For as unfathomably popular Genshin Impact has been all these years, you could argue it's always had things a bit easy. There is nothing else quite like it on consoles, and consistent content updates along with new waifus to metaphorically marry every other month have turned a lot of fans' free time into a second job. With Blue Protocol, though, there's finally a compelling alternative on PS5. From Bandai Namco and Amazon Games, the 2024 title looks primed to steal at least some of that audience with a new, colourful world and many more anime fighters to level up. We played 45 minutes of the online RPG at a preview event to see what's what, and found an experience shaping up to be compelling competition for the HoYoverse mega-hit.
For starters, it has all the hallmarks of a game you could eventually consider your second life. Blue Protocol is a free-to-play undertaking that packs all the kind of buzzwords hardcore Push Square readers hate: Battle Passes, cosmetic items, character purchases, and microtransactions. Luckily for Bandai Namco, though, there's so much more to the enthusiast space than just devout single player buyers.
Given the size and scale of an online RPG such as this, less than an hour of play — on a mouse and keyboard, no less — was nowhere near enough time for us to properly wrap our head around everything Blue Protocol has to offer. After quickly working through the character creation system, watching the introductory cutscene, and completing the tutorial, we were given roughly 20 minutes to explore parts of the multiple open zones before heading into a far more structured dungeon with a full party of other journalists at the event.
Combat plays out in real-time, with loads of abilities to equip and utilise across a skill bar on the bottom of the screen. Your chosen class will dictate what those are, of which there are five. Opting for the traditional sword and shield fighter before switching to a female Twin Striker equipped with two battle axes, there's a different sort of feel for each class. With multiple character slots, you'll be able to cover all bases with your account and get to experience what they bring to the table.
Dropped in at a random point in the story with no real objective — there were main quests highlighted to the side, but we had no context for them — much of our demo was spent aimlessly wandering the two large zones on offer. It's clearly incredibly difficult to properly show off a game of this scale in such a short space of time, so props to Bandai Namco for doing its best, but all we could muster the enthusiasm for was beating down on some of the wildlife littering the world. There was a mount accessible at the touch of a button at least, which meant traversal across the map was much faster.
Our demo really came together, though, when we were grouped up and all working towards the same goal. With everyone playing their role, it started to become clearer how synergies could form across ability usage and class type. Blue Protocol definitely feels like a game better played with friends rather than alone, even if you can play pretty much all its content without anyone else by your side. Our skills were popping off with satisfying explosions, while healers camped in the back to ensure we didn't use up any of the limited revives on offer. Should the online RPG lean into these combat-focused situations routinely, then there's good potential here.
We suppose the best part of our demo is actually the stuff we didn't see — it really feels like we were only scratching at the game's surface within a 45-minute hands on session. Opening up the menu revealed many different options you'd expect out of a title in the vein of Genshin Impact, from quests and character screens to maps and potential item accruement. Bandai Namco and Amazon Games aren't half-arsing this one; they're gunning for the top dog. With what felt like satisfying combat and many large worlds to explore and plunder, Genshin Impact will need to watch its back next year. Blue Protocol awaits in 2024, and after an already successful Japanese launch, it shaping up to be proper competition in the online space.
Are you interested in Blue Protocol? Do you need a change of scenery from Genshin Impact and hoping this Bandai Namco title delivers the good? Share your thoughts in the comments below.