Is Black Desert, Worth Playing?
Honest Video Game Reviews received a free copy of this title for review purposes, however our opinions are our own.
Black Desert offers a lot of content for a small admission fee; however, once inside, players will quickly discover that looking good can cost as much as 20X the box price.

The Lowdown.

Product Details
Genre: Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game
Developer: Pearl Abyss
Publisher: Pearl Abyss
Price: $9.99
Release Date: 24 May, 2017
Supported Modes:

Free Expansion Packs.

Black Desert is one of the molly MMORPGs that does not charge for expansion packs, with all playable content being made available at no extra cost to the owner of the game, something they can easily afford to offer, thanks to the multiple high-priced (and often hyper-sexualised) cosmetic items in the pearl shop, and as the adage goes “sex sells”, something which Black Desert has proven to be true, with a vast amount of store items being some variation of virtual lingerie.

New Player Experience.

As of 15 June 2023, players can choose to start their Black Desert journey in one of three ways: the original base game, the Mountains of Eternal Winter expansion pack or the latest expansion pack, Land of the Morning Light, which allows players to experience a brand-new stand-alone narrative based around Korean mythology.

While Pearl Abyss are not the first developers to allow players to jump right into the latest expansion pack, they are one of only a few developers which allow players to do so without paying for the privilege, with the vast majority of MMORPGs charging not only for the expansion pack itself, but around $25 per character to skip to the latest content, something which can prove costly for players who enjoy playing one of each class and who may have been away from the game for some time.

Is Black Desert : Land of the Morning Light, Worth Playing? 1

Pay-2-Win.

Black Desert is not Pay2Win in the sense that there is no way to acquire certain items and services without real money transactions; almost every cash shop item is available through the player-driven marketplace or in-game activity, and those that are not available are not vital to progression and serve more as cosmetic niceties rather than necessities.

However, it was built from the ground up to entice players to part with their hard-earned cash; with a vast cash shop, class-locked cosmetics, and bizarrely, an entire lingerie department available as part of the cash shop, players who like to look their best or progress faster at endgame will be tempted to part with their money.

Are there worse games in the genre? Certainly, the average player will never touch the cash shop. Still, the temptation is real and, for many, alluring, especially in a game that requires a massive time commitment to excel at endgame PvP.
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Visuals.

Black Desert is undoubtedly the most visually stunning MMORPG; unlike many titles, equal attention has been given to character models, landscape and lighting effects, resulting in a visual feast that only improves with time.

Pearl Abyss is serious about making it the best-looking MMORPG and has already released a remastered version, despite BDO having been only three years old and well ahead of its competition visually.

Unfortunately, this visual excellence comes at the cost of performance, and frame rates suffer when navigating player hubs and well-trafficked areas; this performance is made worse due to the high polygon models and HD textures of cash shop items, which can cause performance issues when viewed en masse.

They certainly look pretty, but they diminish performance considerably for those on 8th-generation hardware or weaker PCs.

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Optimisation.

Somewhat, but it could be better, and regardless of platform 2, major performance issues have haunted Black Desert since its closed beta.

1) Poor Player Hub Performance:

Players with decent internet connections and modern hardware will experience little to no latency or performance issues when roaming the stunning countryside.

However, upon setting foot in any popular player hub, things change quickly, and for the worse, it’s not uncommon to see fps drops of 90% even when using a powerful 9th-generation console or high-end PC; this player hub performance issue has plagued the game since its earliest closed beta and five years on it shows nosing of stopping.

Yes, it’s nice to see a thriving and bustling town unlike anything seen in any other MMORPG. Still, it comes to a point where performance must be considered and more strict phasing and latency mitigation measures introduced.

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2) Graphical Pop-In:

Black Desert is undoubtedly one of the best-looking MMORPGs; offering AAA-quality visuals in a genre that usually fails to offer AA-quality visuals sets it apart from most MMORPG genres.

Unfortunately, this beauty comes at a price, and NPCs, character models, and even scenery items pop into view suddenly and well within sight; while most other MMORPGs similarly handle this problem, Black Desert does it far later than other games, forcing players to witness the pop-in effect first-hand, especially in populated hubs where other players and NPCs can appear as ghostly black blobs until the models fully load in.

Character Customisation.

Black Desert has the best character customisation in the genre, with many recommending others purchase it, even if only to use the character creation tool to create art.

Players can customise every possible aspect of their character and share them in-game via the beauty album, allowing players to like and even apply your settings to their characters.

Is Black Desert : Land of the Morning Light, Worth Playing? 2

The beauty album is particularly good for players who wish to jump right into the action; with thousands of preset appearances available, there will be something for even the pickiest players to enjoy.

Player Housing.

Black Desert offers players one of the most comprehensive housing systems the genre has to offer, including the ability to convert certain dwellings into lodging and workplaces for NPC workers, who not only help bolster the local economy but make the players very wealthy as they do so.

For the less business-minded, houses are a great way to further customise your experience, with a wide variety of (mostly paid) furnishings available to decorate your home (or homes!) to your liking.

Is Black Desert : Land of the Morning Light, Worth Playing? 4

Sailing.

Black Desert allows players with a passion for all things oceanic to take to the high seas and engage in all manner of nautical activities, from fishing and trading to exploration and plunder, making it a perfect diversion for anyone who thinks they may go mad if forced to spend even one more hour farming wolves for XP.

Is Black Desert : Land of the Morning Light, Worth Playing? 5

Combat.

Black Desert’s combat is one of its best features; while PvE content is not overly difficult and can best be described as a “Korean grinder”, a wide selection of passive and active abilities ensure that combat feels engaging moment to moment, even if you are rarely in much danger unless deliberately placing yourself in harm’s way or engage in open-world or guild based PvP.

Each class feels immensely powerful, and each enemy you defeat of a certain type increases your characters’ knowledge of the creature, resulting in easier fights to come; eventually, upon reaching S rank, enemies become a non-issue and are easily cut down in droves without any danger to your character or companions.

Overall, the purpose of engaging in combat is to make the player feel their character is a hero, and it succeeds at this goal admirably.

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Open-World PvP.

Open World PvP is the main endgame of Black Desert; solo players and guilds of all sizes actively engage in it.

Guilds, in particular, find this rewarding as they battle over nodes that bring benefits and wealth to all members of the guild, making them highly contested communities among larger and less casual guilds, as well as “less than legal” guilds that actively engage in selling silver on the black/grey market.

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Levelling Experience.

It is notoriously easy to gain levels in Black Desert up to a certain point, with some players reaching level 50 in as little as 23 minutes with the right combination of buffs and events.

Once at the soft cap(50), players will continue to gain XP as they edge their way towards the “hard cap”, which is currently 62 and requires an excessive amount of grinding, with playing joking that it takes less than two hours to reach level 50, but more than two years to reach level 62.

Economy.

While MMORPG economies becoming bloated as time goes on is not a new phenomenon, Black Desert takes this to absurd levels by allowing a new unchecked amount of inflation, without providing concrete gold sinks, by level 20 (less than 2 hours of casual play), I had over 218million silver, with most consumable/vendor items costing 1000-5000s, or less I found there was very little to spend my “windfall” on, even basic mounts and equipment rarely goes into five figures.

This near-endless waterfall of currency has resulted in an auction house where everyday items are bought and sold for hundreds of millions, and truly rare items closer to 1 billion, with third-party black market sellers offering to grind 1 billion silver in under 6 hours (for only $22), its no wonder why the Black Desert economy is broken beyond repair.

No Player-to-Player Trading:

Player-to-player trading is a stable of the MMORPG genre; many players dedicate themselves to becoming a guild crafter or enjoy giving away gear and items to new players.

To combat “black-market gold trading” (which still takes place), Pearl Abyss has opted to turn off the function entirely, penalising honest players while doing very little to deter those who seek to sell in-game silver for real-world currency and encourage more dangerous activities such as account sharing, which is required to acquire silver illegally.

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Crafting.

Black Desert has one of the most comprehensive crafting systems in the genre, with players able to learn not only traditional MMORPG professions such as alchemy and cooking but also engage in additional “crafting” activities such as mount breeding and boat construction.

Players serious about crafting can make it their endgame; with hundreds of items to craft and even horses to breed and train, there is enough to keep even the most hardcore crafter occupied for years to come.

Life Skills (Crafting Professions)

  • Gathering
  • Processing
  • Cooking
  • Alchemy
  • Training
  • Fishing
  • Hunting
  • Trading
  • Farming
  • Sailing

Single Player Content.

Black Desert’s narrative has improved exponentially since its initial Western release, which saw gamers struggling to understand what was going on; poorly translated written dialogue and Korean voice acting ensured that all but multilingual gamers could not follow the wafer-thin narrative.

In the seven years since its release, the translation has continued to improve, and now gamers are no longer confused by what is being said; instead, they are now equally confused as Korean players as they attempt to follow a confusing web of plots and mythologies that even its most ardent defenders have trouble explaining to others; there is a war, some demon-like entities, and a bunch of smaller conflicts that feel like a random story generator manufactured them.

The narrative is not bad; it’s just confusing; the fact it’s only partially voiced in its Western release is jarring, quest chains switch between unvoiced, Korean voice-overs, and English voice-overs frequently, and it makes following the twisting narrative far harder than it needs to be.

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Too Sexy.

While character animations for combat are gorgeous, and the character models are superb, every female character wears stiletto heels, and the cash shop has a full lingerie department.

When playing as a guardian class, the most noticeable thing apart from the awesome combat combos and great combat mechanics was

  • Stiletto heels.
  • Sideboob and boob jiggle.

While not every female class is as bad as the guardian, and the newest female class (Nova) is relatively modest by Black Desert standards, overall, the female form is objectified by Black Desert. Its marketing does little to change that opinion, often using barely dressed female avatars to advertise mundane news, such as store sales or seasonal events.

There is nothing wrong with offering attractive skins. I know several female gamers who love the huge selection of clothes and underwear available, and one (female) friend spent over 300 euros on underwear alone at the cash shop.

Still, it’s clear the largest consumers of skimpy costumes and underwear are neckbeards and hormonal young men, and new female classes are designed not only to look cool but to be sensual.

It makes the game feel tacky, and that’s a shame, as it’s a very impressive MMORPG overall.

While some may dismiss this as a non-issue, I feel strongly that making content purely to titillate is wrong, and while there is a time and place for nudity in games, making every female character eye candy is offensive, and for those who are prone to acting on their lust, dangerous.

But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell. - Matthew 5:28-30

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Diversity.

Black Desert is one of the most diverse MMORPGs I have ever seen; players are free to grind mobs, quest, engage in life skills (crafting professions), tame and breed mounts, become full-time traders, fish, sail, decorate houses, develop relationships with NPCs, partake in seasonal events, role play, build and sell wagons, mounts and boats, transport goods between regions and enjoy Black Desert as an economic sim, engage in high-end PVP guild wars or open-world PvE content.

The addition of Diablo 3-style seasons gives players a reason to come back, again and again, to unlock seasonal rewards, cash shop discounts, and powerful items to continue their adventure at the end of each season.

With 25+ unique classes already available and new classes and awakenings being added multiple times a year, Black Desert is the type of game you can return to again and again and find something new and interesting to do.

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Unafraid of Change.

Unlike most MMORPG developers, Black Desert developers treat the entire world as active content. As a result, “old world content” and classes often receive substantial updates to bring them graphically or mechanically in line with new additions.

For example, in December 2021, a balance update brought sweeping changes to all 17 core classes, ensuring that every class is viable in PvP and PvE content for years.

Community.

Black Desert is strange in that the Reddit and forum communities are far more toxic than in-game chat. While plenty of trolls are online at any given time, far more normal players want to have a good time and are happy to talk about the game with others, offer advice, and generally act like decent human beings.

Most high-level players and guilds will kill on sight, especially when defending optimal farming sports. Players who wish to avoid PvP will find some areas of the map impossible to navigate safely, especially if attempting to farm “someone else’s turf”.

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Black Desert FAQ

Black Desert is a massively multiplayer online role playing game video game developed and published by Pearl Abyss, it was released on 24 May, 2017 and retails for $9.99.

Platform Availability.

Black Desert is available on the following platforms: PC, Playstation 4, Playstation 5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X|S.

Are The Developers Active?

Black Desert is in active development and receives new content, including quests, events, zones and characters regularly.

How Many People Play Black Desert?

As of April 2024, around 1,500,000 people play Black Desert on a fairly regular basis.

How Active Is The Black Desert Playerbase?

Black Desert is very active, and there are many active servers during peak NA/EU play times catering to various playstyles and/or regions.

Is Cross-Platform Multiplayer Supported?

Black Desert supports:

  • Cross-Platform Multiplayer.
  • Cross-Platform Parties.
  • Cross-Generational Multiplayer.
  • Cross-Generational Parties.
  • Cross-Platform Progression.

Please note as of June 2023, Crossplay exists only between the four supported consoles (PS4, PS5, Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S), and the PC community is not included, nor is it likely to be included anytime soon, due to the differences between the console and PC ports of Black Desert, which renders PC – Console cross-platform multiplayer impossible.

Is There Group Finding/Matchmaking Support?

Black Desert offers the following matchmaking options:

  • Solo Matchmaking
  • Group Matchmaking
  • Server Browser

Are There In-Game Microtransactions?

The Black Desert in-game store sells:

  • Cosmetic Items.
  • Cosmetic Item Bundles.
  • Premium Currency Bundles.
  • Premium Battlepass.
  • Starter Packs.
  • Pay for Convenience Items.
  • Pay-2-Win Items.

What Peripherals Are Supported?

The following peripherals are officially supported:

  • Console - Controller.
  • PC - Controller.
  • PC - Mouse and Keyboard.

Is There Any Mature Content?

Black Desert is rated PEGI 16+ and contains the following:

  • Bad Language
  • Mature Themes
  • Partial Nudity
  • Sexual Content
  • Violence

Curiously, Black Desert is rated PEGI 16 on PC and PEGI 18 on console, something I have not seen occur elsewhere despite containing the same objectionable elements in both versions.

Final Verdict.

Black Desert is a great MMORPG to visit and play casually/semi-competitively; beyond that level of commitment, you will find yourself being forced to spend large sums of time or money to keep competitive in the fiercely competitive and lucrative endgame where many guilds and players kill on sight anyone who dares to grind mobs at the most lucrative areas, doing their best to ensure the flow of silver (legal or otherwise). XP keeps far away from potential rivals.

Black Desert would be a great recommendation for those looking for a game to play casually or semi-competitively. However, it’s worth noting that this MMORPG can become quite addictive and time-consuming. It might even trigger latent gambling or obsessive tendencies in some players, which is something to consider before diving too deep.

Is Black Desert Worth Playing In 2024?

8
Honest Video Game Reviews has given "Black Desert" a rating of 8/10, indicating that it is a good game, that is well worth playing, and while it may have a few shortcomings, the average gamer will enjoy it.

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