Black Desert Online

TLDR; I’m enjoying Black Desert Online, and I think it’s worth $30. If you like crafting, it’s well worth $30. It’s not your grandfather’s MMORPG, though, and it takes some time to get used to it.

I mentioned on Twitter that I didn’t understand why people were drawn to The Division, and it occurred to me that I should explain why I’m drawn to Black Desert Online, in case anyone is looking at the BDO hype and scratching their heads.

It’s not the combat or the classes, and it’s not the leveling experience or the questing or the story. I consider those parts fairly average for an MMORPG. (Although I’ve grown to find myself weirdly interested in what the deal is with that Black Spirit.)

No, it’s the gathering and crafting and by extension the trading systems where this game excels.

This is where BDO shines.
This is what Black Desert Online does best.

But even more than that, what impresses me most about BDO is the way they’ve managed to bring something brand new into the MMORPG genre. This game is really a mashup of an RPG and a city-builder game. Once you press ‘M’ to open the map, you’ve transitioned to a completely different, Civ-like game. The way you hire and assign workers to build up your production empire reminds me a lot of Banished, which I loved. That’s the main thing that excites me about Black Desert right now.

That, and the fact that you can spend 50 hours playing and barely use any class abilities or fight any monsters.

I had the same sort of reaction to the trading in ArcheAge, which is undoubtedly coloring my BDO experience. In the first few months it was all very exciting to have the ability to build a farm and grow things and make trade packs and sell them in distant lands by riding a donkey across the dusty roads of the world. Those are things you don’t usually get to do in an MMORPG. Now it’s been ramped up and improved in Black Desert.

I’ll admit that newness is usually what attracts me to a game. Something I’ve never done before, or something done better than what’s come before it. I know there’s a lot of MMORPG nostalgia flying around the blogosphere right now, but from my own perspective, any time a new game comes out with a new or better mechanic in it, it’s cause for celebration. And BDO has a lot of new ideas in it. (Some of which are terrible, but that’s another story.)

Another thing that attracts me is the complexity of the game itself. I think it’s because I’m one of those weird people who actually enjoys figuring out complicated things, so I’ve loved experimenting with clicking on all of the buttons and reading all the descriptions and studying the crafting manuals and figuring out which things are beneficial and which things aren’t. (Sometimes it’s hard due to translation issues though… like a description will say something restores Energy but it means it restores Stamina.) It’s like I’m “leveling up” my own brain as I play. I’ve gone so far as to turn off all the chat functions so I wouldn’t see anyone answering questions, and I’ve avoided all but a few Google searches so far.

The launch itself was very smooth for me. (But then I didn’t have any pre-order items, which I understand a lot of people had trouble claiming.) I haven’t experienced any launch queues or lag. I haven’t seen a single gold spam. I also haven’t seen any botting behavior, but then a lot of automatic behaviors are built right into the game (AFK fishing, auto-running, etc.). It’s an interesting strategy to combat bots by building the botting behavior right in. :)

So that’s why I like Black Desert. It’s well worth the $30, in my opinion. I’ve already gotten my money’s worth and it’s only been a few days.

As with all MMORPGs, though, the question is will I still be playing a month from now? Will there be any future updates to this game? Will Daum fix any of the terrible translations? Will Pearl Abyss expand on the classes? Will there be anything to do once I’ve amassed a personal fortune from hauling crates of potatoes around? Will the game turn into a total unplayable gank-fest after PvP kicks in? Who knows?

Of course, what would a post about an MMORPG be without some complaints?

I was reminded of this after listening to @Syp on the MassivelyOP podcast: The first couple of hours of playing Black Desert Online is like being dropped into the middle of a bad dream or somebody’s acid trip. It’s got possibly the worst new player experience I’ve ever seen in an MMORPG. The opening cinematic makes no sense. The first NPCs speak in disjointed, poorly translated English, and sometimes they talk over top of each other. The NPCs say one thing verbally while the text says something completely different. Windows pop up all over the screen, covering each other, obscuring important text. It’s a bit like pop-up ads back in the 90s. It’s the worst. You just have to embrace the weirdness or power through it. I didn’t really start to “get” the game until a good five hours into it.

I initially had a lot of trouble with clutter on the screen. The “Simplify UI” setting helped a little bit, but it doesn’t do as much as I might like. For a while I turned off other players’ names. Eventually I think I just got used to the clutter. It needs a lot more settings to let you customize player nameplates.

My biggest complaint and disappointment about BDO by far is the complete lack of variety among player appearances. I mean, this game has the most amazingly detailed character creator ever seen, but unless you zoom way into people’s faces to examine their eyelashes, everyone looks identical. One sorceress might have white hair and another might have purple hair, but they’re all the same from the neck down. (Hair color choices are pretty weird, too, there’s very few “normal” choices.) The only variations in the costumes are a choice between Free Outfit and Cash Shop Outfit.

This point was hammered home for me when I saw Murphy’s tweet of his wizard’s face and I did a double-take. He looked exactly like my wizard!

Okay, maybe not exactly like mine, but it was close enough for me to blink.

I don't wear the hat in-game. It's the only thing that makes me look different from other Wizards.
I don’t wear the hat in-game. Wizard hats are dumb. :)

And I spent a lot of time giving my guy a broken nose and a weird-looking eye. Pointlessly, it turns out. The only thing you can do to make your wizard look different from other wizards is to disable the hat display. (Which I did. But now everyone can see my weirdly extended, apparently double-jointed neck.)

Wizard On Horse

BDO wreaks havok on my time-tracking software, though. It’s going to say I’m playing 24/7 because you have to keep it running all the time. :)

2 thoughts on “Black Desert Online”

  1. I DO hope they fix the localization issues although believe me, we’re lucky with the English translation compared to German! x) If the game can prosper and makes enough money, I hope they will gradually fix some of that. It is a truly bewildering starter experience but as I also commented at Bhagpuss’ today, everything gets easier as your character grows. It’s kinda interesting that way because most MMOs only get hard at endgame.
    The non-combat content is why I’m even playing – that end the amazing world. Not sure I’ll even touch PvP, we’ll see. It will take a while just grasping all the crafting and trading as I don’t usually do this in MMOs. If it has longterm appeal that way is very hard to say, this game doesnt rely on coop or endgame raiding like others, so it really depends on how often PA deliver updates. And there’s already several lined up with new regions.

  2. I agree it’s definitely worth the $30 admission fee. It’s an attractive world (although the more I see of it the more samey it gets, which is a problem with realism) and there’s a lot of things to do and see.

    You are spot on with the RTS/City Building comparisons. That’s my main problem with the whole thing. I have never understood the attraction of either of those genres. Far from finding them entertaining I have always seen them as a complete waste of time. At the moment I am enjoying learning how those systems work but that’s a matter of satisfying intellectual curiosity. Once learned, I cannot imagine coming home from work night after night, sitting down and using those processes to entertain myself. I’d rather spend the evening cleaning and tidying the house – at least I’d have a tidy house at the end of it!

    If you remove those aspects you have what looks like a fairly limited crafting offer and a very poor PvE combat offer leading up to some kind of non-consensual PvP offer. That’s really not a very attractive package long-term so I can’t imagine hanging around for months, let alone years. I actually preferred ArcheAge in terms of gameplay, although the world wasn’t as impressive and the points system for getting anything done was a lot worse.

    Still, it’s a nice addition to the MMORPG genre and while it doesn’t really suit me very well I think it will find a sizable audience. As it’s a B2P title it will be nice to be able to drop in and out whenever something interesting happens. I’m happy I bought it. On balance, though, i think I was having more fun in Blade and Soul and that’s completely free.

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