There are different sorts of MMOs out there. Each one has their own sort of focus. While some are lauded for their stories, others are about what they allow the people to do. Black Desert PS4, an MMORPG that has been available on Korean PCs since July 2015, falls into the latter category. This freeform sort of game, which tries makes sure people know that they can do anything in it and don’t need to party up to have a good time before they play, experienced its PlayStation 4 beta the weekend of August 9, 2019. While five days isn’t enough to go ahead and hit level caps, set up a trading network, or really establish yourself, it is enough to provide a taste of what sets this MMO apart.
Story? What Story?
Most MMORPGs have some sort of story. When they plop you into a world, a tutorial of sorts is offered that also gives you some sense of who you might be, what you might be doing, and why. Black Desert’s beta doesn’t offer that. It begins with disjointed memories flooding in via a cutscene, interactions with a Black Spirit that has made you its host, and an amnesiac avatar. Rather than try to immerse someone right away in this introduction, you bounce between characters and assignments doling out quests in one of the smallest possible fonts.
Given that this was only a beta, there isn’t enough time to go and do everything. Getting into a story isn’t really possible. Except, it seems like there isn’t much of anything there. There’s an explorer named Edan, who becomes your boss, and he’s working for a princess named Jarette. Black energy is infecting people, including you, but that Black Spirit that’s telling you where to go and what to do is saying that letting them help you would hurt the two of you. It doesn’t seem to follow the flow of MMOs like Final Fantasy XIV.
Beating Up Baddies
This carries over to its battle system too. Rather than some MMOs, where you have lots of hotkeys and macros, Black Desert seems far more active. Your attacking is done with the right shoulder buttons. So, if someone plays as a witch, one will be a melee attack and the other will be ranged. The ranged attack has crosshairs on the screen, requiring you to actually look and aim at your enemy. Which is easy enough, as the foes you are supposed to fight to complete missions have an indicator over heads that are essentially a big “hit me” sign. You can jump and dodge. The hotkeys that are present are there to help you clear through quests quickly, use the two healing options at a quick press of a button, and go through what feels more like a beat’em up than a more traditional MMORPG battle system.
A lot of the elements feel like they’re present to streamline things. You can bring up quests with a quick button press to select or clear them. When you choose an objective, navigation appears showing where to go. Pressing a button lets you autorun from place to place, which seemed to keep enemies from being a bother when getting from place to place. The map seemed very large during the beta phase, meaning finding a mount would have been better. Donkeys aren’t great, but there is the promise of horses to tame along the way. Gathering points are everywhere, provided you find the right things to collect the goods. Everything is well labeled and, while the story itself is nearly absent and the dialogue laughable during the segments seen, at least it isn’t difficult to find out what you could and should be doing.
Even skill acquisition is brought up in a very common sense way. As you level up, you get skill points. Go into the skill menu, and it will tell you which ones are immediately learnable. Black Desert will tell you what a skill is, how many skill points it needs, how to use it if it isn’t a passive ability, the effect it will have on opponents, and really anything someone needs to know. If you are fighting enemies, eventually your knowledge about them will improve. Which means you’ll be better at fighting those specific foes. There is incremental growth as you go.
But Most Importantly, It Seems Super Pretty
One of the most notable things about the Black Desert beta is how gorgeous it is and how massive its world can be. The character creator offered people a chance to make a Berserker, Ranger, Sorceress, Warrior, Witch, or Wizard character. (These are gender-locked, with men being Berserkers, Warriors, and Wizards and women being Rangers, Sorceresses, and Witches.) Once you get into making your character, you choose their appearance, horoscope, and get to see some of the actions. There is also a beauty album option, which seems appropriate since it almost seems like it is impossible to make an ugly avatar. When you get into specific parts, you can determine the color of each section of a character’s hair, eyes, and makeup. You can decide the size and look of different body parts. It is all very intricate.
The world around people seems like it is designed to offer lots of details. Different biomes have their own look, with vegetation to bring it to life. Enemies are distinctive. There was some texture pop in and display issues during the Black Desert PS4 beta, and sometimes it was difficult to tell how good things looked when a cluster of other people were all gathered around the same instance during the early quests. But, once someone starts getting off the beaten path, it seemed easier to appreciate what Black Desert could do. Then, you could start trying to get into farming or trading. Though, taking the time to just explore some wooded areas, collecting materials from hunting,
There are parts of Black Desert that could be promising. Getting to set off into the world and just live, deciding if you want to be a success through fighting enemies, getting involved with a trading network, or running a farm, could be something that draws people in. Getting to spend an hour or two with the character creator, making a perfect avatar, could be another option. Or, maybe someone will just want to set up house and decorate a home. Early indications make it seem like some areas, such as the story, will be weaker than others. People will be able to see for themselves how things could be and get into the full Black Desert PS4 experience on August 22, 2019.