Black Desert is an experience. It’s both massive in its scale and outrageous in presentation. Pearl Abyss has carefully handcrafted and skillfully mastered that art. It’s a unique and enjoyable experience as an MMO without you ever thinking it’s an actual MMO to begin with. But while Black Desert provides you with so many options and activities from the get-go, it stumbles in the most basic of handholding. Its lack of tutorials leave little to be desired and its massive scale puts you in a long horse ride from one part of the kingdom to the other.
Story-wise, Black Desert lets you explore kingdoms and engage in epic boss battles while indulging in the everyday tasks of managing a growing labor force, hunting animals, gathering resources, fishing, lumbering, cooking, taming wild horses and many more. But despite Black Desert’s robust character creation and lifelike graphics, the world never really felt as involved with you, everything feels lackluster with minimal cutscenes and most dialogue locked behind a wall of text in the right-hand side of the screen. At times, it even feels too bothersome to read a wall of text when there’s so many other things you could be doing with that time.
And really… there is so much you could be doing at any given time but what really makes it a less indulging experience is figuring out why you need to do it and how to do it properly. There’s very little information on how to do things and a complete beginner like I am would find myself asking friends who’ve played the game religiously for tips or scouring the internet for beginner guides to learn the ropes.
Combat is where Black Desert really shines though. Each of the base game’s character classes offer unique play styles which adds in to its own replay value. While it’s not something to write home about, it’s at the very least on the very good portion of the weighing scale. Action-based RPGs in MMOs aren’t new in any way yet it comes out as a fresh experience for its combo-based mechanics in which active skills are chained to another skill from the get-go and learning certain button presses are the only things that can separate a beginner to a gamer. However it isn’t as impressive or as satisfying as unleashing a flurry of combo hits on Dragon Nest, an MMO that is close to my heart for its quick and exhilarating combat and massive and challenging dungeons.
However what makes the game unique is how skills, both active and passive, are learned. While most games normally awards you a specific number of points per level up, players for Black Desert will be earning them through actual combat, you get an experience meter and once the percentage goes up to 100% you earn points through it which is also how everything else works. Using a pickaxe against a rock, an axe against a tree or a fishing pole to fish increases specific levels pertaining to gathering or fishing.
The game’s world is breathtakingly beautiful, if it happens to load in properly. It gives you a sensation you won’t find just by walking around your neighborhood and this is where the charm lies for Black Desert. Every major city feels inhabited and has purpose, everyone you meet provides you knowledge to take on the next grand adventure as you go city-hopping from one to the other. Certain NPCs even require you to meet certain persons beforehand to be able to start up a friendly conversation. While it may sound like a chore, because it is, most times they’re important NPCs that would either give you quests or teach the player where the stable keeper is or more importantly, where the next bar is on!
But because it’s an expansive game with massive cities, huge open landscapes filled with wildlife, natural resources and monsters both tiny to the humungous, frame rate drops, video stutters, texture pop-ins is all too often while exploring. NPCs you’ll be talking to would often start as a silhouette before all the textures pop in, while it isn’t as game-breaking, for a game that is catered around lifelike graphics, it sure breaks the immersion especially since video stuttering for a little over a second happens quite a bit too but only outside combat where its smooth as butter and as silky as a commercial model’s hair.
The world of Black Desert is never repetitive and only progressive. You can start your adventure by going through your quest line and that’s fine by its own. It gets repetitive after a while but that’s where all the side activities come in. You could be going into a major city for quests but find yourself investing in the labor force with more workers to hire or even browse through the many vendors scattered around it. Whether you’re looking at new armor or fishing for new furniture and tapestry for your apartment. Nothing you do ever becomes a waste of time as even running around with your horse or on foot levels it up.
Black Desert is an experience. It’s an MMO that revolves around experiencing everything, taking in everything you do and learning through it. It’s the kind of MMO that rewards its players whatever they’re doing and that’s what I really love about it. It had a lot going for itself and despite its technical issues still manages to keep it from being stale and frustrating. However as beautiful as a game this is, it’s a game that only people can invest time on will find it worthwhile.