I rarely get wrapped up in MMORPGs, and I’ve only dabbled in the major IPs, but Black Desert had me rethinking my decision. I mean, Fallout 4 is taking up a lot of my time recently, and I don’t see how it’s any different than those dreaded ‘time-drains’ like World of Warcraft or Star Wars Galaxies. I think my biggest hurdle is that these AAA titles usually get mediocre review scores, and my taste isn’t as refined as it should be. However, I do know fun- and in the short time I had with Black Desert, there were moments where I got it.
Developed by Pearl Abyss, the world of Black Desert is comprised of four regions; Balenos, Calpheon, Serendia, and Media. While the land was once peaceful, a great disease called ‘The Black Death’ ravaged the land, coming from the outside land of Valencia. The four nations joined forced, thinking the disease was intended, despite Valencian deaths. In the midst of the battle, the various regions began to turn on one another when they discovered that Media was lining its pockets with a material called The Black Stones.
In the game, you play as one of six diverse classes- a warrior, ranger, sorcerer, berserker, tamer and wizard. All featuring unique styles and abilities, I decided to go with the Tamer class for their speed and ability to spawn dark creatures to fight alongside me. I went with a girl who looked like she got lost along the way to a volleyball match with Kasumi. As the game started, I was overcome by a darkness- one that guides you to the next adventure, all while it slowly grows through your actions. It required a little bit of reading for me to get that- as the game just kind of throws all of this at you, and hopes you give it enough time to absorb.
The first thing that any gamer should notice is how stunning the graphics are. The character models go for a feel of photorealism, and nearly hits perfection with the main characters but supporting models fall a little short, sometimes skimming the cliffs of the uncanny valley. Locations are vast and provide a large scope for travelers to take in, but that beauty pushed my rig to the point where graphical pop-ins happened long after I approached the model. I must admit though; it’s hard not to push the limits with something so pretty.
When you do roll into town, you’ll find a lot of different opportunities for you to explore. There’s houses to buy, horses to manage and shops to visit. While the game has the prices set pretty high from the start, I was able to get a fair amount of money by fishing and selling my wares. While the game reeks of the aura of distant paywalls, I found that obtaining something could easily be achieved in an afternoon of grinding with a friend or two. Starting with nothing and building your character up can either be daunting or rewarding- and Black Desert sides more on the rewarding end, without just giving everything away.
While I enjoy the comradery I found in the game; the story felt unfleshed out, and missions usually consist of running from one location to another. The game does make it easy, by having an autopilot system that allows you to set a location and wait for your character to arrive- but sadly it doesn’t change the fact that the story feels like a constant fetch quest. These meaningless quests are broken up by your shadowy ‘friend’, who feeds off of your destructive power. Whispering in your ear, it’ll give you consistently more difficult targets as it slowly grows into what I can only assume a beastly monster. This aspect is interesting and left me wanting to see it grow, even if I know it’s the manifestation of my character’s darkest side.
My favorite moments, however, wasn’t the random battles or bringing a note to someone in a different town- but in the quiet moments in the game where I got to sit back and take in the beautiful surroundings. As I saw a boat sail out of the harbor, I found myself wanting a ship of my own. I was Scarface washing dishes, looking out over the whole of Miami. The world was mine for the taking. Then, a fish struck my line as I stood fishing off a crowded pier with my fellow noobs. That jealousness washed over me, and I found a nice peace with the character I was- and questioned why they didn’t have fishing in Fallout 4. Honestly, I know I shouldn’t enjoy it that much, given it’s like a day’s worth of coding and it just drains time- but providing a place to have some in-game introspection is very appreciated.
While I had fun with the game’s beta, there are some problems that I still can’t get over. The constant grinding is frustrating for me, and attacking a group of animals that weren’t bothering anyone is, in a word- dickish. I’m also not a huge fan of how meaningless the towns feel. Sure, there’s buildings and a bunch of NPCs with random quests, but I’ve never been in an MMORPGs town that didn’t feel like a city of lifeless androids. These games rely too heavily on the users to provide the personality, but if you’re anti-social like me, it makes these experiences feel like a world filled by Johnny Cabs.
Overall, I enjoyed my time with Black Desert, and I must say- despite some users being upset with the game’s changes to accommodate accessibility for gamers like me- I found myself getting into it. With that said, I know many die hard fans will hate me for confirming an easier entry. Before the developer was forced to take a more middle of the road approach, they had non-attacking classes, unlimited PVP (now you have to reach level 50), and trade among players. Guild wars were removed, and more complicated aspects were ‘streamlined.’ Everything has been changed to accommodate a growing mobile market, something that many early adopters feel is the wrong direction for a game that worked wonderfully before the publishers got their hands on it.
It’s hard for me to judge those changes, as I just walked in the door. I will confess, I started to embrace the world and the players within in the game. I found myself wanting that house in Media, that gray steed and the boat I could take along the coast. Sadly, the game’s lack of quality missions makes these rewards too far a stretch for me to invest my time into. While I may step back into this experience in the future, there seems to be a sense of pandering in the game that I can’t quite shake- and perhaps it’s my lack of experience that they’re playing into. There has to be a balance; hopefully, they find it before the game launches at the beginning of next year.