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Black Desert Online (PC) artwork

Black Desert Online (PC) review

"Every function in this game is hidden behind a wall of inconvenience."

A couple of years ago, BDO was released under a subscription plan and later went free to play. This brings in the usual debate but I can honestly say there is no pay to win here, largely cosmetics and utilities that typically donít give you an advantage in player versus player combat, which is apparently a big part of this game that I take no part of.

Iím going to get bloggy here for a while here, so I may edit this out of my Steam version but bear with me, as I feel some of this gives a fair amount of context to how I feel about MMOs in general and how that may affect my review of one.

Iíve largely lost the energy to bother with MMOs at my age. Iím 28 now and thereís a unique parallel between the time I started getting employed (22ish, late I know but times are rough) and the time I stopped bothering with MMOs. They take a large chunk of time so on eight hour shifts, thereís almost no point in logging in. An hour of work gets me nothing and by the time I get home, Iím typically too tired to bother dedicating the time towards a raid. I used to think I just didnít like questing but I still play RPGs, so that canít be it. After several capped characters on WoW the questlines do become a bit samey but I can usually just turn on a podcast or three and grind my day away.

I am also a hefty roleplayer and I like creating stories and interactions for people to bounce off of and when I sort-of quit WoW perhaps over a year ago (I never really quit, I just wait for an update to actually interest me), it was after I discovered my eccentric crazy-lady main just couldnít find a place among the rather clique heavy communities that pervade roleplaying communities there. As it stands, I have nothing to go back to and to a degree I suspect the same will happen with BDO.

Thatís really the crux of the issue that makes or breaks MMOs for me. ďIs there anything there for me?Ē is what the back of my mind consistently asks. Thereís always goals I can set for myself, like specific gear that I find looks cool. However in BDO some of the best cosmetics are store-bought (because of course they are). Thereís no dungeons or raids in the endgame so thatís clearly out. The only thing that will keep me on BDO is the community and the jury is still out on that because Iíve spent my ~40 or so hours so far just questing.

So letís talk about the game itself.

I will say itís likely not for everyone. Through the lack of dungeons (which I hear, from a single source I donít know all that well, that theyíll be updated in eventually), raids, and my avoidance of PvP I do find thereís a lack of content for things that interest me. Donít misunderstand, Iím sure thereís plenty to actually do in the game. When I hit level 50 I get treated to a sort of daily splash screen that congratulated me and gave me a whole list of things I could be doing. These include things like Gathering, Processing, Cooking, Hunting, Trading, Fishing, and a few others and I donít know what some of them even mean.

Leveling is a bit strange in this game, being very grind-heavy at the endgame. Experience comes largely in the form of mob-killing, quests themselves give you something else. Much of the land has high density mob packs that are designed to be pulled, kited, and murdered en masse with your best AoE attacks. Basically the leveling curve has a few different turning points. At 50, a good portion of the game is available to you, and about the time the main quest through a little black spirit buddy concludes. I like to call it the first ďCapĒ, and this game has multiple, strangely. At this point I started taking a lot more damage, and doing significantly less. Powerleveling is a thing here under the term ďleech levelingĒ, where you basically just join a high powered grinder on their daily rotation and just hoover up experience and loot. I did this from 51 to 56. 56 by the way, being the second turning point and the secondary ďlevel capĒ the game seems to have. At this point you can do a questline to power up your class in whatís called ďAwakeningĒ, which Iím sure has some kind of in-story plotpoint but I wouldnít fucking know because everything in this game is so convoluted and I will address that soon enough. At this point your character gets an extra weapon and a whole new window of skills to learn and combos to figure out. I hear this is where classes come alive, on a similar vein from other MMOs when you hear ďOh the game really starts at level [blank]Ē. For WoW, I feel the game does this at 70-80, because heroic dungeons make the world go Ďround. Other MMOs, major content typically unlocks at level cap.

The actual ďsoft capĒ is 60 but players can get to 62 and beyond, however one source tells me that ďgetting from 62 to 63 is like, grinding several hours a day for a yearĒ. I am pretty sure this was hyperbole on his part, but he also added that there was almost no point because by 62, you have everything you need.

In BDO however, the leveling curve gets ungodly slow and the grind begins. I cannot speak on how this is because I effectively took a break when my first main hit 56 properly, and wanted to explore other classes.

The combat here is odd and may take some getting used to, but still falls a bit flat. Itís combo-based, yísee. You can hotbar skills but most are attached to a key combination, like moving left while left clicking or holding back and and pressing F. The directional keys interact with a few others and everything does something unique like giving you better accuracy for a few seconds and a myriad of other buffs.

Not that I would know. It falls flat for me because I usually just find one or two attacks that hit more than four targets at a time and stick with those, with little to no reason to use single target attacks. My ninjagirl (which is called something I canít pronounce or even begin to spell) has one attack that can grab enemies, spin in the air, and drop them to a ground for a knockdown effect. But why bother? Bosses are immune to it, which is the only source of single-targets I can find and basic random stragglers arenít worth it when thereís a cluster of seven mobs right around the corner.

My sorceress was my first 56 and most of my leveling with throwing some purple lightning at everything. This was essentially my only attack for my entire leveling experience, perhaps with the occasional teleport or claw attack to regenerate mana.

I know thatís a fair amount of shittalking, so let me pull up a couple of positives before driving the stake of irritation in this gameís heart.

I donít hate the leveling. I can appreciate how most experience comes from combat to a certain degree. I also like how the game throws experience buffs at you like no tomorrow, and money isnít terribly difficult to get. Gear doesnít really have a level gate here so I spent around eight million silver (that is not nearly as much as it sounds) on my new ninjagirl to get +15′s and +9′s (Iíll explain that in a bit) and hilariously curbstomped quests and enemies well into her 40′s.

Leveling is very quick here and more experienced players can probably shoot up to 50 in a day. As a roleplayer this is valuable so that my character can have access to higher level towns to interact in, though mobs donít tend to get pulled on roads and itís fairly easy enough to run across the map at level 10 and youíd probably survive. Still, map exploration is a big part of the drive to play at the moment.

BDO is also renowned for being the best looking MMO on the market, and thatís no lie. At least for a couple of years before that gets dethroned, too. The character creation is also insane, taking Saints Rowís crazy character creation, Champion Onlineís asymmetry and ran with it for miles. You can manipulate your midsection, eye pupils on multiple levels, and even customize your own idle pose which I could not begin to figure out because Iím not a graphical engineer and none of it made sense to me.

There is one final point of contention that I would like to take to task. Everything is incredibly convoluted and overstuffed to the point of inconvenience.

You canít see enemy healthbars properly until you kill enough of them to gain ďknowledgeĒ on them. This isnít just for enemy categories, but enemy TYPES. When you go fight some bandits, you have to kill enough of every single one of their musketeers, warriors, basics, and more just to see each and every one of their healthpools. This goes for destructible objects like camps, supplies, and traps as well. WHY?

Stamina, health, and carry weight are all manipulated by sprinting everywhere, eating food, and carrying trade bundles over long distances. WHY?

Many of my skills are stamina based so I can only increase that by running everywhere I go and forsaking the function of a mount. WHY?

Quests donít give experience, which is mostly fine because combat gives plenty. Instead, you get contribution points which acts as a secondary currency to rent gear and buy houses. UhmÖ WHY?

Ingame banks (warehouse storage) are town specific. If youíve stored your stuff in one of the beginner towns and bought a house there, but youíre in your 58′s and whatnot, killing knights in the upper eastern corner of the map and need to store all the money, gear, and loot youíve madeÖ You have to either run all the way back to do so or buy a house and then rent a storage chest for ten contribution points (which it will forever withhold until its returned, but you can continually increase how many contribution points you have) so it connects to the nearest warehouse so you can access your stuff, which is completely separate region to region. WHY?

Energy is another tertiary resource which regenerates and increases as you discover the world and talk to people. However some NPCís wonít talk to you about certain topics and might even withhold quests because you havenít gained enough knowledge about the world. WHY?

You can get horses and mounts but they have an entire health, hunger, and stamina mechanic. They also cannot be summoned at will but are attached to stables, much like storage warehouses are. Found yourself running towards a questline but left your horse in a safe area on the road? Too bad you canít just summon it and ride away to safety. You have to whistle for it (wherein itís always just too far to function) or track it, running back to it. WHY?

A player had to explain to me how to even get gear because looting and questing certainly didnít give me much. My first 15 hours or so was working with some basic stuff and by 35ish I was doing no damage and taking all of it. Only a discord community helped walk me to a marketplace (auction house) and tell me what kinds of things to buy. They never even told me about belts, which typically add 30 to 40 pounds (or whatever unit of measurement theyíre using) of carry weight, which I did not discover until my 50′s. It was incredibly useful information to acquire. WHY did the game never give me a belt?

Money has weight. WHY.

Upgrading items is pointlessly complicated, even in its simplicity. In order to upgrade gear you need to use certain items that are acquired throughout the game (I had about forty of each by the time I hit 55). which only goes to 15. After that you need other, higher level crystal items to upgrade them further, which has a chance to actually downgrade the item of the chance fails. So youíll have to spend millions upon millions of silver (If you donít farm/grind for these items yourself) just to give yourself a few extra points of armor and damage. WHY.

This is one of many menu screens. Notice all the 0′s. I have no idea what Iím doing.

I have ten other things I could go on about that are along the same lines. Itís the FFXIV problem all over again, just in a different way. Every function in this game is hidden behind a wall of inconvenience. That is truly why I state that this game is not for everyone.

Like with anything else thatís multiplayer related, it will probably help if you come to this game with a certain core of friends. This game does not hold your hand but I would rather be treated like a child than abandoned in the middle of the street and get hit by a freighter.


Zydrate's avatar
Community review by Zydrate (August 10, 2017)

Zydrate is most active on Steam and Tumblr.

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