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Review in Progress Part One

William Murphy Posted:
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Black Desert Online is refreshing. While there’ve definitely been bumps along the way, the game is finally hitting western shores with the head start for pre-orders currently ongoing. We’ve been playing since last week, after dabbling in the beta tests, and are finding the non-conformist way the game unfolds before you to be a very nice change of pace from the usual MMORPG fare. While we’re still weeks away from officially scoring Pearl Abyss and Daum Games’ MMO, read on for our first thoughts in our review in progress.

For those of you who don’t normally visit this website, Black Desert Online is the latest Korean MMORPG to make its way to the English speaking world. Heralded by many as a game to watch due to its beautiful world, characters, action combat and sandbox-esque game systems Black Desert Online is currently the main focus of attention in the MMO-playing world. The question is… how long can it keep the momentum going?

There have been some hiccups so far in the head start process. Pre-order customers were supposed to be given a good deal of exclusive items and rewards as part of their purchase. The in-game delivery for those items however has not gone as planned.  The short version? There have been numerous issues of players getting duplicate items and others not getting any, even after claiming them twice on the game account page. As of this writing, my guild has begun to receive theirs, and there are plans to iron this all out by March 3rd. But we’ll just have to see how it plays out. The good thing is that Daum’s been relatively transparent about the issues and their plans to fix it.

Being able to take screens like this is a nice little touch.

But minus the above? Well, this phased launch has been pretty smooth. The biggest issue isn’t the pre-order items, but rather that due to some character creation and server database snafus, players were creating their characters and winding up on the wrong server altogether. Some folks have wasted hours of play only to realize they’re not on their intended server.  The easy solution would be to just offer some character transfers for those affected, but apparently it’s not very easy with the tech in place. They’re offering a mea culpa and some reparations to those affected, but I feel for those who wasted their Sunday on the wrong server or couldn’t play because their desired reserved name was on the wrong server.

Now… those two (admittedly glaring) issues aside, Black Desert Online has been an absolute joy to play. It’s really hard to encapsulate why I find myself enjoying BDO. The best explanation is probably the simplest – it’s like ArcheAge, but with better combat. Like EVE, but in a fantasy world. This huge seamless world is out there to explore. There are no instanced dungeons, everything’s in the open for all to explore, and there are some really tucked away adventures to find. The economy, while you can’t directly trade with players (by design) is fantastically designed. Running your carriage to and from one market to another to make a profit is quick and relatively easy way to make a buck. Hunting and taming horses, then breeding them, is a game all its own.  Gathering with your guild and working together to collect lumber may sound silly, but it’s a fun race against the clock – especially when you factor in the wild bears that charge you at night while cutting down trees.

The world feels populated, even if it’s just a clever NPC pathing trick…

It’s the little things in Black Desert Online that have me feeling impressed. Being able to have your character lean against a wall or fence and then maneuvering the camera to get the perfect shot is such a simple and pointless little thing, but that’s the kind of care Pearl Abyss has taken in creating this world. It’s filled with NPCs going about their business. Most don’t just around (though the important ones for questing and economy do), instead they mill and loiter about the town. Black market “shady dealers” come into town at night and offer a way for thieves and rogue players to buy and sell goods.  Wildlife charges you when they feel threatened, like the aforementioned bears, giving walking in the woods at night a sense of suspense.

I also love just wandering into the mountains of BDO. They’ve crafted little nooks and crannies all over the world, and if you explore you’re bound to find something worth harvesting, collecting, killing, or just viewing. The systems of the game are still somewhat foreign to me – I’ve got a grasp on contribution, node connecting, and I’m hunting for my first horse to tame. But crafting is still at its most basic for me. I’ve only got one worker, and a small warehouse in Velia. Eventually, I’m told I’ll have an empire of production, as the players in BDO are basically all beautiful fantasy versions of Nucky Thompson (or Johnson).

Even cutting down trees can be interesting in BDO… and beautiful.

What is curious to me, is the same thing I see debated on this site every day. When I hit the soft level cap of 50 (you can level beyond the cap, but it’s a slow process), what will my days in BDO consist of? I was talking in our MMORPG slack chat with Rob, Hive Leader, and others and we agreed… Black Desert doesn’t have a traditional dungeon/raid/gear endgame routine. And really, that’s OK. Said version of endgame activity hasn’t worked for any of us for years. It’s old hat, and we’re ready to try something different. The endgame of BDO seems to be about the siege and PVP systems, and I’m hoping our GSCH guild hangs tough and represents well when I get there.

For now, I’ll be happy to keep exploring this huge seamless world, exploring its foreign systems, and learning a new game. It’s been a really long while, or so it feels, that an MMO has made me actually think and learn.  BDO doesn’t follow prescribed rules. Like ArcheAge before it, it does its own thing with reckless abandon. Say what you will about AA, but it has the balls to be its own game. Black Desert is squarely in the same camp. It’s unapologetic in its uniqueness, and that’s something I can get behind.

Stay tuned over the coming weeks as we continue our review of Black Desert Online.


William Murphy

Bill is the former Managing Editor of MMORPG.com, RTSGuru.com, and lover of all things gaming. He's been playing and writing about MMOs and geekery since 2002, and you can harass him and his views on Twitter @thebillmurphy.