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Black Desert Online: An Oasis For Sandbox MMORPG Lovers

by Daniel Tack on Mar 28, 2016 at 10:00 AM

If you’re looking for a dungeon-oriented, raid-centric endgame MMORPG where it’s all about getting to level cap and gearing up, Black Desert Online isn’t for you.  If  themepark-style MMORPGs where you’re getting your tickets to ride the dungeons and raids are losing their luster for you, Black Desert Online may be exactly what you’re looking for. After several years in Korea, Pearl Abyss’s sandbox-style romp comes to North America, offering a wildly different approach to the genre. The open-ended experience has a hefty focus on developing your character in ways outside of level-ups and armaments.

That’s not to say there isn’t leveling and all kinds of gear to collect; those elements are still in play, but there are no instanced dungeons or raids. Instead of bashing your way to a boss, you may opt to cultivate a network of workers and NPC allies, forming trade routes to acquire resources, developing a home that other players can visit, or just getting in there yourself and farming the next big crop of potatoes. And you must plan your actions around a dynamic weather system and a day/night cycle as well. Pro-tip: Things can get hard to see at night, so bring a lantern if you plan to roam the woods after dark.

Classes are taken from the archetypal fantasy MMORPG combat pool, like tanky warriors, defensive Valkyries (paladins), dominating Sorceresses, wizards, and witches. Your playstyle will dictate your selection, with some classes being far more reliant on combo strings than others. Classes are also gender-locked, so if you feel like playing a male Valkyrie or a female Berserker, it can’t be done. 

Black Desert Online has received much discussion over an incredibly deep character creator, and it’s warranted. While the systems may take some time to learn, you can make your character look like anything from your grandma to a famous celebrity with a terrifying level of accuracy. 

While the focus is on getting players out of their shells to engage in guild activities, housing, and trade, the combat system is also fantastic. It doesn’t reach the highs of Blade & Soul in this department, but the combat is fluid and fast, and never ends up feeling dull like the tab-targeting systems that defined the genre ages ago. On the flip side, combat also leans toward the grindy side of things, and you feel it after mopping up hordes of the same foes over and over again, or reskinned versions of lower-tier fare.

Fair warning ,many of the systems that you engage with in the game (except combat) are not clearly explained in any form, so be ready to head outside of the game to get the details on the expansive trading, NPC, harvesting, and guild systems. While the game may be nice to look at, the UI and interface leave much to be desired, and navigating through the mazes of menus may be off-putting to new players. While the lush fantasy world can be difficult to get into compared to MMORPGs with more extensive tutorials and explanations, there’s no denying that it’s among the most beautiful around in the genre – there’s eye candy everywhere, from flowing fields to dense forests.

The complete package of Black Desert Online offers something different in the ocean of titles that are all trying to be the modern-day EverQuest, and if that focus is something you’ve been waiting for, your wandering in the desert is over. On the other hand, if you’re looking for something with a bit more structure, plenty of better options are out there.