We talked a fair bit about Black Desert Online in the latest F2PCast., and our early opinions were a mix of eager anticipation and worrying doubt. Both are healthy; there’s always new stuff on the horizon that looks awesome and that we should be excited about, but we’ve also been burned enough times by games that looked good from afar but failed to meet expectations when we finally saw them up close.
With that in mind, here are our picks for some of the best and not-so-best things we’ve seen and heard about Pearl Abyss’s upcoming MMO:
1. Graphics aren’t everything in a game – just look at World of Warcraft and Runescape. But there’s no doubt that BDO is gorgeous on a level unlike just about anything currently on the market. It’s not just select previews direct from Pearl Abyss, either; search for beta footage on YouTube and you’ll find plenty of normal players (with decent rigs, admittedly) digging the breathtaking scenery.
Part of the visual appeal is the character creator, which also looks to be light-years ahead of most other games’, despite the fact that races seem gender locked.. Instead of sliders like you have in most games, you can directly manipulate your avatar’s face and hair like an actual graphic design program, giving you unbelievable control over your character’s look. (Hopefully, there are some restraints in place to keep people from making disproportional, grotesque monstrosities.)
2. I’m not an “action combat or GTFO” kind of person. I’m still generally OK with tab-targeting in my MMOs. That said, BDO’s action combat looks to be above and beyond what I’m used to, far better than TERA, which I found rather dull. A better comp might be a game like Vindictus, which had hard-hitting, fast-moving combat but wasn’t MMO-like enough for my taste. Black Desert Online will certainly appeal to the action junkie in all of us.
3. Sometimes, it’s the little things that count. Things like a mini-game that you need to secure your mount. Or being able to shoot a bird out of the sky. Or having a kind of “mobile house” that you can plant farms around and harvest them, ArcheAge-style. Or climbing to the highest point in a city. Little nuggets of gameplay like this can help break up dreary grinds, and offer inventive springboards to sandbox-style gameplay.
1. Our impressions are from the Korean betas, so things can change, but right now what we’re hearing is that there’s a lot of grinding in the game, even by the standards of others of its ilk. Quests don’t grant XP, so the main way to level is by killing mobs (which the quests direct you toward) over… and over… and over again. There are other ways to gain XP, and I don’t mind taking a while to level, but if it’s mostly the same thing over and over again, it’s going to wear me down, no matter how much fun the combat is.
2. And when you gain that XP… you can lose it in PvP. And you can also lose items. Ouch. Hey, if you’re super-hardcore and you like that, good for you. But this will be a major turnoff/deal-breaker for a vast number of Western gamers, and will severely limit the game’s audience, profitability, and potentially lifespan. Penalties for death are certainly do-able, but the MMO gaming world as a whole abandoned XP loss and corpse-looting nearly a decade ago. It’s time to move on.
3. Sometimes the little things… don’t count. Picking off birds and climbing around might be fun for a while, but if they don’t offer much in terms of rewards, they’ll just be shunted aside as a side activity that you enjoy for a little while, and then never touch again. Yes, I know everything in an MMO doesn’t have to be about progression, but realistically… it kinda does. MMOs feature hundreds of mobs and a half-dozen or so dungeons, all with a different feel, but rarely do the side activities match that kind of variety and so they rarely hold one’s interest for more than a few minutes. In other words, don’t plan on starting your seagull-meat trading empire just yet.
Black Desert Online’s still in beta, and we don’t know anything about the North American localization, so there’s a lot that can change to help alleviate some of our concerns. It’s promising that Daum is opening a North American office, but so have companies like Snail Games, so… yeah. In any case, it’s always a good idea to temper high expectations with a healthy does of reality… and no, I don’t think “Dose of Reality” will be a crafting recipe.