Black Desert Online, weirdly enough for me, fits into that perfect niche of MMO’s that catch me from the start through foreign mechanics that aren’t well-known in the MMORPG genre, such as free-camera combat fuelled by an intuitive control scheme, a slew of early game rewards whilst also having a unique approach to character personalities typically found within the Asian subculture of video games. At the same time however, parts of it feel lost and absent. Nothing feels gelled together well enough to make you feel that you are playing a cohesive experience, but rather a selection of areas strung together.
To start off with some of its most obvious and well-known features, the graphics and presentation of this game is outstanding. Even for the time, WoW wasn’t among the prettiest games released and did downright look silly at times, not efficiently supplementing the art style that Blizzard had set for the world, especially now as that Art style has further moved on into realism over abstract cartoon-ism. It’s also expected of any MMORPG, thanks to the standard set by WoW, that the game will most likely lack an appropriate graphics engine that fully realises the world and art style that the developers want to apply to the game itself in lieu of substantial game systems that back-end the games social and interactive features.
Black Desert Online, so far, almost throws this stereotype for a loop. The graphics on display here are some of the best found in the MMO genre, and brilliantly allows the vibrant landscapes and the delicate nuances of individual character models to come to life. A goblin looks like a goblin, but subtle details such as the individualised face paint and slight wrinkles and dimples make it its own version, not too alike to other incarnations but recognisable enough for players to make a connection. The world itself is lush and vibrant, with grass rendered beautifully, trees and moss hills merging beautifully with enemy designs and perfectly surrounding them in their appropriate areas (i walked by several tree-like enemies, not realising they where a quest objective until a ‘tree’ suspiciously started moving). Everything feels perfectly fantasy-like in a way that only Asian culture could excel at delivering, and it thoroughly impresses. Another feature that i believe initially caught the attention of gaming media a few years ago, is the extensive character customisation screen. Although it is disappointingly slider based, there are still LOTS of sliders. Variables that affect hair shine,curls, the curls of curls, dyed roots or dyed ends, nose or eye shape etc. you can expect the features of every substantial character creation system to exist, and then much more. This is easily the most I’ve spent on any customisation screen, including Fallout 4’s impressive moulding system.
The combat loop of the game initially impresses, with the combat system presenting itself as a sub-western RPG game akin to Skyrim or Witcher, with responsive mouse clicks and combinations resulting in a similar feel, rather than the typical MMORPG standard of allowing hot keys and spell combinations to do your damage. I primarily played as the Warrior class, and the appropriate weight and heftiness of all my swings and thrusts came with it. I felt every impact, even with the basic Slash. Variations of your sword attacks can be pulled off with various combos, such as moving Left/Right and attacking, which will result in a side swipe attack, or holding LMB/RMB together to do a wide AOE heavy attack. You can even kick in this game, and anyone living through the likes of Postal 2 or Duke Nukem 3D knows how satisfying it is to kick an enemy. This game is no different, and I’ve definitely satisfied by wolf kicking fetishes for now.
All this is still supplemented by a very frequent reward stream, but only in the right circumstances. I played on both a Bonus XP server and a normal server, and within the 1st hour of the former, i was on level 18. The latter took me around 2 hours to reach the same, but within the latter i accomplished more quests to gain the same progression. I find it can be very much down to the player’s preference, as the Bonus XP server didn’t feel like it was handing my progression on a silver plate topped with caviar. I’ve managed to log-in to this server several times over several days so i would be inclined to believe that the bonus will be around for a while, especially given that the game is still in Beta stage at the moment.
What needs to be said however, disappointingly as a fact, is how lifeless the game can feel. There is a huge abundance of enemies and NPC’s in the game; fields upon fields of Beetles and Imps will be found as soon as you spawn. However, none will attack you on sight or proximity and simple rely on you taking the first swing. Even so, you will most often deliver swift death to these enemies long before they even have a chance to strike back, making the initial hours of the game incredibly easy. It almost feels like your playing on pseudo God-Mode. It’s a situation where i would much more appreciate a impactful approach to encounters; having a few enemies around but who react to your presence with malicious intent, rather than what feels like ticking off rows and rows of check boxes as you plough through fields of enemies at a time. NPC’s also have little interaction other than the ones that the developers intended you to talk to, and that’s usually through a stream of 1 or 2 quests, and then they can be forgotten with ease. You wont feel any long-standing connections, other than possibly the Black Spirit who starts you off at the beginning of the game. Luckily, this spirit has a whimsical humour to it, often like someone grown up in Asian culture desperately trying to relate to Western humour, often to hilarious results.
As i mentioned before, the game is currently in a form of Beta/going through an update of sorts. Beginning February 16th, the CBT2 beta begins which i will be amongst the first to download and play. Regarding what might be different and what might change substantially, i am not aware of just yet. If the game gets a massive overhaul of any systems or mechanics that i believe will impact the experience and quality of the game massively, for better or for worse, then i will promptly update the review as required. As the game stands though, it is an excellent RPG. One of the only MMORPG’s that has retained my attention for several days straight as a matter of fact. Careful thought has gone into keeping the attention of the western audience, within a game that in itself, was developed within Asian Subculture and contains many tropes that respective fans will instantly pick up on. The combat feels right at home, the world is beautiful, and although some design issues exist in enemy interaction and the overall pacing of progression, i am excited to see how much further the game will go.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary PC code was provided to Brash Games for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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