’t become a quincy.
I personally like that system a lot. When I first joined up, I was really excited to see something like that because it was pretty new for me. I was used to the typical games where you choose your class/clan/race on character creation, and it was a new twist for me to choose my class based on the way I played the game. The big downside to this is that if you mess up (specifically, if you get killed when you don’t want to, or you do something wrong) you will probably not get the class you want, and you will have to remake in order to get it. This makes getting the class you want somewhat painful and sometimes stressful, and it’s not uncommon for another player to sabotage your attempt to get a certain class. However, the positives for this system do outweigh the negative aspects.
In terms of class abilities, there are some that seem to be repeats of others, but for the most part they’re diverse enough to keep the game interesting. Each class has a projectile move and a close range move, which enables people to use different fighting strategies regardless of their class. I know this isn’t a PVP game anymore, but it’s still nice to have interesting battles once in a while.
The Shinigami and hollow releases in this game are pretty bad ass. For the most part the staff did a nice job planning these out and making their pixels. For Shinigami, each shikai has its own unique animation as well as a unique ability, whether it is a 3-tile wide projectile, or a status inducing effect. The generic releases (Bankai given to shikai that haven’t shown a Bankai release in the anime) are… generic, but they each have a unique perk that separates them from other releases. Several of the Hollow releases are multi-tiled, which gives a feeling of intimidation when fighting them, and they each have their own special perk to them.
Aside from releases, Shinigami get several Kido abilities that they can use. Among these are several 1 tile wide projectiles, but there are also kido that allow you to get the positions of nearby players, as well as kido that have 2-tile wide, or 3-tile wide areas of effect. Overall, the kido are relatively balanced in that a player can only obtain one of the four “higher power” kido. This makes it so that not everyone spams the same kido all over the place, and it adds more diversity.
Hollows also receive several projectile techniques, although they all get the same ones. Most of the abilities for this class are pretty useless and underpowered. The only three abilities that seem to be used (other than release) are sonido, Cero, and bala. Bala is just a fast moving projectile, but Cero’s range and power can be improved based on hollow classification. The classification is a pretty nice addition to the game in that it gives players something new to improve aside from their stats.
Quincy abilities are pretty basic in this game, though. You get three types of bows throughout the course of the game, and for the most part they either fire 1 or 3 arrows at a time. Not too much diversity, really, but Quincy combat is still pretty interesting all the same.
As mentioned previously, Sado and Inoue get a very small number of abilities, which makes those classes nothing more than boring.
Vaizards are pretty much Shinigami that get to bust out a cool looking mask in exchange for their ability to use Kido.
Similar to most games in the Anime genre, BLN utilizes a training system that is designed to increase stats individually. Basically, there is a training method for each stat (Stamina, Strength, and Reiatsu) and players will use those to improve their character.
Currently there are two training methods in the game:
The first is Reiatsu training: This training method is basically DDR for your fingers. When you start the training, arrows will appear on the left hand text box and you will need to press the corresponding arrow key. Overall, this training is intuitive, simple, and somewhat entertaining. However, when you’re doing this for several hours a day, it’s going to get boring.
The second and primary training method is Dual Sparring. Basically, you grab a partner and you play a pretty complex game of rock paper scissors where one player is the “attacker” who throws punches at the “defender” player, who dodges them. There are four types of punches, and four types of dodges. Once the attacker chooses a punch, the defender is told what punch is being thrown at them and they can choose which direction to dodge. If they pick the wrong direction, the attacker gains a small amount of strength, and the defender is clipped (this increases stamina by a small amount as well as EXP), or is “slugged” (this increases stamina by a relatively large amount, but the defender get fatigued faster and will need to stop training sooner). However, if the defender successfully dodges, both players switch roles and the training continues.
Sounds pretty complicated, doesn’t it? There are several guides on the BLN forum that describe methods in order find the most efficient way to use this training, which is a really big indicator that this is a little too much. I don’t like this training system for two reasons:
1.You need to have a partner. If you can’t find a partner, you’re pretty much out of luck and you need to find something else to do.
2.It’s confusing as hell. It’s a wonder that people have managed to figure it out.
To its credit though, this could be a pretty damn cool training method if it wasn’t as complicated, and could if it was adapted to be used against an NPC. Really, it could potentially be a training method that could make grinding more of a game rather than… grinding?
Overall, the BLN training is good in that it is extremely difficult to automate with a 3rd party program. You can tell that some time was taken in order to make sure that training would be interactive and not automatable. However the training is tedious and gets very boring, which sometimes discourages people from playing. The training is also really slow in order to prevent people from finishing their characters too quickly, although I will say that it is perhaps TOO slow. Furthermore, it seems the staff tried to make the training innovative, but only got halfway there. As far as I can tell, it still hasn’t gotten too far from the training post and button clicking training that is typical on BYOND.
As an RP game, BLN allows the players to determine the direction of the game through the story line, or at least that’s what they try to accomplish.
Basically the RP system in BLN works like this:
- Each major role in the game is assumed by a player (I.E Captain Commander, Hollow Leader, Quincy Elder, etc.)
- In order to progress through the game, you need to RP with the RP Leader associated with your class. (This includes obtaining your class and abilities, as well as traveling to different locations.)
- The story is primarily directed by people who hold Leadership positions, but sometimes those who do not hold positions can impact the storyline.
- In order to enter PVP, one must RP to initiate fighting. PVE does not require RP. The exception to this rule is if a tournament or a “raid” is taking place.
- Certifications are given as proof of RP ability, and are used in order to obtain class skills. If you break an RP rule (For instance, you kill someone without RPing) you will have your certifications removed, and you will lose the ability to use some of your class skills.
I’d say it’s a decent system. It’s not horrible, and it’s a little too flawed to be great. (I guess that’s to be expected when you suddenly change from PVP to RP within a week.) I’ll break down the good and bad aspects of this system.
-The system does a good job of encouraging RP and reinforcing RP rules.
-Rather than having to RP every single action like in text based RP games, you are only required to RP before and after a fight at minimum. In this regard, the game holds on to some of the aspects that made it a fun PVP game.
-It makes the game interesting in the sense that the storyline is changing all the time and players can impact the direction of the game.
-The game play is different every wipe.
-It adds a whole new depth to game play that you won’t find very often in PVP games.
-It’s something different than the typical “mindless PVP.”
-It’s a great way to make the game more social.
-Improv is always fun, right?
-You get hit pretty hard if you break the RP rules. People who don’t read the hub are pretty much screwed (of course you could say it’s their fault for not reading, though.)
-For some reason, everyone gets bored of the story mid-wipe which results in an inevitable population drop.
-The people who do know how to RP well generally treat those who don’t know how to RP or are learning with contempt. (Kind of a shame, really. However, there are people who go out of their way to teach people how to RP, which is good.)
-It is very rare that a normal player has any importance to the story; frankly, only those who hold RP leader positions get to choose the direction, and usually the same people get positions every wipe.
-You have to wait for the RP leaders to log on in order to get your classes. This is a big problem for people pursuing Quincy and Vaizard.
-If your RP ability is not good enough in the eyes of the RP leaders, you’re probably not going get your advanced character abilities. (To the Staff’s credit, they seem to try and give leadership positions to people who are merciful, for the most part.)
Overall, I’d say that RP makes BLN a lot more interesting than it was when it was pure PVP. The storyline problem, and the fact that RP leaders have normal players caught by the balls is a very negative aspect to the game, though. And as much as I hate to say it, the RP community has some pretty snobby people in it. Let’s just say that they don’t play nice with those who they deem to be “stupid.”
If you’re a person who is experienced in RP, this will probably be a fun game for you. If you’re simply trying to learn how to RP, or you want to get all of the “cool shit” you’ve heard about, then you need to make some friends that will actually teach you how, otherwise you’re not going to get very far.
-The pixel art in this game is very well done overall. There are some pixels that are subpar, and some that are amazingly well done, but for the most part the pixels are very detailed and visually pleasing. Overall, you can tell that the staff put a lot of time and energy into this aspect of the game.
-The Shinigami and Hollow classes are very fun and have a lot of diversity and content. The many different releases in the game add a lot of variety to the game, as well as a lot of different strategies in PVP.
-The RP adds a new depth to the game play and allows players to direct a storyline as if they were characters in the Bleach anime or manga.
-BLN departs from the usual stat tabs that most BYOND games use and utilizes a grid system that makes player stats viewable on a grid and verbs accessible through buttons.
-The fighting system is simple and easy to pick up. Verbs can be accessed via macro or they can be accessed using a HUD button.
-If you are experienced at RP, then this game will be an enjoyable experience.
-The weather and day/night systems are interesting additions in the game that stimulate RP.
-Stat caps enable new players to “Catch up” to older players. It also makes the PVP based more on skill than stats.
-BLN’s class system is a nice change from choosing classes at character creation as seen in most BYOND Anime games.
-BLN’s training gets rid of most, if not all, EZ macro users. Almost all of the players have played the game fair.
-Once you complete your character and finish training, the game becomes very fun.
-The RP rules are strict. If you do not read the rules on the hub, there will probably be some negative consequences.
-If you don’t know how to RP, you’re going to have problems with this game.
-The training is not intuitive and quickly becomes tedious and boring. Dual sparring could be pretty cool, but it’s too confusing and painful to be enjoyable in the least.
-Leveling is very slow. While this prevents people from getting the goods in a day or two, it also makes the game a “pain in the ass” to play sometimes.
-The Quincy, Sado, and Orihime classes are pretty neglected and no one ever uses them.
-It’s easy to mess up your character and result in something you don’t want. While releases need to be random in order to make sure not everyone picks the same release, it’s still disappointing if you don’t get something you want.
-Because the story gets stale (which often results in people quitting the game) there are frequent wipes in order to start the game fresh. If you’re someone who doesn’t like to lose your work, this might not be something you should invest your time on.
-The players (and the GMs) can be unfriendly and harsh at times. (Although for the most part, this community is bearable.)
-Inactivity of RP leaders can severely slow down the flow of the game.
-BLN has some players to like to “god mod” which harms the RP quality of the game.
-The game lacks direction at the beginning. If you are new to the game, it is likely that you will be confused about what you are supposed to do.
Overall, I can confidently give this game a 6 /10 in its current state according to this definition:
“6 -- "A solid product with some issues." A six, while displeasing to some, is still an above-average ranking. Maybe there are some good ideas that just happen to be crippled by iffy game play overall. Maybe it's an overall fun game with too many issues to ignore. We could see recommending this to genre fans.” - http://blog.wired.com/games/2008/03/wiredcoms-game.html
The RP is fun at times, but the flaws in the system inevitably cause it to “crash” (if you will). Other than that, once you get past the tedious training, the game is a fun, unique experience which I can honestly say you won’t find in any other game (for better or for worse). Right now, BLN has many flaws, as do most of the games on BYOND, but these certainly have the potential to be fixed in the future. Though, I suppose the key word here is “potential.”
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