Black Desert Online launched on March 3rd, 2016. It was developed by Pearl Abyss and originally launched in Korea in 2014. It was published by Daum Games for North America and Europe. It uses the buy-to-play model, and sells in-game cosmetic upgrades and costumes.
BDO was a title I was immensely excited for, and once again went and purchased a top tier founders package that granted me a three day head start. In anticipation of launch, I had joined a guild that I knew would be making a concentrated effort at being the best on the server. I already reflected upon the character creation in another post on the site which can be found here, so I’ll dive straight into the gameplay. I will however reiterate one unique aspect of BDO. Classes are gender locked.
First and foremost, no MMO comes close to the graphics and beauty of this world. The detail on the avatars, the lighting and shading. It’s simply amazing, and likewise requires a high-end computer to manage the load. The storyline of the game has you dealing with a mysterious black spirit who seems linked to your soul in some way. Honestly, I didn’t follow the story all that well for two reasons. Firstly, it’s not that interesting. Secondly, I was in a very hardcore guild, and didn’t have the luxury of taking my time. But mainly, it wasn’t that interesting.
These “Black Spirit Quests” guide you from area to area, unlocking new powers along the way while guiding you to areas that have their own quests. Which brings us to our second unique aspect. Quests don’t grant XP. Yup, you heard me right. Instead quests give items, money, Contribution Points, and Combat Points. We all know what items and money do, but it’s the contribution Points and Combat Points that bring us to the third unique aspect, progression.
Combat Points are more straightforward, so we’ll start there. You earn combat points and use them to level up certain skills. You don’t have enough to develop all skills, so you have to pick and choose based on your play style (which matters due to this being action based combat). Contribution Points allow you to purchase housing, activate nodes, and probably a few other things. Honestly I didn’t delve too much into this, but they are crucial for a full experience as housing also serves as crafting stations, and you have to rely on workers to gather and craft materials. If you want to build a trading empire, you absolutely must rely on this. Combat points are based on individual character, however Contribution points are available among all your characters, and all of their quests contribute to that total.
So with that out of the way, let’s move on to the game play and combat. This is where the game goes from a great shining example of an MMO to blinding light. The combat is fast, fluid, reactionary, and simply amazing. You can take on scores of enemies or a single one and actually enjoy it. Since you gain no XP through quests, this means you HAVE to grind. The good news is, you will ENJOY it. Initially you are unable to track the health of mobs, and simply have to go off their health bar changing colors. The more you fight them, the more you “learn” about them, and eventually you are able to see their health drop appropriately. This adds a refreshing dynamic to battling new enemies. Your range of skills is also rather diverse, and you can activate them and combos using your keys in a certain combination, so you don’t have to rely on pressing quick keys. The game actually doesn’t have a max level, though it becomes exponentially more difficult to increase your level once you hit the “soft cap”. At launch this was level 50. Level 55 could be obtained through countless hours grinding to those most dedicated, but to go beyond that would be futile.
To coincide with level, we of course have to talk about gear. Gear is extremely straight forward in BDO. Counting the expansion that released a month after the game launched, there may have only been a dozen or so sets of gear. These would be available on drops from mobs, or easily picked up in the auction house. The weapons were a bit more involved as you had to gain reputation with the vendor through a mini-game. Or, pay a bit extra to pick them up on the auction house as well. Note: Several Expansions have launched since my playtime, and now Bosses drop unique gear, so it could be a bit more in-depth. This made the gear system feel a bit akin to Lineage 2, were there were only a few sets that any class could wear, but the perks only benefited certain classes. The more involved aspect of gear is enchanting it. This is done with weapon and armor stones that you get for completing quests, and can be obtained as drops. Enchanting armor is safe to +5, weapons to +7. If you fail enchanting beyond this, you lose durability in your armor that can only be restored by combining it with another of the same type. The higher the enchant level, the greater chance it will fail. Every time you fail, your chances for success on your NEXT enchant go up. This creates a whole system of strategy in regard to enchanting your gear, as most people shoot for +15.
Speaking of auction houses, they are based on cities, and only that city. When you list items, they can only be viewed in that city, and when the item sells, the money can only be obtained in that city. So you gotta know the markets and take a walk if you want to collect. The same goes for your warehouse. No more “magical” warehouses that you can access all of your stuff even while on a different planet. If you want it, you have to go get it. There is also no quick travel in this game. If you want to get somewhere, you have to go by foot or mount (which are horses, which can level up, be tamed, and bred!). This might sound dreadful, especially once you learn that going across the map can take 20 minutes or more. However, BDO has yet another unique aspect. You can “auto-travel”. Simply right click your destination on the world map, hit T, and you’re character will automatically start running to that location! For the most part this was great, as you could just go off an do other things, like when on a flight path in World of Warcraft. It also kept player’s avatars active in the world… meaning they were still vulnerable to being killed.
PVP Is another big factor of BDO. The combat is intense and designed from the ground up to accommodate this. Castle sieges and node (resource) points only launched yesterday, but guilds had been preparing for them for months via PVP arenas and guild wars. The guild I was in held weekly practices in preparations for large scale battles. They also held training sessions for the individual classes as well.
And this is where we get more into my experience with the game. I had a bad time. Though no fault of the game. I was in a hardcore guild with great ambitions that instantly jumped to the top of the server ranks (Oh yeah, by the way, the server ranks not only guilds, but professions, and tons of other measurements such as wealth in active leader boards). Many of them played nearly non-stop. I was trying my best and was keeping pace, but it was eating up every spare minute I had. Between a full time job, graduate coursework, and enjoying the outdoors, I had a very busy schedule, and this guild made this game too demanding. I formally withdrew from the guild after a month. I then started another character and progressed at an easier pace, actually paying attention to the story this time (it still wasn’t interesting). Having a higher level character, I could simply buy and enchant all my lower character’s gear (there are no level requirements for gear). This made my character virtually untouchable, which was fun, alas I never progressed very far. This game’s farming system wasn’t as fun as ArcheAge, and the game actually prevented players from trading!!! This was done to combat gold sellers, and hurt player interactions a bit. However, the amount of grinding had me for the first time in years messaging other players, asking random people to team up. I was over joyed to have to resort to this, a tactic long missed with games that make it too easy to solo everything.
The player housing was also interesting. Players could buy homes in cities. Much like the “housing” feature in Final Fantasy 14 (in which you owned a room), you simply selected to enter yours or another at the door, and then it would open and feature that selected players contents within the home. A fair compromise to a system life Rift that has it all instanced, and a system that ArcheAge that has it open world, yet obviously limited land available. You could also buy homes in remote hamlets and there were even random tree forts.
I will even go so far to admit that the player housing was a better feature than ArcheAge’s version, however, ArcheAge had better player interaction I do believe. The limited trade system between players was a huge disappointment. In ArcheAge I could run along alone, farming, and then selling my goods to players directly OR through the auction house, and then go home and feel accomplished. In BDO, I felt alone in this regard, as I could only deal with NPCs. The only time I needed other players was when I was doing PVE or PvP, which again was nice, but I wanted a bit more… Which is odd, because BDO’s biggest weakness is the sheer volume of activities you can do! I mentioned things in passing like horse taming, and completely omitted things like Fishing, alchemy, crafting, trade runs, and much more. It’s a bit overwhelming, and can make it difficult to find what actually is the most fun for you. For me I thought it would be PvP, but even that proved to be a challenge as the intensity takes some real practice and people are very serious about it. I was never very good at fighting games sadly. I do however much prefer combat that relies on skill and reacting to your opponent, so I hope it was just a matter of inexperience. As I said when it came to PvE, it was simply fantastic.
Since my time playing BDO, several expansions have launched for free, adding several new classes as well. Writing this article has gotten me a bit excited, and a new expansion and Ninja class launch on July 20th, so I may just dive back in and check it out a bit. All in all though, I highly recommend giving BDO a try. With a group of 2 to 3 friends, it would be an absolute blast as you all get lost in the combat. If you’ve played TERA and enjoyed it, you will find BDO far superior.