There are few massively multiplayer games that can invoke a sense of trepidation when the sun sets and the night creeps in. For many years darkness is a thing that developers seem to have bypassed, as yet another obstacle players of the genre shouldn’t have to deal with. Having grown used to my eyes seeing as clearly at night as they do in the day, it’s with huge relief that Black Desert Online finally brings back a lack of vision.
Dark Age of Camelot was the last MMO I played where there was any sense of atmosphere at night and to find Black Desert Online actually glorifies this one component, in such an amazing way, is not only a relief but it baffles as to why developers are so willing to avoid it.
For anyone who has yet to dip their toes into Black Desert Online, its night-time is truly dark. Characters in the game world raise their torches, there’s little if any light from the moon and you rely solely on your own lantern to light your path. It makes venturing out into unexplored areas truly exciting and there are moments, certainly when you’re aware that enemy players could be lurking, that venturing out from town is a risky but sometimes necessary undertaking.
It’s an atmosphere most MMO’s simply don’t capture and while it certainly makes navigation difficult and questing becomes much slower paced its value to a player, in terms of immersion, is priceless. If we were to look at other games in the genre such as WildStar or Blade and Soul, day and night cycles are largely irrelevant and for all intents and purposes, have absolutely no impact on what you can achieve. Even Guild Wars 2: Heart of Thorns, having made some attempt to alter gameplay during the night - with many events only triggering after sundown - missed the mark. Despite a reasonable attempt by ArenaNet to encourage a greater sense of foreboding, there still lacked a true sense of danger.
Fear, apprehension and excitement are all feelings that rear their head in Black Desert Online and it’s all because Pearl Abyss took the risk of implementing true darkness. I’ve no doubt there will be players unhappy about the inability to see clearly, but the pros certainly outweigh the cons. While I sympathise with players who ‘just want to get on’ without the burden of stumbling about in the dark, I think they’re missing why darkness is so important.
Having a sense that there’s two clearly defined times of day that directly impact your play, provides players with some clearly defined choices:
- Do I venture out now?
- Am I at risk of attack?
- Can I safely transport my goods?
- Are we better to attack enemy players under the cover of darkness than during the day?
None of these questions arise in other commercial games because vision is never an issue and because of that, there’s arguably less immersion and fewer avenues for roleplay. I actually find myself looking forward to the evenings in Black Desert Online because it provides such a different
feeling to the game world. Even if I’ve already been to a town, city or map location, they feel vastly different when the sun has gone. That’s something you don’t encounter too often and I’m very grateful for it. Now where’s my lantern...