Ooh wee where do I start with Black Desert. It’s a huge MMORPG. A huge, detailed, and sometimes overwhelming MMORPG from the start. To the point where I can say I feel like a fish out of water, even with the likes of Neverwinter, DC Universe Online, Skyforge, Tera, Warframe, and Trove under my belt. Even a sentence I saw in the server chat sums this up nicely: “I’ve played Black Desert on all three systems and I still need to use Youtube.” Depending on who you are as a player what I’ve mentioned already can be both good and/or bad. Black Desert is absolutely a time sink, a second life kind of experience to get the most out of it. One of those titles that doesn’t truly open up until you’re dozens of hours in to it. Now this may very well scare some gamers away just like taxes, because hey…those are here too. But I’m getting the feeling that a grand adventure still awaits me after ten or so hours completed. Even if these initial impressions of Black Desert on PS4 are riddled with technical messes.
Now since this is an impression piece I won’t delve into the nitty-gritty as much as I would in my review. Which will probably come out in like 27 years after I finally have this game figured out like the back of my hand. The story does show some promise as there’s a mysterious, but clearly not your best interests in mind, Black Spirit that has somehow attached itself to you. Naturally, you’ve lost your memories prior to the start of the game and this small, round, mischievous spirit is at the center of it. As you complete quests alongside your forced compatriot, you’ll arrive at the town of Velia within the first dozen hours. This small fishing and farming town had some serene environments and a quest line involving the leader’s daughter having confounding nightmares of dark presences. Turns out in was the ghosts of fallen spirits who died during a past event with the town’s sorted history causing these night terrors.
After I helped ease these tormented woes I was tasked with traveling south to an even bigger city. So I could continue my journey seeking answers to this Black Spirit problem of course. Here’s as far as I have reached at the moment, but only because I make sure to do all I can in exploration and XP earning before moving on. Which I just know is going to be the many straws that break my back. Black Desert is once again huge in so many different ways. I discovered more of this once I reached Velia. Turns out this title has actual trading markets between players, guilds, and the cities themselves, and actual trading routes. You can invest in these by purchasing Nodes to get in on the action and later you can even hire workers to make bank for you. Heck, if a Guild controls a city or territory they can collect actual taxes from the area with actual algorithms to figure out how much. I discovered that a Guild being in an area also affects the happiness of the citizens. So too much war or fighting between clans will lead to yielding rewards.
Now if taxes weren’t life-like enough for you then hear this. You can’t just acquire a horse, wagon, house, etc. willy nilly. You actually have to earn registrations for most of these items and bring it to the appropriate NPC in any given town to ride the likes of a horse. Or you can just buy the Ultimate Edition which is what review key we received. Your given the ability to get horses and pets nearly right at the start. Plus, buying houses is very interesting compared to what I’m used to. After helping people or doing really specific things, you can earn contribution points. These can be used for a handful of purchases including houses in each city. There’s a few other determining factors on physically purchasing a house I found out though. I thought about getting one in Velia and did a quick little Google search to make sure that idea was on the up and up. Turns out there’s people who dedicate their lives to figuring out what houses in the world are best to pick up based on trade market, resources, the in-game economy, nearby shops, and even creation potential. So basically I learned that Velia is a good, not great place to settle down because it has access to a marketplace, fishing spot, and cooking/alchemy benefits, but not much else.
Now I could go on about even more small, albeit essential details like needing to buy food for your pets or individual pieces of furniture for your house, but I’ll save that for the full review. For now, let’s move on over to gameplay. It is fun and probably the most enjoyable out of all the MMORPGs I’ve played. There’s a handful of typical classes to choose from, more of which will be detailed in the full review, and I of course went with my trusty warrior ways. A shield and sword focusing on melee attacks is all I need. There’s quite a few moves and skills to learn from earning XP, all of which are well implemented. They feel appropriate for my character and handle well in action. There’s a very visceral feel to the attacks thanks to a combination of sound effects, flashy animations, and enemies realistically reacting to them. Health potions, stat enhancing items, and the like all come along for the journey too.
While gameplay is a strong component on its own, the experience is marred by a plague of technical issues. Even more so than usual for a PC MMORPG being ported over to a console. Framerate drops happen near constantly which causes a whole host of delays from character interactions to combat. Like enemy health bars not going down without some major lag. Just walking or riding a horse can be a chore as your immediate surroundings stutters like crazy. This also ties in to NPCs not popping in correctly as you witness a gargantuan purple blob and the draw distance is no bueno at the moment. I haven’t seen pop-ins this bad since I played the remaster of Red Faction Guerilla. Again I know this can be attributed to beginning launch woes and I’ll keep tabs on the technical progress as my journey continues. One thing that probably won’t change though is how Black Desert looks on a base PS4. Believe me when I say that you want to play this on a PS4 Pro to truly appreciate the HDR supported scenery the game loves to shove in your face.
As for the user interface and HUD elements…they’re alright. At first they’ll be overwhelming like everything else in this giant world, but I am getting a grip on them. I’m now using the hot buttons to access my inventory and quest list instead of pushing Options to bring up a list of all icons. I’d recommend combing through all the available options and menu possibilities due to much getting surely lost in translation. Black Desert’s tutorials can only teach so much without making the story boring after all. Although some would argue the grindy nature of some objectives can cause that. Point being that to change camera sensitivity required going to ‘Settings-Interface-DualShock 4’ and maybe fighting a small framerate storm. Not where one would expect to adjust these settings.
Interactions with other players is also a little different compared to the MMORPGs I usually play. Only people in the same party can attack a boss they summoned or get credit for defeating some enemies. So you can’t help strangers in their efforts and you’ll even see multiple story bosses summoned in the same spot. Unfortunately, I’ve played solo so far and do plan on joining up with a guild or party mates once I have more experience. I don’t feel at odds with the difficulty or scale of the world yet as a lone wolf either. Just weird that this mechanic makes it seem like every player or party is in their own instance. PvP on the other hand I’m sure is a whole different ball game, but you can probably figure out my playtime in that aspect. It too can be overwhelming from what I’ve researched and equally overwhelming for a new adventurer like me. So I’m putting player battles on the back burner for now. Maybe when I join a guild I’ll be more comfortable striking that cord.
Black Desert is definitely an interesting concept as it takes its genre and elevates it to high heaven. There’s so much to do and so many minute procedures to follow that you’ll think some parts of this are real life. The story has me intrigued for now and the gameplay is enjoyable by itself. Unfortunately, everything is smothered by major technical downsides that will probably be slow to get ironed out. Still this gigantic affair of a game has me all nervous and electrified in equal measure over the many things to learn and get a handle on. I can only hope that the endgame truly lives up to the longevity the game presents in near every other regard. Just promise to pull me out if I get in too deep with the in-game universe’s socio-political happenings. The will and the way are there, trust me.