Choose My Adventure: Comparing the cash shops of Black Desert Mobile and Villagers & Heroes

    
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I had originally intended this piece to focus on playtime in Villagers & Heroes, but I didn’t get in enough to do it justice, so that’ll have to wait. The good news is that I was able to take a much closer look at the cash shops for both Villagers & Heroes and Black Desert Mobile, so I can instead report my thoughts there – and you may like this part better anyway.

We’ll start with Black Desert, which absolutely rides hard on the pay-for-convenience train. It likes to offer up all sorts of consumables, materials, and currencies in its shop, with a couple of cosmetic items sprinkled in. There are also some bundles that pack together a few of these different types of items as well.

The cosmetics section is what I tend to like most in my cash shops, and I have to say, the offerings in BDM’s shop are pretty weak. There were only three looks that were on offer, and only one of them tickled my fashion nerve. Otherwise there was some horse barding, a few pets, and these bunny ears. Disappointing, if you ask me.

The vast majority of the cash shop is all about those other things. There are health potions and stamina potions, there are weapon and armor-enhancing black stones, there are fragments of Relics and Lightstones as well as bundles of those same items, there’s food that can be planted for your camp… basically, it’s a lot of convenience.

How convenient those items really are is kind of up in the air for me still. The game does like to throw a lot of free stuff at you as you play, including enhancement stones, Lightstones, and potions. I also have found more than a few things from killing monsters like plant seeds for the camp. It really seems to be less about buying what’s missing and more about having vast stockpiles of these materials; there’s a Sunflower item that coughs up over 1,000 units of food for your camp, for example.

The cash shop of Villagers & Heroes is fairly similar by comparison, though its boosts feel a little less like convenience and a little more like smoothing the advancement curve, especially when it comes to activities like gathering.

I think the nearest this store gets to an uncomfortable point is the Sockets item, which lets you add additional sockets to weapons and armor when you Gnogment (destroy lesser items to strength new items). Having these extra sockets grant extra feats, spells, and proficiencies as described in the item’s tooltip itself inches pretty close to pay-for-power. Then again, I also didn’t really feel like I was in any danger or like I was being hamstrung while I was playing with regular drops and typical Gnogmenting. Both stores do have some pieces of gear for purchase as well, but they didn’t really provide what seemed on paper to be a worrying power boost.

The biggest sticking point for these stores is the real-money value of their respective cash shop currencies. Black Desert Mobile’s lowest cost funny money offering is 40 Pearls for 99 cents, while the lowest number of Crowns for Villagers and Heroes is 70 Crowns for $4.99. That strikes me as a teensy bit greedy, especially when you consider that Black Desert Mobile hands out an alternate form of Pearl currency that drops for free, as well as Ancient Coins that can be turned in for some random pieces of gear.

So where does that leave us with these two mobile MMOs? Ultimately, I’m pretty pleased that I’ve played both of them, especially since they’ve effectively jolted me out of the assumption that mobile gaming hasn’t made any real advances. BDM in particular feels like a quantum leap in terms of presentation and PC game-like bombast, while V&H really replicates the traditional PC MMORPG feeling on a small screen. They both approach mobile gaming differently, and they both have acceptable cash shop nonsense going on, though V&H pushes the envelope a bit too hard with its Crowns pricing.

I think, in the end, I am liking Black Desert Mobile just a little bit more because of that. It really does seem to pointlessly pile on the advancement mechanics and the ways your character rises in power level, but it also seems uncommonly generous in general. Also, I can’t deny that it’s fast pace just feels more fun. Honestly, though, there’s enough to like in Villagers & Heroes that I can appreciate how it gets a fanbase. Until we get WoW Mobile, this game certainly feels like a good stand-in. Assuming, of course, that’s the kind of MMORPG gaming experience you’re looking for.

Now that I’ve experienced the pocket version of the game, I think it’s high time I really try to dive in to the big brother version. Yes, next month, we’ll be putting away our cellphones and firing up our PCs (or consoles if that’s how you play) as we move on to Black Desert Online proper.

Why this game? Is it because of the mobile game? Is it because of all those ads Pearl Abyss is running? Nope – actually, it’s you, the readers. There were so many people in our audience (and on our staff!) who felt that Black Desert should have gotten the nod for Best MMORPG of 2019 that I feel like I really need to dig in to try and evaluate just why that’s the case. I’m also hoping to perhaps pick the brain of our own Desert Oasis columnist Carlo Lacsina for some help in this little adventure.

First, of course, is the question of what to roll as. I’ve been playing around with a Dark Knight for about 10 levels or so, but I also have been keeping an eye on a couple of other classes, such as that beefy-looking (and shiny new) Guardian. So that’s this week’s poll: Tell me what class to roll!

Which class should I select for our Black Desert Online adventure?

  • Musa. Live your best samurai life. (14%, 8 Votes)
  • Guardian. Big stompy axe lady! (37%, 21 Votes)
  • Dark Knight. Stick with your current character. (11%, 6 Votes)
  • Lahn. Kung-fu finesse it up. (39%, 22 Votes)

Total Voters: 57

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As usual, polling closes at 1:00 p.m. EST on Friday, January 31st. In the meantime, here’s to some further Black Desert adventure, and maybe to learning just whether my own personal vote for Game of the Year was misguided.

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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Serenityinaz12

Within 10 minutes of playing V&H a couple days ago an add popped up on my screen to purchase a full set of epic gear that would level with me all the way to the top. Uninstalled immediately.

BDM I think it’s kind of easy to say that well the cash shop stuff is convenience, but that’s kind of ignoring the glaringly obvious other ways their shop is P2W. The fact that jewelry items alone are all premium currency is one reason, but even the massive RNG nature of things like costume combining, pet combining, and pretty much every other aspect of the game to some degree revolving around RNG are all made with the idea to get you to spend more to become more powerful. Even the black spirit that can be leveled to infinity someone could just spend endless money, buy pets or costumes to sell on the auction house for silver, then use the silver to buy junk to feed to the spirit. There is no limit to the power you can buy via spending in BDM.

Ultimately, like almost all F2P mobile mmo’s (including the new Dragon Raja) they are P2W through and through.

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Hikari Kenzaki

You’ve got a lot of us who know quite a fair bit about BDO.

As for characters, that’s a loaded question in BDO as it depends on your playstyle.

Some/Most BDO classes play VERY differently from the other classes. If you find that you’re just not liking a class, make something else and you’ll probably like that. The world is filled with people who only played one class, didn’t like the feel of it, and assumed that is how all the classes play.

Musa/Maehwa are probably the superior class, but I personally can’t get into their rhythm.

If you like She-Hulk meets Captain America running and bashing stuff. The Guardian is the way to go. One of its best attacks is Juggernaut. As in “I’m the Juggernaut!” However… see below:

One thing I’d like to note about BDM’s fashion selection, this is exactly how BDO does it. They release a few outfits at a time over the life of the character. If the lack of outfits in BDM was a turn off then Don’t play Guardian. They will have the same limitation as a new character.

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Castagere Shaikura

First of all, you didn’t mention the companies behind both games. P.A. for Black Desert is a huge company whereas Mad Otter is a tiny indie company. That might have a lot to do with pricing.

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losludvig

I’ve spent enough time in BDM to hit top 2000 on my server in terms of combat power. I’ve bought a single pet as you could only get 2 pets for free when I made the purchase (you can now buy 1 pet per week with earnable currency).
Everything in the cash shop is overpriced bs. The only thing I would consider spending real money on is the combat subscription.

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agemyth 😩

I really wish MOP would stop saying BDO’s cash shop items are “just convenience” purchases.

People spend thousands of dollars to cut their grind times down by months to stay ahead of the majority. That is true in the PC/console versions at least, so I assume it is only worse on mobile since that is where all this P2W makes the most money.

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Arktouros

The problem with your stance on this is that you’re not wrong that BDO has a few P2W aspects to it’s cash shop but you’re worrying over things that are totally and completely irrelevant to people in the game.

Like complaining that costumes give you a 10% XP boost is entirely nonsensical in a game where every few days you can put together a scroll that gives you a 600% XP boost. I still have over 50 scrolls of 530% boost rotting in a bank somewhere. People just casually strolled into 60 on their Guardian released last week with little to no effort or buffs or otherwise.

As for cutting grind times down to stay ahead, the people who are already so far ahead have reached a point where additional lead doesn’t matter in competitive scenarios. When everyone has 280+ AP they’re going to one combo you if they CC you (and I’m there without ever having sold/melted a costume for RL$). The higher AP people aren’t suppressing the lowers either, they all grind at different locations and lower AP people can work their way up without a problem and be just as lethal.

What things do impact your average player is the many convenience purchases this game shoe horns into it’s inconvenient game design. From tents/villas, maids, pet improvements, fairy improvements and so on and so forth the things that just make your game play experience better. So this is what people focus on.

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agemyth 😩

Yeah, I was focusing on the buying power issue. Buying quality of life features is its own increasingly popular problem in our corner of the games industry and is also 100% not okay.

People just casually strolled into 60 on their Guardian released last week with little to no effort or buffs or otherwise.

I consider this a broken system whether RMT is involved or not. I got my first and only character up to awakening level so fast that it cheapened the experience. If they are cool with casually blasting people (even noobs like me) through levels 1-50+ then why do those levels even exist?

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Arktouros

Yea unpleasant design has pretty much become staple in the modern era for gaming unfortunately.

I can overlook/forgive the leveling thing because we’re talking about a game that has been out now from it’s KR launch for roughly 4-5 years now. Since their launch they’ve released numerous new classes (7 in the last 4 years alone). People switching classes or new players coming in should be able to get to a fully functional character quicker. The levels past those functional levels still take a while for anyone willing to sink their teeth into them and despite playing since launch my character max level is still only 62 because I mostly focus on lifeskills.

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losludvig

That’s the best explanation of monetization in bdo I’ve ever seen. Thanks

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Natalyia

If you’ve not started a character since they did the rework of the initial story, you should certainly do a new one. The arc from start through to Altinova is new, and much better, with three possible story paths.

As for whom to make? The Guardian has the zoom-zoom shield-charge and she-hulk-smash axe attacks, the Lahn can almost fly, and the Musa’s Kantana attacks are fun too – I doubt you’ll be disappointed in any of them. :)

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Zero_1_Zerum

I’m glad I’m not the only one who thinks that the prices for the crowns in V&H is iffy. It does seem a bit greedy. The only good thing about it is that the cash shop isn’t required to play the game. But, you could say that the whole reason for the game is the cash shop.

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Arktouros

If you have any questions for BDO you can reach out to me in game as well, family name Arktouros (Bree has my email as well). I have played BDO since 2016 and am extremely familiar with just about every aspect of game play especially the lifeskill portion of the game.

Hardest part with new BDO players is the game doesn’t guide people on what they should be doing and more importantly how they should go about doing it. There are numerous avenues for progression from combat level, combat skill points, contribution points, energy pool (knowledge), Fitness, 11 different Lifeskills (crafting), gear levels, lifeskill gear, and much more.

For example over night my level locked 49 fishing alt will AFK fish (Fishing) for me which lets me sell fish for silver to a trade manager (Trading). I then also sell the relics on the market because I’m too lazy to run them. Then I log into my main where I turn in Imperial Delivery crates from goods I made (Alchemy or Cooking) to an NPC for a daily amount of Silver. I use workers who work the nodes and bring in resources which I then process (Processing) and then have other workers use those processed materials into trade crates which I then turn in a big batch later (Trading). I then take all this silver I’ve generated from crafting and AFK fishing and then invest into buying materials to improve my Lifeskill Mastery gear or into my Combat gear so when I do combat activities I’m stronger.

But there’s no in game guides to play like that. It’s entirely up to you how you want to play the game and what you want to work on progress and just about every system in game is robust enough to typically support each route.

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styopa

Thanks for the insightful article.

I confess for the first time in me 20+ years in MMOs, I would have bought something from the WoW store if they had it….goddamn I hate the grind to release Allied races. Depending on the price of course, they could have gotten me to pay something to skip that.

Tangentially to your point, that BDO pic is such a nutshell of one of the things that grates on me enough to (collectively) drive me out of a game that has so many positives. Here we have an AMAZINGLY beautiful, fantastically detailed, reasonably authentic world. I can even get past the apparently-chronic mammary-swelling disease that afflicts all women in the world, but then I jarringly encounter people in a fish suit, bunny ears, or gauzy stripper gear. Destroys any suspension of disbelief I was managing to sustain.

Covynant001
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Covynant001

So true, if a game has bunny ear cosmetics I’m not very likely to consider playing it.

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Nate Woodard

Yeah, I can’t be asked to do the allied races either. I really wanted a couple of them, too! It’s sad. The game just isn’t fun for me anymore. And to be perfectly honest, I’ve played enough of Classic over the course of my thirteen plus years in WoW.