Is BLACK DESERT ONLINE Worth Playing in 2022? | An MMO Review
Black Desert Online is a realistic medieval fantasy MMORPG. This means when creating your character you’ll have access to a traditional selection of races: Human. You won’t see Gnomes, Dwarves, Trolls, Goblins or anything like that in this game… oh what’s that? You DO encounter those races, you just can’t play as them? Well that seems a little lazy.
Evidently there are a lot of classes to choose from. Almost too many, now that I’m taking a moment to think about it. Can you imagine the difficulty of having to balance each and every one of these so none of them are vastly superior to the other? Yeah, I’m glad that’s not my job.
Evidently it isn’t Pearl Abyss’s either. But I digress.
This game features a deep, intricate character creator – arguably one of, if not the most extensive in terms of raw options. The options are almost limitless.
You can spend hours adjusting every little slider to slowly perfect your creation.. only to come to the realization that the Beauty Album offers something exponentially better than anything you could’ve come up with.
So you begrudgingly select a pre-made character, you take a few moments to adjust something like the hair style or eye color, and then pretend you spent hours on it. Which I’m not saying I did.
Then you’re thrown into the magical world of.. actually, the Wiki for BDO lists it as an “unnamed world,” which means we can just call it whatever? Can we call it Bob? “What on Bob is going on here?” I mean Bob might not like it but I find it amusing.
The world of Black Desert Online is immense. Bob is filled with a surplus of different enemy monsters of varying levels. What sets this game apart from its main competition – games like Guild Wars 2, The Elder Scrolls Online or Final Fantasy XIV, is that Bob itself has no loading screens.
You’re fully capable of running from one side of Bob to the other. Then sailing right back around. This is a great activity to do when you’re bored.
There are absolutely no limitations imposed on where players can go or what players can reach. Except stamina. When sprinting in this game I feel like an asthmatic cast member of that TLC show “My 600lb Life.” But that’s what mounts in this game are for.
Mounts function more or less the same as in any MMO. Except in Black Desert they have stamina. And they wander into enemy camps of monsters while you’re grinding and try to get themselves killed, forcing you to rush back and save them, lest you be forced to run – on foot, all the way back to a stable keeper.
Yet while Bob is large and filled with monsters to engage.. there really isn’t very much that populates it. That warrants actual exploration. You’re required to talk to NPCs to gain pieces of knowledge, there are occasional chests scattered around, world bosses, fishing spots.
But coming from MMOs like Guild Wars 2, with its dynamic questing system, or Final Fantasy XIV and World of Warcraft, with their plethora of unlockable dungeons and raids, I just feel as though Bob often feels empty.
It’s a gorgeous world, and for what it’s worth, it accomplishes that sense of grandeur.
Speaking of dungeons and raids, Black Desert Online doesn’t have any instanced content. Or, okay, let me rephrase. It didn’t have any instanced content for the last several years, with the inclusion of Atoraxxion, their first large-scale dungeon in a recent patch.
I’m about as big a fan of dungeons and raids as the next guy. There’s something.. oddly reminiscent about fighting the same boss every day for months between patch cycles. It’s almost like being in a relationship. You see each other every day. You spend hours doing things with one another. They win every fight you have. Oh, that’s just Mrs Stix?
While there have been players that have expressed excitement for the addition of new PvE options such as dungeons, Black Desert has built the entire foundation of their game on a non-instanced world. With every activity taking place out in the open.
Every MMO has dungeons and raids. BDO wanted to do something different. And honestly? It worked. Players who wanted to avoid the repetitious cycle of farming new instanced fights every 3 months to replace the gear they worked tirelessly towards over the last 3 months had an alternative.
And while this game is the very definition of repetition: Grinding the same monsters for an entire hour for single digits of percentage towards leveling up, it allowed for players to enjoy a different experience. And that’s the point of new MMOs: To offer a different experience for players.
As noted earlier, Black Desert has quite the number of available classes. But it wasn’t always this way. Pearl Abyss have maintained a level of update frequency that I haven’t seen anywhere outside of Final Fantasy XIV, with multiple updates per year introducing entirely new classes to the game.
While many of the classes share distinct similarities: Like dollar store Cloud (Striker) who – in a world where people can shoot massive fireballs from their hands.. runs in to punch and kick you. And of course his little sister. Cloud with Booba (Mystic.)
Or Gandalf and… and.. you know what? I can’t even insult the Witch. She’s adorable. You wanna know exactly HOW similar these two classes are, though? The description for both reads: “Burn, freeze and shatter enemies with the power of natural elements to vanquish their foes.” Yup.
So many of the classes share similarities, but at the same time excel in different areas. Just because the Warrior and Valkyrie both use a sword and shield doesn’t mean they have the same playstyle, and that’s part of what makes this game fun to play.
Every class looks and feels fairly unique.
I’m typically a fan of playing mage classes in games. This is especially true for MMOs where you’re going to be required to engage other players in PvP: player vs player combat.
PvP forces you to push yourself to your limit. To put every bit of knowledge you’ve acquired about your class, enemy classes, to the ultimate test.. which you’ll never get to utilize, as players are going to wait until you’re busy grinding, only half-paying attention, and then they’re going to gank you. Then probably dance on your corpse.
Maybe DM you to laugh at you. Or at least that’s been my experience.
Interestingly, there is very little in the way of instanced PvP. There are no traditional Arenas. No battlegrounds. Everything takes place out in the open-world, with the exception of Siege battles, where one guild protects their castle and the other attempts to take it.
Which actually ties into what I want to discuss next: Leveling. Leveling can be a long, tedious process in any MMO. Black Desert simplifies that by providing players 2 options.
Option #1.) Regular servers. You create a character on a regular server and you have no limitations. You can buy gear from the market board, you can equip and upgrade it, and instantly be off to grinding if that’s what you’re into.
Option #2.) Season servers. These are unique servers that provide a much more linear progression system. Sure, you can run out and grind if you want, but it isn’t going to get you anywhere. Much like running from someone in PvP.
Instead, you progress through the story, which provides you gear to equip, upgrade stones to enhance your gear, and subsequently skill points to waste on messing up your build since you didn’t take the time to read a guide, did you? That’s okay, neither did I, which is why I went Guardian. You realistically need to use like.. 3, maybe 4 abilities total.
I opted to roll a Season character because of the more linear style of gameplay, the increased rates for Season characters, and.. okay, honestly? Creating a Season character was completely by accident. I was just clicking around the characters trying to record and didn’t notice it told me I was creating one.
Admittedly, I just wanted to log right into the game, equip some gear and go murder some things. But we can’t all get what we want.
Regardless of which option you ultimately opt for, you’ll hit a point where you’re required to grind. I came into the MMO genre back when Tales of Pirates and Perfect World were popular – so grinding was what I was under the impression the genre was built upon.
Yet after experiencing games like Final Fantasy XIV and World of Warcraft, neither of which necessarily have a traditional form of grinding, I fear I’ve lost the willpower to dedicate large periods of time to cycling through the same monsters numerous times for hours just to see my XP gauge increase by 1%.
I know this isn’t an issue for some people, and some people even actually.. enjoy it. Somehow. But me? Nope. This is one of the main reasons I never stick with Black Desert long-term. I hit that point where I need to grind incessantly, and it always kills any enjoyment I had up until that point.
Despite disliking grinding for long periods of time, you cannot deny the fact that the gameplay in Black Desert is top-tier. In terms of action combat, I’d say Black Desert and TERA are my 2 favorites.
TERA has a much simpler system design – you have a handful of abilities, and you chain those abilities with other, more powerful abilities, meaning you’re not required to remember individual button inputs, just recall which ability they’re chained to.
BDO however is the complete opposite. You have so many abilities bound to varying different keybinds, like Shift+W+E, or Shift+A after dodging an ability. If you wonder why at times I’m flying around the screen hitting walls, it’s because I couldn’t remember what my abilities were and instead have my face on the keyboard rolling left to right.
I feel like that achieves more or less the same thing.
Combat is gorgeous though. It’s fast, it’s very fluid. Your abilities look and feel impactful. You get bloodied up. If only swinging an axe around in real life looked that cool. The last time I swung an axe it rebounded off of the tree and almost took my head off.
The game also utilizes a fairly extensive skill system, allowing for you to level the skills you want – or even more than that, to learn the abilities you want to learn. Both normal, and Awakened.
But what if you’re not into combat? Into dungeons like Atoraxxion, or open-world PvP? Well, you could always take up professions. Professions are actually pretty big in BDO.
There are a multitude of life skills you can obtain and level like Cooking, Alchemy, Gathering, Horse Training, Processing. And then there’s fishing. Which is the bulk of this game. You’ll quickly come to notice there are hundreds of players in every town, every settlement all with their long, hard wood in-hand for hours at a time.
Now at this juncture you might be wondering to yourself, “Stix, why are you not showing these life-skills in action?” And that’s because I hate life-skilling, professions and crafting in my games. If I wanted to craft, I would’ve taken over my father’s carpentry business but I became a gaming Youtuber. Because I’m lazy and want to play video games.
I pay people to craft for me. People like you. Who is judging me right now, I can feel it seething from you.
Alternatively, you can become a home owner, which, admittedly, isn’t at all as fun as it sounds. It’s so expensive! And you have to deal with all these terrible smells. And noisy neighbors. Constant ransacking from bandits. And monsters – monsters are the worst.
You go out to get the newspaper in the morning and some giant spider ejaculates acid all over you. Yup, then your day is ruined. Imagine having to go through the day with spider coom all over you. Nobody is going to appreciate that.
Speaking of spiders – spiders in BDO are the size of people. Actual PEOPLE! Imagine trying to squish a spider in your home! How much bug spray will you go through? See? Expensive. If you’re not dead.
There are 2 common complaints I hear amongst the community: 1.) The RNG for upgrading gear is terrible. And it is. It genuinely, wholeheartedly is. And 2.) The game is heavily pay to win.
Sure, there are some cool things available like pets, mounts, a surplus of different outfits, but come on. It cannot be any more blatant than this.
Gear upgrading on the other hand.. imagine spending days, weeks, months grinding for gear. Then imagine spending time grinding to upgrade that gear. Now take a moment here and smash your PC with a hammer. Because that’s exactly what you’re going to want to do when using the upgrade system in BDO.
At the end of the day, Black Desert Online is an absolutely incredible MMORPG for what it is. Pearl Abyss chose to do something different with this – something that was vastly different from what was popular at the time, and it worked for them.
They built something beautiful, something that played better than essentially ALL of its competition. And it has continued to be actively developed, it has continued to grow in size year after year.
Sure, leveling can be tedious – grinding in general, once again, can be a tedious process, but that’s why you play with friends. I helped a friend of mine out, Zarbalos, who was level 61 struggling to find the willpower to hit level 62. And after grinding with me… he obtained that which he had been vying for for months.
Is this the greatest MMO? To some people, maybe. To me? No.
Combat – 10/10 I’d give the combat an easy 10/10. It’s unrivaled.
Graphics – 10/10 Graphically, much of the same.
Narrative – 3/10 The narrative falls below average for me because it just so absent and underwhelming.
World – 7/10 The world is large and open, but a little too empty for my tastes.
Content – 6/10 While there’s plenty to do, it lacks dungeons, raids and other forms of content that might keep me more interested in the game outside of life skills and grinding.
Overall – 36/50 This is an easy 3.5/5 for me. Definitely a far above average game, but held down a little by things that I find are personally lacking. They might not be to you, but this is a review from my perspective.