Literally the next big MMORPG
I’ve yet to see the desert in Black Desert, but I’m pretty sure it has one. A desert, oceans, forests and mountains, Black Desert is by far the most extensive exploration MMO I’ve played so far. The detail and depth aren’t comparable to any I’ve played so far.
You stumble to your feet with amnesia in a small village woken by a black spirit leading you through a swift tutorial. It guides you into the world with quest lines leading you to camps, cities and towns which all contain unique people to talk to and gain knowledge from.
And what a world it is. The feeling of being a real adventurer in this massive fantasy world is close to what many fans of the anime Sword Art Online or Lord of the Rings have been waiting for. The closest way to describe it is that feeling you got when you first walked out the vault in Fallout and saw the world spread out in front of you.
The forests look dense, lush and full of life and are particularly striking at night with a lantern. Almost everything you see is explorable. Your character is able to climb any object in the world, parkour across the village rooftops is good fun.
When you start to realise the whole potential of things to do it becomes overwhelming. This is the first MMO I’ve played that felt this alive. The first town by the sea transformed from a sleepy village, into a busy port with ships docked where there were just simple rafts and fishermen. Massive wagons roll into the village where there were only players carrying heavy backpacks or on donkeys carrying their goods to market.
Black Desert is not your standard MMO fare. There is a big emphasis on player trading not just with other players, but also with the non-player characters of the world. Crafting and gathering work on an energy system with a capacity that grows as your character levels up. People put off by the energy system in Archeage will find this a far superior experience with it growing at a swift pace either online or off.
Trading and crafting are so in depth it would take a whole article by itself to explain it. Needless to say, if you enjoy crafting and trading this game will make your jaw drop at the detail. There are mini-games for almost every part of the game, including conversation.
That’s not to say it’s lacking in action. There’s no need for a hot-bar other than to put your potions in. All character moves use a combination of keys creating combo moves. Each skill also includes a video guide which is a great feature.
“S + F” with the witch class will drop a lightning bolt out of the sky, then click your right mouse button to blast a forward field of lightning across the ground. Don’t want to use a mouse and keyboard? Just plug in a controller and you can sit back and relax.
I never thought I’d say this about grinding. Grinding monsters in Black Desert is actually fun. The speed and methods of fighting will keep you interested to the peak of your level. All classes have unique abilities that are quite spectacular and literally flashy (adjustable). This variety of skills and slick character movement is satisfying. Combos feel rewarding when executed in sequence.
Oh and there’s no level cap.
What you get is a soft cap, with diminishing returns. This means you will get a tiny bit of experience points per several hundred creatures. But you will still level up, eventually. This becoming an obsession for many people in-game already, especially for the open world guild wars at what is currently considered ‘end-game’.
There are some negative points to the game.
The story does not flow well with the pace of the world between questing. It feels optional with little to no reflection on the world, unlike other games. I recognise some of the main characters and understand some of my personal story with the black spirit, but it feels disconnected. Using American voices in a medieval type setting also sounds a bit off.
This is where the game fails somewhat, as with all it has, a well-written story to back everything up would really have made it perfect for me. Immersion in the world is otherwise sublime with a beautiful soundtrack. There is constant NPC chatter in cities, towns and villages, giving you the real feeling of being part of a living world.
Despite the game’s graphical beauty there are several issues with pop-in of scenery, especially noticeable when moving at speed. So far there’s no way to solve it. I’ve started to notice it less as time has gone by, but it can be quite jarring.
There is also a lack of variation in how your gear looks with maybe ten different looks for each class, which isn’t a huge amount. The cash shop with costumes doesn’t address this issue quite yet. I also found the inclusion of sexy underwear in the cash shop a bit bizarre. I guess there must be a demand for it from the role players. The costumes are rather pricey too, roughly about the initial cost of the game.
You can make a completely unique face for your character with the extensive character creator. But when you’re looking at the back of your character 99% of the time this matters a lot less than a different shape of sackcloth you’re wearing, as is the case of the witch/ wizard.
The interface is additionally quite cluttered, even when reduced down to the barebones. Hopefully, we will see better options for customisation in future updates.
Despite using a lot of past tried and tested MMO design, it mixes things up at the same time blending elements of different game genres. With so many MMOs being shut down recently this could be the one that turns the genre around or, at least, begins a change in the otherwise stagnant sector.
It just feels and looks that different.