For action combat and economic sandbox MMO fans, Black Desert is a diamond in the rough.
Pearl Abyss is a studio with something to prove. That’s the feeling I get after spending a day beta testing the Korean version of Black Desert. The game has plenty of dull edges that need to be polished out, but the basic shape is already visible.
Let’s begin with character creation. We’ve come a long way since Aion’s freakishly expansive character customization suite. Black Desert allows players to adjust miniscule details, including the base color of their character’s hair, the highlights and the lowlights. It also allows you to adjust where your character’s hair falls around their head a neck and test facial expressions, which is oddly gratifying.
In what seems to be an allusion to the Elder Scrolls series, you also have to choose a constellation for your character to be born under. I don’t know if it has an actual effect on gameplay, but every important NPC in the world (the ones that get encyclopedia entries) has a designated constellation. Spooky.
Black Desert’s user interface could use a little work. It’s doing more things at one time than I have ever seen before outside of statistics-heavy games like EVE. Every interactive NPC surfaces a floating list of possible action hotkeys when aimed at. Activating auto navigation to quest waypoints can trigger three windows full of (potentially) helpful information to pop. There’s an interactive, hierarchical database of monsters, NPCs and other critical information available at the press of a button. In other words: Black Desert’s interface is very busy.
Let’s not forget the world map, which accurately displays the active, unscripted weather patterns roaming across the wilderness alongside the location of mobile NPCs and quest markers. Furthermore, there’s SimCity-esque overlays available that show the average rainfall, cloud cover and temperature. It’s some seriously impressive tech, considering Pearl Abyss built Black Desert’s engine from scratch.
I can’t authoritatively write about the quality of Black Desert’s PvE content, since I can’t reliably understand any of it without the help of friends or machine translation services. Suffice it to say, the monsters I’ve fought as a newbie player have been pushovers and the quests have been simple. Perhaps the story gives the content more weight, but I’ll reserve judgment until a localized version of the game is available for testing.
The game’s environments are visually stunning even on my somewhat dated system. If your gaming rig is felt sluggish playing ArcheAge and you really want to experience Black Desert’s grandeur firsthand, I recommend upgrading. A 750ti might be enough to barely attain 30 fps at default settings, if the rest of your rig was acquired within the last three years or so.
For the folks that want a value judgment immediately: sorry, no can do. I’ll reserve my cynicism for when Daum Games opens an office outside of Korea and begins working on the title in English.