Fans of PC Gaming and MMOs are likely already familiar with Black Desert Online - one of the best looking MMOs to hit the genre in quite some time - and have been enjoying the game for years now. I was severely addicted to WoW and then ESO so I never jumped in until I had the opportunity to review the recent release of Black Desert (minus the Online) on the Xbox One. I’ve spent a couple of weeks in the game now and I’m ready to give my thoughts on this gorgeous, but sometimes confusing, MMO from Pearl Abyss.
Like all MMOs out there you’re going to start off with some character creation and class selection. While the PC version has a plethora of classes to chose from the Xbox is currently limited to six classes, with more promised to be on the way. Classes are gender locked but some classes like the Witch and Wizard have overlapping abilities if you want to play the opposite gender.
First entering the game was probably the last time I felt I wasn’t almost drowning while treading water. You’ll be introduced to some movement and the premise of being possessed by a black spirit… thing before you’re thrown into it. You’ll get a brief introduction on how combat works for your class, as well as how the combo system works, before being thrown into the wild to slaughter, slaughter, and slaughter some more.
I will pause here to say that Black Desert is the first MMO I’ve played that feels like it was meant for consoles. While you have a basic attack bound to the right bumper, your combat relies on a series of combinations of button presses and directional movement on the thumbstick. On my warrior, I’ve become partial to a great cone AOE move that slices through enemies by holding down on the thumbstick and hitting the right trigger. It chews through my resources which I can quickly get back with a few slashes from my basic attack.
Unfortunately, combat is about the only system you get an introduction to or any information presented to you at all organically in-game. Everything else was left for me to accidentally stumble upon on my own which is nice from an “oh what a cool idea!” standpoint but is incredibly frustrating when you realize that you’ve missed out on maximizing your time efficiency in a game. Nodes are an example of something I discovered much later, a system of investing points in nodes on the map and hiring workers to work the nodes for resources. It’s a system I still don’t fully understand and find myself spending large quantities of time trying to find information for on the internet.
The bulk of leveling is completed through grinding. There could be an argument made that it’s actually from questing but since 80% of the quests send you to go grind on mobs - which rewards a good chunk of XP on its own - I’m going to stick to my guns and say that Black Desert is very much a grinding type game. Which is completely fine given the combat is generally engaging, varied, and requires a level of skill to pull off well with all the different combinations there are to memorize. Grinding, for me, is only an issue when combat is dull and uninspired and graphics are boring to behold - a problem Black Desert certainly doesn’t have.
Talking about my aforementioned issue of feeling overwhelmed I think a large contributing factor is how quickly you level up - especially at first. Now I don’t want the beginning levels to take forever but I’m getting so many skills, running around to so many different places, and having so much (rather uninspired) quest text thrown at me in the first hour or two of gameplay that I fail to absorb much of anything about it. I would love if the beginning levels slowed things down just a little bit and gave players time to get their bearing in the game - but that’s just my opinion.
If you’re hoping to PVP you’re going to have to wait until level 40 when you can turn PVP mode on. At this point, you can optionally flag yourself for this PVP mode but it doesn’t mean a whole lot other than the fact that you attack anyone who’s over level 40 - flagged or not. Pearl Abyss has put some systems in place, like a Karma system that will see NPCs attack you if you needlessly slaughter non-flagged players, but most people are in it for the guild-based PvP battles that are known to take place. I haven’t had a chance to participate in a large scale battle yet but I can’t wait to give it a shot. 1v1 battles largely depend on what class you play as there isn’t a lot of class to class balance.
Just like on PC, Black Desert is easily the best looking MMO to come to Xbox One in addition to being a great looking game compared to the multitude of other Xbox titles available. View distance and LOD seems to be a bit over-tuned on regular Xbox One but on Xbox One X this title truly shines.
I initially spent a lot of time in the much-hyped 4k mode, which looked fantastic on my 55” 4k TV but being a PC gamer at heart being locked at 30fps grew a little tiring so I switched to a 1080p display and turned off 4k mode to see what I would get. At 1080p Black Desert runs at a smooth 60fps in addition to looking fantastic. I found myself really impressed at what Pearl Abyss pulled off here considering all the rumblings I remember reading about with people not being able to get 60fps on their home rigs. I suspect, however, that I even exceed 60fps at certain points because occasionally there is some screen tearing to be seen in this mode. In contrast to the vanilla Xbox One, I also had no issues with texture pop-ins on character models when compared to the Xbox One X.
There’s a lot going on in Black Desert on a good day. Crafting, farming, nodes, supply runs, taming mounts, PvP or simply exploring the beautiful world that’s been created for our pleasure. My sincere hope (and plan) is to dive into each of these systems in greater detail on Xbox and experience everything the game has to offer and report back to you guys my findings, but for now if you’re a fan of the MMO genre and have an XBox One I see no reason not to give BDO a whirl. I’m very much enjoying slaughtering hordes of baddies from the comfort of my couch with some of the best combat I’ve experienced in an MMO. There’s a reason you can always find BDO high up on Twitch and the Xbox One release serves only to help those numbers. So pick up that controller, do your finger stretches, and come find me in game!