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Why BDO's PvP Isn't as Imbalanced as You Think

Steven Messner Posted:
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If there's one piece of criticism I continually see popping up around Black Desert Online, it's that the PVP is horribly imbalanced due to "power creep". No matter how much you play, you'll never catch up to the top 1% who have already invested significant chunks of time and energy into forging all the best gear and pushing beyond the soft level cap of 50. Now, reading that, this is usually followed up with "You should probably not even bother trying." But here's where I disagree.

Power creep is certainly an issue in Black Desert Online. If you're not familiar with how the equipment system works, the gist of it is that every piece of equipment starts out relatively weak until you invest black stones into enhancing it. You can do this a maximum of 15 times on the NA/EU servers, and even more on the Korean and Russian ones. The problem is that, along with being able to push past the soft level cap of 50, players who have +15 equipment are significantly stronger than those who don't—and that'll only get worse once we can start working towards +20.

Obviously this sounds like a big problem, and I certainly think that there could have maybe been a more elegant way to still reward players who spend time in the game without making everyone else feel weak by comparison. But that's usually where the conversation around power creep in Black Desert Online ends—and that's what I find frustrating. The problem is that sieges, the end game PVP mode where guilds can conquer territory and nodes on the map, hasn't been launched yet, so I don't exactly blame people for not understanding how equipment will play into the larger picture. 

A few months back, I did a PVP guide after sitting down with one of the community managers for BDO and having them walk me through all of the different features—and sieges were undoubtedly the most interesting. But the one aspect I love about them, and what I think will negate the overwhelming feeling of power creep that players are complaining about, is that sieges are effectively broken into two separate tiers. When sieges become active, players can either choose to capture a region, like Calpheon, or instead focus on claiming a node. Fortunately, you can't claim one of each type, meaning those who want regions will need to focus only on regions.

What this does is effectively segregate the PVP siege community between those who are playing at the top and everyone else. Capturing a region will line your guild's pockets with silver for a whole week, so only the most hardcore guilds will compete in those sieges. For everyone else, we'll be battling it out over the nodes, of which there are several dozen to choose from. There's still the potential that you'll be up against extremely powerful characters, but talking with the community managers, they were hopeful that players would be more resourceful instead of merely complaining.

Here's why: in regular PVP, like guild wars, the objective is to just kill as many people as possible. That can be fairly frustrating when you're at war with a guild whose characters are completely decked out in the best gear and your own guildmates aren't quite there yet. But guild wars also aren't how I imagine most players are going to be spending their time. It's a relatively shallow form of PVP.

In sieges, however, the objective is to destroy your enemy's siege tower, which is just as strong as yours is. Sieges are also going to be chaotic messes, with dozens of guilds all fighting at the same time—creating ample opportunity for alliances, backstabbing, and deception. With all of these factors in play, it is my hope that sieges can give players a chance to overcome disparity in strength through clever tactics and creating alliances. That's the hope anyway. The community manager I spoke with was fairly optimistic, saying that the Korean servers had developed an interesting political system somewhat evocative of EVE Online. Whether that takes hold in the NA version remains to be seen.

The other thing that's worth mentioning is that, right now, Black Desert is comparatively small and lacking the territories seen in the Korean version. While Mediah is already pushing players east and opening up the grind spots for everyone who's been struggling to reach beyond level 50 and get +15 gear, once Valencia and any other future expansions arrive, Black Desert should be a pretty huge world and players should begin to settle into their respective tiers.

But the simple fact is that, unless you're willing to invest a ton of time into being ahead of the curve, you're never going to be able to compete with that 1% of players who are. That can be extremely frustrating right now, when everyone is sharing the same hunting grounds, but with time that pain should hopefully start to fade as the world opens up. And even if it doesn't, the main form of PVP, sieges, are much more nuanced than a simple one on one fight, leaving plenty of room for guilds to make up for their shortcomings.

Is power creep and issue in Black Desert? Certainly—but don't make the mistake of treating it the same way you would in a typical MMORPG. There's plenty of factors at play that make power creep not such an easy symptom to diagnose, and while Black Desert is certainly having its fair share of growing pains, you also shouldn't let that fear stop you from enjoying what is otherwise an extremely interesting MMORPG.


Steven Messner

Steven is a Canadian freelance writer and EVE Online evangelist, spreading the good news of internet spaceships far and wide. In his spare time, he enjoys writing overly ambitious science fiction and retweeting pictures of goats. Speaking of retweeting, you should probably drop everything and go follow him on Twitter @StevenMessner