Choose My Adventure: The juggling act of Black Desert Mobile’s many advancement systems

    
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Last week’s edition of Choose My Adventure had me genuinely impressed by how much stuff I had to manage in Black Desert Mobile, so reason would stand that playing the game more this week would get me more acclimated to all of those balls in the air. Considering the voting public said I should ignore the extra stuff and just deal with leveling only, it was simple to do and allowed me to focus on the business of figuring out all of the advancements, trinkets, currencies, and other stuff being tossed at me.

Much of my experience this week hasn’t changed nor has it really soured. I still find this game to be extremely pretty, I still enjoy the heck out of combat, and I still feel like I’m making some generally good progress and am learning things well. I’m dropping a few of those balls in my juggling act – I can’t tell you how often the game yelled at me to check in on my Camp – but the meat of the game feels under my control.

Then again, I also am still getting used to the basics. For instance, I just discovered there’s a dodge roll button. Up to this point, I was simply facetanking all of the fights, relying on the automatic health potion drinking mechanic and effectively chugging my way to victory.

I also found out that, yes, this game does have an auto-play feature. It’s this teeny little button with the word “auto” at the bottom of my screen, which basically let my character stand in a group of imps and absolutely go ham on them. As one would expect, this was spectacularly boring, but in the interest of improving my knowledge against these imps (and getting some XP while I did my regular desk job), it was helpful.

Just when I thought I had the juggling act down, though, in comes another wrinkle with the whole Relic system, another layer to the character advancement parfait on top of basic gear, enhancing said gear, improving my skills with skill books, and feeding unwanted gear to my Black Spirit to get more CP. It’s all about that CP, baby, and it’s… kind of convoluted, if I’m completely honest.

Just because I’m getting a hang of all of these advancement systems doesn’t really mean that they’re compelling. This is all, effectively, stuff that can be done via mathematical algorithms handled by the game every time my character levels up and decides to put on a new piece of gear. Heck, you don’t even need gear, you could just have the gear grow in power with you. Admittedly, it’s perhaps not as exciting for most people, but then again, jamming Black Stones into a piece of gear or burning Skill Books for individual attacks by using overdesigned UI elements isn’t exactly interesting either.

The problem with the sensation of advancement in Black Desert Online, then, is one of busywork. Even a juggler has to stop throwing those balls in the air, or has to do some new tricks in order to keep the crowd engaged.

Perhaps these are all advancement systems that operate in service to the game’s cash shop. I still haven’t really taken a terribly deep dive into that, mostly because I have this niggling sensation that doing so will pour cold water on my enjoyment; cash shops often do. As of right now, my character’s leveling hasn’t run into the pay-for-convenience wall, but there’s always that sword of Damocles sensation overhead that it’s about to happen, which is not fun.

It’s also entirely possible that I’m overthinking all of this. Maybe this is just how BDO Mobile operates, granting you all of the trinkets and currencies you need to get through the storyline and get towards whatever counts as endgame in this title. I’m interested in finding out, I’ll contend, but mostly because I’m still finding all of this to be a pretty good time.

Yes, I have to admit that I’m enjoying myself for the most part. This is probably owing to the fact that this feels like the most fully-realized MMORPG that mobile gaming has seen. I’m one of those naysayers who assumed that mobile gaming has been far too throwaway to be considered “real” gaming, but then I pulled my head out of my ass and started to pay attention to what mobile games are capable of and the glut of mobile MMOs that are hitting the market. It’s impossible to ignore that, and it’s hard to deny that Black Desert Mobile can be a really good time.

But then, I’m curious about our other contender. When this month’s CMA started, the voting was so close between BDO Mobile and Villagers & Heroes that I’d be remiss if I didn’t take a peek at the latter and see what it has to offer. After all, if the race was that close, one has to assume that there are fans for both games that were hoping for some impressions, right? Was that arrogant of me to assume? I think that was arrogant of me to assume.

In any case, I feel like I’ve gotten the general gist of BDO Mobile without focusing down on my Valkyrie and getting her to the endgame to see if my worries are validated or not, so our Chosen Portable Adventure will not shift to Villagers and Heroes. At first glance, this is another game that looks to be a complete MMORPG gaming experience on mobile phones, but it also looks perhaps a bit too simplistic. Then again, I had a similar feeling about AQ3D and found there was more going on there than I had first assumed.

So, let’s see if first appearances really are deceiving or not, and let’s choose the class that I should take up as we check out V&H.

Which class should I pick in Villagers and Heroes?

  • Wizard. Spells and robes all day. (14%, 6 Votes)
  • Warrior. Because being a tank in a new game is safest. (9%, 4 Votes)
  • Hunter. Bows and arrows and stuff. (14%, 6 Votes)
  • Priest. Be a healer for a little while. (14%, 6 Votes)
  • Shaman. Because axes and shields, which are shamanic now I guess? (50%, 22 Votes)

Total Voters: 44

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As always, polling will wrap up this coming Friday, January 17th, at 1:00 p.m. EST. While the votes tally for the next leg in our mobile adventure, I’m going to get back to my juggling act and unlock more… stuff.

Welcome to Choose My Adventure, the column in which you join Chris each week as he journeys through mystical lands on fantastic adventures – and you get to decide his fate. Which is good because he can often be a pretty indecisive person unless he’s ordering a burger.

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Hikari Kenzaki

I mean, yes, there’s going to be some pay 2 win faster elements here.
1) it’s Black Desert.
2) it’s mobile
But it isn’t really the worst offender by any means. There are PC games that are far worse about it. It’s not in your face any more than it is in BDO. I don’t intend to buy progression items any more than I buy them in BDO (which is not at all).

I’m honestly a bit miffed at the attitude that it’s going to happen despite a total lack of investigation. That combined with the fact that the last CMA still has a glaring factual error in which you point to the Home and community resource pages as a “cardinal sin” cash shop page when it has nothing of the sort in it has me giving you the side-eye.

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3dom

> this game does have an auto-play feature

It should be in every modern game, especially in BDO where my average daily gameplay session is 30 seconds (daily login for rewards). I’ve purchased Mortal Kombat 11 specifically for this feature: I don’t play fighting games – but watching the fights is a whole different thing than the boring button mash.

> As one would expect, this was spectacularly boring

I mean there are Twitch / YouTube and other behemoths where people do exactly that – watch games because it’s fun and entertaining. Not to mention whole e-sports scene, movies, conventional sports, porn, music – hundreds billions $$$ markets of watching and listening without participation. I feel like sport TV / stadiums are much larger market than actual sport goods. It’s just stupid game devs are losing money thinking pushing buttons is more fun than watching the action.

Polyanna
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Polyanna

TIL MK11 has auto-play. Which just instantly nudged it across the line from meh nice game but not usually my kind of thing to ok definitely will give a try when on sale territory. I have to say, auto-play was the feature I never knew I wanted until I had it, and now can’t live without. Because it makes me feel willing to play the game even when I don’t feel like playing the game, cause I can just auto my way to victory with zero stress.

It’s really just a higher level of control over the character, more macro choosing what to do and where to go and how best to set up for it, and less micro moment to moment button smashing. More like how you control units in an RTS than a typical RPG, on a strategic and tactical rather than tactile level.

I’ve found it’s similar to how I feel more engaged and also more relaxed when playing RPGs with a solid party AI system. The enjoyment there is party gearing, building and talenting for synergy, and in games that have it planning out the perfect scripting for their behaviors to make best use of resources and comp.

Similar in BDM except it’s just one character. I spend loads of time studying the abilities and tooltips in depth, planning what gear to best complement abilities and damage branches, and watching my little Auto-Witch fight to figure out what is working well and where she is struggling, so I can tweak to fill holes in her rotation or make her auto-combos more consistent.

It’s a different sort of engagement with a character but I really like it so far, and now I’m only annoyed in the handful of instances where I have to drive myself, because she’s so much better than me at the button smashing part.

Pepperzine
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Pepperzine

I couldn’t disagree more. I play games, to well, you know, play them…. if I wanted to watch them I’d put on a video or go on twitch. More specifically, I play online games to play with others who are actively playing them, not idly watching them.

Autoplay is a dealbreaker for me. If a game offers it, it’s instantly a no go 🙅‍♂️ I wish less games utilized this feature.

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wratts

I’ve been messing with BDM a little, to the extent I’ve found my own progression wall. Right around 3k CP, or middle of Wandering Rogues in Tarif. I’ve done all the MSQ I can, and most boss rushes are leveled up to parity with me, and the rewards I’m getting from content I can actually do are enough I get a minor CP boost about every 2-3 days.

I’m told when you hit this wall the best solution is to roll an alt of the same class, and use the MSQ rewards to level up the equipment for your main, since you can share gear in BDM the same as BDO. To me this seems like a fundamental design flaw, and frankly the game isn’t interesting enough to really be worth driving through the issue.

I’ll probably check in with it here and there. While it’s the best mobile MMO I’ve seen to date, it seems to me to have all the issues and limitations of the weakest F2P MMOs on PC. It’s an ok game in a shiny mobile wrapper

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Greaterdivinity

As one would expect, this was spectacularly boring,

As it should be, it’s a convenience feature that leads to sub-optimal play. I’ll play the stuff I have to, but I usually just set my dude to go do stuff and play this like most autoplay games – it’s a management game. You’re managing your character/inventory for the most part.

Perhaps these are all advancement systems that operate in service to the game’s cash shop. I still haven’t really taken a terribly deep dive into that

This, it’s a fairly standard monetization model of convenience and power sales. But the fact that you, nor I, haven’t even really checked out the cash shop IMO speaks to how fair/un-aggressive it is. There’s stuff in there I know I’d want, especially weight increases, but the game throws enough stuff at me for free and has enough tools to deal with it that I’ve never worried about the cash shop.

I’m still enjoying myself “managing” the game. It’s still pretty to watch. Still feel like I’m making steady progress. And not feeling like I’m missing out on anything by not logging in for a few days here or there or pushed to the cash shop.

Right now this is my “gold standard” for mobile MMO’s. Yeah, it’s still a systems-heavy autoplay game, and there’s stuff like V&H or Adventurequest for those looking for a more systems-lite game that you actually have to play, but it’s in-line with mobile market standards. And the level of polish and overall design is pretty top notch.