When it comes to games, I’m a devoted polyamorist and I don’t stay with any one online love for very long. I think that it partly is a joy of exploring the mechanics and unique ideas of new games, which is really why I enjoy covering the smaller developer studios so much.
This last week, I hit a funk as I wanted to play something and had no idea what exactly I was looking for. It happens sometimes when I’m between game launches, and just want to try something new, but don’t know what. This time, I reinstalled Archeage while thinking about some of the things I really liked when I’d played the game before.
Archeage captured a lot of my attention when it released in the US, but limited in-game real estate caused frustrations that made me leave the game before long. Despite that, I had fond memories of really cool economic systems, and I’ve periodically thought back to how much I liked that aspect of the game since I last played.
I decided to reinstall the game and didn’t last very long on the second attempt. Archeage has not aged very well. The graphics felt a little jarring, but also the game mechanics felt antiquated without feeling nostalgic. I uninstalled relatively quickly, just as I noticed a streamer I watch occasionally playing Black Desert Online.
I’d played BDO in the past, but none of my typical gaming buddies was that interested in giving it a try at the time, so I set it aside. I just reinstalled last week, and I’m really surprised at how well that game has held up to time. I’m also reminded about some of the many things I really liked about the game when I first played it.
For one, the clean art style has aged very well. Rather than attempting photo realism, BDO went a slightly more anime-like route with the visual design. Vibrant colors and uncomplicated models look nearly as good when compared to modern graphics, as it did on release. Black Desert Online isn’t as “realistic” looking as something like Far Cry 5, but by focusing on artistic expression over realism, they created picturesque views that are still very visually appealing.
They also included a system that allows for separation of equipped gear from the character’s look. Economically, a very smart move as it allows for a very lucrative cash shop that isn’t pay-to-win. Other games have used similar character customization systems, but BDO’s take on it is particularly well executed.
Black Desert Online also has a really smart take on player economy that I’m not sure has any real competition. The system is composed of a workers mechanic which drives the production capacity of a player’s economic base, a contribution mechanic for managing the number of nodes and facilities the player has access to, and a transportation mechanic that impacts availability of resources and revenue. Each mechanic has some interdependence with the others, which together work to support a larger player-driven economy. Said economy is helped along by in-game mechanics that reward transporting goods across large distances of the game world.
Being an industrial/economy kind of guy, that aspect of BDO really captured my attention the last time I played the game, and I found it just as interesting this week as I returned to the game. It helped that I was able to start a new character, wanting to level and experience the game as a new player, but that character shared the economic resources and investments of my previous character. I didn’t feel like I was starting over, but actually contributing and still growing as I completed some of the quests I’d missed last time, gaining additional contribution points. Those points allowed me to expand my industrial base, and I thought was a really cool way to reward players for starting new characters occasionally.
None of that is even touching on the PvP portion of BDO, which I’ve yet to participate in and have heard is even better than the economic gameplay. Guilds can secure resource nodes all over the game world, which then provide taxes to guilds that control those particular nodes. It’s a system that doesn’t break the game for anyone, but provides a cool reason for player conflict and nets a nice reward for the victor.
Black Desert Online offers a great case study on game longevity for those interested in such things. I feel like the population of the game is still strong based on watching the conversations in chat and noting the number of players I saw hunting in the same areas I was in at the time. Though as much as it says for BDO, it might also say a bit about the pace of innovation in the MMO space. Hopefully, one of the several games slated for major milestones this year will step forward and shake the industry up with new ideas. If not… Well, I’m sure I’ll be enjoying BDO for a bit longer, and maybe with a few friends this time.