Burger and Fries, Mario and Luigi, Garfunkel and Oates. Are there any other iconic pairs? Oh yeah! RPGs and dungeons. Be it the sprawling 100 floor Via Infinito from Final Fantasy X-2, the Abyss in the Wild Arms series, or the forgotten tower in the original Phantasy Star, there’s a lot to choose from. It’s such a major part of the RPG, and it translated well for MMORPGs. Dungeon design in MMORPGs is practically a science at this point.
While not every MMORPG features dungeons, players won’t have to look far before they find someone who strongly feels that dungeons should be in their favorite MMO. Black Desert Online is no exception. The idea of instanced content in BDO has always been an attractive prospect. And it’s not as if Pearl Abyss hasn’t tried; it experimented with the concept when they released the Altar of Blood concept back in 2019, but it didn’t seem to go far. I had a lot of hope for it too.
But fast-forward to today and it appears that Pearl Abyss is ready to go all in on it with Atoraxxion, the Last Stronghold. In lore, it’s this ancient facility that created the ancient weapons found throughout the world of BDO. Having since fallen into disrepair, the giant facility spans the desert, the ocean depths, canyons, and forest. From the sounds of it, we will be getting a really large dungeon. But for the initial release, adventurers will explore only the desert portion of the dungeons with each tileset getting progressively more difficult.
In terms of accessibility, there will be normal mode and hard mode. The Elvia servers will feature the hard mode version, which requires an AP of 280 and a DP of 340 so players can stand a chance. But players who have a set of leveled up Tuvala gear or the Narchillan gear can explore the normal versions. That adds up to roughly 250 AP and 300 DP, which is pretty easy to obtain at this point.
This is great. The Tuvala and Narchillan items are easy to obtain, so upon release, many players will have access to the dungeon without having to grind extra. In terms of character progression, it’s good to put it that AP level since most adventurers will probably be around that rating once they complete the original and Mediah storylines. Veterans will also know that at around that gearscore, players are mainly grinding out spots like Aakman temple or grouping up for the Mirumok trees. That’s fine, but for many players the grind gets stale. Having a dungeon to mix things up is a good idea.
But I hope this sticks. BDO experiments with a whole lot of stuff, such as the aforementioned Altar of Blood, but I really hope these dungeons don’t end up forgotten and wasted after the initial release.
So will it last? The biggest issue I can think of is that people will stop playing this content once a majority of the playerbase completes it. But I could be wrong. Aakman, Hystia, and Mirumok are three popular grindspots that have been around for a long time, and yet people still play them. There are always parties running a rotation through Mirumok, and if those have stayed relevant, then of course Atoraxxion will too. It needs only five players to run the content anyway, so how difficult can it be to build a party for it, especially since BDO doesn’t abide by a trinity?
But the BDO community is a practical bunch. We will play what’s most efficient and profitable (as with any MMO community). If we strip away Atoraxxian’s bells and whistles and get down to the numbers, will it provide something that the three grindspots I mentioned don’t? All three spots are very profitable, and Mirumok features a huge helping of experience points. Plus there’s the added bonus of the flexibility that I love so much in BDO. Player can grind in any of those spots for 25 minutes or 25 hours. But that’s just something that doesn’t work with dungeons. Players either finish it or don’t, especially when party members are involved. As with anything, the puzzles and mobs will eventually get solved, so players can speedrun their way through the content. But it makes me wonder if it’ll even be worth it.
Don’t take my concern for pessimism. It’s just that releasing a dungeon in BDO is different from releasing a dungeon in WoW or Final Fantasy XIV. The two latter games have systems set up to make dungeon-running a viable (and arguably the most efficient way) to level up and gear up. There’s dungeon finders available for both games, and there’s incentive to play the dungeon again and again. But Atoraxxian will be going up against grindspots that can churn out as much as a quarter billion silver in about an hour of playtime. (At least from the last time I checked in on the Elvia grindspots; not sure if that was nerfed.) So PA will really need to take this into consideration as it releases the content.
The most important thing is to find a viable way to encourage players to run the content repeatedly. Maybe provide a weekly that gives a hefty reward for players who run it again. The important thing is that players have a reason to do the content over and over again. This content needs a constant influx of players running it so first timers can at the very least get a group together to complete the content. Otherwise, we’ll end up in a situation similar to Guild Wars 2 where nobody runs the dungeon content anymore, and we’ll be left with some really awesome yet unused content.
Regardless, I am excited for this new content. Players have been asking for this, and I’m glad that it’s coming out. I don’t want this content to fail too, but most of these issues have been solved by other MMOs already. I hope PA takes the time to look at other games and think on how it wants this content to work out. It’ll be a waste to spend all this time on this fun and new concept only for it to fall flat because players finished it once and never touched it again.