Choose My Adventure: Grinding away in Black Desert

Choose My Adventure: Grinding away in Black Desert

Let me talk to you, my friends, about grinding. Specifically, about how it gets a bad reputation that it doesn’t altogether deserve.

How does this connect to this week’s adventures in Black Desert? Well, because I wound up doing a fair bit of grinding. It wasn’t intentional or anything, since my designated goal this week was to just trek about and see the sights for a bit. But if you give me a camp full of goblins just sitting in my path, and you have me, a player who’s more than willing to give these things a shot on the basis that the worst possible outcome is that I die… well, I’m going to fight those goblins. I’m going to fight them a bunch.

And, I think, this was ultimately a good thing. Because while the game still has all of the problems that I’ve seen to bother me up to this point, the grinding of goblins was a notable island of things feeling fresh, crisp, and responsive. It’s almost as if I enjoy the game more when I’m away from the things of man.

I started the week with nothing more than a directive to go wander. That’s easy enough; I picked a direction and started going that way. For whatever reason, I picked north.
Why north? I couldn’t tell you. It was literally a one-in-four shot. And it turned out to be the worst shot, because everything north of me was water. But when I could go no further north, I started heading east, then south, until I could head east and then north again. That was my resolution.

Yes, it's a plant, very good.My other (and somewhat connected) resolution was to gather as much stuff as I could along the way. This was… well, it was a chance to see the energy system in action, but it was also on the disappointing side because gathering in this game is just the stock-standard “click on a thing and wait for a bar to fill” exercise. I was disappointed.

I recognize that I am intensely biased and spoiled by Final Fantasy XIV here, but darn it, you have a whole game featuring a real emphasis on trading, making goods, shipping them around. Give me interesting stuff to do while I’m gathering, damn it. Give me minigames, give me objectives, make gathering a game in and of itself instead of just a click and a wait. It’s a pet peeve of mine.

Despite that complaint, which I recognize as tangential to the extreme, I do like that the game ensures that gathering can improve your level but not your combat prowess. I like games that track your progress on multiple fronts like that, and the more I understand about the game’s knowledge and energy system, the more I rather like this interplay. At a glance, it feels a bit perilously close to mobile games and limited play options, but in practice it’s more a matter of just encouraging you to do multiple things instead of focusing on one or two tricks.

But back to the travelogue. My journey to the north first hit a beach, and deciding that swimming across was not an option I wisely headed south to the bridge across the river then started back north. That brought me up to the aforementioned cluster of goblins, and knowing that killing these would improve my knowledge (of goblins), I decided to wade in and start smacking away.

While I’m still not fond of how simple the combat currently is, I do want to praise it – again, I believe – for feeling appropriately meaty and tactile. My sword scythes through the air with appreciable heft, and in contrast to some other games I always feel as if my actions have an immediate and visible impact on the game around me. This is true despite the fact that health bars aren’t even visibly decreasing until you’ve earned some knowledge about your targets; at first they just change colors to roughly indicate how alive something is.

I like that feature, actually. It’s cute.

To my surprise, running around and hacking up goblins leveled me up very quickly, which brings me to the praise of grinding back in the introduction . It’s not exactly surprising that grinding is usually seen as one of the gravest possible sins you can commit, but I don’t think grinding is actually the problem; being forced to grind is the problem, same as being forced to do anything. We resent anything that becomes mandatory rather than optional. Having the option to just hack through goblins and get a feel for the range and timing of my attacks was a welcome chance, and I kept at it for a few levels before resuming my journey north.

No matter where I go, it seems to be forested gently rolling hills. It's the closest thing to being home I've had.

This also contributed to my whole “I like this game when away from the things of man” feel; I was at my happiest here, smacking goblins. Was I directed to do so? No. There were goblins and I could kill them, so I could. No further incitement was necessary.

There was a castle near what I’ve come to think of as Goblin-Smackin’ Field which I could have investigated, but the map indicated that the enemies within were far out of my league. I decided to just go north.

Unfortunately, I once again wound up against a cliff (darn it!) and thus wound up heading down south. That led me to a mountain pass, which consisted mostly of me running along gamely behind a trading cart. I suppose I should probably ask about looking into trading this week, shouldn’t I? That doesn’t exactly look fun to me, but it is a core part of the experience just the same. Fair’s fair.

CMA: Should I look into the whole trade route thing?

  • Yes, it's like the core of the game. (52%, 66 Votes)
  • Nah, if you don't think you're going to like it you probably know. (48%, 60 Votes)

Total Voters: 126

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Anyhow, heading south eventually brought me into a new area, which had… NPCs. I kind of like to avoid Black Desert’s NPCs. The voice acting doesn’t strike me as very good, and their dialogue thus far always seems to be flavor text alluding to something I’ve seen no evidence of. “Oh,” says the shopkeeper, “you came to visit us even though FANTASY NAME lost the war to ANOTHER FANTASY NAME?”

I have no idea, dude. I didn’t know there was a war, the game hasn’t told me any of this stuff. I could probably ask about this stuff, but thus far talking to you folks is just annoying, so I’m not eager to go ask some setting questions. The whole thing feels astonishingly thinly sketched and exactly the sort of generic fantasy setting that I prefer to avoid.

It also features no desert that I’ve seen. That’s still bothering me, for some reason.

Ultimately, I did enjoy just wandering a bit, although I can’t say it was enough to make me really fall in love or whatever. Given the option, I’m going to keep wandering and exploring next week, although that depends chiefly on whether or not people vote me into finding out how to manage a trade route. It’s the sort of thing I like to imagine my character tramping into town to do, hair full of sticks and leaves, a feral half-mad grin on her face as she plots out the path.

But that’s for next week. Right now, feel free to leave your notes down below or mail them along to (And feel free to shout at me for being slow, I am well aware of that fact lately.) We’ll be back next week for the… wow, it’s really the last week next week, huh? Weird. Time has definitely flown.

Welcome to Choose My Adventure, the column in which you join Eliot each week as he journeys through mystical lands on fantastic adventures — and you get to decide his fate. Sometimes said fate involves exile into the wilderness of a forest with some made-up name that’s probably on the map screen but which he doesn’t care about. That may say something more about him.

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Grinding can be fun eh? Like having to cut down 12000 trees manually in game… That take 8 seconds each to cut. Or saving 80 million over months to have enough to upgrade only for that upgrade to fail 15 times in a row.. This game does not have “fun” when you start to reach these points


To get to know the fantasy setting and story in depth you need to grind the knowledge system. Black Desert does it’s lore stuff pretty well, but in an unusual way. So if you really want to get to know the history of the world (war between FANTASY NAME vs FANTASY NAME), you need to acquire knowledge.

For this there are some ways, but you have to engage with the world:
– doing the main quest line (black spirit bro)
– doing story quests (the ones that lead you from Olvia to Velia and so on)
– exploring (running through the world and finding POIs that give you knowledge on click)
– talking and BEFRIENDING NPCs (to unlock knowledge)

But I think, if you really get into trading, you won’t even be able to escape the lore. You will see what I mean, when you do it.

One importatnt thing: The game does lead you into the world really good, but for that you need to do the beginners quests (Olvia, military camp, Velia). Those quests “unlock” certainsystems (just as the very first quests unlocked the minimap, etc.). So while this is a no-go in a sandbox, it really is worth in Black Desert. Because then you will feel the immersion. After Velia it gets more sandboxy.

I too played the beta as you described and did not feel the game at all. But after release I took my time and let the game lead me up to Velia, which introduces all systems (combat, trading, crafting, fishing, story/knowledge). And I got to tell you, it was very worth it and I felt like playing vanilla WoW back in 2005 again (hype). Only that it was fresh and modern.


Oh, there is a desert. There is a huge stomping desert about 20 minutes east of where it sounds like you are.

I’m somehow doubting you’re going to see it since it’s pretty high level content and it doesn’t really sound like you’re enjoying the game, but the desert mechanics are kind of cool academically. Like your minimap? Well, that’s gone. Hunger and thirst mechanics, welcome! Like that fast travel between safe zones? Yeah, not so much any more.

Black Desert does eventually justify the name


It sounds like you’re in Heidel? Or maybe you worked your way down to Glish? Anyway if you want to see desert, I can think of two options:

1. Get on the east-west road on the south side of Heidel (north side of the river) and head east. Soon you’ll be in the arid clime of Mediah; keep going until you reach a city that looks like somebody emptied a garbage dump on top of a hill on an island. Go through that city on the road that leads generally east and you’ll shortly be in the “safe” part of the Valencia (not safe for you at all, exercise caution/keep running). Another leg up the road, you’ll reach Sand Grain Bazaar and the edge of the honest-to-badness, getting lost and dying of hypothermia and heatstroke desert. (Don’t actually go in there without reading a guide, you’ll need some supplies to survive)

2. On same road, go *west*. You’ll eventually end up in the capital of Calpheon, which you really should see before you quit the game. From there go north then northwest until you reach the ocean port city of Epheria. Wait at one of the wharves (anyone remember if it’s the east or west wharf?) until a very large, empty ship arrives (i.e. not a player or guild boat). Get on that and enjoy a nice long ride (45 minutes or so IIRC) ending at Ancado Inner Harbor, north of Valencia city on the other side of the bad desert.

John Gerry

I have to say that I didn’t really start life skills until well after 50 but since I have mastered (that isn’t to say capped guru would be that) multiples of them. In the process built a euphoria sailboat (a ship far more meaty than the fishing boat that’s also repairable), created a vast trade network, and fished far far too much. It’s a good way to make cash. It’s one of those things that adds value over time. There’s no real way to rush your progress as you’re gated by your knowledge. (which will go up over time and general play) At the very least, before logging every night go to Velia, buy a fishing pole and find that clump of people fishing off a pier on the beach a bit to the west. When you exit use the “send to tray when quitting” checkmark.

In the morning don’t sell to the nearest tradesman. If you’re connecting nodes go to the furthest node you have connected to Velia and sell there. You’ll get a bonus and the Velia trader gives peanuts. This is HUGE cash early in game and should easily fund your next purchase if you’re serious about exploring the game I recommend buying a fishing boat asap. It’ll allow you, a rather low level access to whole islands you’d never get to any other way such as the city Valencia and gives you access to fishing hotspots to help fund your play even more. I’d not try to reach the other continent unless you’re willing and able to lose that boat. You’re barely scratching the surface from what I’ve read. Everything works towards another thing. I’m actually glad it’s simple or it would be too much considering the quantities you need to gather from time to time. This game just gets better over time. At least that’s been true for me. Have fun!


good advice. this game is great at hiding depth. you actively have to seek out the best methods to do things and you get rewarded for applying yourself to figure out that BDO has a ton of nuance in all of its systems.

i often see people say in games that they dont want to have their hand held and this game offers some hand holding, but you can also ignore everything and figure out for yourself that there are layers to this game that most dont have and BDO also puts its own stamp on stuff that’s been around for years and makes it feel like its own thing.

Melissa McDonald

Honestly, other than Lord of the Rings, Star Trek, and Star Wars, there isn’t any lore/legend/story in any game worth a hill of beans.

Kickstarter Donor

I honestly find this rather saddening. Your comment suggests that unless they have made a movie (a 3hour consumable block) then the story isn’t worth anything!? As someone who loves exploring the story, I have had many hours of enjoyment uncovering the ‘why’ of Black Desert (and other games, including Dark Souls, the Elder Scrolls, Warcraft…). Could you even tell me why the game is called Black Desert?

Toy Clown

I’m in love with BDO’s lore. Many people say it doesn’t have lore, or very little of it, which isn’t true. It’s just that’s it doled out in small portions through quests, and then the largest scape of it comes through the amity game with NPCs, where you learn not only how they live in the world with all the disasters and wars going on, but also how it affects their relationships. They can be related to JoeNPC over across the country that works in the stables, or married to MaryNPC that’s a blacksmith, or so-and-so’s daughter in another country, etc.

The world is rich with the lore of how the war of black stones, which were largely garnered from the desert (why it got its name), how Valencia came to control it, how Heidel came under Calpheon rulership, how Balenos was nearly lost to the Great Tidal Waves, and how the magic of the Witches of Tarif nearly destroyed the world, and those that are their thralls now, the gods of Elion, Ala and Kzarka, their followers and minions where treachery is afoot while some of their minions are involved in the raising of the dead, sacrificing maidens, turning entire villages contaminated and blaming alchemists….

There’s lots more lore, but I’ll leave it at that. The roleplayer’s website started chronicling the lore and keeps records of it. Once I realized all the jewels of knowledge NPCs held through the amity game, I started making energy alts, just so I could /wave at them to gain the harder knowledges I couldn’t storywheel away!


Those goblins you ran into are actually a cluster of mobs you would be directed to eventually, if you were following the lead of that annoying smoke thingie, not talking to npcs is a VERY BAD idea.


Def go capture a horse and tame it eliot. there are a few mini games involved with that. it’s gratifying to go capture your own full stable of horses that get different skills randomly. then there are different tiers of horses. the further up the tier list you go, the faster the horses get and new skills open up.

hunting is a great profession. it leads to whaling on the open seas. i still think you should do some trading by cart. it’s a relaxing diversion that requires little brain power but offers nice profits for little effort.

you can fish afk or at your pc. a minigame is involved if you are so inclined.

the cool part about the energy pool is that its account wide, but each player has their own energy supply. alts benefit greatly from it. if you have a full roster you can do a LOT of gathering.

i like being a pve only player in bdo because alts can share gear. you can use jewelry and armor and some professions even share off hand weapons or main weapons.

Bhagpuss Bhagpuss

I typed a rather sarcastic comment, which on reflection I will keep to myself. Suffice it to say I do not believe adding mini games is ever an answer to anything in an MMO.

Also, and ironically, talking to NPCs _is_ a mini-game in BD!