Black Desert Online
Black Desert Online presents an open, sandbox-esque world in which players can embark upon a number of activities to suit their passions. You begin as a character of your own creation, who has lost all of his/her memories due to a contract that was formed with the mysterious Black Spirit. As the Black Spirit leads you on its quest, you will traverse towns, farms, and military encampments where you will have the opportunity to help out other people and learn about the political turmoil that envelops your world. Fight, fish, farm, mine, craft, tame horses.... you can do it all and more in this immersive, self-identified "next gen" MMORPG.
Be unique - In-depth character creation frees you from cookie cutter characters and allows for a creation all your own
Get in the fray - Action-based combat means you control every thrust, slash, arrow, spell, and skill that your character unleashes
Massive world - Explore a gigantic map with diverse locales and varying weather patterns
Choose your path - Choose a combat class, and choose the side jobs you are interested in--or choose all the jobs! Fishing, Trading, Blacksmithing, and Alchemy are just some of the options available to you!
Build a network - String together Nodes to unlock various bonuses in each area, and put hired workers to work doing the menial tasks of farming, mining, etc.
Incredible detail - Marvel at the gorgeous graphics. Watch your character sweat as he/she gets hot, and remain slick with water after a swim or a rain shower.
32 bit Windows 7 or 8
Intel Core i3-530 2.9GHz
GTS 250 / GeForce 9800 GTX / Radeon HD 6770
64 bit Windows 7 or 8
Intel Core i5-650 3.2GHz
GTX 650 / GTX 550ti / Radeon HD7770 / Radeon HD 6770
Also functions with Windows 10
The rest of your life.
Worldwide: March 3, 2016
Publisher: Daum Games
Rating: 16 (PEGI)
Price: $29.99 (Traveler’s Package); $49.99 (Explorer’s Package)
Released in Korea back in 2014, Black Desert Online has finally made its way to worldwide availability. With sandbox-style gameplay and action-oriented combat, Black Desert Online brings with it a plethora of features that will provide gamers plenty of activities to pursue while still allowing for the typical questing adventurer approach. As someone who has long lamented the cookie-cutter nature of MMORPGs, I was excited to hear about the concept of Black Desert Online, and I am even more pleased now that I have my hands on it.
Spiritual Content: This will probably be the deal breaker for some people. Black Desert Online is a high-fantasy game, so things like magic and alchemy are common elements. Some of the character classes are Sorceress, Wizard, and Witch, all of which use magic to
some degree (the Sorceress fights bare-handed, but uses some form of dark magic in her attacks). There is also a Valkyrie class, with the term Valkyrie being from Norse mythology, and the class being essentially a female Warrior with some use of magic. Character creation will also
have you choose a fictitious zodiac for your character. Probably most disturbing is the presence of the “Black Spirit,” a mysterious being with whom your character has apparently made a contract at the cost of his/her memories. The nature of the Black Spirit has not been fully explored at the point I have reached in the game, so it is not entirely clear if he is malicious or not, but it seems more likely that he is. The only good news is that there is a title players can earn called “Enemy of the Black Spirit,” so it sounds like there may be a way to emancipate yourself from him.
Language: At the very least, I have read/heard the following used by NPCs in the game: d*mn, h*ll, a**, and b*stard. There may, of course, be other words used. Overall, profanity isn’t too prevalent; at the very least, it didn’t stand out until I deliberately started looking for it. Of course, there is bound to be profanity in the player chat. You have the option of turning on a profanity filter (which actually seems to be on by default, anyway), or of turning off the chat entirely.
Violence: Well, this is an MMORPG, and the purpose of choosing your class is to basically determine how you will fight your enemies. You will slash, kick, punch, shoot (with arrows), and/or blast (with magic) whatever foes stand in your way, and you will do this a lot. Many quests revolve around the age-old “kill x amount of y” formula, and killing “z” number of any type of enemy is necessary in order to gain knowledge of it. Your enemies will spray the ground with blood as you damage them, and you yourself will become bloodied as you take damage. Your character also seems to occasionally spurt blood after being injured. However, there is an option to turn off blood.
Sexual Themes: During character creation, you will see your character in his/her underwear when making adjustments to the body. Some female characters wear meager outfits (the Ranger has a very short dress for instance), and the pearl shop has options to buy “fancy” underwear for both male and female characters. Your character’s armor can also take damage, and past a certain point their underwear can
begin to show through. (Note that in all my time of playing, my armor never became this damaged…I discovered this detail because there is an option to show what your armor looks like at various levels of durability). If you have equipped special underwear, you can also set an option to show the underwear in “safe” areas such as your house.
Drug/Alcohol Use: You can get beer in your inventory, and you will visit several inns and taverns on your. However, consumption of alcohol is optional. Positive Themes: Black Desert Online features an active economic system. For example, if you are trying to sell potatoes, you won’t get as much money from them if you sell them to the potato farmer as you would if you traveled a bit and sold them to, say, a fisherman. In other words, the game can challenge you to think a little more about your actions if you will let it. The same can be said about travel—as there is no fast travel, you will have to go by foot or horseback to every location, meaning that you should choose destinations carefully so as to maximize your effectiveness. There are also “crossroad” quests that will allow you to finish the quest in more ways than one. One of the few “redemptive” things I can think of involves your option to choose a moral conclusion to quests that require contracts with dubious characters. , And of course, the general idea of going around and helping random people with their problems is prevalent, as it usually is in RPGs.
Black Desert Online Is, put simply, a massive game. Given this fact, I will likely miss some aspects of the game in this review, simply because I haven’t encountered something yet. With that said, I am going to try to structure this review in a way that will walk you through the initial start up to actually adventuring within the game world. Let’s get started!
As with most MMORPGS, your first endeavor will be to create your character. More precisely, , your first endeavor will be to create a “family name,” which will be shared among your characters. That’s right! All of your characters are a big happy family, which has certain benefits to be discussed later. If you’re good with names, this will be a cinch. If, like me, you have a terrible time coming up with names (and every time you do come up with something you find that someone else has already taken it), then you will probably spend a good amount of time on this portion alone. Not exactly the most exciting way to start your game, but like I said, there are benefits to it. Once you decide on a family name, then you will move on to character creation.
Black Desert Online offers many unique aspects to its character creation, one of which is gender-locked classes. For example, Warriors are male only while Tamers are female only. While some classes have an opposite-gender counterpart—Valkyries are basically female warriors, and then you have the female Witch and male Wizard—others stand alone. The female-only Ranger, Tamer, and Sorceress as well as the male-only Berserker come to mind. Once you have decided on your class, you will move into the portion where you actually customize your character. This is where things get interesting.
Have you played Fallout 4? If so, then you have experienced the intensely detailed insanely in-depth character creation offered there. While not quite as deep as Fallout 4’s character creation, Black Desert Online offering certainly comes close. You will start out with a selection of basic templates for hair, faces, etc, and then move into a screen that allows you to customize various areas of each—you can shorten or lengthen sections of hair, re-position them, and add curls for example. With faces, you can adjust the placement of parts such as the nose, chin, and eyes, while also changing their shapes and sizes. Individual portions of the face can be manipulated to give your character a wholly unique look. Of course there is the obligatory option for facial hair (on male characters of course), tattoos, and other facial modifications, along with the ability to customize the color of the eyes. Customization even continues down to the body, where you can adjust not only your character’s’ height, but also the size and shape of various body parts. In short, you can pretty much customize every aspect of your character, and it can easily eat up a decent portion of your game time. While my Warrior didn’t take long to create, I spent somewhere around one hour creating my Sorceress.
All that said, the creator does have some limitations. For example, I found that certain face settings did not allow me to adjust certain portions of the face, just as some hairstyles did not allow for length/shape customization. My Sorceress is a good example, as I was not able to really do anything with it beyond changing the color. These few limitations pale in comparison to the fact that this is an MMORPG, which generally just provide you with a (sometimes wide) variety of pre-designed faces and hairstyles.
Once your character’s physical appearance is set, you then get the fun of choosing a name. Despite the fact that each character has a unique last name, you are still restricted from using a first name that is already in use. This can become incredibly frustrating, especially if (again) you are not talented at creating names.
(Again,) this is a relatively minor gripe in light of how much work you can put into sculpting a character, but one must wonder why first names cannot be repeated when the overall name would still, ultimately, be unique.
At any rate, once you have finished your masterpiece, you will be able to launch into the game, which will begin with a poorly voice-acted cutscene. If there is one overall complaint about the game, it’s that the English voice acting is sub-par at best. There also isn’t a whole lot of story explained within the game—yes, you can go online and read the backstory of the game on the website, but within the game itself you will be scratching your head. This could have something to do with the fact that your character has, apparently, made a contract with the “Black Spirit” and lost his/her memories. That would certainly explain the lack of story, as you’re starting out just as oblivious as your character. Of course, you can learn about your surroundings and the world itself through conversations with NPCs, a nice touch that encourages interaction with the game world. That said, as someone who prefers a story-driven game, it is a bit of a setback to find that you aren’t necessarily jumping into the saddle of some deep story of heroism, but the gameplay more than makes up for this shortcoming.
To start, unlike most MMORPGS, Black Desert Online Is an action RPG. In other words, rather than tab-targeting, auto-attacking, and simply spamming your hotbar, you will take control of every combat action for your character. Speaking from the perspective of my Warrior, every slash of your sword, every skill, every block, every dodge must be manually executed using either your mouse and keyboard or,much to my pleasure, a controller. Most impressive about controller support is that pretty much any common command can be executed using the correct combination of controller buttons, from pulling up popular menus to interacting with NPCs. Essentially, you should only need to use the keyboard for typing purposes.
If there is one criticism to the combat, it’s that the early game feels far too easy. Nothing gave me a run for my money for several levels, and while that may be fairly standard for MMOs, it was still a bit discouraging. That said, once you get a little further along, you will quickly find yourself in the midst of enemies that may not prove a threat by themselves, but can quickly whittle away at your health in large groups—and the respawn rates are fairly high. While you will likely spam the same skills like you would in a traditional MMO, something just feels more satisfying about having control over each individual action of your character, not to mention being able to legitimately dodge attacks.
“But,” you may say, “what if I’m tired of MMOs just being all about combat, grinding, and completing quests?” Well, to that I say you’re in luck! True, you will have to do all of those things to level and progress the story that unfolds, but you are also given a wide variety of other tasks to take up in the game. Fishing is a popular pastime for many players, especially because you can set your character up to auto-fish, which allows for an easy way to make money while you are unable to actually be on playing the game. Black Desert Online also contains a housing system, wherein you can purchase a house. Homes are instanced, so many people could buy the same house, with your instance being unique to you, eliminating the competition for housing that makes more casual players lose out on the experience in limited-housing MMORPGS. You can set up houses for more than just living, too; workshops and storage spaces are also viable options.
Players are able to hire workers to gather, harvest, craft, and perform other skills throughout the game, allowing for the pursuit of side-jobs without necessarily requiring the boring grind that you would find in, a game like World of Warcraft. By linking resources called “nodes” within the game, players can unlock bonuses in different areas, from higher drop rates, to better market sale prices. You can build your own boat, tame your own horses (goodbye, exuberant mount prices!), breed horses…in other words, there is a ton of stuff to do in Black Desert Online , so even if you grow tired of combat, you don’t necessarily have to grow tired of the game.
Also worth noting is the fact that Black Desert Online won’t hold your hand to every little location. The progression of the “story” will take you to the major parts of the world, to be sure, but if you take the time to go off the beaten path you will find smaller farms and settlements with their own characters and quests to offer. Interacting with NPCs can also improve your relationship with those NPCs, thus unlocking new quests or rewards, and in some cases you cannot speak with an NPC until you’ve met other NPCs and/or fulfilled certain requirements. Your characters will also gain knowledge about people and areas by interacting with NPCs, as well as knowledge of items and enemies through experience, and this information will be shared among all of your characters. In other words, you won’t have to gather all of the same information over and over again on each subsequent character that you create.
The knowledge system becomes crucial in combat, because when you first engage enemies, you will not be able to see how much HP they have. While you will see an HP bar, it will not decrease until you have enough information about the enemy. You can still kill these enemies, but you will have no clue as to how close to death they are. While it doesn’t change the typical tactic of “hit it until it dies,” it does add some sense of exploration. After all, in real life you don’t learn about something without studying it. In this case, “studying” amounts to killing a certain amount of the thing you want to learn about. Not the most intuitive system, but definitely different.
While I haven’t had much experience in it myself, it is worth noting that the guild system in Black Desert Online is a lot more involved than in some other games. Instead of just being a group of people with whom you interact, the guilds in this game can complete special guild quests, claim areas, and go to war with each other. Geeks Under Grace briefly had a guild within the game, but disbanded it shortly after its formation because, as one member put it, “Being a guildmaster could legitimately be a full-time job.” For now, we have resigned ourselves to being a clan, which is another option players have if they want to bind themselves together as a common group without paying the fee to form an official guild.
In terms of negatives, one of the biggest annoyances I found when starting the game was the button guide on the UI. With an interface that already has a plethora of information, having something that showed me which buttons I was pressing was simply annoying, and it wasn’t entirely obvious as to how to turn it off (escape, edit UI, by the way). There are also the gold sellers who will clog up your general chat, but thankfully Pearl Abyss is doing their best to eliminate these types of activities from the game as much as possible. Speaking of general chat, there are, of course, the usual toxic people who make chat a frustrating experience, but profanity censoring and the ability to hide the chart entirely should help.
One of my greatest frustrations is that the many sub-systems within the game don’t seem to have any formal introductions. That could be due to the fact that my main character was created prior to the game’s official release, so it’s entirely possible that not everything was in place, but I still have no idea how to craft items through blacksmithing, how to actually put my workers to use, and a number of other things. I know I praised the game earlier for not holding my hand, but I would like at least a basic explanation of how these systems work. Now it’s possible that I haven’t reached that point in the game yet, but it would seem like something that should be explained early on so that players can get a feel for all of the game’s mechanics.
Also frustrating is the fact that all characters of a specific class will start out with the same clothing. The in-depth character creator is great here, because it’s what really gives your character a unique look. There is an in-game shop that will allow you to use real money to buy special currency, which thereby allows you to buy special outfits, but even those options are limited and you actually have to shell out your hard-earned cash to get them. Of course, as you gain armor, you’ll have the ability to distinguish your character more, and the presence of in-game dyes create more opportunities for customization, so you can distinguish your character—it just takes some work.
In sort of the same vein as that last thought, there is also a lack of differentiation in starting areas and races. Okay, technically the Ranger is an elf and the Berserker is a giant, but you encounter other races throughout the game such as dwarves and some deer-like people,, and one must wonder why players can’t create characters of those races… or why we can’t create, say, an Elven Warrior. The gender-locked classes make sense with the way the game handled them, but why can’t we choose another race? And why does everyone start out in the same town, with the same processes to get started in the game? Why couldn’t there be different starting zones, so that each class could have it’s own unique experience?
I realize that my gripes and complaints are relatively minor in comparison to the mammoth of a game that Black Desert Online is, but it would be dishonest for me to gush over everything that makes the game great and not include the things that I would like to be different, and what I can overlook may be a deal-breaker for somebody else. Overall, Black Desert Online breathes new life into the world of MMORPGs, giving those who are tired of the same old formula reason to revisit the medium.
+ Gorgeous graphics
+ Enormous map to explore
+ In-depth character creation
+ Copious amounts of side activities to pursue
+ Action RPG combat puts you right in the midst of the action
+ Instanced housing for players who want a house, but don't have time to devote to more exclusive housing systems
+ Family system keeps players from having to gather all of the same information over and over again on alternate characters
- Lack of ability to choose race
- Lack of diverse starting areas
- Could use more guidance on side jobs