Choose My Adventure: Wrapping up Black Desert and selecting our next destination
Back when I mentioned that I was learning to like Black Desert a while back, I got this tweet from the game’s official account. That was awesome. I liked it immensely. And while I don’t think I ever actually learned to love you guys (sorry!), I definitely do have a degree of appreciation. It just never crossed over into actual love. (Not least because my heart is already sworn to another game. You all know it.)
I’ve kind of struggled to summarize my feelings about Black Desert in my mind. The trouble isn’t that they’re negative feelings; it’s just that, much like my feelings on The Elder Scrolls Online’s battlegrounds, it’s easy to take them as negative when that isn’t how they’re meant. I certainly didn’t dislike the game, and it’s definitely not bad; I kept feeling like I was brushing up against the same territory as I did with the aforementioned ESO. But where I walked away from that game thinking “this is a lot better than I remember, even if it’s still kind of tedious in places,” I’m walking away from Black Desert feeling as if the game keeps giving me tools to solve problems I don’t have.
My struggles with the character creator, in a way, seem to mirror that problem. There’s no arguing that the character creator is decidedly powerful, that it offers a lot of different options and lots of chances to nudge and pull the various design elements of your character into a shape you see fit. But I couldn’t actually do anything about the fact that my character had apparently never heard of chest support with battle attire, or the fact that she was consigned to wear high heels in every single outfit. Heck, as near as I could tell, I could bulk up her body but not actually tweak her head size in the slightest, resulting in some downright cartoonish proportions.
It’s a powerful tool with a lot of options that does not allow you to actually solve a very simple problem, like a screwdriver with two dozen attachments but no slot-head options.
Then there’s the fact that, as I mentioned elsewhere, the game has a weird relationship with some of its systems. I don’t mind that you can get contribution points from places other than just trading, but the fact that trading (one of the major uses for contribution points) does not actually give you any of said points seems oddly limiting. The few dozen different things you can level are cool in theory, but in practice it sort of means that you have to do everything. Or you have to do nothing.
And then there’s the knowledge system, which is one of those things I have split feelings about. I love that the game actually rewards you for going out and searching for things; I don’t love that you’re encouraged to go click on random NPCs to have a conversation with a different NPC. It’s an idea I like a lot and an execution I’m not over the moon about.
What I do like, though, is that there are people who are over the moon about it. There are people for whom this is exactly what they want, and I think that’s pretty great. If you want to quest, run a trade empire, hack at things, and prepare some PvP ambushes, it’s all good. I’m pretty sure that by the time you’ve played through a decent chunk of the game, you’ve already hit a point where you have all of the resources you need to unlock various features and you’re down to just following your bliss.
The combat mechanics also seem like another thing which doesn’t come into its own until later; nothing I fought in the earlier levels presented a challenge so much as it took a bit of time. (Rarely more than a couple of sword swings.) I didn’t feel as if there were many customization options beyond just inherent class, but I imagine that between Awakening and later gear or skill choices, things look a little bit different.
What reminded me most of ESO, though, was the simple fact that I kept thinking “if this game let me open up earlier, it’d be a lot more fun for me.” Part of what resulted in my surprised positivity for that game was the simple driving openness of everything; at this point, you can pop off of the game’s rails whenever you want to.
Black Desert, at its heart, should allow you to do the same thing. It seems like it wants to. But you can’t, actually; you have to do your quests, you have to follow the path, you have to be told what to do and you have little opportunity to say “eff this, I’m going to explore thisaway.” For all the love it gets as a sandbox, in the early levels, it doesn’t feel like anything so much as a very guided experience with trading incorporated.
But none of that is a synonym for “this game is crap.” It won this site’s MMO of the year award last year for good reason. The game’s presentation is clean, its UI is straightforward and intuitive, its environments are lush, and its designs are distinct. It definitely seems like a pretty darn good game. I did, in fact, like what I played.
I just never really fell in love with it. I could see positives, but also a lot of drawbacks that seemed custom-made to bother me, specifically. So ultimately, I have to kind of nod and say that it’s all right, but it’s not a game I’d ever want to make my main game.
And hey, some games are that way. There are good games you personally don’t want to play, not because they’re awful but because the designers place a high priority on things you don’t value. Black Desert does what it wants to do very well; it doesn’t resonate with me because those aren’t things I urgently want to do, but it still does those things well.
Ah, well. At least we’ll always have wandering about and grinding goblins because they were there and I had the option. That was pretty fun.
Next poll and the administrative side
Here we go with another batch of polls, and unlike the past couple of installments, we’re turning the choices back over to you once more. We go back and forth. Forward!
ArcheAge is a game I tried early on in its localization testing and bounced off of rather hard, and it has a bad tendency to attract shrieking hordes of player outrage in much the same way that blood in the water attracts sharks. Still, it’s been running for several years now (which means it’s doing something at least right enough), and it’s had a pretty big update recently. Plus, there is a certain thematic consistency in making that my next game, since it was the Great Eastern Hope before Black Desert fell into that space.
Or perhaps it’s time for me to go a bit more local while staying in the action combat mold with some time spent in Neverwinter. I greatly enjoyed the demo events I played for the game but never really had the time to sink into it seriously; perhaps it’s stood up over time, perhaps it feels more stale. I do know it contains the best class name ever, though. How can you beat Great Weapon Fighter?
But perhaps I’ll go even more native than that. You can’t look at DC Universe Online as anything other than a distinctly American game, after all. I played this briefly during the postscript of A Mild-Mannered Reporter following the City of Heroes shutdown, but I wasn’t really enthralled. Still, that was years ago and for a very different project, and part of me was still kind of wishing for CoH when it was never going to be that. So who will it be?
CMA: What's the next title to play?
- ArcheAge (31%, 98 Votes)
- Neverwinter (40%, 125 Votes)
- DC Universe Online (29%, 90 Votes)
Total Voters: 313
Polls will close on Friday at 6 p.m. EDT. That segues naturally into the administrative side of things; due to real-life obligations and my own availability, we’ll be putting Choose My Adventure on Thursdays for at least the next few weeks. That’s why I’m extending the poll time to later on Friday, so you still have plenty of time to get in your personal votes.
See you here next week with a new game queued up and ready to go. Until then, you can leave feedback down in the comments or mail it along to firstname.lastname@example.org.