Black Desert Online
Just as the zombie game craze is starting to die down a bit, MMORPGs seem to be slowly fading away as well. We’ve seen some really standout Action RPGs such as Dragon’s Dogma: Dark Arisen and the excellent indie hit Grim Dawn, as well as pure fantasy RPGs like the equally impressive Pillars of Eternity and Divinity: Original Sin Enhanced Edition, but nothing since 2004’s World of Warcraft has moved people’s needles and kept them moving the way that that game did. I mean, to have an official clinical diagnosis based around spending too much time on a game is a pretty big indicator as to how addictive WOW was (and still is for some gamers).
Personally, I’m a little leery of MMORPGs myself—not because I don’t like the genre or anything, it’s just that they require such a large time investment in order to develop your chosen avatar into anything interesting. Korean game developer Pearl Abyss sought to reinvigorate the flagging MMORPG market when it released Black Desert Online to for the perky Korean gaming market back in 2014, using a free-to-play model. Curiously, when it finally released the same game to European and American gamers in March 2016, is was of the buy-to-play variety. So how did Black Desert Online do in terms of boosting up the MMORPG genre—did it do what it was set out to do and revolutionize it? Well, yes and no.
First off, I must say right off the bat that Black Desert Online has some of the best (if not the best) visuals I’ve seen in an MMORPG, especially on higher end gaming PCs and gaming laptops. You can really tell that you’re playing the latest generation of gaming technology from a sheer graphical standpoint. When I initially booted it up I was immediately struck at how highly detailed the character and equipment models were. The character’s eyes blink realistically and their movement looks very natural. But when I panned through the character class selections I quickly realized that five out of the eight of them were female and gender-locked.
Hey, I’m all for being able to select my character’s gender in a game, especially anything fantasy RPG-based since they usually feature deep character creation systems with lots of variety and customization (out of all of the gaming genres), but forcing gamers to play as one gender or the other is sort of silly in this day and age. As I checked out each of the female models more closely I noticed that their bosoms had a lot of uh…how should I saw this while trying to be tactful?…let’s just say a lot of bounce. From there I guessed (but I may be wrong) that part of Black Desert Online’s marketing could have been based around having Dead or Alive-style female anatomy characteristics, which perhaps male gamers might get all happy over.
When I actually began the game proper I also noticed that the UI was pretty convoluted and confusing. Trying to figure out how to accept my first quest (or was it a side quest?) was really daunting and I had to more or less stumble through the whole ordeal. Figuring out how to get from my starting location to where the quest took place was also a little awkward and took some time to figure out. I eventually learned to be more comfortable with the controls and UI, but making it a little less clunky and clustered might have been a wiser choice.
One thing that I did appreciate was how stunning Black Desert Online’s world looked while playing it. I did notice a little bit of popup here and there (which is expected considering its vast size) but overall the environments and character models looked incredibly detailed and varied. The movement of steeds (such as horses or other creatures) in most MMORPGs can be difficult to pull off, but Pearl Abyss somehow makes them look realistic—as much as such things as a griffin can be made to look real that is. Black Desert Online’s graphical aesthetic is a little cartoony for me, and almost anime-like, but that’s a personal preference and shouldn’t detract from its overall score.
Where Black Desert Online really shines is its highly intuitive combat system, which is truly revolutionary and must be seen to be believed. You can activate your character’s skills through easy to learn combos and there are equally hassle-free controls for blocking, dodging, and attacking. The developers also included an option for being able to play with either a keyboard and mouse or a gaming pad. I personally prefer the keyboard and mouse but it’s still nice that they included that option for gamers.
Stringing together the right combo at just the right opportunity can be a real blast and the payoff for careful timing—as opposed to button mashing—can really give you a sense of accomplishment. These sequenced attacks also look fantastic and the effects are also well rendered. Again, both creature and character movement alike looks very fluid and realistic, and some of the spell effects are impressive to say the least. Black Desert Online also has a deep social layer as well as a complex and fun crafting system as well, so gamers who think that this game is a one-trick pony will have to guess again.
The PvE conflicts are indeed a whole lot of fun to play, but Black Desert Online also includes a PvP component where entire guilds can square off against one another. Having large scale PvP wars where you can potentially have over eighty or ninety characters (on each side!) duking it out can be quite a marvel to behold and super-fun to play out, although it can get a little confusing to differentiate between friends and foes.
You’re probably wondering why I haven’t really mentioned anything related to a story since I usually do by this point in my reviews. That’s because Black Desert Online doesn’t really have much of one and that’s probably its single largest (and glaring) flaw. The same goofy little cutesy spirit that guided me in the beginning of the game stayed around for the entirety (much to my chagrin) of my play-through. It vaguely guided me from point to point and alluded to game hints but that was about as deep of a narrative experience that you’re going to find here.
In all, Black Desert Online is a decent MMORPG with an extremely well-made combat system and some of the most eye-popping visuals I’ve ever witnessed out of any game genre. However, its success will largely depend on if gamers can forgive its lack of an decipherable storyline (or any story for that matter) and be content enough with its amazing combat system with its vast array of combos and beautiful effects. Only time will tell.
Black Desert Online sports some truly staggering graphics but you’ll need an equally impressive gaming PC or gaming laptop in order to handle them:
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