Yesterday concluded the last beta test for Black Desert Online before launch this March 3rd. I made the most of the time, looking at as many features of the game as I possibly could without spoiling myself entirely. And there is so much yet to grasp, it feels like I hardly scratched the surface. After my brief initial impressions, it was time to find out just how well the virtual world of Black Desert was crafted – would I be able to immerse myself in it entirely and explore to my heart’s content?
But first I got a donkey from the stable master, thinking it would speed up my travels. The beast felt awkward underneath me and even after I figured out a reluctant gallop, other players kept running past us on foot. Unwilling to deal with further humiliation, I decided to tie Fred down and let him feed on the surrounding grass, which he clearly preferred doing anyway.
I also had a brief flirt with the market place and my first ever encounter with transaction captchas in an MMO. Apparently this is PA’s answer to mass-playing the AH via macros. Since I had almost run out of cash over my unfaithful ride, it was time to blow the rest of it on housing which is a fairly involved affair in Black Desert leading to many different options for crafters. After acquiring a small shack in Velia, I had enough money left to turn the place into a residence and choose some wallpaper, flooring and a bed. Granted, it wasn’t much but it was all mine!
Onward to Heidel City
As I traveled ever further east from the original starting point, it was time to begin the ultimate litmus test of exploration and turn my UI off to allow for aimless wandering. Black Desert Online is beautiful and there are ways to make your screenshots look even more fantastic, so I made full employ of the various ingame options. On high res settings the textures are sharp and terrain is fully accessible, climbable and diveable. A sudden thunderstorm or gush of rain makes noticeable impact on your environment.
Before long, Heidel City crept up on the horizon. I could wax lyrical about what a genuine, lively and bustling place this was, but pictures say more than a thousand words in this case –
From the narrow, crooked cobblestone streets, to the lively feeling created by NPC behavior and the finely crafted details in an old archway or fluttering pennant, I loved everything about Heidel City. It is possibly the most beautiful place I’ve visited in an MMO/RPG next to GW2’s Divinity’s Reach and Novigrad in The Witcher 3. There are nooks and crannies to explore, chairs to sit on and NPC conversations to overhear (although there could be a bit more of that). It is an incredibly well-designed site as far as an authentic medieval-feeling city goes and I have been to a fair few in real life. And hooray, for once scale is working! I can only hope there are more cities like this in the game.
Climbing the tallest mountain around
Recovering from city shock, I wandered off and followed the river south of Heidel until a tall mountain range showed up. I had not really experienced forests yet in the game so it was time to find out if it could rival LOTRO’s Old Forest or Eorzea’s Black Shroud. I am not sure I actually found a forest proper but I found woods along the foot of the mountain and was generally pleased with the textures and shrubbery. There wasn’t the same atmosphere as in the other two MMOs though; the noticeable lack of critters and other creatures puzzled me. When I didn’t manage to “find” anything much, climbing the mountain to see how far I might get became a thing.
And it went on and on! I must’ve spent 15 minutes running and jumping over rocks, dodging one very angry stag lord materializing out of nowhere, before I got close to a finish line. I made it past the treeline and still further up things only came to a halt shortly before the mountain peak, where I was allowed to go no further. The view below was stunning, opening far and wide with recognizable landmarks in the far distance.
Invisible barriers are one of my pet peeves in MMOs. Black Desert Online appears to have very little of the sort and allows for an almost entirely persistent experience. I’ve yet to plunge into a thick, dark type of creepy forest but it is safe to say that my enthusiasm for the game was greatly improved by my two exploratory missions. Even if “endgame” should prove not to be my cup of tea down the line, it will be worth the journey on account of all the sights and places I have yet to see. Just send me that horse with my pre-order mail, please!