Word Play: Black Gold Online Alpha First Impressions

Jason Winter
By Jason Winter, News Editor April 2, 2014
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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.

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About the Author

Jason Winter
Jason Winter, News Editor
Jason Winter is a veteran gaming journalist, he brings a wide range of experience to MMOBomb, including two years with Beckett Media where he served as the editor of the leading gaming magazine Massive Online Gamer. He has also written professionally for several gaming websites.

Discussion (29)

LY 7 years ago
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.

blackgoldftw 7 years ago
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

zzz@zzz.cn 7 years ago
forest starting map lag like hell, other faction maps run great

Rosen 7 years ago
Do i need to pay for that redemption code?

View 1 reply
Milos 7 years ago
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....

View 1 reply
ZhaoYun 7 years ago
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? :P

Cyril 7 years ago
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.

AnimeGamer 7 years ago
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?)

View 1 reply
Merkadis 7 years ago
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.

James 7 years ago
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

James 7 years ago
@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.

LordHikaru 7 years ago
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.

Faction 7 years ago
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.

Meeeh 7 years ago
tab and target? i will skip this one too :/

View 1 reply
Spunkify 7 years ago
MOUNTED !! OH YES !!!


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