I’ve played a couple of sessions of Black Desert Online now, probably about five hours total so this post is just a few first impressions. As is the norm for me, I’m rather behind the launch zerg but that will probably make it that much easier to play at my preferred relaxed pace.
Firstly the obvious: the game is most definitely gorgeous in sight, in sound and in the layered details of the world. Bhagpuss has written about the quality of the world building and I’ve already witnessed that in the short time I’ve spent in-game. Travelling from the starter zone only as far as Velia and its surroudings, talking to the various characters, you get an immediate sense of the personalities you are dealing with. Thanks to the Knowledge and the Amity conversation systems you also have some idea about how characters in a location feel about each other. That’s a lot rarer in the MMORPGs that I’ve played and it adds to the feeling of this as an immersive virtual world.
Your own character is animated very well; from combat animations, idle poses through movement and mounting up or even the “I’m about to fall” pose when you stop on the edge of a rooftop; it’s all very polished. Playing a Wizard as my first character, I particularly appreciate the animations for switching to and from combat – he draws his dagger and conjures his staff out of thin air (or vice versa).
I’m sure it has been discussed elsewhere that the controls are not the easiest to get used to especially if you’ve come to this from a traditional non-action MMO. However I do feel BDO has the need for an alternate control scheme. I’ve played Tera, Guild Wars 2 and even and little Blade & Soul and I find BDO’s controls to be finger-twistingly awkward in comparison to those other games. For example I can get shift+left click to cast a spell, but S+right click or S+F? Using movement keys as a modifier key is just plain weird. That may work for console gamers with a controller but such mappings are not well-suited to a keyboard & mouse in my opinion. I confess that I haven’t yet tried to create my own mappings yet. I’ll have to because I find the transition from movement to combat controls jarring and end up spamming a small subset of my abilities because I’ve learned to do those reliably.
Despite my misgivings on the controls combat does seem enjoyable. The abilities are nicely animated in terms of my character’s spellcasting, the effects as they cast and the results. Watching Imps or Goblins fly in all directions as my Fireball hits is satisfying. Even more satisfying is electrocuting a whole group with the Lightning Chain spell!
I was wary at first of the ‘boss’ fights you have to do with the Black Spirit main story arc – they are marked as Coop so I expected them to be tough to solo if not impossible. I happened to be in location to witness another player summon the first of these foes and tried to assist but it was ‘tapped’ or phased somehow – my spells seemed to pass through it. So I did the summoning myself and did perfectly fine actually with the odd dodge and health potion. The slightly worrying thing is that as you fight any new type of monster you lack the ‘knowledge’ to know what health they have – so all the time you’re fighting not knowing how well you’re doing!
The game is complex, more so than most MMORPGs, and it doesn’t always do that good a job of explaining itself. Yes, there are tutorial videos and in-game wiki-style descriptions but it still doesn’t tell you clearly what you need to know and when you actually need to know it. I was very confused for a while about the node contribution system and how to get my home in Velia linked up to nearby Bartali Farm. An NPC mentioned about going to the Node Manager at the farm, but there was no mention that I didn’t need to first contribute in the town – so I wasted time staring at the Veliah map trying to figure out what to do for quite some time. Thankfully we have Dulfy.net to explain all MMO-training needs including Nodes and Workers in BDO!
All in all I’m impressed enough to give the game a serious try but not so bowled over I’d make it my primary MMO.