Hello, wonderful readers, and welcome to the first installment of our new weekly column on Black Desert Online, the Calpheon Journal. My name is Liore, and I will try to be your guide through the most recent in-game issues, mysterious mechanics, and, um, places to fish, as we all learn to play this latest Korean import MMO.
Black Desert Online, or BDO, is at first glance best billed as a semi-sandbox. There are rails if you need them, and limits to what your character can do in the game, but with that there is a delightfully wide range of possible activities and no need to rush to the “end game”, whatever that means. Some folks love grinding mobs – the combat is awfully fun – while others focus on gathering and crafting, or trading, or gardening, or breeding horses, or building boats and fighting Vikings, or… well, you get the idea.
It is Black Desert Online launch week! Can BDO live up to the hype? I hope so, but we’ll find out together.
Launch Day Blues
Every MMO fan knows that launch week is almost always marked by some kind of disaster, and BDO maintained the tradition. First, folks who ordered the $100 pre-order package eagerly jumped into the game early Sunday morning only to discover that certain channels (or named segments of a megaserver) were incorrectly listed under the wrong name. In particular, some players who thought they were rolling on Edan ended up on Orwen!
This caused a lot of chaos in the first few days, as guilds and friends were unexpectedly split up. Daum Games, BDO’s publisher in Europe and North America, offered a few in-game rewards to $100 package buyers as an apology, but didn’t offer much of a solution beyond rerolling.
The second launch-related drama happened shortly after. Technically, Daum closed pre-ordering, including headstart access to the game, earlier this week. However, people could still buy the game, just without the pre-order bonuses. This distinction was apparently lost on a number of players who, particularly at the $50 level, expected to start playing immediately in the headstart only to discover that they had to wait.
While the confused players were technically in the wrong, there were clearly some pretty major communication errors on everyone’s part.
Enough drama, let’s play
That brings us to now, and the game’s official launch on March 3. To Daum’s credit, for post-headstart players and $30 package purchasers such as myself, the game has been pretty smooth. There was a rather lengthy maintenance period to prepare for today, but that’s to be expected during the launch week of just about any game, MMO or otherwise.
I’ve only played BDO for a few hours as of writing this column (the $30 folks have only had access for a day!) but the game is beautiful and holds a lot of potential. However, one immediate issue is the completely incomprehensible UI, which I think is probably telling me a lot of information if I could understand any of it.
My friend and fellow MMOGames contributor Syl put it best in this image she created:
There are icons blinking and NPC conversation mini-game screens and trails of sparkles and oh my goodness, have you looked at the menu you get when you hit the Esc key? Even some of my combat moves seem to require memorizing key sequences like I’m playing a twin-stick fighting game. It’s awfully overwhelming at first, and I hope that players stick with the game until they can figure out what it all means.
Speaking of combat moves, fighting in Black Desert succeeds in being fun, even if I don’t always know what my buttons do. The game is great at making you feel powerful, even if you’re not actually dealing that much damage. So far I’ve played both a Valkyrie and a Witch, and they each have their own appeal.
Combat with the Valkyrie is about 80% physical damage and 20% magical damage, with lots of zipping around and smacking things with your sword. It’s incredibly satisfying to do a flying kick into an imp and watch it explode into pieces.
Witches, on the other hand, are the exact opposite: roughly 80% magical damage and 20% physical stabbin’. Witches and their male counterpart Wizards are adept at AOE damage, and even by level 5 I had spells that would wipe out small groups of easy mobs at once.
Before I actually started playing BDO I had heard people say that they ended up “grinding” mobs without intending to because the combat is so darn fun, and while there’s probably a bit of exaggeration in that statement I can see what they mean. I certainly killed more creatures than I needed to for quests so I could get the hang of combos and just revel in exploding critters. I can only imagine that this will get more fun – and more complicated – as I level up and get new abilities!
What kind of life will you lead?
The big question for most players after the first couple of days will be: now what? Arguably MMO fans have gotten used to themeparks on rails (not that there’s anything wrong with that), which when combined with the lack of explanation BDO gives for many of its features could result in many players just giving up with a purpose.
BDO seems like a game where you need to enjoy the journey. Unless your plan is to become the server’s most notorious high level ganker – which, hey, it’s a valid role – you don’t need to hustle your way to 50. Take your time! Roll some alts, run around and find nodes, go fishing, climb a mountain and watch the sun rise.
As for me, my loose plan is to keep doing quests until I get my donkey. This will give me the opportunity to learn a bit more about all these strange numbers and icons and systems, plus the donkey is useful for trading. Then I’m going to find Calpheon, and start setting up my trade empire.
Whether you’re planning to be a fighter or a fisher or anything in between, have fun out there, and see you in a week!Related: Black Desert Online, Calpheon Journal, Column, Launch