Black Desert Online Review
The most in-depth Black Desert Online review, about the breathtaking Sandbox MMORPG by Pearl Abyss & Kakao Games.
Black Desert Online is maybe the most unique MMO on the Western market. Terrible for some – Life for others – it’s definitely the biggest case of “Love it or Hate it” MMO out there, or if I may rephrase that – the biggest case of “Love it or This if too f****n hardcore for me bruh!“. This Black Desert review will dwell deep into the game, so if you want the full picture – read on!
BDO is indeed hardcore. No matter how many years you could spend actively playing the game, you can’t “master” all of the “levels”! Add the enhancing system in the recipe, and that’s where it becomes a deal-breaker for some, and the ultimate challenge to others.
If I may offer my two cents, I’m strongly for the second side – the “uncapped” nature of BDO offers constant competition, and it forces you to focus and specialize on your gameplay. It’s much closer to real life situations, and it can actually help you realize the importance of scheduling and organization in your real life. For me, this is priceless.
The following review is 100% unbiased, since every main aspect of the game (eg. Graphics) gets its final score out of its child features (eg. Graphics Quality / Performance / Overhauls etc.), all of which are being judged based on the best gaming has shown us, and what we, as gamers, know is possible in an MMO.
The ratings don’t reflect my personal opinion (BDO is life), but I do offer it nonetheless.
Table of Contents
- 1 1. Player
- 2 PvE (Player vs Environment)
- 3 PvP (Player vs Player)
- 4 Combat
- 5 Economy
- 6 Collectibles
- 7 Social
- 8 Graphics
- 9 Immersion
- 10 UI & UX
- 11 Developers & Publishers
- 12 Uniqueness
- 13 Disclaimer
Your game character means a lot.
Progression never ends in BDO, so be prepared for a long journey along with your digital partner, and don’t worry, alts are very important in the game, so you don’t have to restrict your playtime in just one character.
There’s no other MMO that comes close to the level of detail and customization you can use in order to create such a lifelike result.
Character Creation / Customization
Black Desert Online is well-known for its extremely in-depth character creator, reminding more of The Sims 4 in its capabilities, than other MMOs.
You can freely sculpt to a great detail any face part, adding volume, length and rotation in order to achieve your desired result. Yea, as you guessed you’re looking at an average of 2 hours per character created, and I’m talking about those who are quick with it!
Similarly, you can sculpt any different body part to a great extent, ranging from thin to thic – and small to large, catering to all tastes, not like “perfect body defaults” which we are used to in most MMOs. So go thicc or go home 🤗! Each class has its own unique bodytype as well, so you can achieve different things depending on taste.
There’s plenty of different options in weird eyes & lenses – it’s an Asian MMO after all – and a small range of the ugliest tattoos you’ve ever seen in a game. No seriously, my only guess is that some Pearl Abyss designer injected these hideous “tattoos” in the game before getting fired, in a way that if they remove them, the game will become unusable 😂
For the best creators out there, there’s a feature letting you upload your character to the Beauty Album, where anyone can download and use it, as well as recommend 👍 your creation of course!
It’s worth noting that anyone paying for the game subscription (an item called a Value Pack), he / she can freely customize his / her character anytime, and change anything. It would be such a waste if we couldn’t use this amazing creator all the time, so that’s a fair choice!
There’s a few BDO reviews mentioning that character customization isn’t that good, since the outfit collection isn’t that large. While this is true, since BDO doesn’t have the wealth of options Fashion Wars 2 does, or the variety of World of Warcraft, I may state that quality goes well over quantity, and on that aspect BDO offers one of the best customization experiences.
There’s 15-20 different outfits for each class – several of them being unique to the class – and almost all of them are indeed unique. No re-skins and re-colors like 99% of the skin market, but truly unique, carefully crafted to the finest detail.
The dye system is quite advanced as well, giving you a wealth of options into the parts you can dye, as well as the colors and textures you can use.
All in all, one thing is for sure – if you are dedicated enough, there’s no excuse for not making your dream character come to life, to the finest detail!
Races & Classes
BDO is one of the few MMOs, that doesn’t have a distinction of race / class. There are 17 unique gender-locked classes (a few of them have male / female counterpart), and each one carries its own lore and racial face / body characteristics.
No one likes gender-locked MMOs (I hope), but at least with such a huge class variety – each one with its own unique array of 40+ skills – you won’t have much room to get annoyed by the gender-lock.
A great spectrum of playstyles is covered – hard-hitters, tactical thinkers, quick reflexes, fast & weak, slow & strong – the list goes on, and there’s many surprises in each class, with the combat system of BDO being so dynamic and reactive.
There’s still new classes coming out, each one more detailed than the previous one (but all 17 of them get frequent balance & aesthetic reworks). Even though there are male / female counterparts like Warrior / Valkyrie and Wizard / Witch, their skills and even playstyle might be very different, so don’t be quick to assume that you have a choice of gender.
New Player Experience
Described in one word? Terrible!
When thinking about how bad the new player experience in BDO is, the only other game I can think of is Runescape.
The tutorial offered to new players is a joke (press W, A, S, D to move – literally), and it’s not like you will work your way around by following a quest or using the interface. Almost everything is there when you start, the whole endless end-game of BDO says hello, and you just don’t know what you are supposed to do in there.
Your only solid choice seems to be to follow the main storyline (which is atrocious as well), and to be honest it’s a good choice, since you will get very nice rewards for the long-term, as well as get introduced to several important game mechanics. Introduced, means the NPCs will share a few cryptic words, don’t expect a tutorial here.
If you try to resort at the global chat, asking something like “what should I do in the game”, then most probably the answer will be along the lines of “grind!”. However, it is highly advised that you “LF Noob Friendly Guild” in global, since trust me, there’s many amazing and helpful people out there in the community, and are willing to guide you through the game step by step, by step!
Google is (or will become) your friend, since there’s really so much to do in the game, and so many immensely complex systems both in the combat and in the economy, that you will need months before attaining a fair & basic knowledge of most of the stuff that goes on in the world of Black Desert Online.
There have been many efforts from Pearly Abyss into introducing more tutorial elements, and fixing the new player experience, but to no avail.
To be honest, maybe it’s meant to be terrible like this, cause it’s a sandbox, and you should make your own choices. If they tried to hand-hold you through even the basic systems, you might quit out of boredom cause you’d just want to enjoy the game, and not read through 10.000 tutorial pages.
One opposite extreme that comes to mind is Final Fantasy XIV Online, where the storyline is so forced & long, while locking all the important content behind it, that it really makes the game extremely unappealing to new players. Maybe it’s better that BDO is not like this.
PvE (Player vs Environment)
BDO & (conventional) PvE don’t go too well together.
A lot of people have ran far, far away the moment they realized that there are no Dungeons, Raids, or pretty much any substantial PvE group content in the game.
You may be wondering: “Whaaaaaaat..?😨”, and you’d be right to do so.
Let’s see why BDO decided to skip all these features that exist in pretty much any MMO to ever be released on planet earth.
I know that I’ve used the word “terrible” too many times already, but I’m really out of options here too 😕.
The only good thing I can say about questing in BDO, is that it’s fast. Maybe one of the few things in the game that you can do fast, if you choose to do so.
60% of the quests will have you pointlessly auto-pathing from NPC to NPC, and the rest will have you grind or craft something easy or something hard.
Sometimes it’s about the journey though, and not the destination – and there are indeed some nice journeys you will take due to some otherwise stupid quest. The world of BDO is vast and beautiful, and sadly quests are one of the few reasons you will get to travel all of it.
I also want to add, that however bad may the questing system be, most of us like it this way, since there’s 100 more important things to do with your time in the game, than questing.
Dungeons & Raids
The rating might seem harsh, but the effect the non-existence of dungeons / raids has on the playerbase is harsher.
The only things you can do effectively with a party PvE-wise, are grinding (only a few areas of course, even grinding is more profitable solo most of the times), world bosses and sea monster hunting.
There are quite a few world bosses that either spawn on set times or randomly throughout the map, they have a chance at granting you boss gear, and some fun mechanics. However they get repetitive as soon as you’ve fought them a few times, and you really need to do it hundreds if you are after some better rewards.
Sea monster hunting sounds and feels exciting at first, venturing out at sea with your guildmates, taming the wild seas looking for enormous beasts you can kill with your cannons for loot, or even hunting other player boats!
Sadly, any sea content BDO has to offer is buggy and underworked, to the point of rage quitting. It used to offer good money / hour in order to entice more people to do it, but now even the money isn’t worth your time – and it’s better like this, you don’t have to face this bugfest. I really hope sea content will get reworked cause there’s some real potential hiding in there!
The world of BDO is vast and breathtaking.
Along with the fact that there’s zero means of fast travelling from place to place, you will get to admire many amazing biomes and probably the most “alive” MMO environment we’ve encountered.
In order to go anywhere, you have to use your feet, or your indispensable horse (which of course is an alive being, you can’t just let is sit next to dangerous monsters, or let it go without food). Or of course your wagon, ship, camel or elephant depending on the needs of your journey.
Hopefully, you can transfer items between towns with a transport system (of course each town has its own storage, and the NPC transport costs money and is limited to how much you can transfer each time).
Back to the map completion, there’s many things to do, most of them a part of the “Knowledge” system. You gather knowledge (which awards you with extra item drop rate) by slaying monsters and learning more about them, as well as completing quest lines or interacting with hidden monuments.
The knowledge grind is huge, and it will take you around every small corner of the map, and all the way to its other end with your ship. This will also net your account more max energy, which you use for many money-making interactions in the game, and regenerates over time (Korean MMOs are pretty much obliged by law to use some methods to limit playtime for their young ones, and BDO got away with this one. It’s a pretty nice system, and not restricting at all. It can actually make you play more – oh these devils😈).
There are also many “wearable” Titles to earn through the map completion, which also award you with extra juicy buffs the more you have of them.
Last but not least (well there’s never last with BDO), the map plays a huge role in the gameplay, as you can control your worker empire from them. You invest in many different areas & towns, where you can send workers (which of course you have to feed constantly and provide a house for) to gather materials passively for you, helping your AFK income rise through the roof 😎.
Too many reasons exist to make you want to explore every corner of the world, and that’s a big plus for an MMO, as we’re used to mostly rushing through starter areas, then camp around the single main city’s banker.
PvP (Player vs Player)
Let’s be honest. PvP is the main reason most people pick up BDO.
There’s a great amount of players that never do any PvP – there’s too much to do either way – but PvP is the only form of competitive end-game Black Desert has to offer, as far as combat & gear goes.
Is it that good after all? Definitely.
Is it balanced & skill-based? Yes, and No.
PvP is everywhere in the open-world of Black Desert, since any character that surpasses Level 50 (a quite fast milestone to reach), can be freely killed anywhere on the map, as long as he / she is not inside a city, which is considered a safe zone.
Not everyone enjoys PvP the same way, so for better or worse, even though you can get PKed anywhere, there’s not much to lose from it.
In short, if you kill another player, you gain negative Karma, which will progressively restrict you from accessing the main cities, and what’s worse you are facing the danger of degrading your gear (which is serious money). On the other hand, the “victim” loses nothing, and can choose to respawn in the closest node or town.
I’m personally against this system, I find it unfair that the killer faces so many negatives, while the victim is free to continue like nothing happened.
Due to this system, most of the times people will be willing to kill you if you interfere with their grinding. “Spot Taken” is the most common thing you’ll hear in BDO, since grinding fast makes all the difference into how much time you spend grinding. Most of the times you’ll be asked to Duel, so that there can be a fair outcome, the winner keeps the spot, without losing any Karma.
Griefing is also a big thing, since a victim can choose to remove his / her gear, resulting in a huge karma drop on the attacker, known as “karma bombing”. Getting back to positive karma takes a big monster grind, so as you can guess no one wants karma bombers in their guilds.
All in all, it’s always great to experience unrestricted open world PvP in an MMO, since it’s a rare breed, always kept for Asian MMOs. There’s big room for balance improvements though, since the Karma system is not so realistic, and will result in long-term negative behaviors most of the times.
BDO offers many different game modes & ways you can experience, train & have fun with PvP, while getting ready for the big things:
- Battle Arena is an instanced area where you can freely meet up and train with friends & guildies, or meet other people looking to hone their skills. Definitely the best place to meet other PvP enthusiasts and future comrades!
- Arena of Arsha is similar to Battle Arena, but it is private, so the Guild Master has to pay to rent it for a day, providing a much more focused environment for guild trainings.
- Red Battlefield is quite similar with Deathmatch Battlegrounds in other MMOs, so two teams of up to 15 people each, fight for kills / points, and some nice rewards.
- Team Battle is a 5v5 mode, where teams fight 1v1 matches to determine the winners, and if tied, run an all-out deathmatch.
- Shadow Arena is BDO’s version of a solo / squad “battle royale” mode, where your character gear / level doesn’t matter, as you pick up classes & loot in the game.
There’s quite a few PvP modes offered, though to be honest it would be better to have less, and better executed. The rewards are not that great in any of the modes, and they will mostly reward you with in-game skills & fun with friends. Not the best way to reward MMO players imo.
The biggest PvP progression impact comes from Node Wars, where guilds fight daily in order to claim various areas for a week’s duration, earning from the area’s taxes and offering great revenue to the winners.
It’s very hard to get your gear battle-ready to attend Node Wars, and even harder to understand the exact mechanics of the war.
Apart from just killing people, each guild has to actually prepare its base before the fight. The guild fort is the most important building, which if destroyed takes you out of the War, and you have to support / protect it with various fortifications and siege weapons, as well as your fighting skills of course.
Each node has certain “max players / guild” limitations, and a certain day / time the war happens, but any number of guilds can choose to contend the same Node, so don’t be surprised if you have to fight with 12 more guilds for the win.
Conquest Wars take these a step further, since you are fighting for much more important Nodes, against the top Guilds in the game.
Large-Scale PvP is not perfectly executed, and as always gear will be a determining factor of each fight. It’s also very hard to reach the state where you can fight a War, but it’s definitely worth it.
Combat in BDO is the Hardcore MMO Addict’s wet dream that came true.
Remember all the restrictions action combat MMOs faced since their introduction with TERA?
Well, BDO has broken most of these barriers, offering a combat gameplay that I could only describe as if Dark Souls & TEKKEN had an MMO baby.
Purely action-based combat, that works with range and hitboxes. That means that what you hit, will get hit.
You can’t “choose” your targets with any keyboard shortcuts (like tab-target), you have to aim in the right place if you are using skill-based attacks (almost like an FPS), and make sure you have the best positioning for AoE attacks (almost all skills in BDO are AoE).
All your skills are executed with key combinations, and there’s a wealth of combo rotations based on the situation you’re facing. There’s a few skills you can “hotbar” too, but the fighting system, as mentioned, will remind you more of TEKKEN / Mortal Kombat, than a typical MMO.
Positioning is very important, as there are different damage multipliers whether you re facing the back of your opponent, he’s knocked down, in the air etc. Crowd Control, Guards & Dodging are your 3 main weapons on every PvP fight, and utilizing them according to the situation will make you shine, or rage!
All that sounds amazing, and almost like a beginner’s guide to BDO combat, so let’s discuss the downside:
The game has been facing heavy desync issues since launch, and they are still not eradicated to the day, to the point that knowing how to use desync in your favour plays a big role in very competitive fights.
Even though PvP combat is more skill-based than gear-based, big gear differences will make a big difference in the fight. And since gear progression in BDO is as hardcore as it goes, it’s really a rare occasion to be able to take advantage of all these great combat mechanics, unless you’re specifically scheduling trainings with friends & guildies, and all agree to fight with a certain gear score.
Out in the wild – whether that means grinding mobs in contested spots, or fighting PvP wars – gear will be the determining factor 90% of the times. It feels bad, but that’s how PvP goes in most MMOs – you have to get the end-game gear to get a fair fight, the problem is, it’s literally impossible to get full end-game gear in BDO.
The gear system in BDO is very interesting. It is similar with many other asian MMOs, since it’s using a very complex enhancing process, meaning that gear progression is based on upgrading your existing gear to higher levels / stats, and not acquiring hundreds of different gear pieces & combinations, like most theme-park MMOs.
Acquiring the “legendary” gear pieces should be one of the first goals of a new player, it’s going to take some grind, and a lot of money, but it is quite easy to get there, considering there are not any dungeons or raids in the game. The highest gear drops from world bosses, and there’s quite a few events & questlines to help you get there faster.
The real progression begins after acquiring these boss gear pieces, and begin enhancing them to higher levels. You will need a lot of grinding for enhancing materials (or other forms of grinding to fund buying them), and the higher you go, the bigger the risk, to the point of downgrading or even breaking (yes, forever) your gear.
A lot of players have actually quit the game because of how gear progression works – trust me, having an enhancing session feels like you’re gambling away your house, your career and your whole life.
The stakes are too high, and the adrenaline rush – I can’t compare it to any other MMO I’ve ever played! It’s hard to judge if its “good or bad”, since it’s one of the most love & hate situations with BDO.
But objectively, even the mere fact that a game can put you into these kind of situations, and feel real life risk on that level (it’s a GAME!) is definitely a good thing. We’ve all felt proud & hyped after acquiring that Raid Epic, but believe me – this is different. You are going to sweat, rage & scream like you never did before.
It’s worth noting, that acquiring even a single item at max enhancement level (known as PEN, it’s a +20 enhancement) is truly hard. Even the strongest players that have spent years in the game, will hardly have more than 2 or 3 PEN items (you can wear 13 different items on your character that can potentially reach PEN).
Black Desert Online offers a deep & complex skill system, where you allocate skill points acquired from grinding into unlocking various different skills. Sadly, a big part of the complexity derives from the terrible UI of the game, making it a task even identifying what goes on in the skill tree, let alone trying to figure out your synergies, combos & goals.
Fortunately, in the (very, very) long run, you will be able to unlock all of your class’ skills. Since it takes a very long time to get there though, it’s very important to prioritize based on your gameplay – even unlocking half of your skills is going to be hard.
At the same time, there’s a few skills, as well as skill enhancements & skill addons (two additional systems that offer more powerful skills) that may even change forever the way you play your character, unlocking specific synergies or combos catering to different playstyles.
In essence, your character carries a main, and an awakening weapon (as well as a sub-weapon which is just offering stats), and its weapon has its own skill tree. Swapping between them during fights is an essential aspect of fighting in BDO, for some classes a lot more than others.
On the negative side, it’s not easy or cheap to reset and re-allocate your skill points (it costs real money normally), so you have to be careful on how you are spending them later in the game (don’t worry if you are still 56 level or lower, the first skills are extremely cheap). If someone is careful however, there’s many in-game ways to get a skill reset, as well as special events, so you don’t have to worry so much about it.
You also have the option of creating trial characters (60 level, max skill points), in order to test different builds & setups, without having to grind or spend anything for it. You can use these trial characters in many PvP modes for real-life training as well. 13
Black Desert is doing sandbox the right way, and offers an extremely rich and complex economy in the game’s world.
“Everything” is connected – gathering, grinding, crafting – and no one can do everything. As in real life, specialization goes a very long way in BDO, so following what you like to do – and mastering it – will sure reward you greatly in the long run!
With so many different money making activities available, there’s literally a huge demand for any kind of item, and even NPCs provide ways to balance it, making for a 100% successful and alive in-game capitalism.
There are 10 different professions in Black Desert Online, known as “life skills”. In short, they are: Gathering, Fishing, Hunting, Cooking, Alchemy, Processing, Training, Trade, Farming & Sailing.
Fortunately, there’s no restrictions per character, so you can pick up all of them with a single character, giving you the necessary freedom that most MMOs take away from us, or restrict through the cash shop.
Each life skills spans 100 levels, which are divided in ranks (Beginner, Apprentice, Skilled, Professional, Artisan, Master & Guru), and reaching the max level in a life skill, is a feat very few people have managed to do globally, and just for the “easier” life skills. This fact keeps the competition alive at all times, providing an alive market for all professions and materials.
It’s very important to note, that even though there are many end-game recipes for consumables, items or even furniture, the end-game begins as soon as you pick up a lifeskill. There are no stupid “tiers” in BDO, and low-level materials which you are going to use once and then forget about them, or loot just “high-end” materials depending on your progression in the game.
That’s right, the childish profession system we are used to from WoW, Guild Wars 2, Elder Scrolls Online and the list goes on – is not present. Every single material, item and recipe matters in Black Desert, and all together they form a strong production flow with constant demand for everything.
Your personal grinding is not the only source of all these materials, as you’ll find a very advanced worker / node system in BDO. In a few words, you can hire workers to gather various resources scattered all around the world for you, as long as you feed them, and provide them with a place to sleep!
As you would expect from such a deep profession system, life skills can provide a huge money income when done right (and when you have studied more than your ever did in uni about them😂), and there are quite a few players that get their main income from them, or even just do lifeskills and nothing else in the game.
The mere fact that a single game system can let you spend all of your time working with it, is remarkable! It encompasses what a true MMORPG should be, and fulfills our wildest dreams as MMO players!
The question is, when will more developers get serious with their profession systems?
The crafting / gathering system in BDO is not as unique or engaging as it could be – gameplay-wise – but the way each lifeskill’s recipes or mechanics work, will hardly let you master most of them.
Most of the life skill interactions happen while “AFK”. A quick example, you can order your character to cook 2.000 recipes of Meat Stew, and each one can take anywhere from 1 – 15 seconds to complete, therefore you’re looking at AFK sessions anywhere from 15 minutes to 8 hours (and there’s ways to AFK effectively for even 12 hour periods).
And this is where the huge debate begins:
“8 hours AFK cooking? You must be crazy bro 😫 I want to actively play the game, and not consume power for it while I’m away, this is stupid.”
I can’t disagree there, not even one bit. I do on a personal level, since we are all after different things in an MMO, but truth be told, most people – and especially new players – are not keen to these kinds of “grindy” game mechanics.
However, there’s two important cents I want to add:
Cent 1) There’s many people (myself included) that simply love that this kind of AFK gameplay is there. It was the main reason of my addiction. Why? Because I run a busy life, and sadly can’t even get 2-hour gaming sessions easily throughout the day. The fact that I can progress my character, while I attend to real life needs is amazing! And I want to thank the developers on a personal level, for respecting our real lives and enabling this kind of gameplay instead of forcing us to pick up a second job at their game.
Cent 2) The first thing that comes to peoples’ minds when they hear about AFK systems in BDO, is mobile games. Rightfully so, but just because you are AFK, it doesn’t mean it’s easy. Sure, there’s a couple of “easy AFK life skills” (and props to that, even more respect for people that can’t afford the time to even research on more stuff), but trust me, most of the times, I’ve spent more time researching recipes, prices & processes, than actually AFKing. Being able to cook AFK for 8 hours straight is an art, and the long-term planning that will get you there, is a strong real life lesson on organization & goals too.
BDO’s Auction House is called the Central Market, and functions with a buy / sell order system, reminding of real financial markets.
There are some hard min / max prices set by the developers in order to secure the economy in a greater length, but player demand is the most important factor on an item’s price.
To be fair, the Central Market is a quite recent, long-awaited update in the game, that had only positive results, and took away many of the frustration / negatives of the previous Marketplace.
It’s worth noting that you can also buy / sell almost all cash shop items in the Central Market, enabling everyone a chance at getting them, even without spending any real money – ever. And don’t expect silly in-game / real-life currency conversions like Guild Wars 2 – where you’d have to grind months for 10$ worth of currency. A 35$ outfit in BDO, will sell for around 200 mil on the market, which is less than a low-level high-end gear piece.
Time is money in BDO, so you either grind, or pay (in-game money or real-life money, doesn’t really matter, it’s up to your personal judgement). Many P2W questions will have arisen by now, but I promise they’ll go away in the Business Model section near the end of this review.
Last but not least, and even though the recent market update brought a ton of quality of life improvements, the Central Market is still a part of a terrible UI / UX ecosystem, so using it is going to be a Windows 98 experience, same with the rest of the game’s interface. Sad…
Desert Grinding Online is all about the grinding! I don’t want to add more Korea cliches here, because to be fair, all MMOs are centered around grinding. It’s the main game mechanic that offers addiction, progress, rewards & replayability to MMOs.
I wonder how grinding for Achievements in WoW, cosmetics in Guild Wars 2, or storylines in The Elder Scrolls Online is not getting such a hard criticism or an “MMO grind” label.
Anyway, back to grinding! It’s everywhere in BDO, literally everything you do in the game is an endless grind, and I mean endless since most things don’t cap, or are impossible to cap in less than 10 years 24/7 active playing.
Focusing on combat grinding, I can say it’s more meaningful than other MMOs. There’s a ton of different areas you can choose to grind, each one with their own loot tables, gear requirements (based on clear speed mostly, and not either you 1-hit or they 1-hit you) and purpose.
Taking advantage of all of your loot the right way is essential in order to make the most silver / hour, so even though you are actually just slaying monsters for hours on end, you are working towards many different goals while doing it. Character XP & Skill Points, materials for your life skills, high-demand items which you can sell for good silver, materials to help with gear progression, and the list goes on.
Paired with BDO’s amazing combat mechanics, environments and graphics, grinding is quite fun, especially when you’re listening to your favorite music, or chilling with your mates on discord!
Did I already mention that if you don’t like to grind, you should have ran far, far away from BDO (and pretty much any MMO)?
It’s hard to judge Black Desert in the collectibles department, since it can fulfill all the main categories, but its systems are quite different that what we are used to.
You don’t get “cool cosmetics” as rewards for reaching certain milestones, or amass a huge collection of different flying & underwater mounts.
But there’s so many things to “collect”, that your Knowledge never ends 😉.
There’s a ton of items in BDO, that could easily be a part of an achievement / milestone reward in most theme-park MMOs.
In BDO though, the milestone is not a flashy icon which you will unlock and show to your friends, but maybe a huge journey you will have to undertake in order to craft your very own Sailboat or your unique horse gear.
Sadly, most of the beautiful character cosmetics, can be acquired only from the cash shop, but fortunately they can also be sold in the in-game Central Market, so spending real money is not a necessity.
The dyeing system is quite advanced, providing many detailed options as well as colors and textures.
All in all, there’s not too much to say about Cosmetics in BDO, most probably because the game doesn’t follow this mindset of “cosmetic cash shop / cosmetic rewards”.
Mounts & Pets
Mounts are quite special in BDO. They are essential and realistic. However this means that there’s no flashy dragons or bears to ride.
The main mounts are horses. There are many different appearances, tiers & skills they can have, so training your main horse, or paying heavy money for it is required. There’s no fast travel anywhere in BDO, so you have to go anywhere by walking, or way better with your horse. You can also get a Camel which is faster is the Desert biome, as well as a baby elephant which can carry a lot of weight (or a big elephant which is essentially a guild siege weapon).
There’s even more mounts, in the form of wagons, which you can use up to 4 horses on, and trade items all around the world. Similarly, you can use boats for trading, fishing or hunting sea monsters.
All in all, mounts play a very big part in BDO, they are special, and demand attention and care. These are all very positive criteria, which balance the omission of “special” mounts for me by far.
Now pets, are a different story.. They have also special skills & buffs, and what’s more they can gather all your loot. The bad thing, is that they are absolutely essential, and you have to pay for them in the cash shop (or scout the central market all the time for a chance to snipe one with in-game money).
There’s no way you can effectively grind without pets, so it’s a “forced” way to spend your money on the game. Forced is never nice, so there’s that.
On the “bright” side, there’s a nice variety in the aesthetics and the buffs you can have from your pets, as well as deep theorycrafting around their synergies and upgrades.
The game is generous with them, but only after you have been loyally playing for far more time than you can get away without any pets..
Every MMO has its own flavor at player housing, offering unique things others don’t, and missing cool features others have.
BDO is no exception here, so let’s browse through the pros and cons:
- Great furniture variety & uniqueness. Each town has its own style, and crafting each piece is a different journey.
- You actually need your house. It’s the only place where you can do Cooking & Alchemy, so its location and capacity play a big role in your gameplay.
- The more you work on your house’s interior, the more points it gets. This may unlock a handful of extra features to the most hardcore designers (or most hardcore credit card swipers).
- There’s more than 1.000 choices you can place your max limit of 5 active residences, allowing for great freedom into your ideal setup, aesthetics etc.
- It’s easy to visit the houses of your friends and guildies, as well as the top-ranked houses.
- The placement system is quite buggy and unintuitive.
- There’s too many furniture collections locked behind the cash shop.
- There are no guild houses. Seriously.
- The houses are instanced, making them a bit immersion-breaking in some cases. There’s no loading times at least.
An in-between situation is something BDO is scared of, so the Social aspect of the game lives on the edges.
Let’s see why Black Desert has the most active, yet the most lonely community ever seen in an MMO.
BDO’s population is more than healthy, letting it sit at the top 5 most played MMORPGs easily, with no signs of it leaving the podium anytime soon.
The active player-base throughout all 8 (!) regions is more than a million, and with its recent console debut, it’s bound to skyrocket!
Heavy AFK activities make the players stay on for way longer compared to casual MMOs, helping with the active account numbers, and making the world feel even more alive.
Due to the game’s hardcore nature, online discussions about BDO are flourishing, with the official forums and reddit being hyper-active, while there are dozens of blogs & sites dedicated to guides or data about the game.
Oh.. the BDO community! What a strange place!
As always, there’s people willing to help, and those seeking to unleash their toxic tentacles 🐍24/7🦂.
I believe that “stating random facts”, which are not necessarily pros or cons, will get you a better feel about BDO’s community:
- There’s a huge percentage of anime fans.
- There’s a great amount of hardcore players.
- The competition is harsh, so there’s always goals to go after, but also toxicity lurking in each corner.
- There’s a healthy amount of LGBT players, as well as a healthy amount of respect.
- There’s a huge level of freedom of speech, especially compared to most online games (If you feel your toxic levels rising, quickly swap to Balenos servers so that you can skip a non-permanent account ban. But remember – NO QUESTIONS ON BALENOS).
- There’s many community events happening, like screenshot contests.
Even though new players won’t understand the meme below, it’s a good lesson to the existing player-base, as a reminder to not be so harsh at all times – plus it’s so damn funny 😂
Guilds play an extremely important role in Black Desert.
Reminding more of irl companies than a casual game feature, being a part of a guild is a big thing, and will net you rewards, as well as responsibilities.
Being a guild master for over a year, I can personally attest to how hard recruiting is. You need to offer real benefits to every single person that you hope to recruit in your guild. Forget about inviting random people from global chat or in the streets (it might work temporarily, but you’re just going to end up with “dead” accounts that only lower your guild funds by offering nothing in return – this is as counter-productive as you can go in BDO).
The max guild size is 100 people, and trust me, solid guilds that have reached this state, are one of a kind (if any do exist). When every person counts, you need 10 loyal members much more than 50 irrelevant bypassers. Members have to be paid a daily wage, and usually a weekly one too, so making sure everyone contributes is essential to the guild’s growth.
There’s not many different activities your guild can take part in – and it heavily depends on the guild as well – but the main one, Node Wars, is a huge chapter by itself.
In short, Node Wars happen on a daily basis, and each Node (area) on the map is contested once every week in an open war, where many guilds can submit to take part. The winners will be able to receive a portion of the area’s taxes, providing a huge revenue boost to the fighters.
Training & communication is essential in a competitive guild, so having a Discord account, as well as time to put in the guild, are a must.
Other activities include daily guild quests that award money to those carrying them out (and some guild funds on top), as well as guild points that can be used to acquire some very important passive & active guilds buffs.
Sea Monster Hunting is another guild-focused activity, and most of the times guilds that hunt, only do this. Going out at sea with your guildies to hunt rare sea monsters, is a lucrative activity (nerfed to the ground), which can lead to heavy weekly payouts for the sailors involved.
It’s worth noting that you can also form Alliances with other Guilds, usually to take part in bigger fights like Conquest Wars, as well as hire other players as mercenaries for certain fights, paying them a good sum of the fight’s results.
Group gameplay is a foreign word for Pearl Abyss, unless we are talking about PvP & Node Wars, where even getting the chance to experience any War, will have you grind for months.
The total omission of any substantial group-PvE content, makes this a lonely ride, where the only social engagement you can get, is through chatting with friends while you both grind for a different thing.
Sure, as mentioned above, getting prepared for PvP wars heavily depends on group play, communication and frequent training. There’s no way to make it without a group.
But getting there is an extremely long process, that 95% of people will never get to experience. That sounds appealing to some, and deal-breaking for others. What’s for sure, is that BDO is in dire need of group content, where irl friends can actually get to start the game together, and work to help one another progress – actual in-game help, not by sharing tips & guides on Discord.
Black Desert Online is rightfully known as the MMO with the best graphics currently on the market.
They have literally mastered the 3 most important graphic sectors: Quality, Performance & Support. Let’s see why!
Feature Explanation: Aesthetics are always subjective, so they can’t be a part of the final rating. Quality also doesn’t stand for realism – which is also an artistic choice – but mostly for “crispness & care”. Meaning how well worked are the models, animations, textures, as well as how balanced they end up in the final result.
Oh where to begin. Graphics in Black Desert are unique in every way – and it’s only natural since it’s using its own game engine, specially crafted for BDO and nothing else (for now at least).
That means, that even any foliage, cloud or water textures are unlike any “assets” you’ve encountered in other games / MMOs, and the developers are able to go as far as technology will allow them.
The attention that’s been given to the character models is simply sick, and the monsters, environments & buildings don’t fall far behind. From the amazing detail on the skin pores, to the breathtaking lightning realism – sometimes you will feel like you are watching Nvidia’s latest trailer on graphics advancements, instead of playing BDO.
There’s no more praise to be put here, sure the NPC / monster aesthetics might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but at least the customization you can have on your character goes beyond your wildest dreams, and the fidelity / attention of the final result is something we have yet to encounter in another MMO.
Graphics Performance & Optimization
The game is greatly optimized on lower settings, and it’s running great on potato graphics, as well as potato PCs. Of course playing the prettiest MMO on the market on low graphics is not the best experience, but let’s be realistic – you have to tone down the graphics in serious PvP moments / wars, if you want to have a stable 60FPS experience.
Potato graphics is an important aspect of the game, because if you’re serious about BDO, it will be running 24/7 in the tray of your machine (using only 1%-2% of your CPU), so you can use the Lowest settings to avoid adding to your power bill, or diminishing your hardware’s lifetime expectancy (neither will happen, don’t worry about it. if you never close your pc either way – which is the right thing to do – you have nothing to worry about).
Pearl Abyss has gone to great lengths graphics-wise, introducing new technologies as soon as they come out, and pushing our machines as much as no other MMO has done.
Black Desert Online “Remastered” was the first big graphical update to the game, offering two distinct graphic presets: Remastered & Ultra.
Remastered, is quite performance heavy, and in essence “activates” all the new technologies, textures & lightning methods used, but at the same time it’s quite well optimized and provides stable FPS.
The Ultra mode is mostly offered for amazing screenshots, since you really need an extreme GPU setup to actually play with this setting. It feels like an “uncapped” version of Remastered, where every tiny bit of GPU power you have available will be used, in order to provide the most accurate and realistic depiction of the environment & textures.
Unfortunately for BDO, Graphics have their own section and are not a part of Immersion.
We are dealing with the production value here, the lore, cinematics, music & voice overs that will put you in the right mood, and immerse you in the game.
Well, there is none to talk about. I don’t know if at the original business plans of Pearl Abyss they just forgot to include the following sections, or willingly omitted them to focus in other areas of the game.
The only good news is that all of these things might get “fixed” in the future, so let’s pray. 🙏
Lore? No you got this wrong, there’s not any lore here, unless you want to explain how ape-men, humans and lolis came together in medieval Europe to do.. Well no idea, there’s zero lore or script value.
There’s been a few honorable attempts at explaining BDO’s lore, but honestly, if the game itself can’t give any value to its lore & world, I don’t see a reason for players to give a damn.
There are very few cinematics in BDO, and the few that do exist, don’t really help the game become more immersive.
Not much to say here unfortunately, there could be a huge potential due to the game’s astonishing graphics, but any cinematics you will encounter are just a small cringe, or a quick skip.
There’s next to none continuation between the “main story” and the cinematics, just badly executed filler lines, along with a 15 FPS cinematic experience.
Music & Sound Effects
Black Desert Online Remastered, along with a huge graphics remaster, arrived with a big music rework as well.
It’s nice to see that even though they don’t care a tiny bit about all the other Immersion factors, there’s some good work being done in the game’s sound.
Each area and biome has its own distinctive sound & music character, with high quality compositions and environment sounds.
The combat sound effects are quite pleasing, though not something special.
BDO is one of these games many people have never heard the sound of, as they simply listen to music while playing, and probably that’s the wisest thing you can do too.
Yup, there’s a few english voice lines in the minimum NPC interactions you are going to have, offering one tiny bit of liveliness to these engagements.
Of course, the quality of these voice overs is terrible, with zero emotion and value.
UI & UX
BDO’s UI is definitely the game’s weakest point. So weak, it really makes you wonder how it is even possible that a game with such an amazing graphic fidelity & monstrous budget investment, has given so little attention to its UI / UX – and we’re talking about a game that relies heavily on its UI for pretty much anything aside combat.
UI (User Interface)
Managing a multitude of mounts, town storages, workers, transports etc. using the UI to its fullest is one of the first things a serious BDO player must learn how to do.
The whole interface (apart from the health bar – which is pretty much the only thing that got “Remastered” from the interface) looks like operating a Windows 98 control panel, or maybe a device a plumber would use to get some metrics on your building.
Everything you would like to do is there hopefully – some features are obvious, some you have to look for an hour, and some will only get uncovered to you by another player in a form of an absolutely game-changing revelation. 😂
There’s also a fair amount of customization you can do with it, don’t get your hopes up though. Standard korean MMO element placing, nothing fancy or truly customizable.
UX (User Experience)
I understand that it is hard to upgrade (both visually and most of all functionally) BDO’s UI, I really do!
But there’s so many different windows & elements, which are slowly getting revamped and upgraded, that by the time a fair amount of them gets an overhaul, they already look old.
All of the above, end up in a frustrating User Experience at best, where googling, asking a million of questions, and feeling like a dumb monkey are common occurrences, for at least your first 2 months in the game. And of course there’s always surprises 1 year in.
A terrible new player experience is the only thing that has a 100% chance of succeeding in BDO, so if you can live with that, you will surely get rewarded from most of what the game has to offer.
Developers & Publishers
I didn’t expect Pearl Abyss / Kakao Games to get such a good rating here, but it’s clear that even though as players we want to direct any bad comment to them, they’re doing their job great at what matters, and at what makes Black Desert a great and unique game.
They are constantly working on the game, their players and their future steps, offering a medium-huge patch each and every week, detailing every bit that changed and why (in contrast with The Elder Scrolls Online for example, whose patch notes are smaller than the minimum character count of a tweet).
Pearl Abyss always keeps players on the loop with weekly updates, that contain changes / additions, fixes and of course cash shop sales.
The maintenance takes place every Wednesday morning, and usually lasts around 4 hours (with the occasional 1-2 hour extension). The weekly updates are quite meaningful, and even keeping up with every week’s patch notes is a task by itself.
A ton of special events is another thing that keeps the game always interesting, and help both new players and veterans to progress faster. It’s not uncommon to have even 5 or 6 events running concurrently, so if you seek help in the global chat, what you’ll get is “read patch notes“.
There’s many bigger updates coming out too, without any consistent frequency, so they always arrive on Wednesday’s patch.
There has never been, nor will be, any kind of paid update to the game.
The developers seem quite responsive into fixing bugs reported by players, though I can’t say for certain how they perceive feedback regarding various mechanics & player requests.
What’s for certain, is that BDO evolves and moves forward week by week, and the devs never stop working!
Server Performance (Stability, Capacity & Ping)
BDO is probably the MMO with the most regions of service, and not all of them have the same build of the game.
- 14 July, 2015 – BDO KR – Korea
- 12 October, 2015 – BDO RU – Russia (Shut Down)
- 2015 – BDO JP – Japan
- 3 March, 2016 – BDO NA – North America
- 3 March, 2016 – BDO EU – Europe
- January, 2017 – BDO TWN – Taiwan
- 12 July, 2017 – BDO SA – South America
- 6 December, 2017 – BDO MENA – Middle East / North Africa
- 17 January, 2018 – BDO SEA – South East Asia
Korea is the main region, and the most “advanced” based on how many more mechanics & features they have available, that EU / NA will get hold of even years later. This is not strictly a negative for the Western market though, since many times they “experiment” with mechanics on the Korean playerbase that will never make it permanently in the game.
Each region has many different servers / channels, in order to accommodate BDO’s population and not experience overflow. Its stability is great, apart from the fact it’s been facing heavy desync issues since launch, making PvP that less fun..
The desync is definitely in a much, much better state than 2016, but sadly it’s still there, and the more competitive you go with PvP, the more you have to use desync as an “extra skill” of your character, which is a pity.
It’s always hard to rate an online game’s business model, but at the end of the day if it can’t score 5 out of 5, there must be something (seriously) wrong with the way developers / publishers choose to milk play.. – I mean make money!
Once more, BDO manages to be the center of attention, with half of the game’s population claiming it’s P2W, and the rest defending it’s not. I don’t want to delve much into each side’s arguments, but skip right to the verdict:
- There is nothing to win in BDO. Its uncapped nature makes it so there is not much “win” involved in its mechanics, everything advances, there’s no closure.
- On the other hand, there’s tons of real life time to save, by buying in-game items. So a new term has arisen to match BDO’s real money mechanics – Pay 4 Convenience.
- Last but not least, it’s important to note that you can get 99% of all store items by playing the game, and using in-game currency. So it’s a heavy “Pay or Grind” situation.
I personally feel that Pearl Abyss is extremely clever on how they are using the in-game store, and most probably make the most money / player from any other MMO, and I’m pretty positive that margin is quite big as well.
At the same time there’s no real need to spend any money (almost), so the choice falls to the player: What do you value most? Your time? Or your wallet?
Many may argue that this is not an ethical question to pose on your playerbase, but at the same time BDO has proven that it’s investing a huge amount of money back to the game. So you get what you’re paying for, and you can even choose to not pay for it.
It’s also worth noting, that by using real money you can get more chances at upgrading your gear faster, but to do that competitively (with high-end players that have spent thousands of hours, and maybe not even a single penny on the game) you would have to spend thousands of dollars every month.
So these methods are clearly focusing on “milking whales”, or in layman’s terms, get an immense amount of money from these few rich players that are willing to invest in the game. For me, that’s great. If you have the wallet, why not support the game you love? At least you have the option to do it, compared to many other games, where you have extremely limited options into spending a bigger amount.
So, Kudos Pearl Abyss! Keep milking whales and making the game better!
It’s worth noting that buying the full game costs 10$ or 5$ on sale, and you may even acquire it for free during special events. There’s an item which is equivalent to the classic “MMO subscription” (called Value Pack), priced at ~15$ per month, but truth is you can get it for half or less in many offers / bundles, and it’s also not too hard to snipe it with in-game money from the marketplace.
So nothing out of the ordinary there, the base game / monthly subscription are quite lower than most MMOs, of course due to the fact that most of the aesthetic items are extremely expensive (up to 35$ for an outfit). Hopefully, the “account bound enhancements” you can buy that will help you save a great deal of time are fairly priced (as a quick example, you could get around 150+ storage slots for the same price as an outfit).
Customer Support is extremely important in any MMO, since with so many people playing at the same time, and constant updates rolling out, there’s bound to be many issues & tickets.
Kakao Games do an excellent job on that front, providing fast & helpful support through any support channels they offer.
I’ve witnessed items get lost due to bugs or mistakes that were recovered in a timely manner, real money or microtransactions being lost – recovered as well. They go as far as to offer free refund on shop items within 72 hours of purchase.
I’ve also seen many toxic or offending people get banned, bot ban-waves are frequent, and (almost) any form of real money trading / making through the game is impossible.
I would highly suggest using their official facebook page for almost instant support, or submitting a ticket for cases that seem more complex (I’ve always used Facebook as first contact, and solved my problems 90% of the times without the need to open a ticket).
Last but not least, the Support section in the Forums can prove to be extremely helpful with many known or new issues, so make sure to step by if you are facing any.
This one would be 5/5, if there was any kind of moderation / existence of GMs (apart from special occasions) in the game.
Well, probably what BDO does best as an MMO, is being unique in all aspects!
Ok, it’s not like we haven’t seen any of the game’s systems used elsewhere, but we definitely haven’t seen such a blend of that many game genres & gameplay opportunities in an MMO.
The fact that I know both people who AFK 24/7 in BDO, and people that literally grind 12 hours per day, proves that fact. There’s so many ways you can play Black Desert and so many things to do – and almost none of them have an end.
Big props to the developers for blending MMO / Sandbox / Strategy / Casual & Hardcore gameplay All-in-One, and providing so many ways to enjoy the world of Black Desert.
Are you a student and prefer to game all day than studying? Do you have a family to take care of, and prefer the “AFK / Mobile-like” progress? You can fit BDO in your lifestyle, as long as you’re a gamer of course.
This is our first (of many) MMO review, and through every step we made sure to include as many important factors that make an MMO great, always comparing to all the other MMORPGs on the market.
We are working hard to create the “perfect MMO review” template, one that will take into consideration every aspect of an MMORPG, and then rate it fairly with no bias, having thousands of hours of gameplay experience, so that we know the ins-and-outs of each factor.
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