Black Desert Online: On the Fly CBT2 Impressions

Syl & Valor

Syl & Valor basking in the sunlight of BDO

So let’s get it out of the way before I start the nitpicking: Black Desert Online is every bit as gorgeous an MMO as the previews have made us believe. The characters I made in preparation for the second closed beta, all work beautifully and look as good and better ingame. The world is huge, detailed, vibrant and few high pop hubs aside because beta, I didn’t experience any lag on high graphical settings. The fact that this monster of a fantasy stage is completely persistent without a single loading screen ever to interrupt your travels, is impressive to say the least. The light, the weather effects, the sounds make this explorer’s heart beat a little faster.

The first towns have a distinct southern European feel.

The first towns have a distinct southern European feel.

Gameplay was not without its issues this second beta. I played my huntress past level 12, learning the ropes of a somewhat overwhelming UI that feels like a bottomless pit at first. Quest handling is familiar yet different, player resources such as karma or energy must be learned and understood. All the basics are accompanied by an ingame live action tutorial window (including audio instructor) in your bottom left corner which is a pretty neat idea (there’s also your personal Navi sprite for which I didn’t care as much). It kept me company while I was struggling to tag five quest mobs of this and that together with 100 other players and no chance of shared kills, something that made me lose the will to live quickly. There is no way this is still a thing? There were also glitches and texture loading issues I hope won’t make it past the set launch date of March 3rd.


World map shenanigans. You even see weather effects in this view.

Fussing around a few things stood out to me, namely travel, quest NPC interaction and of course the combat system. Travel commands and map handling are one of this MMOs greatest forte: other than manually going anywhere, there’s a smart point&click system at work that can be used both actively while running or from world map view. There’s also the option to just right-click your buddy on the world map (friendlists and party invites working perfectly) and make your character auto-run to that location. Furthermore there’s a command to make all of your player characters run to different locations on the map while you are offline, accessed from the disconnect menu. That is some interesting stuff.

Conversing with NPCs wasn’t quite so great. There’s an odd mix of voice-overs and written dialogue going on with quest NPCs especially, whereby they say one thing while you read another. At first I didn’t grasp both were coming from the same source. Also voice-overs are mostly terrible to the point where I wish they scratched the feature entirely. Clicking through quest dialogue was fairly boring too, usually offering just a single option to click. What’s the point?

The combat appears to be the most novel and intriguing system in BDO. I can see opinions split on button-combo-based action combat; it did feel a little like playing Streetfighter or Xenogears, for those who know it. There is an assist window to learn combos but once I figured button mashing was more or less as effective, I didn’t bother learning all the moves. I will have to retry this with a PC gamepad next time because it didn’t feel very comfortable to me at all, but then I haven’t nearly given this the time it deserves so don’t quote me on it. For now, it’s different!


50 euros = 5’000 pearls, ya rly.

Naturally I spent time in the item shop and was underwhelmed by the choices on offer and the very steep pricing. To be fair, Pearl Abyss are mostly keeping shop items in the realm of cosmetics and QoL improvements, however paying 50 Euros for one set of armor plus cosmetics and one pet is very steep for a buy-to-play title. One can also argue over things like extra bag space and weight limit increases requiring further expenditure. I would like to see adjustments here and definitely more armor and less underwear, of which there seems to be an abundance for female characters at least.


Menu settings

What did stand out to me as a big positive were countless interface options in the settings that let you tailor your personal experience. Things such as character highlight options for any conceivable target are a long-standing demand of mine. There are pet settings for turning off other companions other than your own and system notification tweaks to your heart’s content – just to name few things. The commands for taking screenshots (including cinematic modes and slow motion), adjusting the overall colors&feel of the game or camera view, are outstanding. All I really missed was a way to make my character not auto-stare at the camera, which is freaking weird.

I will need more time with Black Desert Online before I can draw any type of conclusion. I am still adjusting to the combat and how the overall gameplay feels. The cash shop aside, my biggest concern at this point is probably the PvP factor: after hitting level 50, hunting season officially starts for you and all your other characters from there. With a vast world to explore as well as some potentially interesting sandbox elements (housing, farming, crafting, taming etc.) I have yet to try, I feel weary thinking of groups of lolkids ganking me at every corner. But even if Pear Abyss did add PvE servers for BDO, the game might struggle with lack of endgame PvE content just the way GW2 has done. At least this time around, we seem to be looking at a much sandboxier title. Time will tell…but gosh, it’s a beautiful world!


    1. Yesss…I am positive they will take feedback on board tbh, it would be odd not no if they want to sell lots of goodies in the future. No audience, no purchases. Good thing too that NA/EU is separate from the Asian community.

  1. Probably going to skip Black Desert because of the combat. It looks nice though.

    The PvP thing sounds odd. Are you saying that your PvP switch is off until your first character hits 50 but thereafter it is permanently on for every character you make on that account ever after? So you start a new character and it can be ganked at level 1? What would be the supposed commercial benefit for the company of that?

    1. @bhagpuss I follow your blog and I know you are playing Blade and Soul. Based on that the combat in BDO is lot less twitch compared to Blade and Soul. In fact you can mouse click in BDO etc. So if you are fine with B&S combat you will be at easy here.

      I also think you will like this game. There is huge open world to explore and there are lot of interesting PvE systems in relation to crafting, trading etc to explore in this game. What I am saying is that the game has lot of depth. However their pricing model is pretty bad right now so wait and buy the game once they drop the price!

      I have not done much PvP but I don’t think you will be ganged etc. Most PvP will be restricted to GvG stuff etc even though you can be killed anywhere. There are huge penalty for killing players who are not flagged for PvP etc or something. Anyway people who know more about PvP can fill you in but I don’t foresee much gang fest.

      1. Thanks for the info! I thought the combat sounded very similar to Blade and Soul but B&S has a very under-publicized option that lets you play it as an older-style hotbar MMO, which is how I have it set up. I don’t think BDO works that way. That said, I can play action MMO style well enough so it wouldn’t put me off completely. It’s not my preferred way of playing though.

        Not bothered about the PvP elements either – I just thought it sounded like a weird design decision. Even so, fifty levels of exploration would be plenty anyway I would imagine. I don’t often get that far in MMOs I’m just curious about seeing. Something else usually comes along to distract me before then.

        If BDO was F2P then I would definitely take a look but as there’s a box fee I think I’ll wait for a sale or a free trial.

      2. I believe PvP is still very much in development right now, so it might become manageable or even completely optional for those who’d rather not engage in it. Right now you get flagged for PvP at level 50, there’s no opt-out. All your subsequent toons get flagged as well, the reasoning behind it is that you had “time to learn” or something. There are EXP penalties for death and you’ll lose items too….so for now it sounds rather harsh.

    1. Character slot is not 50 euro but costumes are very expansive. I think full set cost like 35 euro (also $35 if you are an american) !!! But anyway its one of the worse cash shop in history of MMOs specially given its B2P and not F2P!

    2. @Carson
      Yes, that is the price you see in the screenshot right now for additional character slots with your family name (you get several but they are limited and can only be increased via shop items), hence people complaining.

  2. I see everyone saying the world looks beautiful but it only does around your character. The draw distance in this game is pretty poor and I couldn’t find a way in the game increase it. Even in the pictures you posted, you clearly see the poor quality distance textures and in your last picture you can see the poor quality on the rocks which are pretty close(few feet away) to your character. This is annoying me no end! I am playing with everything maxed and I have top end CPU and GPU card so this is not related my hardware.

    Even thought the character creation is very elaborate, once your character is in game, you lost most of the detail. This is expected but it sort of took some of the hype away for me!

    The combat and the combat animation in particular, are not as fluid or smooth as Blade and Soul but I can’t really fault it since its better than many other MMO out now. However the combat seems to have lot of depth but I can’t be sure since I didn’t get anywhere near max level in beta.

    The cash shop. This is the biggest negative for me since this is a B2P game which has worse cash shop prices even compared to F2P games! Blade and Soul is F2P game and costumes cost fair bit in the cash shop but still lot cheaper than BDO! Here is the kicker, Blade and Soul gives you nice looking costumes in game as rewards for quests and via dungeons drops but BDO apparently doesn’t give you any nice costumes at all via normal game play based on what people are saying. If you don’t buy costumes in cash shop, you will have pretty much the same “poor farmer” look from level 1 to 50!

    I like the fact that the game is one seamless world and it has lot of interesting places to explore and see. I think people who like Skyrim will like this game for that aspect. This is explorers dream! But pity about the draw distance!

    Over all I like the game but I still canceled my pre-order simply because I don’t want to support their B2P but worse cash shop in the world pricing policy. Also the pre-order doesn’t give much benefit at all so I don’t see that point.

    1. Check this link:
      I am pretty sure they will keep tweaking the cash shop. It’s a good thing NA/EU BDO is separate from the Asian market because over there, they are used to different prices for RMT in games. But the devs know fully well that for western reception, different feedback must be taken onboard and they’ve already proven that they listen to the community in other ways. So for now I’ll remain positive about the cash shop.

      About the texture quality in screenshots, cinematic mode is blurrier than when I actually play the game. I found ways to drastically increase the blurred distance effect for screenshots, I just chose not to do that in some of them. I pasted the commands here:
      For the game in general, I think there are guides for tweaking the quality but I have not done any of it yet. Did you check the ‘improve distance’ setting ingame? There will probably have to be some reasonable restrictions in the end given it’s still an MMO but hey, to me it still looks incredibly great compared to most other titles. 😉

  3. The penalties for attacking other players in open PvP are also pretty harsh right now, just so you know. The Karma system hits gankers hard right now, which has caused plenty of complaints. Seems like Guild vs Guild wars will be more of a thing than just open ganking. They seem to get the fact that the whole PvP thing is a delicate balance. They want PvPers to be able to engage in that kind of activity and have fun, but they also don’t want rampant lolroflcopterattackeveryoneyousee BS either. 🙂

    Item loss on death only happens to people with negative karma, which comes from instigating PvP combat against another positive karma player. (outside of guild vs guild was) The harsh stuff in PvP comes to people who have negative karma, not players who don’t normally initiate PvP against others. This page on BDTome explains the system pretty well.

  4. I can’t help but think that this game would force me into buying a new graphics card to keep up with the strain. Can your system handle it well without hiccups?

    1. Aye but it’s a relatively good rig still and the grafX card is a GTX 970. I keep everything maxed though so there’s a lot of room to downscale for sake of performance (although at some point that would be a shame also).

      1. I believe they already confirmed that there will be no PVE servers, at least for now. There really isn’t enough endgame PVE to justify PVE-only servers anyway, perhaps one day but I would not hold my breath. For good or ill, better or worse, PVP will be a part of the endgame experience in Black Desert for the foreseeable future. In their CBT 2 Diary, then went over some of the options they were looking at in regards to PvP. Just scroll down to where it says Karma and PK. 🙂

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