I think neither Daum nor Pearl Aybss fully realised what an amazing opportunity they have with this game. I really don't, because, right now, this game is a veritable slice of fried gold that somebody has, quite unfortunately, puked on.
And if you think that this is the start of a hugely negative review, you obviously don't know how highly regarded something has to be, with me, to achieve 'Fried Gold' status.
Let's get a couple of things cleared up, right off the bat. Black Desert is the most beautiful game that I have ever played.
Sure, beauty is in the eye of the beholder and there are plenty games out there that trump it in terms of raw graphics, but when I sailed underneath the Delphi Castle, for the first time, or visited Calpheon, or sat atop a mountain range, or decimated a gang of bandits, no game has taken my breath away like that before. No game. For an MMO to have such stellar graphics is phenomenal, but hats off to Pearl Abyss because the design of the world itself it truly amazing. It is as if the entire thing was crafted from a single block of marble. Nothing seems cookie cutter. Everything feels unique. I sailed down most of the game's rivers that were available to us and cannot remember a single bridge that was a repeat of one that I had seen before.
From the very start it impressed, as I raced through the starter area, killing wolves and Imps, desperate to keep in front of the horde of players behind me. To have so many people questing around me and for it to still look so incredibly polished and beautiful was a joyous thing.
Yet another beautiful view
That brings me onto my next point. It runs so, so good!
I have a pretty good PC with a Geforce GTX 980 graphics card and a very healthy 32Gb of RAM, so I had no problem with everything cranked up to max. However, I was also playing with people who had much older PCs and even though they had to take their graphics quality down to get better frame rates, they were still very impressed with the graphics. For a game looking to last, and to get as broad a range of players as possible, it is very important to cater to people with older machines and that has been done, very well.
This game has some real depth.
From the very beginning, I had just one thing on my mind: catch a horse. Because of this I was in turbo mode to get through quests, get my donkey and 'speed' around the map in frantic race to level 20 (EDIT - Aparently you can catch one from Lvl 5) so that I could get this done, soonest. Well, mission successful. I caught a beauty and was very thankful that I had watched videos on how to do this prior. Otherwise I have a feeling that it would have taken quite some time to work out.
But it was only after I got my mount, that I realised that I had hardly 'seen' anything and I definitely hadn't learnt all that I needed to. So, I stopped. I actually took the time to learn things and the game rewarded me by pulling back the curtains of confusion and it all became clear. Trade, crafting (BOATS!), the node system and even the storyline became much easier to understand once I took the time to look at what was on the screen right in front of me. Tips, search functions, tutorials. Yes, I sat down and read the instruction manual. It helped.
But this is where the issues begin.
Let's be honest, no-one wants to read the instruction manual. We don't like steep learning curves here. Nope. We like clear concise direction in our games. Then we like to complain about how our games are too linear. But still, with so many 'systems' in play, from the NPC conversation mini-game, to the finder art of trading, they should have put together a better way to explain it all to the player. Or maybe its 'hard to unravel' make up was completely intentional to keep profits out of the hands of casual gamers. This was one of the reasons why, for most of the beta, I was one of maybe a handful of players who had worked out how to get a saddle and stirrups from the stable master (Mounted combat is fuuuuuun!)
'Forward' he cried!
Many were complaining that these parts of the game system were simply impenetrable and therefore didn't test these things out to their fullest, which is a shame.
You know what else is a shame? Tay flipping Zonday!
I posted about my...concerns that I had with the cinematic intro, before beta started, and although many agreed that it left much to be desired, many were also saying that I was nit-picking because no-one watches the intro. Well you speak to the damn NPCs all the time, don't you? The voice acting is shockingly bad. Really, really awful. I suffer through it because interacting with the NPCs is the key to progress, but it is not a pleasant experience and so jarring from the rest of the beautiful world that is noticeably detracts from it. In one NPC conversation, in Velia, an NPC, who is guarding the gate, tells me that he is in the Vigilante Corps. That's fair enough, only he pronounces it 'corpse'. That is what we are dealing with. Someone stuffed all the Korean NPC dialogue through Google Translate and then hired some people from the local drama society to voice act it all. Where is the direction? Where is the quality control?
The game music is fair to very good. There are a couple of beautiful tracks, including the game's main track which is excellent. But there are other tracks that are serviceable, at best. I don't know the name of the track, but there is a hilarious saxophone solo that had me stopping my horse, mid-journey and having a bit of a 'wtf' moment. Some might roll their eyes and tell me that I don't have to use the game music. Well, I want to use the game music! Especially the great system they have of increasing the music's urgency when fighting challenging or difficult enemies.
The UI is not the best, either, though it is functional and customisable, so I can't criticise it too much. I did turn on 'Simplify UI' but didn't see a noticeable difference. Maybe someone can educate me in that department.
The aptly named 'Bloody Monastery
I could talk about the combat system all the live-long day, but it boils down to two types. Life and death ballet or utter spamfest.
I am the sort of player that likes the finer art of combat. Step, thrust, parry, riposte. This game has that. It really really does. My warrior would dance around the enemy in a balletic dance of death and it was so immensely satisfying to have a character do that. The action game style of controls is such a refreshing change to the usual WoW-style tab targetting hotkey setup that I don't know if I could ever go back to hotkeys again.
An amazing combat system. Amazing.The only problem is, I didn't need to use it, at all. Ground Roar to pull all the mobs. Spam Heavy Slash until they are all dead. Rinse and repeat. Not what I am after, really. Where is the challenge? Where is the enemy that gives me cause to actually play well?
Well, as it happens, there were plenty of enemies that offered me said challenge. The issue is that these enemies were many (sometimes over ten) levels above me. Now is this the game developers giving me the choice to find a challenge or is this just poor level balance?
The enemies themselves are things of beauty, with so much variety to choose from. I wasn't really comfortable with razing entire Orc villages, including what seemed to be Orc kiddies. That felt a little off. But hey, they were all armed...
I cannot wax poetic enough about the combat system though. It really is a thing of beauty. Weapon swings feel weighty and spells feel supremely powerful. It really does make you feel like a hero.
Speaking of heroes...
In a heavily charged Western gaming atmosphere with gender and race being common talking points, it's hard not to upset one group or another, so I'm not going to get into the weeds of all this, safe to say that this is an MMORPG and we should be able to play a female warrior in full plate or a young wizard who is learning his craft, if that is what we want. Someone let me know if either of these things are lore-breaking, but the ability to have variety should be paramount here. But it seems the developers are listening to our requests and doing their best to accommodate, which is a very good thing. The whole underwear thing though...Yeah, I don't get that, so much.
Two of my other 'family members' that I hope to play.
Anyway, back to combat. PvP is not something that I got to try much of, in the beta. That was until I finally found out that you could utilise the cities' arenas at any level! Cue some friendly combat. I liked PvP a great deal and look forward to Guild-level clashes. I hear that there are other forms of PvP but I am yet to see much about them. Suffice to say that the feel of combat with multiple opponents was chaotic but satisfying. Might have to lose a bit of the spell effects as it was hard to see when fighting with multiple people, sometimes. Did I say sometimes? I meant a lot of the time.
Yeah...My shield took a lot of abuse in the arena.
Here are some other things that I hope the developers address:
More NPC murmur. Less repetitive phrases! Also, turn down their voice levels. There is a little kid criticising a giant in the dock area of Velia that is so annoying that I simply cannot spend much time at the warehouse manager there. The inns are a nightmare for this and become somewhere you dash in and out of instead of enjoying the atmosphere.Fix the glowing hair! Enough said.Please, please please make walking a toggle rather than pressing down the cap lock button. I want to walk around taking the world in.Stop with the 'breaking the fourth wall'. I don't like my character looking at me all the time. Make it something that we can turn off.Put more armour items in the game. Not the cash shop; the game. They don't have to be complete outfits. In fact I prefer to mix and match.Make the emote system more intuitive. I want to walk up to someone, wave and say "Would you like to explore this dungeon with me?" But, somehow, it does not come easy. A sign of this is the amount of times i've asked someone something and the 'person typing something' icon appears above them in a speech bubble. About three minutes later I get an answer: "No". Pure 'Kung Pow'I have played a lot of MMORPGs over the years and generally have been left underwhelmed, disappointed or downright angry at almost all of them. It has not been the most successful genre of gaming and that is not for lack of trying...or totally for lack of trying; depends on how you look at it. Sure they've made companies money, but you can't help feeling like you've paid good money for one of those knock-off lightsabers at the fair that doesn't really look or sound like the real thing.
This game is not a knock-off.
It is not your every-day Korean import, either. This game is brilliant and that brings me back to my initial point. How can they import a game this great, with the potential to be extremley popular in the west and be so utterly thrifty and lackadaisical in the process of converting it for the western market? Was there no budget? Were they in a rush? Is Mr. Quality Control on sabatical?
Now many on the official forums would criticise this as 'nit-picking' but imagine if you'd never heard of the game before. You've never played on the Korean servers, never watched a YouTube 'how to' video, and never perused these forums. Imagine now starting up the game and think of what your first impressions would be? Terrible voice acting, massively steep learning curve, spamfest combat.
It would put me off. Hell, it has put a lot of my friends off, who were trying it for the first time and this is a travesty. Because this game is more than just good. This game is the first MMO, in a long time, that has the ability to reshape this flagging genre, in the west.
It needs to be a success. I want it to be a success. I hope that Daum and Pearl Abyss get done whatever needs doing to wipe the sick of this magic title and allow it to bathe in the the adoration that it deserves. I look forward to release so I can, once again, enjoy this slice of Fried Gold.
Hey you. Yeah you, controlling me. Can I have a pet dog, please?