We’ve played an awful lot of MMOs in our time but it feels like that era is coming to an end. Once you could always be excited for the next ‘WoW-killer’ but those have all come and gone and none of them managed the job. With high-profile and ridiculously high-budget games like SWTOR struggling to find a significant audience publishers are understandably not to keen to fund a new AAA MMO, but thankfully the Koreans don’t seem to have got that memo. Black Desert Online is a new MMO in the mold of older games like Ultima Online and Star Wars Galaxies. Warcraft fans will feel fairly at home with levelling up, hotbar skills and quests, but there’s definitely more freedom and less hand-holding to be found here.
We’ve only spent a short time with the second closed beta but it only takes a few seconds to realise how spectacular this game could be. It looks absolutely stunning with a new game engine created specifically for the game allowing for highly detailed and customisable character models. The landscape might feature some quite plain geometry and textures in places but the lighting is incredibly and weather effects actually have an effect on combat beyond just adding to atmosphere. The animation, too, is a league above everything else we’ve seen in the MMO-space (except perhaps another Korean MMO, Tera) with combat animations for our berserker coming across as suitably violent, including one where he grabs the enemy by the neck and smashes them down on the floor. That’s simply not possible with the WoW engine.
Korean MMOs have always been accused of being too grindy and we don’t feel that Black Desert is going to do much to change that impression, early quests involve you going somewhere to speak to someone then having to kill an arbitrary number of progressively more powerful enemies. Gathering skills are measured in the 100s rather than an individual attempt being worth anything. We’re not high enough level to take part in the group content yet but hopefully that ends up being a little more tactical and interesting.
The big selling point for Black Desert is the freedom. We’ve seen people cruising the oceans hunting for whales, guilds can take over areas to get an income of resources, maps are huge and sprawling as opposed to the theme park-style MMOs we’re used to. As it stands, Black Desert feels simply like a modern update for a stale genre, but we think that with a bit more time and the full release it could open itself up to be more player-driven than anything we’ve seen in over a decade.
We’ll bring you more impressions when the full game releases later this month.