Title: Black Desert
Developer: Pearl Abyss
Release Date: March 4, 2019
Reviewed On: Xbox One
Publisher: Pearl Abyss
I am no stranger when it comes to MMORPGs, the genre as a whole is something that I have a great liking to. So when Black Desert Online was first announced for the PC, I was impressed with its almost second life approach to the MMORPG genre. However, I never got the chance to play the game, that is, until recently when I had the chance to pick up the game on Xbox One, which launched as Black Desert.
While this new version of the game has just as large of a list of activities for the player to do in its sandbox-oriented world, I ultimately found that it had too much going on at once with not enough organization to make it flow as well as I would have liked. This approach to MMORPG isn’t new to fans of the genre as it touches on some ideas of other popular titles, but it’s the game’s unique features that will either hold your attention for hours on end or leave you feeling overwhelmed with options.
Black Desert is an MMORPG which focuses on a sandbox-oriented experience that allows you to “Become Your True Self.” Similar to games like Mabinogi, you can forge your own path and play the game how you want to play it whether it be focusing on fighting in PvP or PvE, or leisurely spending time crafting, horse breeding, home decorating, and other activities that I’d never expected to be doing in a game, but then here I am playing Black Desert and five hours have gone by and I’m still fishing. The sheer number of things you can do in the game is overwhelming, which ends up being the best and worst thing about Black Desert.
Character creation in Black Desert has a lot of depth and offers many creative options to choose from when making your avatar — or let’s be serious, waifu. Players have the option to manipulate not only hairstyle but its length, intensity of the waves, as well as the colors of various portions of the hair. You can also change the size and shape of almost every portion of the characters face and body such as the cheekbones, nose, thighs, shins, and more. All of these options can be a little confusing at first glance, but Black Desert also provides a solution to this by allowing players to copy characters made by other players and tweak from there. Not many MMORPGs can boast the same offerings when it comes to character creation, and it is definitely one of the many cool features that this game offers.
Combat is another strong highlight of Black Desert and is probably the part of the game that I enjoyed the most. Instead of the typical hotbar skills that you see in most MMORPGs, Black Desert features a more action-oriented form of combat that is similar to a fighting game or beat em up. There are numerous skills that you can learn and each has their own button combinations that are required to execute the skill. This makes for fast paced high action combat that really felt satisfying to get into.
Memorizing the button inputs for skills and executing them perfectly felt very rewarding and it added a lot to my immersion with the combat. There were also some neat features relating to combat such as having to learn about enemy types by defeating them. While enemies have health bars over their heads, players will be unable to see how much damage they are doing to the enemy until they have defeated a decent number of that enemy type. This made combat more exciting for me when battling new enemies since I was unsure how careful I should be when approaching them.
Black Desert also offers numerous activities outside of combat which I found added a lot to the second life approach the game takes. Players can do things such as establish trade routes between villages to passively gather resources. The game even offers players the option to buy homes and decorate them with furniture and a mechanic where you can buy, breed, and sell horses for those who want to be equestrian entrepreneurs.
However, the feature that I found the most interesting was the way the game approaches NPC interaction. When entering a new town, the minimap shows all the NPCs as question marks and you have to interact with each one to find out what they do. In doing so, the player gains “knowledge” of the NPC’s and can use that knowledge when interacting with other NPCs to build affinity with them. I found this sense of discovery to be a fun way to add the “Role Play” nature of genre back into the MMORPG name.
With that said, Role Playing seems to be the name of the game when it comes to Black Desert, and this can be both a good and a bad thing. On the one hand, I enjoyed the little touches to the game that made it feel like I was exploring this world as my character and making discoveries along the way. However, the game leaves too much unexplained and up to the player to figure out themselves which makes for a very daunting experience when starting out.
Navigating the various menus and mechanics of Black Desert proves to be a challenge at the start of the game due to a lot of clutter and disorganization with the menus and UI with zero to little explanation on what you can do as well as how to do the things you want to do. There were also some design choices that were more inconvenient than immersive, such as, the fact that your mount can die in combat and that if you leave it somewhere you have to go back and retrieve it or pay money to get it back. This is an annoyance since the map is massive and you need the mount to make traversing the world easier with its increase in movement speed and auto path feature.
What’s more interesting is how Character classes are also locked to a specific gender, so there is no option to be a male archer or a female barbarian which is strange for a game that boasts the tagline “Become Your True Self.” The game also allows some HUD customization, but nothing really made the screen seem less cluttered to me. Gripes aside, I never found myself a console MMORPG player, opting for the PC variety for traditional mouse and keyboard life, but I ended up feeling pretty comfortable using the Xbox One controller during my time with Black Desert and even found myself enjoying it, which surprised me.
Black Desert is by no means a bad game, however, it is definitely a game tailored for a specific type of player. For those looking for an immersive MMORPG that offers a lot of chances to personally explore and discover things, with all the benefits and annoyances that come along with it, Black Desert is a game that I think is worth checking out. It is truly a beautiful game that offers many role-playing opportunities for players to put time into features that they want to, outside of the quest grind. The characters and world offer an amazing adventure for any who have the time to put into the game.
However, for those who are looking for an MMORPG that has more convenient and traditional mechanics or if you’re not looking to have to learn a bunch of stuff through forums and wikis, then I think Black Desert might not be your cup of tea and you will find yourself more frustrated than entertained. Then again, the game is only a one-time payment of 10 bucks to get into, so if you’re curious, you could do worse.
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