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Pearl Abyss | Official Site
MMORPG | Setting:Fantasy | Status:Final  (rel 03/03/16)  | Pub:DAUM Games Europe
PVP:Yes | Distribution:Download | Retail Price:$09.99 | Pay Type:Buy to Play | Monthly Fee:Free
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Merry Christmas from the Black Desert Online Beta

By Som Pourfarzaneh on December 25, 2015 | Columns | Comments

Merry Christmas from the Black Desert Online Beta

It’s rare that an MMO comes across my desk for which I don’t have much background or context.  It’s rarer still for that MMO to be in closed beta, with a lot of localization work and polish needed, and still leave a tremendously positive impression.  Enter Black Desert Online (BDO), the upcoming fantasy MMORPG from Pearl Abyss and Daum Games, which just completed its first CBT this week.  I’d heard a little about BDO and seen some brilliant videos before trying my hand at the beta content, and was pleasantly surprised - and not a little lost - when I jumped into the game for the first time.

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The first thing you’ll notice when playing Black Desert Online is the attention to detail present in the game’s visuals.  BDO’s graphics are, quite literally, the very best I’ve seen in an MMORPG in a good long while.  The vistas are stunning, characters well-modeled, and the lighting and architecture are top notch.  Thematically, the game has a decidedly Final Fantasy feel to it, albeit with a bit less steampunk, which may or may not appeal to your sensibilities.  Additionally, there are a lot of details in movement, from how your character runs and jumps to the way you’re able to greet NPCs.

The second thing you’ll notice in BDO is, more than likely, that you have no idea how anything works.  There are a lot of overlapping systems at work under the game’s spectacular veneer, and most of them are not explained very well in the current state of localization.  Bill touched on the Contribution system in his article last week, which is a prime example, and there’s also a process by which you can open up a Conversation minigame with NPCs by first learning more about their environs.  There’s a lot to learn in Black Desert Online, and I feel like I’m just scratching the surface.

Fortunately, combat is intuitive, and more importantly, incredibly fun.  It’s a natural progression from games like TERA or The Elder Scrolls Online, where mouselook is standard along with a supplementary hotbar.  Yet, BDO takes this convention to a new level in the way that it treats movement and button mapping.  I’m playing a ranger, for example, and I absolutely love that when I dodge and attack in succession, my character responds with a particular animation for that action.  My main ranged attack is mapped to the left mouse button, and melee attack to the right, with other important skills attached to shift + right mouse, down + left mouse, and so forth.  It’s extremely easy to learn but with a tremendous amount of depth that makes questing exciting.

As great as the visuals and combat in BDO can be, they’re undeniably undermined by the archaic user interface and poor localization that exist at this time.  The UI is a chore to use, with ugly fonts and a HUD that gets in the way more than it helps, and translations need a lot of work.  Some tutorialization for the multitude of systems would also be appreciated, as there’s a good chance that most players will feel out of their depth when they’re first playing.  Moreover, the game’s gender-locked classes and oversensualized female characters are desperately in need of an overhaul if Pearl Abyss and Daum Games want to be taken seriously by socially conscious gamers.

Black Desert Online is a welcome surprise, and although the UI and localization need work, the game’s combat and graphics stand well enough on their own.  It’s set to launch in early 2016, so keep your eye on the site for more coverage!

Did you participate in BDO’s closed beta?  What did you think?

Som Pourfarzaneh / Som is a Staff Writer at MMORPG.com and a Lecturer in Media, Anthropology, and Religious Studies. He’s a former Community Manager for Neverwinter, the free-to-play Dungeons & Dragons MMORPG from Cryptic Studios and Perfect World Entertainment, and is unreasonably good at Maze Craze for the Atari 2600. You can exchange puns and chat (European) football with him on Twitter @sominator.
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