I’ve been in the game since Sunday as I purchased the early-early ‘I am very special’ access package. This was in fact my very first time playing an MMO on launch day. I couldn’t get in for the first 20 minutes, so I gave up, went and got a glass of wine, drank that, drank another one, came back and I was in! Bugs have been very few and far between – a small problem with the map, settings not being remembered when reloading, but overall it’s been very smooth sailing.

So down to the game. There is some good stuff here, some very good stuff. For starters, your character is not the hero. You are not a special one to save the world. You wake up with no memory and a little black spirit to help you get it back. There is no story in the game. You can progress in any direction you want. You don’t even have to level much. Yesterday I got involved in cooking and did that for pretty much the whole day. It didn’t level me much at all. So if there’s no story does that mean …?

Yep, it’s a sandbox. A real sandbox. With sand and everything. I’m going to do a post on tips to get started but one thing I will mention now is the fact that completing quests does not give you experience in the traditional sense. You have energy and contribution points. Energy allows you to practice crafting. As you craft it goes down until it needs to be replenished by resting. You can also invest energy in towns, farms, and mines to give you more resources when you gather. Contribution allows you to purchase housing as well as invest in nodes. The nodes connect towns to the resource areas. It is important to remember that you can retrieve contribution points after you have invested them – they are not a permanent investment decision. So feel free to spread them around and see how you go.

Questing raises your energy and contribution points. Questing also gives you skill points which you can spend to unlock combat skills. Experience is mostly gained from killing mobs. So in effect you are leveling three different things, albeit in different ways.

The game is very sophisticated. It has a great deal of depth but the learning curve is not too bad. What can overwhelm you is the sheer number of options that you have. Players can become deer caught in the headlights. The thing to remember is that you are not restricted. You can progress in everything in the game so feel free to proceed in any direction you like. I’m doing gathering, cooking, and exploring the node and trade features. But there is much more than that.

Black Desert has progressed the genre, which is a great thing and about time too. To give an example, let’s have a look at how NPCs work in the game. In traditional MMOs they tend to be rather one dimensional. We are all familiar with an npc standing there with an exclamation mark above its head. NPCs in BDO have many different roles. You have marketplace, trade manager, stable-master, node manager, and many more. All of them can give you quests. They might have special local knowledge which you can obtain by spending energy. You can attempt to steal from NPCs. There is also a conversation mini-game where you can raise or lower their opinion of you. While obviously still being static elements, the important thing is that they don’t feel like static elements in the game. This is just one example of the very many advances that BDO has made.

The game is gorgeous. Unlike other Korean games which tend to look like anime on drugs, the setting is akin to 14th century Italy. Yesterday I went into a swamp area, and it really felt like a swamp. I’m guessing it has a decent toll on computer systems, however. I have a high-end rig and on the top visual settings yesterday I crashed twice. Today I’m going to tone it down one notch and see how it goes.

In summation, I’m so impressed right now. These guys even managed to eliminate gold sellers as there is no direct player trading. So far for me this game is diamonds. I really recommend it. The general launch begins today.