I still haven’t found my perfect MMO, so when a game comes along that at least on paper ticks more than a few boxes on my feature-wishlist I have to try it out.
Unfortunately not a single promising title released in 2017 as far as I’m aware. So when my annual winterly urge to make myself at home in an MMORPG came around two weeks ago, I had to consider older games, even ones I have already played in the past.
I don’t know what it is about winter / Christmas time, but seriously, every time December comes around and I’m not deeply immersed in an MMO already, I get a serious urge to do just that. I guess it’s not surpsising then that I started playing Everquest II in December 2004 and EVE Online in December 2005, for example.
Anyway, the only MMORPGs I have played after Ultima Online and Star Wars Galaxies that felt like virtual worlds to me and have numerous sandboxy features that I liked were ArcheAge and Black Desert.
I quit ArcheAge with a heavy heart mainly because its gear progression is P2W through and through, and even if I were fine with not being competitive in PvP I’d have to stomach losing my land again and again because of server merges (and because land rushes are “fun”, according to TRION…^^). So AcheAge’s a no-go.
Prior to the launch of Black Desert’s EU/NA version I got pretty hyped about what I saw and read about it. So hyped in fact that when December 2015 came around (notice the pattern?) I made an account for BDO’s Russian version, installed a translation patch and started playing ahead of time.
The character creator’s quite good, the game looks great and the starting town Olvia has a lot of charm. The presentation of story, if it’s there at all, is pretty bad though. Unlikable characters, stiff animations, cliché story. No wonder the Black Spirit, your main story giver, tries to coerce you into a killing frenzy regularly.
The tutorial just teaches you the most basic, obvious stuff (press Space to jump and Shift to run…my, who would have thought?), whereas most of the important and not really self-explanatory stuff is kept from you. I took every quest I found (which, as I know now, weren’t nearly all of them, as the game hides a lot of them from you by default), ran somewhere, did stuff and ran back. I never felt that I knew what exactly I was doing or why I was doing it. Combat was ok (I played a Musa, basically a guy with a Katana), but everything died so fast that it didn’t seem to matter which skill I used, just spamming left click did the job. Nice looking, but gameplaywise very bland.
Lakisa tried it too and wasn’t too fond of it either.
So the start wasn’t that great. Maybe too much got lost in translation, I thought. I decided to quit for the time being and start again with the launch of the EU version, which was slated for March 2016.
Alas, my enthusiasm for the game had taken a hit, and shortly prior to the EU launch I learned about another huge turn off for me: RNG based gear upgrading. ArcheAge did burn me out heavily with this kind of crap, and I didn’t want to suffer through something like that again. So I didn’t buy it.
Near the end of that year I felt I was missing something again though (I feel I’m on to something here). The game was on discount, only 10€ for the base game. I had followed coverage of the launch and beyond, and it didn’t look half bad. I also read up on gear upgrading again, and while the system it still basically the same, it doesn’t sound nearly as bad as ArcheAge’s, and most importantly: no cash shop items to improve upgrade chances as far as I’m aware.
So I finally bought it. Long story short, it grew on me a bit more this time, but something was still off. I felt aimless, directionless. I made it to Level 29 (this time on a Witch), dabbled a bit in trading, fishing and letting workers do their thing. I rented a nice residence in Heidel. I absolutely should have enjoyed it a lot more, but somehow I just didn’t. I wouldn’t say that I consciously quit this time, I just stopped logging in any more.
Which brings me back to about two weeks ago. For lack of alternatives I decided to give it another go. I patched the client and continued where I left off. I like the same things I had liked before. The story is still crap, combat is still extremely easy. Somehow though I’m having a lot of fun and don’t feel aimless at all this time around.
There seem to be a lot more life skill related quests now (or I didn’t see them before), which is great. I’m cooking, chopping, hacking, gathering, filtering, drying, skinning and brewing my butt off, I grow wheat and carrots (for making beer and feeding my horse, respectively) in my gardens, I haul trade items around, let workers get stuff that I’m too lazy to gather myself, the list goes on. When there’s still time after all of this, I follow the main quest and kill hundreds, more like thousands of baddies in the process. Soon I’ll arrive in Calpheon which I’m very thrilled about. Heidel is a pretty big town already for an MMO, from what I’ve heard Calpheon must dwarf it. Can’t wait.
So the third time seems to indeed be the charm in this case. I know I have said this numerous times before and got disappointed in the end, but right now I can see me playing BDO for a long time.
A quick list of great (for me) features to close things out:
- A virtual world
The world is pretty huge and seamless. No loading screens, no artificial boundaries. And as far as I’m aware, no teleporting whatsoever. You are in Olvia and want to go to Heidel? Mount your horse and hit the road. What, you left your mount in Heidel? Well, then off you go on foot. Your warehouses (think bank-space) are also local. The worker farming potatoes for me just outside of Velia stores these in my Velia warehouse. If I want to use those potatoes anywhere else, I have to ride there and get them, or alternatively pay for a transport service. Initially I wasn’t sure if that’s too much realism for me, as it obviously makes things a bit inconvenient at times. I decided to roll with it, and now the game world feels a lot more like a world that I can immerse myself in. Also helping:
- No throwaway areas
At first I felt the compulsion to complete every quest I saw right away. Pretty much every Themepark MMO since WoW taught us this behaviour. Arrive at quest hub, take all quests, do quests, go back, get rewards, take quest leading to next quest hub, go to next hub, never look back. Rarely ever is there a reason to revisit an area once you’ve done all available quests there. BDO is much different. There’s always reason and/or need to go back, at least if you have any interest in life skills (anything other than combat, really). If you’re interested in getting good at Alchemy, for example, I hear there’s no better place to be than Olvia, which is the town where every character starts the game. Also, that you didn’t see any more quests in an area last time doesn’t necessarily mean that there are none now, because with a higher character level or higher proficiency in certain skills quite a few new quests become available all over the world.
- Complex systems for those who want them
Trading, gathering, farming, processing, crafting, worker-crafting, hunting, fishing, whale-hunting, housing, horse-breeding, leveling, gear upgrading, node wars and undoubtedly some more I don’t even know of yet. I can do all of these on one character if I want to. Or only two or three. Or none of them. My choice. Each of the systems seems to be a science in it’s own right.
I have yet to find a thing in BDO that’s as shallow as ‘press button, wait, done’. I’m also told that pretty much everything can earn you a lot of silver if you commit to it, so no one system seems to be vastly superiour to all others when it comes to becoming ingame-Rockefeller.
- So much to explore
Did I mention that the world is huge? I have played 100+ hours on this character, yet well over 80% of all landmass is still hidden in fog (meaning I haven’t been there yet). The ocean I haven’t even begun to explore. In the regions I have been to I found towns, villages, farms, tree-lined roads, forests, swamps, mountains, watchtowers, castles, battle-scarred fortifications, outposts, caves and more, as well as a diverse cast of wildlife and monsters. Climbing on top of watchtowers or into caves is, again, seamless. And the view from far up is breathtaking. Which brings me to…
- It’s gorgeous
Holy crap, is this a great looking game. Admittedly the default settings go a bit overboard with some features. But once I turned off all color filters and distance blurring the game started to look, well, real. Astonishingly Pearl Abyss is already working on an engine overhaul to make it look even better. I’d already be happy if they managed to remove the pop ups though, which unfortunately take away much immersion while moving around. This gripe aside, it’s by far the best looking MMORPG around.
- The cash-shop can be completely ignored
Unfortunately this isn’t a cash-shop that only sells cosmetics. It also sells inventory and warehouse expansions, pets that pick up loot for you, stuff like that. I don’t have a problem with that though. The game is giving out inventory expansions as quest rewards rather generously, warehouse expansions can be rented with contribution points, loot can be picked up by hand. So what you can buy in the shop pretty much boils down to cosmetics and convenience. It’s not the best or fairest monetization model out there, but in my opinion it’s definitely one of the better. For a game that costs just five bucks right now (ten again when the sale ends) and doesn’t restrict you in any shape or form content-wise if you don’t spend another dime beyond that, it’s a pretty great deal.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to brew beer and cook pet food and pick up my worker’s produce and catch some fish and kill some Orcs and train my horse and…