It’s time we talked about Black Desert Online. That mythical MMORPG that most of us started to believe would never actually see the light of day in the West. Thankfully, we were wrong, and we got the opportunity to check out the recent Alpha test for Europe and North America to see how well the game meets our expectations.
I must note before I begin that I am well aware many chose to play Black Desert on the Korean and Russian servers through VPNs with fan-made English language packs. I neither tried to play using this method nor wanted to, so my Alpha experiences were entirely fresh. So with that being said, I dove eagerly into character creation!
So, I’ve seen videos on YouTube of folk playing with Black Desert’s character creator and was utterly floored by the sheer amount of detail you can put into your characters. For those of you who don’t know, I adore character customization in games. From character creation to barbershop hairstyle changes to wardrobes and mounts and pets.. It’s my “thing”. In fact, it’s not just limited to character creation since I discovered player housing. This entire features trailer Daum Games Europe recently released gave me the grabby hands. There is so much customization in Black Desert Online!
My first Alpha character was the Sorceress, complimenting my love of melee magic users. I stuck some Netflix on my second screen and set about playing with character creation for a good hour or two, working out exactly what could be done with each different feature and pulling sliders and body parts around until I was entirely happy.
What I found was that while customization is amazing, it still isn’t quite at the level I had expected and there is still a level of uncanny valley. You can change a lot, but characters still don’t necessarily come out of the creation process looking completely distinguishable from each other and there are some features I just couldn’t be happy with (I’m looking at you, lips). However, I loved how deeply you could customize each part of the hair, face, and body, and I can and will spend a decent amount of hours in character creation getting my characters “just right” when the game launches.
UI & Environment
The first thing that you’re met with upon entering Black Desert after sitting through the actually-rather-cool loading screen, is the game’s obsessive tutorial. It is very “in your face” and ever-so-slightly immersion breaking. However, as a first time player, I found it an incredibly useful tool for learning Black Desert’s nuances. I do think that it wouldn’t go amiss to allow players to toggle tutorials on/off before you log in, though.
Black Desert’s quests are interesting. In a way, they reminded me of ArcheAge’s quest system because of their style, and how they zoom in to the NPC and you click through each chunk of dialog. I really like it. While you don’t see your own character during these quest sequences like you would in Guild Wars 2 or SWTOR, the UI looks polished and really quite cool. At the moment quests aren’t voiced leading to a lot of quiet while doing tasks for the locals, but Daum have stated that English voice acting (with French and German subtitles) are in the works, so that will be very nice.
One of the more prominent characters in Black Desert Online is the ‘Black Spirit’, a little black wisp with red eyes that follows you around, tells you helpful information, and gives you quests. In a creepy Asian way. Seriously, this thing would not look out of place in a Ghibli movie and its haunting little voice doesn’t help much! With the imperfect English it speaks only adding to the overall feel, though I’m not sure if that’s intentional or not. I kind of love it, though. It feels unique. Not the concept of having a spirit companion that tells you the lay of the land and gives you quests on occasion, but this particular spirit makes me feel a little uneasy. My character is clearly trusting it because it helps when you wake up in a daze having spent too much magic, but deep down I’m a little suspicious of it. It feels like a mischievous dark magic spirit and it’s very cool.
And then there are the minor details in the game. The things that you perhaps don’t even consider when you think about your ideal MMO. Things such as when your character jumps on a wall, they won’t leap, they will climb. When you sit on the edge of something, your legs dangle, as they actually would. When it rains, everything gets wet – including the floor and the NPCs – and when it stops it takes a little bit for everything to dry out. There are so many minor little details that just make the world of Black Desert Online really pop, and it is the things that ordinarily you wouldn’t think about that really stand out.
Of course, Black Desert is not just a visual affair – though there is no denying that it is certainly a feast for the eyes – it also brings some fun combat mechanics to the table.
Action combat in MMORPGs is nothing new, sure. You could easily look towards Tera, WildStar, Blade & Soul and the like for this. However, Black Desert Online’s combat does feel unique to Black Desert with the way different skills and spells interweave with one another for more power and utility. I’m sure when I get chance to play the game a bit more, the combat will feel fluid and powerful, though during my time in this Alpha event, it felt a lot like I was madly hammering abilities in the hope of finding the right one. Luckily for me, this made stuff dead quite effectively so it was just as fun as it would have been were I to understand what I was doing in a crazy person kind of way. But I am under no impression that this is the norm considering how each skill does something a little different when combined with another.
Perhaps the most important take away from this Alpha test, however, is that Black Desert Online met all of my expectations and then some. Yes, the game has its flaws and there are still localization factors like language and leveling speed to be worked on, but the things that I wanted out of Black Desert are present. This is going to be a great MMORPG with deep customization, fun combat, and an immersive and explorable world. I absolutely can’t wait to check out what PvE content the game brings later on, and though I’m not much of a PvPer, I’m still pretty eager to try this aspect of the game out because damn it must be fun with Black Desert’s combat!Related: Alpha, Black Desert Online, MMORPG, Preview