I was going to do an orderly overview of this game (what little I’ve played anyway). But then I figured the email I sent to my coworkers more accurately conveys the spirit in which I played it. So I give you that instead! Pictures to follow.
So my Chicago friend sent me a message every week since its release asking me to try Black Desert Online, a one-time purchase of $30 (with microtransactions for fancy mounts/outfits/etc.) and I finally caved this weekend. I took a TON of pictures that I promptly forgot to upload this morning, but the short version is:
This game was originally Korean and the localization isn’t great. It seems like they just ran the European version through Google Translate, and gave the voice actors (who do well with what they have to work with) the results.
Sprawling medieval cityscapes. Sprawling everything. Cherry blossoms raining petals down on you as you gallop your–
okay so YOUR HORSES.
You can have A HORSE FARM, PEOPLE. You catch them in the wild (!!) and breed them and train them and upgrade them. And when you have too many to just lodge in the stable you can get a horse farm.
A HORSE FARM.
I literally cannot go on enough about the horses. I plowed my way to level 20 last night to catch my first horse. It is HARD. The minigame is SO FRUSTRATING. But it was WORTH IT. As seen in the attached shoddy pictures which are all I have right now since the big nice screenshots are on my comp at home. But look at that lovely animal. His name is Lyre.
My friend Mike describes it well: there are parts of this game that are ridiculously detailed (see: you can plant your crops wherever, but different areas have different sun, moisture and soil acidity, and THE CROPS CARE ABOUT THAT SORT OF THING so you want to plant accordingly, all over the map, and you want it to be where monsters won’t trample them) and there are parts that make no sense (see: the plot). Horses fall into the former category. There’s a “wheel of foals” that’s literally a spinning wheel of fortune type wheel that determines the quality of foal your horses produce. The marketplace is also ridiculous–it’s like EVE Online’s marketplace. So detailed, with market trends and stuff…man, I just want to sell my lumber here, I don’t want an economics degree! I can still sell my lumber (I did) so you can ignore the trends if you just want it gone and don’t care about making maximum profit. But the detail is there if you want it.
But more importantly, it’s pretty. So so pretty.
Little things I liked:
1.) there is an animation for climbing up out of water when you were swimming. It’s not just “poof, you’re standing now!” You clamber up from swimming to hands and knees to standing, which, obviously. But no one has ever really animated that before. Also, your character is wet when you get out of the water. And there is a climbing animation for rocks and walls! You don’t just jump, you clamber atop things.
2.) did i mention the horses
3.) I mention the climbing because physicality is actually more present in this game than in most MMOs. With ESO’s most recent Thieves Guild expansion being the exception, in general you can jump up onto things but it’s never required. Here, there are places you CANNOT get to if you do not climb, leap, and hurl yourself out into the void. There’s one tower with scaffolding in particular that reminded me a lot of Assassin’s Creed. Anyway, it’s cool, because you get rewarded for your efforts. I found a huge mountain and decided to climb to the top, which meant going around and around and scuffling up scree slopes and clinging to ledges, and at the top there was an Easter egg! A literal Easter egg I mean, for their easter event.
4.) DID I MENTION THE HORSES. There is joyriding music that plays when you ride the horse! BECAUSE IT’S THAT COOL.
5.) Riding horses around is training them so there is actually a point to joyriding! And horses are SO much faster than the donkeys they give you early on. Like tons faster.
6.) Oh, houses! I forgot about houses. Derp. They’ve finally found a way to make houses matter in-game. LotRO had them, and I had one and loved mine, but they were always lonely, instanced off away from the “real” game in their own lonely zones where no one ever came. BDO does something different. The cities AND towns AND lonely goatherd hovels can be purchased by players. There are more players than locations of course so it will instance you into your own edition of the place when you push the door open–but that instance is SEAMLESS. No loading screen or anything. More interestingly, though, you house is where your workers sleep, and they do your crafting. You can cook yourself, but for technical work like smithing, you hire workers, build beds and tables for them, and they work there. You buy them beer to keep them happy and put in lighting to make sure they can see to do the work. But this way you house always matters.
Also you can buy up to five houses and classify them as different types: residence, storage, smithy, workshop etc. I’m really sad I didn’t take a picture of my house because it’s at the top of a hill that spills down a dirt road toward the docks and the sea, in this little Italianesque town. Which reminds me–
7.) THE SEA. You can own a BOAT. MANY BOATS. And sail them out to sea to fish. No loading screen, no set paths–you control the boat. Rowboat, viking ship, raft, Chinese junk (with the big red sails)–you control it all. Some people sail up and down the rivers to joyride like I do for the horse (perhaps it trains their sailing ability like it trains my horse)? But really that just amazes me.
8.) No fast travel. Honestly I appreciate this. I have always had a soft spot for games that demand that you feel they are huge, like vanilla EverQuest, where you had to wait on the docks for a boat that would take you to another continent. And then it took like 20 minutes to get there. Because IT’S HUGE. And this map is indeed huge. So so huge.
9.) Pets! Cats, dogs, monkeys. I saw a beagle puppy go past that I squealed over, it was so adorable. Also big things that looks like wargs–not sure what those are. But there are pets!
10.) The little quests–like rescuing a kid’s kite off a roof (get your climbing shoes on!) and rescuing cats from roofs and trees. The game does a lot to make surfaces on many vertical levels matter. And they do.
11.) The pseudo-European countryside. You see this a lot in anime, this almost obsessive attention to detail in the recreation of European landscapes, and you see it in spades in this game. Honestly it’s so beautiful and graphics-intensive that I’m not sure it would have been released at this level initially in the US, had it been a US game. I think there is an expectation in Korea that if you do game, you have a top of the line computer. Because there’s just no other way to play this. It’s THAT PRETTY.
I’ll grab a bunch of pics tonight–I took so many!–but I realized at least I had these three on my phone so I thought I’d send them. Right now the game is playing catch-up with Korea so there are two new classes out in June and they just released an expansion last week. For a one-time, non-subscription purchase I’m still kind of amazed at this game.