Black Desert Online, or BDO for short, is an MMORPG that has crossed my mind numerous times in the last years. We decided to give Black Desert Online a shot. We sunk more than 75+ hours into the game and I’d like to share my review of the game.
- First Impressions (~5 hours of playing)
- The Review (75+ Hours of playing)
First Impressions (~5 hours of playing)
Let’s start with my first impressions. What were the things that caught my eye right away?
Black Desert Online’s Character Creation
For my first character, I created a Hashashin. The Hashashin is a Desert Warrior that has a lot in common with the Prince of Persia. The classes in BDO are gender locked, but usually they have a counterpart. For example, you have the Witch and the Wizard. They basically are the same thing but have some minor differences.
When I first created my character I was astonished by the Character Creation options that Black Desert Online is famous for. The character creation options are limitless.
You can modify almost every hair, your cheekbones, eye pupils and more. I sunk more than 20 to 30 minutes into creating my first character.
If you’re not into that you can just use the beauty album in the bottom left of your screen. You can choose a pre-made look for your character created by other players. And in most cases you are able to modify that pre-made look as well!
When I was done creating my character, I hopped into the game and immediately felt overwhelmed. I got a ton of notifications for Node Wars, there was unopened stuff in the bottom right of my screen and leveling was blazingly fast. I went from level 1 to 7 in about 2 to 3 minutes.
Once I checked the rewards in the bottom right I decided not to claim them. It looked like stuff that I needed later on and would clutter my inventory. Many things were unclear to me and looked very similar to each other.
Luckily, you can leave these things be and claim them later on. And those notifications that keep bothering you? You can easily turn those off in the options menu.
On the upside of things… The combat is amazing, this is really one of the best combat systems that I have seen in an MMORPG! It’s fluent and has combos that are easy to remember and are similar for every class. Although it is visually different for every class, the effect is the same.
The combat is Black Desert Online is great. However, I did run into some obstacles when I just started playing BDO. This took me right out of the immersion of the game. For example, the endless dialogues and the long walking distances in between quests. But we’ll get into that later. So, I have to say that my first experience with Black Desert Online was mixed. But it does certainly get better!
The Review (75+ Hours of playing)
I continued playing the game for more than 70 hours after I wrote down my first impressions on Black Desert Online. Now it’s time to dig a little further in all the other things that Black Desert has to offer!
Let’s start with the story of Black Desert Online. The story of Black Desert Online starts with a dialogue between you and your companion, the Black Spirit. You can summon him any time by pressing the comma (,) button on your keyboard. When you first create your character you get a cinematic about events that occurred in the past and you character can’t remember. The Black Spirit knows more about it and is willing to help you get your memory back. However, you have to help the little fella first.
The Black Spirit sends you to places all over the world. Early on you’ll notice that this little fella has a hidden agenda… The quests the Black Spirit offers and the overall story are soft and sweet. t’s not too deep and it’s not that hard to follow. But, my god, the dialogues are tedious.
The story sends you to various NPC’s multiple times and they have a lot to talk about. If you are not super engaged into the story you will find yourself quickly skipping through a lot of the dialogue. The story consists, like many older MMO’s, out of running back and forth between NPC’s. It is no exception to walk back and forth for 10 to 20 minutes before you actually can do something pro-active, like combat.
Luckily, the game gives you a ton of movement speed buffs that allow you to quickly get around.
Although this is nice, the whole process feels rushed. It feels like the game wants you to rush through these areas as fast as possible. I would go with a revamp instead. The game can do so much better as I experienced later on!
Once you reach level 56 the questline sends you to the desert where it all gets a lot better.
The quests are more engaging and you really want to know what is going to happen next!
Some players might get demotivated by these early quests and that’s a shame!
There are also a ton of side quests you can pick up along the way. Some quests have a fun side story, others are just fetch and kill quests. Nothing too innovative there but some of them really are fun to do!
A closer look at Black Desert’s combat
The combat is very engaging and has an interesting combo system. When you first start your journey, you have a limited set of skills. Since you level fast early on, the amount of skills you can use exponentially increases.
Most skills can be used as a combo or with a combination of buttons. For example, with Shift and E I can summon a sand tornado on my Hashashin and on my Sorceress I use Goku’s Spirit Bomb. Most skills can be used with the use of one, two or maybe three buttons.
It is also possible to hotbar these skills if you want to use them more quickly.
There are also skills and dashes that quickly allow you to go from target A to target B.
Since most of your skills have an AoE effect, it is wise to fight multiple enemies at once.
Most enemies aren’t too strong and it is more efficient to gather XP that way. Black Desert encourages this way of playing. Enemies can be found in big numbers and are usually packed together. This, in combination with the AoE skills makes Black Desert more like a Hack and Slash Action RPG than a traditional MMO. In my opinion, you could better compare it to Diablo than to Guild Wars 2 or World of Warcraft. And it does a good job at that.
BDO’s Skill Tree
The game also has an interesting skill tree to level your skills. It’s not overly complicated and shows you a nice preview of what the skill looks like. Many games should use Black Desert’s adaptation of the skill tree. Skill points can easily be earned by using your skills against enemies.
At level 56, something interesting happens to your character… The class you played changes and becomes even stronger. This process is called Awakening. A Questline is tied to your awaking and lets you face a challenging enemy.
When your character becomes awakened, you obtain a new weapon and a new set of skills.
It’s similar to an Elite Specialization in Guild Wars 2. For example, on my Hashashin, I got Dual Glaves which gave me new fancy attack skills. It also allowed me to summon enormous sand snakes that deal great AoE damage. On my Awakend Sorceress I was able to summon a Nightmare field that damages enemies in the area.
You won’t ditch your old weapons though. You can easily combo in and out of your awakening form by pressing C in and out of combat. Your non-Awaking form might be faster than your Awakening form. But in contrast to that, your Awakening form is probably stronger and deals more damage. Combine your Awakening and non-Awakening form based on your combat situation!
Exploring the world
Exploring the world is like you would expect in an MMO like Black Desert Online. There are moments in this game where you have to walk for a solid 10 to 20 minutes to complete a quest.
Luckily you get a speed boost whilst doing these quests early on in the game.
Black Desert does not have Fast Travel. There is no waypoints you can use or go up to a Flying master and fly across the world. There are, however, teleportation scrolls that can send you to the nearest town. And there’s also a balloon ride that takes you from the desert to Calpheon.
Which is nice, but still, you still have to make your way to a specific point to travel.
Luckily, Black Desert Online has mounts you can level and upgrade to get around much faster.
Although you won’t really need them early on, mounts can be a time saver once you go beyond level 50. You need to travel a lot and a fast mount can reduce your travel time.
You have to level your mount as well, so it’s best to start early on with that. All in all, I like the system. It’s ok to not go everywhere in the world with just a click.
The movement of your character feels good, especially in combat. You can even use dashes to get around. Even if you are not in combat. Although general movement is good, climbing and jumping feel a bit janky. Jumping off a ledge for example. Your character moves a bit weird or could not make the jump that you thought it could make. Also, climbing a ledge can be difficult and makes your character space out a little bit.
In general, movement and moving around in the world is fine. There are some things that they could do a little better but it’s nothing too troublesome.
To simply put it, Black Desert’s World is vast and beautiful. If you have a high performance gaming PC, somewhere in the mid to high section, I really encourage you to play this game on the best graphic settings available. I run BDO on a mid range computer on a somewhat older GPU (NVIDIA GTX970), so my settings were also set to medium. The game looks good but knowing it could look even better makes me really want to get a new GPU. Just to get the maximum potential out of BDO.
While you travel through the world, you will notice that it has a sort of eastern touch, a graphic style that you see in other MMOs. I can’t quite lay my finger on what it is, but if you played a game like Blade and Soul, you know what I mean! If you are into photography then you’ll like the photographic mode that automatically triggers when you go AFK. This photographic mode can also be manually activated. This lets you create amazing video footage or you can capture an awesome screenshot of your character.
For your first 50 levels, you won’t see much change in the scenery. Most of the areas you will see are forests, mountains and cities. This was not bothersome to me but if you are looking for high, snowy mountains or a vast desert, you might have to play a bit more BDO to get there. I was personally really into the desert area!
After playing a great number of hours I still have only seen about 1/3 of the world. If you are looking for an MMO where there is a lot to explore, and also, if possible, have a PC that has a great graphics card, Black Desert Online is the MMO for you.
If you are done defeating monsters and traveling the world, you can always settle down somewhere. You can buy a house if you like. But next to that, you can also level other, so-called, Life Skills. A number of Life Skills players can do are:
- and much, much more…
We briefly talked about Training already. By riding your mount you can level your mount up and you increase your Training skill. Having a higher Training skill lets you level your mount much quicker but it can also, increase your mount’s movement speed.
The Conversation system is an interesting system that I haven’t seen before. You can compare it somewhat with a reputation system in other games but it is much more than that.
Early on in the game, you will see a number of NPCs with the ‘Conversation’ dialogue option.
This allows you to have a conversion with them. If you manage to link the right topics and people to each other in a conversation, you will earn Amity.
Amity is the reputation you earn with that person. If you reach a certain level of Amity with some NPCs, for example the Stable Keeper, you can purchase more items or they will give you a quest. However, you do need a certain knowledge to have a decent conversation with these people. This knowledge can be obtained by talking to other NPC’s.
You might notice question marks on your BDO playthrough. Simply interacting with the NPC that belongs to the question mark on your map gives you knowledge and a topic to talk about.
This can then be used in a conversation to increase your amity. Interacting with these NPC’s also gives you energy, this can be found above your health bar. Energy is required to have a conversation but is also used in other things, for example stealing from an NPC. This is an account wide feature but we will get into that later.
You could see these conversations as mini puzzles. I did quite enjoy talking to a number of NPC’s and then unlocking an extra shop option after that. It’s not mandatory to have conversations and increase your energy from these NPC’s but it could benefit you in the long run since it offers your more vendors and extra quests!
The conversation system is a bit hard to get into and is not really explained in the game. But it’s a unique system that is entertaining when you get into it.
Leveling Alts (Alt Friendliness)
Once you have played your first character a bit you might want to try out another class.
And BDO allows you to do that. At the start you can create up to 6 characters. You can get additional character slots with loyalties. You get loyalties by logging each day. But you can also buy those with real money. I think this is a nice system to get extra characters slots for more dedicated players whilst casual players can just buy the slots if they please.
Anyway, to my surprise, BDO is actually Alt Friendly. When you create your first character you’ll also have to choose your family name. Most of the things you do in Black Desert will be tied to this family.
Remember the conversation system and the energy we talked about? Well, that’s tied to your family. Which means that this is account bound.
So, if I interact with numerous NPC’s on my main character, I gain the same knowledge and energy on my alt characters. You won’t have to backtrack everything on your main character, you can just use a lower level alt to do so. And this could unlock new vendors when you go through the world once again on an alt.
Also, your Stable is shared with other characters. Which means that if you have an awesome, quick mount on your main character, you can also use that on your alt. You might have to transfer it to another location, which costs a little bit of in-game silver but then you can use your fast mount on your low level character.
Tagging your character
There are a number of other things you can share with your other characters but I want to highlight one more important thing. And that is Tagging. Tagging is something that I haven’t seen before in an MMO and I was pleasantly surprised by it.
If your character is about the same level as another character and both characters are in the same town, you can tag them to one another. This means that you can switch from one character to another in just a few clicks. Your tagged character will spawn at the exact location as your other character. This means that your tagged characters will always share eachother’s location. So, if you are facing a difficult challenge and you know you can tackle this better on another character, you can just switch to your tagged character. You will then spawn at the same location as your other character and start right away.
Also, if you run out of energy on one character because you have been having too many conversations, you can switch to your tagged character. The tagged character will then use its own energy pool to continue the conversation! This also applies to gathering or other things that require energy of course. And as I have said before, that maximum energy pool is shared across all characters.
The only downside that I found so far if we’re talking about Tagging is questing.
If you have your tagged character questing in one location and you move away from that location with your other tagged character, you will have to move back again if you want to complete that quest. This is because of the shared locations of tagged characters. That’s really the only minor downside I found.
Before we move on to my final conclusion we need to talk about the end game.
Black Desert is a bit different in terms of end game content. And for me, someone who has multiple characters at level 58, it’s hard to determine what the end game actually is. Black Desert only recently added a dungeon to their game.
Black Desert is about creating your own end game if you read and listen to other players.
It’s all about setting your own goals. Do you want to become a rich marketplace flipper, then that is your end game. You want to set sail and get your own boat? Then THAT is your end game. Some people consider grinding for the best gear, like you can do in game like Diablo 3, the end game.
Or as this guy mentions on Reddit, there are more than 30 things you can do in Black Desert once you reach end game. Maxing out life skills like Gathering, Fishing and Hunting are just a few examples.
Getting your level up as high as possible is one of the things you should be able to do first.
There is no level cap in BDO. However, once you reach level 62, leveling gets very difficult and it’s hard to obtain XP after that. So, that should be considered the max level for now. This will probably change as the game progresses and releases more zones, but for now, let’s keep it between 62 and 63.
There are also World Bosses you can do. These spawn all across the world and can give you some nice items and improvements to your gear. This is similar to the World Bosses you can find in Guild Wars 2 and World of Warcraft.
Also, PvP can be considered end game content. Personally I haven’t had great experiences with it just yet. I got my butt kicked all the time and I felt like I was severely undergeared on my main character. So, I feel like PvP is more for players that have completely geared up their character and then test their skill against other people.
For some, this might be a trigger to not play the game at all. I’d say, give it a try nonetheless.
See how far you can get, push your limits. But if you are looking for classic end game content, BDO is not the game for you. It might be in the future if they release more dungeons or raids at one point. But no one can tell that.
BDO offers countless things to try when you are done leveling, I want to dig a little deeper into those. As an overall verdict of the end game content, I’d say it’s a bit of a mixed opinion from my side.
Now, let’s bundle all the things together that I discussed in this article. Let’s conclude this review.
Black Desert is an MMO that has combat that I haven’t seen before. It’s fluid, has awesome animations and it feels good. Next to that, the game is beautiful if you have a decent GPU and PC if you can run it on higher graphics.
But on the other hand, it feels like the game wants to push you through older content as fast as possible.The general questline is mediocre and cannot be skipped if you want to level efficiently on an alt. Yes, you can choose Path Y for Quest X but about 90% of the stuff you do is the same.
And although the game helps you level as fast possible, it does not really take you by the hand.
You get a lot of items that you don’t really understand the purpose of yet. Also, complex systems like the Node system aren’t explained at all. You have to discover that by yourself.
Although that is something that some players might like, I also think that the majority of players would like a bit of explanation.
But my overall opinion about the game is good. If you ask me if you should play Black Desert Online, I’d say yes. Give the game a try, I’m sure you’ll find something you like. But if you are really into classic MMO’s with Dungeons and Raids, you might not like the end game you are working towards. The world is vast and there is enough to explore and give yourself a good time.
I think Black Desert is best described as a huge online sandbox MMO with countless opportunities. Therefore, it’s hard to compare to World of Warcraft, Guild Wars 2 or the Elder Scrolls Online that provide a clearer path you are working towards. Anyway, give it a shot and let me know what you think in the comments.
Black Desert Online Review
Black Desert Online is a visually stunning game with great graphics and combat that looks and feels great. However, it can be hard to understand the game's countless complex systems and stay engaged on its mediocre storyline.