I hadn’t engaged in Black Desert Online’s sea content – or the game period, really – in quite some time until about a month ago, which means that I completely missed, among other things, a pretty big overhaul of said content. The Great Ocean update, released in October 2019, added new islands, quests and ships, a crew system for the bigger vessels, and a completely new way for mariners to make money: a sea-based bartering system.
BDO is a complex game though, and it took me a while to reacquaint myself with all the different systems and layers. However, once I felt comfortable with the day by day gameplay again I couldn’t wait to board my trusty Epheria frigate and try the new stuff out.
As it turns out there’s a lot of additional stuff to do. My ship, the cream of the crop back when I finished building it, basically ranks just one step above ‘cockleshell’ nowadays, for example. Especially for bartering it’s barely adequate as its cargo hold can’t carry all that much weight. It’s a start though, and as most of the materials needed to upgrade the ship further are earned via bartering and defeating sea creatures anyway this seems to be working as intended. I’ve got to work my way up, as it were.
And that really doesn’t bother me at all, because frankly, once I’d finished building the frigate and crafted the corresponding gear almost two years ago I lost interest in the whole sailing thing rather quickly. My big goal was achieved, and at the time there actually wasn’t all that much to do out at sea beyond that, at least not for solo players.
Now I have another long term goal to pursue, and I also know that there’s an actual use for it once I’ve reached it.
As for the bartering system itself, I think it’s pretty neat. In a nutshell, you trade certain ‘normal’ goods like raw or processed materials for Level 1 trade goods at one place, then take those someplace else to trade them for Level 2 goods, and on it goes up to Level 5. With some exceptions low level goods serve no other purpose than to exchange them for higher tiers, while tiers 4 and 5 can be sold to NPC merchants for hefty sums of silver or a special currency used to buy various goodies.
Trade goods are very heavy and need to be in the ship’s cargo hold in order to barter with them anyway, so getting a bigger boat soonish is definitely advisable.
What the system doesn’t entail, despite this post’s header, is any kind of haggling. What can I say, I just can’t resist an opportunity to use a Python quote. Anyway, I’m actually pretty glad that there’s no negotiating involved, as the game’s onshore trading already has something like that, and I really don’t like it.
Which doesn’t mean that there’s no RNG involved however, because of course there is. This is BDO after all. You can reroll the trade routes a couple of times per day, and from what I can tell everything about it is completely random: which land goods are required, which Level 1’s you get for them and what you can trade those for in turn, where everything is etc. Not rerolling at all isn’t an option either as every trade route runs dry after a certain amount of barters.
Consequently, to make efficient use of your time and resources you need to carefully plan which routes to take, how to optimize your available cargo hold, when to reroll and even what to trade and what to keep – that Level 2 piece you’re about to give away might well be needed at a later point to exchange for ship upgrade parts, for example.
I will say that it all seemed a bit tedious at the beginning, but the more barters you’ve completed the more routes open up, which reduces the need to regularly make overly long trips for just a single exchange by a lot. It’s actually starting to be quite fun now.
I also really like that I finally have a meaningful use for all those land goods. Ever since I play the game I’ve had workers accumulating all kinds of resources for me, and while I’ve obviously used up some here and there the majority has just been collecting dust in my warehouses. Of course I could’ve sold any surplus to other players at any time, but I didn’t want to – I might still need that stuff at some point, you see. Yeah, I’m a hoarder when I play RPGs, sue me. And, what do you know, at some point is actually now. Ha!
The new questline also introduces players to sea monster hunting. I’ve done quite a lot of that back in the day to collect materials for my frigate’s cannons, sails etc., but I’m still glad about the refresher because the damage- and hitpoint-numbers have apparently been tweaked since then, and it’s actually feasible to shoot them with my cannons now instead of trying to ram them to death (!).
This is definitely much more fun, and it also makes me look forward to getting the upgrades for my frigate even more – not only will those have more cannons to shoot with, I’ll even be able to fire broadsides right from the steering wheel instead of climbing down, manning a cannon and firing it manually, then climbing back up to change the ship’s potition, and so on. Can’t wait!
So, yeah, if seafaring is your thing and you’d like it to be just one aspect of a proper MMORPG – instead of playing something like, say, Sea of Thieves – I can wholeheartedly recommend giving Black Desert a shot. Just be aware that pretty much everything in this game is a marathon rather than a sprint. Don’t expect to be cruising around in your carrack within a week or two.
Personally, I like it that way. Finishing the frigate felt like a real achievement at the time, and I feel those are rather hard to come by in most modern MMORPGs.
Sidenote: if you’ve played BDO in the past but don’t right now you might have missed the memo about Kakao Games handing over publishing duties for the game’s western version back to Pearl Abyss pretty soon. You need to transfer your data over to a Pearl Abyss account before the end of May, else you’ll lose everything. Naithin and Bhagpuss have all the details, should you need them.