First up is our disclaimer. We received this game for review purposes only, and as such all opinions in this review are our own. No money has been exchanged for this review.
Black Desert Online (BDO), that Korean massive multiplayer online (MMO) game that became hugely popular because of its character editor. You can make pretty much any celebrity or make the ugliest human in all of existence, or both.
Well the game finally came to Europe and North America, due to its popularity, and as such we got involved! So involved in fact, that we’ve been part of its alpha testing, its beta testing and its second wave of beta testing. Honestly, I must say it’s been great! That isn’t to say there weren’t a fair share of issues, many of which were due to its poorly planned launch.
I was lucky enough upon official release to be granted press access, which allowed me to start 96 hours before the official launch. The servers ran smoothly, everything was fine and I even made the top 30 list of the best fishers in the game, just as I did in the second closed beta.
But the game’s biggest issue so far started at official launch: overloaded servers. It has gotten to a point where even playing is almost impossible for us, due to the lag. Since the combat system relies a lot on having a strong connection, it’s become a serious issue. I am speaking for the European (EU) region in this case, since that’s where I am based.
In the North American (NA) launch, characters were being placed into the wrong servers and separated from their friends and colleges. The company offered very little in terms of compensation in regards to fixing that issue. I personally wish that our press copy allowed full use of the cash shop items (other than the hawk). Due to network issues we never got to fully utilize it, although that’s peanuts compared to the other issues the game faced.
The game has been out almost a week at this point, and like in the closed beta tests I have been able to push my character further than a lot of other players and I have gotten to explore almost 25% of the entire world map. I’ve also played through much of the primary story, which I strongly think is lacking in terms of dialog. I don’t have anything to make me feel attached or drawn to the characters. As I watch the story unfold…and it comes off as a shallow design…the only thing that is generally interesting is the Black Spirit, who is essentially tied to your character. I absolutely fell in love with narrative companion, as did my wife. Otherwise, the story simply relates a fight between two nations, with one guy being evil for the sake of being evil so he can overthrow the other.
Other issues that came out upon launch were bugged skill-trees and incomplete mission/quest lines. You would think that after all the alpha and beta testing they would have ironed out these issues, yet they are still there. Most companies give players more than a week for a closed beta, especially for a massively multiplayer online (MMO) game.
There just wasn’t enough time to get people to help find these serious issues. But that’s enough about that. Like I said, I’ve been enjoying the overall experience. Thanks to my time in the closed beta and alpha tests, I was able to start the game with a slight advantage, with knowledge of how “nodes” work, as well as quick ways to level up. Hell, I would even say that playing Legend of Zelda helped me a lot in this game, as it forces the player to dodge attacks while fighting enemies of various types and sizes.
The game’s combat method is what drew me in and what made me fall in love, not its incredible character designing capabilities. The fact is that the player must be actively involved, and because of this it really begins to boil down to skill in “player vs. environment” (PvE), dodging enemy attacks and formulating plans based on opponents’ combat style; much as in the Legend of Zelda franchise. This feature is a great way to show the world that there could be room some day for a Legend of Zelda styled MMO.
At first, during alpha testing, I had no clue at all how “nodes” worked. It was thanks to YouTubers who played the Korean version of the game that I was able to finally understand the system. Now that I grasp the concept, I love it. Basically, here’s how it works: Upon completion, certain quests and activities reward players with “contribution points“. You can then invest these points into farms, towns, building projects and much more. It’s essentially a reward for being a great adventurer, and it pays off. With these points you can buy homes in towns or farms to harvest materials for you. Early on, I invested my points into a small residence located in the starting town. From there I hired a whole army of workers. Workers require food and lodging to stay in your employ, so take care of them!
My workers continued to pick potatoes for me, and went on to craft a small raft. I could take the raft out to the sea and catch fish. The fishing earned money with which to purchase high-end equipment. So while other players were struggling, I had a solid plan and am progressing easily into “late-game” activity. Other benefits of playing this way include the capability of upgrading my equipment to ungodly levels, and that I don’t have to do a thing (apart from using Black Stone Armor and Weapons) to further my equipment even more.
The marketplace in BDO is one of the best concepts I’ve seen in regards to an online auction house. In games such as Diablo and World of Warcraft, players have control over just how much a item will cost. But in BDO there are set prices; players cannot alter them. However, when there is more of a certain item in the auction house, its cost begins to drop in an effort to reduce overstock. I find this absolutely amazing and I honestly hope someone puts up a “Liverto Sword” soon, because I really want one!
The character skills in the game also stand out for me. They draw inspiration from Runescape, where a player starts off with basic skills that are refined over time. The skills also decrease the difficulty of getting certain items, and offer tremendous flexibility of play style. Some equipment however, is limited to higher ranked players. This includes the coveted fishing rod. But for the most part, if you want to go mining for quality material, nothing is stopping you. The same is true with fish, once you’re qualified to cast a rod.
Speaking of fishing, this activity has become all the rage. It can be quite a chore however, so the game designers have added a mechanic to allow “AFK fishing”. You can literally walk away from your computer while your character stands at the water’s edge, collecting fish for you. Return home from a day at school or the office to an inventory full of delicious seafood, which you can sell for a decent price and raise your “trading level” in the process; a double win!
One issue I do have with the game’s mechanics is how a player can raise their stats. There are three (3) primary stats: health, strength and breathing.
Breathing allows the player to swim longer underwater and also increases the stamina used in battle for dodging enemy attacks. Strength increases the players load capabilities. Health is pretty self-explanatory, and is equivalent to “hit points” found in other role playing games (RPG).
Health is one of the more annoying stats to level up, as to do so you must eat meals that you can cook in your house. But to further your health you need to do this every half-hour. The game even has the balls to give you an item that increases the experience (EXP) gained for health by eating for an hour straight. But when you think about how utterly useless that item is, you begin to ask “How dumb do they think we are?” If you can only eat every half-hour, essentially you have a single item that only benefits you twice per use. Furthermore, the buff you get from it isn’t even that good, as it only grants a 10% EXP hike.
Strength can be raised by buying an item from a trader and walking with a pack of materials around roads, streets or even through towns. Now in the Korean version of the game, you could make your character walk on automated routes and “AFK level” this stat. However this cannot be done in the EU and NA regions, which means you have to dedicate 50 total hours to walking. By itself this may not sound so bad. Unfortunately, roads are riddled with thieves who will attack and kill you for your goods. This obviously renders AFK travel somewhat unreliable!
Breathing can be raised simply by walking around and running fast. By all accounts this is the easiest stat to raise; you’ll be running around an awful lot. Hell, at this moment my breathing is at Level 21 and I believe the cap for it is 30. I’m pretty much almost there.
Anyway, to summarize: despite its issues, BDO’s pros heavily outweigh its cons and I’m still absolutely loving the game. As a rule I don’t like investing items into in-game cash shops. For once I might assume I’ll be out of poverty some day! Do I recommend buying this game and playing it? If you want a game that’s different from all the rest, I totally do!