Taming the Tamer and the UI in Closed Beta
Black Desert is outright gorgeous. There’s no denying that. But now, close to the game’s western launch in 2016, we are finally able to find out if there’s more to BDO than its good looks. I have been diving into the Closed Beta and have some thoughts to share on precisely that topic. I’ve played a few hours so far, and there seems to be a lot here to keep the solo MMO player happy. What concerns me is how much content may be here for actual group content.
I’ve not been following BDO as closely as many have in its KR and RU forms. I know vaguely what the game is about, and I know that its combat is action-oriented a la TERA. What I didn’t expect, upon logging in, is just how much attention is paid to the world of Black Desert, its characters, its countryside, and its monsters. There are so many little things to read up on and discover, and the game actually locks quests and systems behind the act of simply getting to know a town and its people. For some, that will be an annoyance, for me… it’s brilliant. You’re actually being rewarded for hunting down and talking to all the NPCs and discovering all of the massive world’s locations.
What’s not immediately apparent however is just how or why you want to do these things. You see, Black Desert uses a system called Contribution. Contribution Points are earned by working for the NPCs or completing tasks in the game’s many nodes (think of these as points of interest on the map). It’s a system that’s rather deep and complex and has next to zero explanation in the game. You basically unlock different nodes and “activate” them to earn contribution points in them.
There’s a limit to how many you can have active, and you then earn Contribution points for those areas which can in turn be spent on some rather useful items to be rented or bought from NPCs in town. It’s one of those systems that gives you something to work towards in every area, aside from just questing or grinding to level up your character and skills. You might see a really cool piece or armor or a weapon for rent from one NPC, but to be able to use it you have to essentially gain favor with the town. It’s like a really involve and complicated “Reputation” system if Rep was currency.
I’m still learning a lot about the system myself, so expect a guide of sorts closer to launch or in later beta phases. There’s a decent one from the KR version on one of the game’s many fan sites.
One thing that makes learning about BDO pretty hard for the newcomer is undoubtedly its text-heavy and unwieldy UI. Everything is functional, no doubt, but there’s so much to take in with little in the way of tutorial that I immediately felt lost. Now, this actually was kind of refreshing. Few games in this genre make a player learn anymore, so I actually welcome the overload of information. I think more importantly about the UI isn’t that it needs to be clarified, it’s that it needs to be customizable and I need to be able to turn things off. Luckily, when you press escape there's an option to do just that under Customize UI (or something like that). Most everything that's not essential can be outright turned off. It’s such a jaw-droppingly pretty game that I don’t want it constantly obscured by UI elements.
The Tamer herself, because yes classes in BDO are gender-locked, is a lot of fun to play. She’s a low-defense, high agility melee class that eventually unlocks the black beast you see in the screenshot above as a usable pet. I haven’t gotten that far yet, and I’m not sure I’ll have time before CBT1 closes on the 22nd, but I can say that I’m actually quite impressed by how deep Black Desert seems. I know a lot of players are concerned about the amount of solo PVE content is in the game, when compared to very little in the way of group PVE, but I’m not sure I’m that concerned. I’m more curious about the group PVP, which from what I gather is the main crux of endgame content. In ArcheAge, it always felt kind of pointless and unfocused (to me). I’m hoping the same thing isn’t the case in BDO.
Early 2016 is right around the corner, and there are definitely things to finish and polish up. For one, the game’s patcher needs a client restore/repair option which is curiously missing. It’s also got some weird performance issues here and there, depending on your system specs. I’ve a pretty high end PC, and a decent midrange laptop, and yet the game performs better on the laptop than the PC. But this is the first of several closed betas, and there’s definitely time to shore up the optimization. I’m impressed by the amount of work put into the localization of the text thus far, and it definitely doesn’t seem half-assed as KR games often seem to be here in the West.
I’ll be playing, and eagerly watching the game’s progress, as we make way towards launch next year. So far, I’m pretty optimistic that it’s going to find a nice little niche here in the West, so long as the B2P model doesn’t go into the money-grubbing direction with the shop.