Black Desert Online Review
Black Desert Online, there is not a lot to say about a game that appears to be vast and deep but in reality very small.
Like many sandbox MMORPGS, the game allows the player to explore a vast and highly texturize world where there are big cities, monsters and nature. But unlike other MMORPGS, the story department is terrible. From the uninteresting story of a dark spirit that possesses you or the poor voice acting that makes players feel they are being lectured in a lecture hall. It feels like the player is already at the end game where their job is to grind out their progression bars until they drop dead.
Like I always say, the bigger the game, the bigger the story has to be. Players like to compare Black Desert Online to games like Skyrim, the Witcher 3, or Final Fantasy but with more players. That is false. In each of these games, the story department was the reason why players enjoyed those games, learning about a world that was crafted not just by pretty textures, but through good story telling and writing.
Now do not get me wrong, Black Desert Online has many good improvements that many MMORPGS should take and learn. For example, the character customization is very refreshing and allows players to spend lots of time or not (if they decide to use default pre-sets) to shape their gameplay. Then there is the combat which is a mix between strategic and fast moving mechanics. Aiming your skills like Smite, Tera, and Archeage have not changed but careful positioning and slower combat movement allows for tactical thinking instead of button mashing. Because if a player decides to mash their buttons, they will not be able to block, counter, or chain combos effectively. (Well done)
But once a player exits outside these two features, the game becomes an overrated Runescape, from woodcutting, fishing, alchemy, cooking and all the other crafting skills. None of them are useful and integrated, they are just there to make the game appear bigger. During the good old days of Runescape, crafting was tied towards accessing future quests, unlocking certain gear and contributed towards area progression (you literally cannot access this area if your crafting level was too low).
But what makes Black Desert Online even more horrifying is their neglect that MMORPGS are not built to be AFK (Away from Keyboard) but a game where players can interact. If we take a good look at most of the features outside of guilds, sieges and open world PvP there is little interaction between other players. It appears there are many players in the world, but NONE of them actually interact (except if your in a guild or have friends.)
Players do their own thing and have no need to interact with others. Now do not mistake my idea of interaction like forcing players to work together in groups to kill monsters or do dungeons. Interaction comes in many forms, such as talking, communication and the small talk that happens when players log into the game.
Let’s look back at the days when Runescape was popular, players talked during their crafting secessions, when players were wood cutting they were all grouped around a single or dozens of trees during the moments of pause, players would interact about the game, life, or other unrelated stuff. This made crafting fun. It was not mining ore in a certain area for three hours fun, it was the people who talked about many different things, from politics, food, traveling, life and small other things that made it fun. In Black Desert Online (and there are many other games) players need to walk to each individual tree, ore, soil and etc to get their job done. No where do they have the time to sit and just simply talk to other players during this procession (if you exclude fishing.) The task is quick and the player must move to another to maximize the efficiently of their gathering.
This is the problem about highly interactive games where the player does not have time to leave their hands off their mice or keyboard, there is LESS interaction with other players. What is the point of a MMORPG if interaction with other players is placed on the back seat? Are players forced to join guilds to actually interact? And even then few players actually interact within guilds outside of game related crap. Have players changed to a point where small talk has become dead in MMOs?
However, Black Desert Online did take many other elements from other games. The relationship system that was introduced by Age of Wushu made its way in, where players can build relationships with other NPCs and in the future they might reward the players with quests or items. The monster book from Atlantica Online is back where players can kill monster’s multiple times and receive a rank that will help them fight monsters in certain areas. Trading from different cities has been fleshed out from Atlantica Online, where players can purchase or get items from a different town and sell them to another. We also see trading caravans from Silk Road Online, but not to the extend of raiding parities that existed but it is there.
But those improvements and additions to the game still do not make the game any better. Outside of the poorly written quests, a player has to find their own motivation to play. However, if you never read in a MMO then your playing the game wrong. Many players skip game text like the plague and then become burnt out from grinding, only to find themselves never knowing anything about the game. That is their own problem. But the quest text is just awful, many quests begin with the simple following structure:
“Oh nice to meet you, we got a problem, can you help us?”
[Select R to continue]
“Great, there are X monsters that have been causing trouble, can you deal with them?” or if it is not a monster hunting quest, “Can you investigate or deliver X item to NPC Y?”
[Sure, I will do that.]
[Finishes quest and receives an uninteresting cut scene about black spirits invading the land]
I think we all watched movies within our lives, and we know when a movie is bad to the point we just do not want to watch them anymore, Black Desert Online quests are just that, a poorly made movie that players have to find the motivation to finish. It is uninteresting and lackluster. [Who this writer?]
To look back at games that done questing properly, we can see World of Warcraft, Aion or the recent Blade and Soul that made questing actually enjoyable. From memorable characters, to funny comic relief, both games introduce a variety of well written and interesting quests that not only make the game fun but teach players how to become a better person.
Take a look at one of the beginner quests in Aion playing as an Asomidian.
In the Quest of the Lost Axe, players are given a simple kill quest to recover a journal that belonged to a thief. From the outset, it appears it is just a normal thief stealing from the rich and you uncover his lost axe. However, after deep reading and questing the player eventually finds out that the thief is not a normal thief by a robin hood type character and stole from the rich and gave money to the poor. Then the player assumes this is just a Robin Hood rehashed into the Aion world, true but with a twist. The player soon continues the quest and finds themselves in an impressive story where the player is taught childhood fairy tales of greed.
The thief threw the stolen axe into the pond and an Asmodian god appears, after apologizing for distributing him, the god presents the theft with a golden axe instead of the normal one he threw, the thief declines and says that was not the axe, again the god goes back down to the pond and presents the thief with a silver axe, again the thief declines and says that was not the axe he wanted. Finally, the god presents the thief with an iron axe, and that was the one he wanted. From that point forward, the god said to take all three axes because he claimed the thief was the “last honest Asmodian in the land.” From that day forward, the thief sold the axes and opened a thieving guild that trained young thieves to steal from the rich and give to the poor.
Now compare that to the majority of the quests in Black Desert Online, where have I read a good quest. Outside of the structure I presented.
But like most MMOs, music also plays an improtant role in communicating the world to the player. Unlike other MMOs, the music is not as great as I thought, sometimes music makes you more bored than the gameplay itself. It is like sitting in a Soap Opera and forces the player to turn off the music and listen to their own.
For example, lets compare the combat music of Black Desert Online to other games.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n5ElerrN900 World of Warcraft
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wVn71KPFy-8&index=64&list=PLkUt7ryvyfYOK3vaHRqit27iPI2_ZLrmh Age of Wushu
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CfpE68Xqt34&index=17&list=PLv8OBSOnVLBWIM1a8ak5dpDUQ_pA2ZJI_ Blade and Soul
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PHITVV4sTrM Black Desert Online
Notice the difference? In all the other games, music motivates the player to fight, it is not this Soap Opera nonsense that has to match the theme of the game.
So outside of the PvP combat, highly texturized world, and character customization Black Desert Online is an unfinished game. It appears big and vast to novice players but to seasoned MMO players this game will get boring very quickly from its lack of interaction of players, poorly written quests, and under developed crafting system compared to older games like Runescape.
In the end, Black Desert Online receives a 6.5/10.