Desert Oasis: Hands-on with Black Desert’s new Guardian awakening

    
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Wow, that was fast. Kakao and Pearl Abyss just released the Guardian last week, and we’re already gearing up for awakening her. Just take a peek at the Black Desert PC roadmap. It looks like the devs are busy getting the Guardian up to parity with the rest of the other classes in a big hurry. I literally just did the Guardian’s preview in the last column, and here I am already previewing her awakening!

When the Guardian awakening was previewed a month ago at the Calpheon Banquet, there was a lot of speculation about her weapon. Was it a hammer? Was it a magic staff? Was it a ball-on-a-stick with a retractable chain with some insane range and a long range grab? It turns out the philosophical rule of Occam’s razor, where the simplest answer is the right one, was the way to go. It’s a bigger axe.

Her awakening weapon really could have been anything. She really gave off some “Oracle of Delphi” vibes too.

Ok, well maybe it’s not exactly a bigger axe. It’s more of a halberd. I’m not going to argue if a hotdog’s a sandwich here. Whether or not a halberd is just a bigger axe or not doesn’t matter. What matters is that the awakening is a bigger, slower, heavier-hitting weapon that expands on what the Guardian’s playstyle already is.

That was a good choice. One of the main issues players had with other classes’ awakenings was the dramatic changes in playstyle from the initial characters. The most obvious example was the Ranger. She went from an arrow-slinging battle maiden to a short-ranged, duel-wielding sword dancer type. As my Ranger mains out there will attest, a good Ranger player is a total monster in a fight, but the dramatic playstyle change was pretty sudden.

The Guardian’s original grab attack gets even better when she awakens. It’s got a long animation; it’s at least three seconds. Those longer animation times are problematic, as they can’t be canceled. In a 1v1 situation, it’s a great skill. I couldn’t really playtest getting hit mid-animation in the time I played, but I wouldn’t be grabbing when I’m outnumbered. It also automatically switches from the mainhand weapon to the awakening weapon, so it’s a good way to combo between them.

Another skill that switches to her awakening is her F skill. Like her grab, it’s a deadlier version of her original F skill. She pushes her opponent away before dashing forward, running down anything in her path. It’s easily canceled, so if players need it just to swap to the weapon quickly, the option’s there. If players need to switch back to the axe and shield, simply doing her left/right+RMB skill quickly swaps her to her main weapon.

She is still a slow-hitting character, and she’s enhanced with larger AoE attacks. Holding back and the left mouse button initiates a three hit combo that increases her attack speed for 20 seconds. Higher attack speeds are always welcome with the character type, and it’s a great addition. It’s also an AoE attack and will clear a whole room. Most of her skills fit this theme: They buff her and deliver massive AoE damage. Despite her slow speed, she clears mobs easily with her attack skills.

Getting this thing to PEN was a huge pain, of course I’m going to want to include it in her combos!

She gets a powerful crowd control with her shift+RMB attack. And she does a powerful jumping attack that propels her forward. Anything it hits afflicts victims with “bound,” so it’s basically a root. If it’s used on a knocked down character, they’ll both have the “down attack” and “down smash” modifiers. Both add extra damage. To ensure the attack hits, the Guardian is then blessed with super armor during the animation. It makes her immune to any sort of crowd control as she does the attack.

Quite a few of her awakening skills have this super armor. Her forward+RMB, shift+LMB attacks, and shift+F skills include super armor. They’re all great tools for in both offensive and defensive situations. She’s got many tools in pretty much any sort of PvP situation, and I certainly would not want to have to pick a fight with one of these characters.

Her sustain gets even better when she awakens. Her shift+Q, in its original form, heals her for a massive amount by using her stamina and finishes off with an AoE. In her awakening, the heal is likewise there, but the finishing AoE is ranged.

It’s hard to find weaknesses in this character. Despite her speed, she’s going to be tough to kill regardless. Shes a solid pick, but that’s not surprising. Of course she’s going to be.

But something’s been bugging me about the game, specifically with the ballooning number of classes: What exactly is Black Desert’s plan with all these characters anyway?

The new class releases are major events for Black Desert. It also drives income; people are buying weapon swap tickets, outfits, bags, weight, and whatever knick-knacks that’ll make building a new character easier. But I could already see flaws in that model; we’re going to get into situation like MapleStory where there are 39 different classes. And building characters in Black Desert is a time-consuming, and sometimes expensive, foray.

I don’t want to be pessimistic, but I can imagine maybe three more class releases before the studio has to slow down and possibly move on to focusing on Crimson Desert. I think it should slow down. If there’s too many characters, that’s a lot of moving parts. Unfortunately, for all my love for BDO, I still know that Pearl Abyss carries a much-deserved reputation of not knowing how to balance its game. And with the overwhelming number of classes, successions, and awakenings, it’s going to be a huge challenge to balance, even if the balance team gets better.

Of course, as with life, it’s good to just enjoy the moment. The Guardian’s awakening arrives on February 5th, 2020. As of this writing, players will have about a week to level her to 56 through a variety of Guardian leveling events in the upcoming week. Of course, if you’ve got that all done, there’s still plenty to do in this epic MMO.

The Great Valencian Black Desert is a dangerous place, but thankfully there’s always a chance for respite. Join Massively OP’s Carlo Lacsina every other week for just that in Desert Oasis, our Black Desert column! And don’t worry; he promises he won’t PK you. Got questions or comments? Please don’t hesitate to send a message!
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