Trying out Black Desert Online

finds that the beta version of this MMO fails to live up to expectation

Image: Daum Games Europe B.V.

Image: Daum Games Europe B.V.

I went into the Black Desert Online beta weekend with very high hopes. I’d heard good stuff about it and am currently just waiting for Legion to be released for World of Warcraft. So I have a place in my life for an MMO right now. Unfortunately however, my hopes of a new regular game were relatively quickly dashed.

Now I will fully admit that I didn’t get much time on the beta weekend, only about 7 hours or so. This means that I haven’t seen much of the game (it is an MMO after all, and they do say that the game begins after you hit level cap).

The issues start before I even get to playing the game. If you’ve heard of Black Desert Online its probably because you heard about its incredible character customisation kit. One where you can sculpt muscles and move individual (a bit of an exaggeration but not a million miles off) strands of hair. There is a huge amount of tweaking available to those who have the skill meaning that you can make your character look like whatever you want! Well, maybe not. You see the problem is that whilst you can change all of these little things to perfect your character each class has only one preset to work off. Want to play a tamer? Then your character is a small Asian girl. Wanting to differentiate myself from everyone else I moved just about ever slider I could and she was still clearly based on the original character. I also created a warrior that I wanted to turn into an old, battle worn, captain type fellow. But despite dialling up the wrinkles, sagging the face, greying and thinning the hair at the end he still looked like a spry young warrior clearly built of the same model. And this obviously penetrates through the game. For the most part everyone looks the same, at the distance you see people from all of this detail is lost. So for a game that’s known for its incredible customisation it feels like it has very little.

So starting the game we get the traditional MMO tutorial that drags on and on and on. The story is the classic defend the village, grab six bags of wheat so we can make bread. But then it is the tutorial so what would you expect? The issue is (and remember I only got about seven hours in) even after the tutorial things don’t seem to get any better. The quests largely have no story that I care about and rarely get more interesting than killing some stuff to get the MacGuffins.

The aesthetic is one of semi – realism that falls just short of the mark. All the NPCs that you meet are uninteresting and demonstrate huge stereotyping. The voice acting is also, well I’m just not sure. I can’t tell if the actors are heavily accented Koreans speaking English or English speakers trying to affect a Korean accent.

The combat is where the game is strongest. Whilst it features the traditional action bar letting you cast abilities using the number keys (or whatever you rebind them to) it also uses a more action based system. So for example by clicking the mouse key I might do a normal attack, however if I’m moving backwards and click then I cast my shadow claw. Similarly moving left will cast something else. This combat feels pretty good even if it does take a while to get used to. It has some real weight to it. Despite this (up until this point) none of the enemies have been very interesting meaning that the true limits of the combat is yet to be seen.

The main problem with Black Desert Online is that it’s nothing interesting and it’s nothing new. It joins the ranks of Eastern MMOs like Aion and ArchAge that whilst perfectly competent just don’t do anything new or exciting. It’s just another MMO. And the issue with just another MMO is that if I just wanted to play some kind of MMO I’d go back to World of Warcraft or Guildwars 2. The end game of Black Desert Online could be what the game will eventually rely on upon release but compared to other similar MMOs it isn’t touting amazing end game features such as player-owned villages, raids or other gimmicks.

Looking around at the reviews of others it seems that am very much in the minority. With scores sitting at about 4/5 this game must clearly have something going for it. However I can honestly say I don’t see it. Maybe I just need to be able to put more time into it on release, but honestly for the time investment I’ll need to put into to reach that point I simply haven’t enjoyed the time I’ve spent with it so far enough. MMOs are a big investment. Most people (myself included) can only really play one properly at any time. And Black Desert Online just really doesn’t do enough to take my interest. Admittedly it has made me want to re do a bit of the MMO levelling and combat thing. But rather than play more of this I think I’ll just re-subscribe to WoW.

One comment

  1. I agree with a lot of your sentiment. The “newer” slew of MMOs being ported from the East have struggled to hold my interest due to very old-school (2005-2009) design philosophy. It feels really uninspired, even bearing in mind that these games were released years ago initially, and so are going to be a bit outdated anyway due to the large amount of time it takes to port MMOs. The first time I heard about Black Desert was 3 years ago.

    World of Warcraft has very much moved away from the initial design and is really trying to keep up in the market which is what will always draw me back for another bite. The new design/features for Draenor/Legion really have me interested because it has moved away from the lifeless grind (an element I have nostalgia for, but do not wish to repeat) and more towards a swiss army knife of arcadey activities. It is not the same game I played 10 years ago, but it is still fun.

    I will say, one thing that is great about Black Desert is the music. Some really amazing tracks have been produced, it’s just a pity a bland MMO was attached to it.

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