Blue Protocol preview: Anime MMO has brains and heart

Blue Protocol preview: Anime MMO has brains and heart
Bandai Namco/Amazon Games

Written by 

Lloyd Coombes

Published 

25th Jul 2023 14:00

You may have noticed that Amazon has been hoovering up MMO-style titles in recent years, with the likes of New World, Lost Ark, and the upcoming Lord of the Rings MMO already part of the portfolio. Blue Protocol has some competition, then, not only from contemporaries like Genshin Impact, but also from within its own stable.

And yet, after roughly 90 minutes with the game at a recent hands-on preview event, it might just be one of the more exciting free-to-play launches in years, thanks to flashy combat, a commitment to its anime art style, and the promise of challenging encounters.

Making an Impact

Blue Protocol character looking out over a landscape
Click to enlarge

Let’s get one thing out of the way - yes, Blue Protocol’s eastern animation style bears plenty of resemblance to Genshin Impact, a game that many derided as a Zelda clone before embracing it wholeheartedly as a generous free-to-play offering with plenty to do.

Blue Protocol sets itself apart with a more flexible combat system and a focus on cooperative multiplayer that goes hand-in-hand to make it feel closer to a true MMO.

Throughout the game’s beautiful world, you’ll find mobs to slay, public events that come with a crunchy metal soundtrack, and a whole host of quests to complete.

I only got to see the grassy area at the start of the game, and a similarly verdant one when tackling a dungeon later on, but small details like the adorable pig creatures wandering the plains and grass waving in the breeze ensure Blue Protocol is certainly a looker - in fact, I’d argue its world design is closer to Xenoblade Chronicles than it is to Genshin Impact.

Swords, spells, summons - oh my!

Combat screenshot from Blue Protocol
Click to enlarge

As you may expect for any budding MMO, combat is a big part of Blue Protocol, but the title mixes things up considerably by leaning on “spectrums” rather than specific roles.

That means that while it is possible to amass skill points to become a true tank, it’s much more fun to experiment with a variety of roles.

Our preview session culminated in a dungeon, with six players jumping in. In terms of design, the Dragon’s Rithe dungeon is an early dungeon that was scaled up to deal with our high-level characters, meaning it lacked any complex mechanics but still offered some challenge in terms of enemy density and level.

That makes it the perfect showcase for Blue Protocol’s combat, and with six players moving through, letting off flashy spells and abilities, there can be a lot going on at any one point in time. Thankfully, Amazon says you can tone down the visual effects if you’d like to, removing those from your teammates.

Expect plenty of class variety
Click to enlarge

The dungeon’s boss, as you’d expect, is larger than its compatriots we’d slain along the way, and was a little more spirited, too - with large AoE attacks that made finding a safe vantage point key.

As an example, while tackling a six-player dungeon, we used the Blade Warden - a sword and shield class that can tank damage. With the right abilities, however, Blade Warden can be a powerful DPS option as well as offering some healing capabilities on the front line. I relished finding the opportunities to jump into the fray, heal my team, and then deal damage of my own.

However, the system isn’t entirely without limits, so you shouldn’t expect to build a melee healer or a tank mage, but there’s just enough wiggle room on those spectrums to find your niche.

I also got the chance to check out an early game Spell Weaver class, a more traditional mage. For all of the fun of throwing spells, I did find the lock-on button a little finicky, but it’s likely that’ll see some love before launch.

Anime 101

Blue Protocol character with a sword and shield
Click to enlarge

If there’s one thing I left our preview less than enamoured by, it was Blue Protocol’s story. Rooted in tropes, our protagonist awakens without their memories and teams up with a saccharine character with a high-pitched voice to discover their origins.

It’s all very formulaic, although I did appreciate the gorgeous opening cutscene that helps set the stage. The voice acting was all in Japanese, but Amazon confirmed as part of our interview that multiple languages are coming at launch.

Once you’re in, the character creation suite offers five classes to choose from, but the key thing is that players are stepping into the shoes of a defined lead.

That loses a little of the party-based personality of Genshin Impact, but does change how monetisation works because Amazon doesn't need to sell characters.

Show me the monetisation

Blue Protocol screenshot showing a character riding through the world
Click to enlarge

Naturally, a free-to-play price tag has an asterisk included, and with Blue Protocol’s endgame builds likely to hinge on rare crafting materials, it’ll be interesting to see how balanced it is for all players at launch.

At this point, however, Amazon told us players can expect a store and Battle Pass, as well as a gacha system for cosmetics that’ll regularly reward you with rarer visual options as part of a failsafe.

Final Thoughts

Much more than another Gacha title, Blue Protocol is shaping up to be an MMO with genuine potential and plenty of challenge.

Its commitment to its anime aesthetic is unwavering, for better and for worse, but I'm excited to jump back in as its Western launch approaches.

For more on Blue Protocol, be sure to check out our discussion on accessibility and localization.

Lloyd is GGRecon's Editor-in-Chief, having previously worked at Dexerto and Gfinity, and occasionally appears in The Daily Star newspaper. A big fan of loot-based games including Destiny 2 and Diablo 4, when he's not working you'll find him at the gym or trying to play Magic The Gathering.