What can I say about Core Blaze? Gorgeous is the first word that comes to mind, and I'm not just talking about the cosplayers and the giant weapon sculpture that Gamania trotted out for its E3 demo event. The game is built on the Unreal Engine 3, and it puts Epic's toolset to fine visual use.
Rain drops bead and run on your monitor. River water looks refreshing enough to drink. The game's day/night effects are slick too, and to hear Gamania's reps tell it, the cycle (along with inclement weather) determines the effectiveness -- or ineffectiveness -- of certain attacks.
Core Blaze is a fantasy action MMO brawler, but it lacks the class system that competitors typically feature. Instead, your role is determined by your weapon selection, and for the demo I ran with a pre-made character wielding a very large bow. Another thing that sets Core Blaze apart from some of its action MMO contemporaries is its character creation system. While I was restricted to a pre-fab toon for the event, I did sneak a peek at the creation screen and was pleased to see a good amount of customization options.
Gamania showed off two new zones during the demo (the Forest of Meditation and the Anima Village) as well as two new boss monsters. A couple of fellow game journos and I put the game's PvE through its paces as we trekked from the village to the forest and back, dispatching trash mobs and familiarizing ourselves with the game's UI and combat mechanics on the fly.
Core Blaze's PvE is designed around a party of four, and Gamania says that weapon selection and tactics play a huge role in most of the boss fights. This was apparent from the start, as our gaggle of newbs had some trouble with the first boss before finally whittling it down via dogged persistence (and plenty of health potions). I got the feeling that a more skilled party could've dispatched this particular creature in a matter of moments, and frankly I wouldn't mind watching a fight like that, given Core Blaze's balletic combat animations.
I started out on the keyboard and mouse. Left-click fired an arrow at range, while right-click handled the up-close-and-personal melee duties. Holding down the left mouse button and waiting for an orange and a white visual cue on the bow resulted in more powerful attacks (at the expense of the power/stamina pool).
You can also mash your caps lock key to enter an aiming mode unique to the bow wielder (pressing caps lock with other weapons equipped activates other weapon-specific special abilities).
The combat was pretty frenetic, and I wasn't entirely comfortable with the mouse/keyboard setup. Pressing Q and R brings up a series of sliding circular menus, which are used for everything from drinking a potion to selecting your arrow types (fire damage, poison, etc.), and to be honest I never quite got the hang of it. Moving through the menu tree involves hovering your mouse over the right hotspot and then left- or right-clicking, and it felt a bit cumbersome in the midst of a fast-paced boss fight.
To be fair, though, action MMOs aren't my forte, and the process did get easier as the demo wore on.
It also helped when one of the devs handed me a gamepad. The menus seemed more intuitive on the controller, in large part due to the on-screen placement of the UI elements that mimic the circular button layout on a typical Xbox peripheral. There's still a ton of stuff going on, though, and I flailed around quite a bit, firing off attacks in random directions and generally making boss food out of my avatar more often than not.
In spite of these challenges, I'll more than likely play the game for a bit when it releases in America. The visuals alone are worth the price of admission, which is free, by the way. Gamania doesn't have a firm release date yet, but expect to see Core Blaze sometime in 2013.
Massively's on the ground in Los Angeles during the week of June 4-7, bringing you all the best news from E3 2012. We're covering everything from PlanetSide 2 and SWTOR and ArcheAge to RIFT's and LotRO's upcoming expansions, so stay tuned!