How much can you learn about a game from a few hours in an alpha? Enough, I think, to get a feel for the general way a game plays, if not the specifics of how everything will operate. You’ll hear, “They can still change it, it’s only an alpha (or beta),” but that usually just applies to cosmetic changes, number tweaks, and so on. The rules set is already ingrained in the code, which has taken years to develop, and would be costly and difficult to change.

With that in mind, I can see that Snail Games’ Black Gold Online has a fair amount going for it. The steampunk environment is richly detailed, with top hats on the gents and steam-powered cars chugging along the streets, and even low-level characters sport some nice-looking, if not flashy, gear. Seriously, I haven’t been this in love with how my character looks at level 10 in a long time.

Lost in Translation

The basic leveling experience is pretty standard, at least through as far as I got, which was around level 15 or so. Themepark questing, kill X mobs, tab-targeting, talk to this guy and then that guy… nothing ground-breaking here. But along the way, various other play modes open up. In fact, you’ll be virtually awash in menus, offering “Money type gameplay” and “Equipment type gameplay” and “BOSS” fights (yes, in all caps).

If you’re really lucky, you’ll even be able to understand what’s expected of you. Like its predecessor, Age of Wushu, Black Gold Online could use a little (read: a lot) more time with the localization department, and the sheer number of poorly worded pop-ups you get as you progress are confusing as all heck. It’s just hard to fathom how phrases like “If cost 250 energy” can make it into a near-final product. Yes, I know, it’s alpha, but if you’ve played Age of Wushu, do you have confidence that all of these will be addressed?

There is some good gameplay lurking, if you can find it, and there seems to have been at least some effort to simplify things as compared to AoW’s esoteric systems. A spontaneous group event to kill meandering zombies popped up as I was minding my own business questing. So did a pop-up inviting me to a PvP zone, where I was able to construct my own spider mech and hop into and out of it, Titanfall-style, to wreak havoc in a wide-open map with multiple objectives. Being alpha, the place was practically deserted, but I can see how much fun that mode could be with enough people. I could even take the spider mech back to PvE-land, to annihilate my foes.

Speaking of which, the challenge was… non-existent. Even as a caster class, mobs rarely got me below 95% health, unless I pulled a bunch of them, when they might have gotten me down to 80%. Again, numbers can and will still be balanced, and it was the early levels, but what I saw of open-world PvE (I didn’t get a chance to try a dungeon, owing to there being so few people online) was frightfully dull.

There’s gold in them thar hills

And then there’s the infamous Black Gold Online loot system. We’ve tried to explain it before, but now that I’ve had a chance to experience it myself, it makes a little more sense. Whether I like it or not is another matter.

For every hour of gameplay, the game will save a bundle of stuff consisting of some in-game cash, a Sand of Time, and potentially other items. The quality of your Sand, which can be exchanged for a random item or sold as is, and the other items depends on how many Treasure Points you acquired doing quests. (It’s worth noting that only the main-plot quests gave TP, at least in my experience, which dissuaded me from doing sub-plot quests.) You can claim two of these “bundles” for free every day or pay to unlock more.

Timing is key. If you play for, say, two hours and 10 minutes and then log off, you’ll have three bundles: one for each of your full hours and another (probably worthless) one for your 10 minutes. Play for 45 minutes and you “miss out” on 15 minutes’ more of loot. It doesn’t “add up” to compensate for offline time; in this example, you wouldn’t have a 55-minute bundle if you played those two sessions back to back.

And how this will work with high-level, endgame items is anyone’s guess. I suppose that fulfilling an endgame objective, like clearing out a tough boss, could give you enough TP to score a nice item in your bundle or with your Sand of Time. But what if you’ve done a bunch of stuff leading up to it, and that’s taken you 55 minutes? If the boss fight takes 10 minutes, it will be counted toward the next bundle and your loot will be split. Instead of, say, one awesome 5,000 TP pack, you might wind up with two less valuable packs, at 3,000 and 2,000 TP each. Annoying.

If the question is “Are you being screwed out of loot?” my answer is… maybe, maybe not. I got gear from the main quest line (but not from drops), so it’s not like I was still wearing level 3 stuff at level 15. And it is at least a clever way to run your cash shop, I’ll give it that. But is it something gamers will accept? I highly doubt it. It’s like the game is forcing you to play in chunks of time to its liking, rather than to yours. OK, so maybe it’s not “forcing” you to do anything, but we MMO gamers are nothing if not an efficient, time-sensitive lot, are we not?

Black Gold Online’s still got a long ways to go until full launch, but as I said at the start, the main systems are in place and unlikely to change. There’s fun to be had, and more will probably be added, but understanding how to get to them and adapting to the loot system will be significant hurdles.

By Jason Winter

29 Readers Commented

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  1. LY on April 14, 2014

    The game needs LOTS of work. I was begging for an alpha key, did what I needed to do, FINALLY got a key, and played for 3 hours and was heavily disappointed. Combat was clunky, quests were not just “Kill X amount of mobs” it was more like “Kill ONE mob” quests. The camera system is terrible even when you get it going right and the targetting needs work.

    The ONE thing though that will have me come back is Black Gold addressing the problems and stating they are working on them. This game DOES have a lot of promise..

    BTW, I love how people comment with “It’s tab targetting, i’ll pass” and how people don’t like tab targetting anymore. Speak for yourself. A lot of people STILL play tab target games and enjoy it. I personally like a hybrid which is why I can’t wait for Wildstar. Besides, the games that tried to be not tab targetted failed anyways so it’s just all personal opinion.

  2. blackgoldftw on April 6, 2014

    This game is good i was in the alpha i hit max lvl . sure questing is boring. but all questing is boring to me in any mmo but it was not that bad. it has many events mini game. tons of pvp stuff open world pvp ftw . tons of mini games pvp . THIS GAME IS MORE ABOUT PVP unlike 90% of the mmo.
    but it also has tons of stuff for that carebears that dont like to pvp. it will be a very good game. and if you are into pvp mmo blackgold is for you. since this is mmo is based around pvp more and not questing lol with tons of bosses and world bosses

  3. zzz@zzz.cn on April 5, 2014

    forest starting map lag like hell, other faction maps run great

  4. Rosen on April 4, 2014

    Do i need to pay for that redemption code?

    • Rocki on April 4, 2014

      No, its going close beta soon, so stay tuned for that its right around the corner 😀

  5. Milos on April 3, 2014

    i dont see noting special about this game , yes it got good graphic but where is something special?
    this looks like classic mmorpg kill monsters/ finis quests/ lvl up…. noting special i will skip this one too….

    • Santa on April 3, 2014

      This game is unique in its own way, example everywhere you go you got PvP two races fighting each others, mounts, pets, world events, instances, dungeons. They are now asking people what should they add and most of people requested Capture the flag, T-deathmach and much much more and this is only Alpha state they said they got a long way to go before they’ll go to full release, i highly recommend you should give this game a try.

  6. ZhaoYun on April 3, 2014

    interesting interesting i will try this just from what i read from here i believe most games are worth trying if they are f2p i mean u dont lose much and overall u got an idea of how the game is and what u liked/disliked about it but i hate sometimes how people like play till lvl 3 and they like omg horrible game.dude u literaly played 2% of the content available of the game u cant say its horrible or good i mean if u play(like Jason)till lvl 20(if lets say the max lvl is 40 or 60 which is 1/3 or 1/2 of the content available)then yes u can say i didnt like it for reason A and B but i liked it for reason C and reason .Anyways overall i am gonna try this tab target or no tab target almost every game out there is worth a try if u lazy to dl it and try it yourself well thats a different story now aint it? 😛

  7. Cyril on April 3, 2014

    Before you use the word “retarded” again keep in mind that retarded people outsmart normal people in many weird ways, so don’t use that any more and pay more respect to the one you’re conversing with.

  8. AnimeGamer on April 3, 2014

    Seeing a lot of people complaining about it being “tab target”. If you haven’t played it then don’t complain. All that matters in the end is if you’re having fun playing it. (terrible english?)

    • Hashiri on April 3, 2014

      I totally agree the bud, lot of people seem to complain instead of trying it out,i was a Alpha player and i enjoyed the game and to remind you again it was Alpha, can’t wait till CBT! and about your english you honestly shouldn’t give a single shit what ”grammar nazi’s ” around here say lol XD!

  9. Merkadis on April 2, 2014

    I didn’t see much in this game the first time i saw it’s gameplay but..
    … perhaps i’ll give the game a chance… a very small chance.

  10. James on April 2, 2014

    oh and also before you go grammar nazi anyone else please do keep in mind that yours is also not the most best ”less dumb ass and getting with the >times<'' LELE

  11. James on April 2, 2014

    @Rule907 Again, your ignorance shines above everything else. 400 button keys, you can ACTUALLY dodge, being less of a dumb ass with the times, eh? LMAO dude your a joke in many ways, now you gonna grammar nazi me.

  12. LordHikaru on April 2, 2014

    The game has 3 different combat schemes. Ones tab target(traditional). One is Crosshair(plays more like TERA). And the other is Black Gold controls which is kind of a combo of both and you use your basic skill with your right mouse button. To be quite honest unless your a masochist, traditional is probably the best way to go. The other 2 felt weird personally but others might like them.

  13. Faction on April 2, 2014

    Actually it’s worth trying if you’re into PvP, for a Alpha game it had lots of things to do and was pretty good graphics had lots of bosses you could do mini games etc, but definitely deserves a try at least.

  14. Meeeh on April 2, 2014

    tab and target? i will skip this one too :/

    • vixion on April 2, 2014

      don’t like it go play call of duty

      • Boody on April 2, 2014

        Lol, there’s a lot of upcoming good action mmos tbh, this sound like garbage and snail games are developing it so expect a total disaster. Not worth trying.

        • Jasin on April 2, 2014

          Sometimes our eyes lie to us before we even get to try it ourselves, but if we’re gonna play the guess game then i’d say a lot of upcoming MMo aren’t that great also and trust me once you read the whole page its gonna ”sound like garbage” for most of the games.

          • Piratedcopy on April 6, 2014

            I’ve actually been in the beta, and IMO it was nothing new. I’ve played countless MMORPGs, all following the same structure, w/o any new innovations. Tera Rising has been one of the only “fun/new/exciting” games, along with Dragon’s Prophets, where, although you still have kill x mobs, etc., the gameplay itself it much smoother.

      • KyuZwei on April 2, 2014

        Don’t be retarded please. The mmoscene has been moving away from Tab Targeting for a while now, more and more gamers are finding it less enjoyable and want interactive play not 400 button keyboards and macro keys. More action/player oriented RPGs are going to start releasing, games like Wild Star etc where the player can ACTUALLY dodge etc instead of it all being number based are gonna wash games like this out of the market. So how bout being less of a dumb ass and getting with the times, eh?

        • Huzaki on April 2, 2014

          Right… now please don’t make yourself look like a retarded, Wildstar won’t even last 1 month, if your skinny retarded fingers can’t handle the keyboard then don’t blame it on the game son, you clearly are blind or simply acting like retarded it specific said ”Alpha” and ”we have a long way to go before full release”.

          • Rule907 on April 2, 2014

            Look like a retarded? Acting like retarded? You seem to be the retarded one if you can’t use proper grammar.

          • urafagit on April 4, 2014

            ur a fagit lel.

        • Piratedcopy on April 6, 2014

          Actually, from what I can remember, Wild Star may still be Tab Targeting for “auto/basic attacks”, but yes, the abilities are all in zones, though some are still targeting. MMORPGs are leaning towards a simpler, cleaner feel to it, similar to MOBAs or Dungeon Crawlers, in the way that they have very few “abilities” to clutter up the screen. @ Huzaki, i played hte Wildstar Beta, and I found that extremely fun. Playing several “WoW clones”, un-innovative games following the same mechanics with different “plots” or “setting”, each all have a ridiculous amount of skills/buttons to press, which isn’t “FUN”, but more “SKILL”. Bringing Tera Rising into the equation, their ability numbers are only in the few 10s, and most abilities can only be activated within a combo, making the screen MUCH less cluttered, vs WoW’s thousand lined abilities. I’m not insulting WoW, but simiply saying that the less abilities, and free targeting will be much more successful.

        • denja on April 6, 2014

          omg ppl like u make me sick.. o tab target not going play that… dude have sit and shut the hell up…

          • fagit on April 6, 2014

            ”have a sit and shut the hell up….” you either must be broken at up stairs or you just want to get your rights at internet since your father never gave it to you in real life. its people like you that make the community of any game retarded by saying those so stupid sht by trying to solve the fight. As i said, i’m glad we get not to see people like you in a game ^^

  15. Spunkify on April 2, 2014

    MOUNTED !! OH YES !!!

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