I’m going to level with you guys. I still don’t know what the frak I’m doing in Black Desert Online. I’ve played/logged well over 90 hours since head start and I haven’t even gotten to the first major city. My twitter followers laughed at me when I remarked how big and confusing Heidel seemed. If there’s one reason I think BDO is having such a wonderful effect on my beleaguered MMO-playing heart, it’s because the game really does make you learn how to play all over again.
Think back. When was the last time an MMORPG really made you confused, but in that good way that comes when a game’s systems aren’t just copied from an existing formulae? Make no bones about it, a lot of Black Desert is a grind. But well, the beauty of that statement is that you can “grind” your way through the game in so many different ways that it’s only a chore if you make it so for yourself. Yes, you can blast your way to the soft level cap of 50 by killing catfish. Or you can take your time, and (like me) find yourself at level 21 after 90+ hours.
This isn’t EQ; it won’t take you months to level if that’s what you focus on. I can take just a handful of hours if you’re really dead set on the task. In so doing, you’ll be opened up for the game’s FFA PVP system, but you’ll also be severely hampered in the “life” categories of the game: crafting, trading, and more. Black Desert is absolutely rife with systems to plumb, and while some can be partaken of passively (fishing, the travel during trading), it’s the act of figuring out what makes what, how to get this, and how to make that, which makes BDO so engaging to me (and quite a fair few of you as well, I gather).
We’re three weeks into this review in progress, and I feel like I’ve got so much more to explore before I hit a point where I can actually say I’ve done most of what the game has to offer. I said last week that I’d try to hit 45 (the point at which the game becomes open PVP) before I score BDO. I still intend to try and do that, but if it takes me another 3 weeks, we may just have to put a score on it sooner (for timeliness’ sake) and then adjust it weeks later when I finally get to the dangers or BDO’s elder game.
Hell, I spent the better part of this week crafting a crappy raft and getting my production in Velia up to part for Steel Tools, and I still haven’t even used the raft. I still need to unlock a coal mining node to get coal for my steel ingots too. If there’s anyone complaint I can levy at BDO that’s bugging me after all this time, it’s that while workers do the work of gathering and crafting for you – you still have to be the manager and make them get the job done. This would be an easy task, if you also didn’t have to contend with where your materials are, where the workers are living and storing their goods, and let’s not forget the sheer amount of beer you’ll need to make or buy to keep them working.
I saw some folks on my different social networks bemoan this part of BDO. It’s not “as fun as adventuring”. That’s true. This sort of management is not something most traditional MMORPG fans will enjoy. It’s more like a 4X Game (Civilization, Master of Orion) than a swashbuckling heroic tale. But that heroic tale is here, if you follow the main quests and go where the Black Spirit bids you. You definitely don’t have to take part in the economics and crafting of BDO, but by ignoring them you’d really miss out on one of the deepest crafting systems I’ve ever seen in an online game.
In the future, I hope Daum and Pearl Abyss improve quality of life and UI usability, but for now I’m OK working around and riding my horse every damn place to make sure my workers are able to keep up with what I need them to do. In between all the bossing around, I’m off working with the alchemist named Alustin to figure out what’s going on Serendia and why it is I’m suddenly possessed by an evil spirit that’s always asking me to do the wrong thing.
Black Desert Online is definitely the most engaged I’ve been with an MMO since Guild Wars 2 came out. It’s also quite simply the most unique offering the genre’s had in ages. It won’t be for everyone, but if you’re still on the fence I highly recommend grabbing a trial key. It’s got to be experienced to be believed.