Black Desert Online (BDO) is one of the newest MMORPGs to hit the market in North America and Europe. The game itself originally came out in Korea back in 2014, followed by a release in Russia and Japan in 2015. Despite having already been released elsewhere for two years now, BDO still boasts a unique gameplay experience unlike many others.
Classes and Character Creation
Let’s talk character creation. After selecting their server and realm, players get to choose from one of eight classes. I chose the Valkerie class whose kit contains a mixture of melee combat and support abilities. Other classes include Warrior, Ranger, Sorceress, Berserker, Tamer, Wizard and Witch.
Four additional classes were released in Korea, Japan and Russia. These additional 4 classes are Blader (samurai), Plum (an agile swordswoman), Ninja and Kunoichi (female ninja). Europe and North America will likely receive these during the first major content update. When exactly that will be, however, I do not know.
Once you decide your class, you move on to actually creating your character from a base class model. There are no genders to choose from as classes are gender locked. That’s not to say you can’t get creative though. Black Desert Online has one of the most exhaustive character customization I’ve ever seen in an MMO. In fact, there are several videos on YouTube (like this one) where BDO players create near perfect replicas of famous celebrities. The amount of detail you can put into your character is astounding.
You can manipulate the length, width, size, shape, color and position of nearly everything on your character’s body if you so choose. Even muscle tone and definition. It’s pretty legit. The character creation wouldn’t be nearly as impressive however if it wasn’t for BDO’s custom-made “Black Desert” engine. This engine continues to wow players once they get in game.
World and Environment
Black Desert Online is one of the most beautiful and realistic MMOs I have ever had the pleasure of playing. The world is alive! NPCs aren’t just an after thought in BDO.
You can physically bump into them. They talk to one another. Go shopping. Walk from town to town. Whilst traveling, you might pass a knight on patrol or a trader and their wagon going to market. It’s a really cool concept that I hope future MMOs implement.
The world of Black Desert Online is a masterpiece. It feels real and organic. The attention to detail is astounding. Just look at those twinkling stars! Those blades of grass!
An article I previously read about BDO described the world as “low-fantasy realism.” I think that’s a perfect description, as you wouldn’t know you were playing a fantasy game just by exploring the world and seeing the sights. Until, that is, you end up in a goblin camp or surrounded by walking trees.
That being said, the system specs needed to fully appreciate Black Desert Online visually is definitely on the higher end. My rather expensive rig is only two years old but can’t smoothly run BDO on the highest settings. When I try, the game starts rendering too slowly. When that happens, I’ll be walking somewhere and will see trees, grass and distant landscapes suddenly render and load into view then disappear again once I’m far enough away.
It’s a little annoying and distracting at times but not enough to make me stop playing. It’s sad though because by lowering my settings, BDO’s crisp visuals go to waste as the environment becomes gritty and dull. But that’s the price you pay in a game void of loading screens.
Gameplay and Combat
Black Desert Online‘s controls and gameplay style took me a little while to get used to. While there is a tutorial in terms of questing and learning how to fight, it is wrapped up with the main storyline, which is weird, hard to follow and forgettable. This made learning what I needed to be doing difficult and confusing.
Fortunately, BDO has an auto-run feature that when activated, will cause your character to simply run to wherever they need to be for their current quest. At first I thought it took the fun out of exploring and forging my own path, but I got over that quickly. Auto-running to a quest is fantastic.
In terms of other controls, you move with the WASD keys and use the mouse to control the camera. The R key is used as well, to talk and interact with others. Combat uses a plethora of other controls, but I’ll get to those later.
The HUD is a little clunky for my liking. It has too much stuff going. Messages about guild wars and the cost of things in the market keep flashing across my screen with no explanation what so ever. But notifications that are actually useful don’t appear easily in view. These things and more wouldn’t be as annoying to me if they were at least explained.
Moving to a high note, Black Desert Online’s combat system is top notch. The fluid way players are able to string their basic attacks and abilities together using an assortment of key commands and mouse clicks just blows me away. Instead of the usual 1-9 ability hot key system, BDO players fight using an assortment of left clicks and right Clicks in tandem with properly timed presses of the Ctrl key, E key, SHIFT key and many others! For example, say an ability is tied to the 6 key, it may also be activated by right clicking while pressing the Ctrl key.
While this seemed odd to me at first (and more work), it led to a more enjoyable combat experience. I wasn’t just sitting at my desk hitting a rotation of numbers. My fingers were dancing across the keyboard. My mind was engaged trying to remember what key combination did what ability. All the while, my Valkyrie was also dancing around the battlefield.
BDO uses an active battle system similar to Guild Wars 2. This means you have to actually aim all your attacks and abilities while dodging your enemy’s in kind. The only drawback to this is that range classes have a harder time landing attacks than melee ones.
Crafting in Black Desert Online plays a HUGE role within the game. While many MMOs are “rush to the level cap!” with some light crafting on the side, leveling in BDO is fairly easy so crafting gets more attention. For the purpose of this article (and my fingers) I will only be listing the different crafting professions and ways to gather materials. I chose to this because I feel I could write-up a whole other article about the crafting system. A small paragraph or two about it would simply not do it justice. Just know that the crafting system in Black Desert Online is immense and very diverse.
- The crafting professions include: Alchemy, Blacksmithing, Cooking, Horse Taming, Jewel Crafting, Trading and Woodworking,
- Ways to gather materials: Axe for wood, Cleaver for meat, Fishing Rod for fish, Hoe for plants, Pick for mining, Skinning Knife for furs and Syringe for blood and other fluids.
Black Desert Online offers more content than I could experience during my play-through for this review, such as PVP and End Game content. I have heard that end game content is rather light. Other than a few world bosses to tackle, there’s not much else. Nothing to raid. No dungeons. Not yet at least. But who knows what new content will be released in the future!
All in all, Black Desert Online is a very solid and enjoyable MMO. Very different than whats on the market now. And games don’t look any better than this. My main issues were simply a lack of proper instruction for many of the in-game features and how strong a computer is needed to play it well. Other than that, if you’re looking for that next great MMO, look no further than Black Desert Online. Visit the official website and buy your copy today! There’s two different game packages to choose from and each offer a plethora awesome in-game goodies. Happy Gaming!
This review is based on a retail copy of the game provided by the publisher.
A Non-Traditional MMORPG
Gameplay - 8.5/10
Design - 10/10
Value - 8.5/10
While not quite perfect, Black Desert Online offers a refreshing gameplay experience for mmorpg noobs and veterans alike. There are plenty of fun things to do within the massive game world and it's only getting going to get better (and bigger). It's a very enjoyable game with a bright future ahead of it. Definitely worth looking at.