Available on PC
We played on PC (Beta)
The new Korean MMORPG Black Desert takes the kinetic action-based combat of Assassin’s Creed, the open world freedom of Skyrim, and a community of thousands of players, and combines these elements in what many are calling the first in a generation of new MMOs. It’s tough to foretell how far this MMO will go, but it has sparked plenty of well-deserved interest.
Many of the innovations in Black Desert are refinements of familiar features in the MMO genre. It’s a high fantasy setting with established quest chains to help you learn the game and escort you through the world. As players venture from town to town, they have tasks to go out and smash a certain number of some local monster. The tasks range from the familiar— fending off encroaching imps—to the somewhat bizarre, like attacking bees.
I disliked attacking the bees in particular since the quest suggests that the farmers don’t like the bees. Bees are great! They’re especially helpful to farmers!
Change of Pace
The crafting and gathering reminded me a little bit of ye olde Ultima Online. Lumber can be harvested from most of the trees. You mine from cliffs or within caves. As in older games, gathering and crafting can take quite a bit of time in Black Desert. You have to be in the right state of mind to do your adventurer’s day job, but thankfully there is often some monster you can defeat in style while you go about your work.
The game has an interesting mix of features that make it both more difficult and easier than some MMOs you may be familiar with. For example, the game allows you to select a quest and then have your character automatically run there. Even though you still have to watch your character jog to their quest, it lets you soak in more of the gorgeous scenery instead of worrying if you’re going in the right direction.
On the other hand, if you want to pick up the pace and ride somewhere, your horse doesn’t live in your bag or off screen. If you want to ride one, you have to actually go out and tame a horse. After that you have to stable your ride in towns. If you want to go somewhere more remote on your mount, you have to tie it somewhere to keep it safe. I sometimes even had trouble remembering where I left my poor donkey. This is great for immersion, but not great for my nerves as I constantly worried I would lose my reliable steed, Donk. Overall though, I appreciated the touch.
The combat is easy to do, but difficult to master. Instead of attacks being standard swings hitting whomever you have targeted, they depend on your movements and selecting the right mouse or keyboard button. It takes some getting used to, but I found that after a couple of days I was starting to get the hang of things.
The monsters are pretty forgiving early in Black Desert, and the game will display for you a list of options to create combos as you fight. Combat is so fast that it isn’t always easy to play these movements out, but you eventually figure out some things that work for you. The fight animation in this game is by far the best I have ever seen in an MMORPG. I’ll admit that I eventually just based my attack patterns on what I wanted to see my character do—whether it was a series of flying kicks, picking up an enemy and throwing them, or tossing them into the air with an upward swing of my sword.
Speaking of the graphics, another feature that should be familiar to World of Warcraft players is the lack of loading screens. The world is beautifully rendered as one large continuous changing landscape. There is a dynamic night and day cycle and weather patterns that actually impact what you see around you.
Once I was caught in a rainstorm that darkened the sky and filled the street with puddles. After the storm I enjoyed a bright sunny day with a little water still visible on the pavement. Even navigating the environment is made more realistic with characters performing Assassin’s Creed-style parkour to navigate over obstacles rather than awkwardly jumping with the same animation each time.
For me, Black Desert managed to create a world with a great focus on immersion. The world is realistic enough to make it feel solid and tangible. The high fantasy elements are familiar, and, while the characters are sometimes a little trite, their art is fascinatingly done. The combat feels epic, as if the player were in a martial arts movie. Your character can zip around at lighting speed performing flashy attacks while her opponents fly about like rag dolls.
Black Desert is rated PEGI 16, and so far has only been released in North America and Europe.
I did not manage get through every single quest in the game during beta testing, but the language and themes were overall fairly tame. I did notice some disappointing conversation text worth discussing with young players, but this was pretty minimal. A furniture vendor said something about women only caring about pretty furniture, and some non-player characters hit on my female character. The humans also owned some of the goblins, which made me uncomfortable.
Don’t own goblins, humans. They’re intelligent. That’s creepy and wrong and it’s called slavery.
Aside from the occasional eye-roll-inducing conversations, Black Desert is a great open world to check out and explore. Hopefully, after launch I’ll find the quest to help the goblins revolt and destroy their evil human overlords.