When Black Desert Online first emerged on the scene in Korea in 2014, many players in the West have been eager to get their hands on the MMO. So when the closed beta test was announced for this weekend, many players clamored to get a glimpse of Black Desert Online, arguably one of the best-looking massively multiplayer online games — and games in general — to date. From its robust character creation to interesting setting, Black Desert Online aims to be one of the better entries when it hits full release in 2016.
So how does the beta version of Black Desert Online impress so far?
Arguably the largest draw of Black Desert Online are its visuals. We’ve known for years that the game is breathtaking. Developer Pearl Abyss went the route of creating their own engine from scratch instead of using an engine such as CryEngine or Unreal Engine, two of the more powerful engines on the market to date. In doing so they’ve created an incredibly optimized game for one still in beta with incredibly realistic visuals. The character models, environments, and effects work in the game really sell the setting, giving players a more realistic look to a genre of games that tend to fall on the fantastical side of things.
Black Desert Online’s character creation tool is another major draw to the game. The ability to completely customize the look of your individual avatar has always been a linchpin in many MMO or RPG games. However, as robust as the character creation tool is, it’s a little weird that the gender of your character is tied to the class you choose. It’s an interesting design choice, and one I’m sure will make some players put off a bit, as changing a gender to some is a vital point in the development of their player-character. However, despite this little quirk, the character creation tool in Black Desert Online sets it apart from games with similar tools such as Fallout 4 or The Elder Scrolls Online. It’s completely fleshed out to the point where you can spend an hour deciding on the perfect curvature of your cheek bones. Kotaku‘s Mike Fahey calls the character creation an “epic undertaking,” and he’s not too far from the truth.
However, once you’ve spent an entire game session creating your character, Black Desert Online places you in the middle of a city and tasks you with figuring out what’s going on. You’ll meet people, interact with a black spirit, and start to get acclimated to Black Desert Online’s active combat. Unlike other MMOs, Black Desert Online doesn’t follow the same skill bar rotations made famous by World of Warcraft and other older-styled MMOs. Instead, the game’s combat is entirely active and combo driven, using a combination of mouse clicks and keyboard buttons to vary up your attacks. With no healing class, you’re ability to survive is based on your own ability to dodge and counter attack, as well as your potion management.
The combat wouldn’t be nearly as satisfying if the character animations weren’t superb in the game. My Sorceress leaps into combat with a blur or black fog and amazingly acrobatic kicks, mixing punches and kicks with energy blasts. All of it is presented in such a fluid way that the combat never gets old, urging me to jump into the next foray with reckless abandon, ready to kick and blast the Steel Imps in front of me with everything she’s got.
I’m still only a day into the Black Desert Online beta test, which runs till December 22, but the game is definitely shaping up to be one to keep your eye on come 2016.