Amazon Games and Bandai Namco are teaming up to release Blue Protocol, a free-to-play MMORPG that takes after Phantasy Star Online and Genshin Impact. At first glance, it’s yet another cutesy anime title from the publisher that doesn’t exactly stand out, but look beneath the surface and you’ll find an experience that aims to be mechanically dense and narratively significant in its ambition. However, this also means it has so much to prove in order to stand a chance against the big boys, a landscape that has long been dominated by gacha greed.
Ahead of its reveal at The Game Awards, I sat down with franchise lead Mike Zadorojny to touch on how Blue Protocol came to be and what it hopes to achieve in a saturated genre. After the likes of New World and Lost Ark, this is Amazon digging deeper into its weeb phase – maybe Jeff Bezos has tastes we never knew about. According to Zadorojny, this game has been in the works for a very long time, with Amazon stepping in to take over publishing duties in the West.
“Blue Protocol is a massively multiplayer online role-playing game with beautiful cel-shaded visuals, it’s like an anime come to life,” he tells me. “It showcases Amazon’s commitment to bringing games that are really high quality and live service gaming experiences to players around the world.” It took me a second to realise this is the exact language featured on the press release, but once I view the trailer and see what the game looks like in action, there is a greater sense of passion coming from Zadorojny and what Blue Protocol is all about.
Taking place across the sprawling fantasy world of Regnas, players will create a character that must navigate a landscape teetering on the edge of destruction after millennia of conflict and abuse of technology. You’ll meet new allies, fight strong enemies, and unlock hidden memories as a typical amnesiac anime protagonist. Bandai Namco isn’t afraid to lean into cliche a little bit here, using it as a foundation for players to create their own stories with friends alongside them. I can dig that, though it will need to subvert these archetypes and tropes if it hopes to stick in our memories or hold any sort of longevity. But exactly how does it plan to?
“There’s a combination of three things that help bring it together,” Zadorojny says. “First off, it is a seamless multiplayer game. So you’re running around the world and able to interact and party up really easily, it’s not about necessarily needing to invite into specific instances and things like that. Character customisation is another layer on top of that too and actually allows players to build their own avatar, and then there’s the depth of action combat.”
Unlike Genshin Impact, which has players taking control of rolled heroes each with their own specific elements and skills, Blue Protocol will localise all this variety onto a single character. There will be five classes available at launch in the form of Blade Warden, Twin Striker, Foe Breaker, Keen Strider, and Spell Weaver. Echoes also come into play, which are essentially the remnants of creatures that can be summoned as offensive or defensive spirits. Given that Blue Protocol is pitching itself as an MMO with dungeons and raids, I imagine you will be tasked with playing a certain role when partying up with friends or strangers in order to avoid being wiped. That’s a cool idea, and there will be earnable passive skills alongside more concrete action commands that can be combined to result in a total of 16 abilities at any given time. You aren’t locked out from trying new things, which is a key element.
While it’s designed and works best as an MMO, Blue Protocol can also be played as a solo experience, with NPC characters taking the place of real players in dungeons and narrative sequences. It remains unclear how large the endgame raids will become and if they will be exempt from this rule, but much like FF14, I imagine that will be the case. Chances are if those making it that far won’t mind playing nice with others anyway. Unlike that prestigious MMO, though, I’m not sure if Blue Protocol is going to follow the traditional expansion model we’ve seen in the MMO space for decades. Zadorojny, at least, seems to suggest otherwise.
“The plan is to do large updates every quarter with new story chapters, new dungeons, new fields, going back and doing hard mode for existing dungeons and things like that. They want to keep evolving the world every month. Obviously it’s an MMO so there’s gonna be festivals and fun things in there as well. From a monetization perspective, it’s majority cosmetics, it’s an entire free-to-play game with optional in-game purchases. We will do a Founder’s Pack much like we did with Lost Ark where players can sign up for the closed beta.”
Seasonal content, battle passes, new modes, new challenges, new regions, and all the stuff you’d expect from a game of this scope and style are present, including a gacha-esque cosmetic system where players can roll for new skins and mounts, although it’s unclear what currency will be used to make this happen. It all sounds perfectly competent and ideal for the sweet player retention, but I’ll have to play the game for myself to see if it can stand the test of time, or is worth pulling myself away from countless other service titles that continue to ruin my life. Like New World and Lost Ark before it, Blue Protocol might surprise us all.
Blue Protocol will be launching for PC, Xbox Series X|S, and PlayStation 5 in the second half of 2023.
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