Desert Oasis: Returning home to Black Desert Online


Back in October of 2020, I penned a column about the worst week I’ve ever had in Black Desert. The series of unfortunate events necessitated a break; it ultimately burnt me out, so I took about three months away from the game. And when I thought I was ready, I started playing again. I was so excited that I even penned another column discussing how I was adjusting my mindset to prevent further burnout so that I could keep playing.

I claimed I was ready to come back in that article, but it turned out the burnout was worse than I thought. Attempts to fully recommit to the game were nigh-on impossible. Having unlimited access and time to MMOs, video games, and computers made me not want to spend free time near any of them. And as much as I enjoyed Black Desert Online, it was time to put the game down. It wasn’t because of any shortcomings of the game; I just had too much of a good thing.

That was January 2021.

It wasn’t until a recent trip to London a few weeks ago that I finally got the urge to return. Being out of the country for the first time in three years was nice. Surrounding myself with so much history and having a chance to go on my own adventures outside of a computer screen helped even more. And the aesthetic of locations such as Warwick Castle, the White Tower at the Tower of London, and the streets of Stratford-Upon-Avon rekindled my love for fantasy works in film, books, and ultimately, games.

So when I logged back in, it felt really good. And I’m not hyperbolizing when I really felt like I was back home. Even though I put the game down in early 2021, I would occasionally log in to check out new classes and updates. But no matter how cool my Chris Hemsworth-inspired Sage was, the spark wasn’t there.

So I went looking for it in other beloved MMOs. I thought I found it in Lost Ark. I sank a good 200 hours in it, but I eventually fell out with it. From my perspective, I didn’t really see anything wrong with it, my only critique being the vague notion that it just didn’t feel like home. The same went for games like Swords of Legends Online… and we all know how that’s going. I thought Elyon had that magic too, and I don’t need to remind you what happened there.

Chris Hemsworth is actually in Black Desert Online! Thor Ragnarok design was by VirRevas

Heck, Guild Wars 2, World of Warcraft, and Final Fantasy XIV couldn’t make the cut! Played them all and had fun. But I just couldn’t connect to them at a deeper level.

But there was something different about returning to Black Desert Online. The one thing those other games didn’t do was that none of them “called me” to play.

I know. I’m getting dramatic. I’m reading what I wrote, and it sounds like I’m talking about some forlorn love or something. But I can’t explain or express it any better.

I didn’t play it just because all my friends were playing it. I didn’t pick it up just because gaming media outlets gave it 10s across the board. And I have gripes: I don’t like how my characters often gets stuck in the geography, the lighting is inconsistent (2 AM shouldn’t look like sunset), and the pop-in caused by the engine drives me nuts. But regardless, I still play it. It’s the MMO that resonates with me. And that’s all I can really say about it.

When I logged back in, I had only one intention: to hang out in Velia. These days, players can start their adventure in either Duvencrune or Velia. But when I started in 2018, Velia was the first main player hub that players visited. It’s a simple fishing village with a main road that runs through the city and another pathway that leads to the wharf. It’s always busy, and it feels great to be there. It was my home city before the Drieghan expansion introduced Duvencrune and I moved over there. But it’s still a very important place.

So I logged in. And all I did was people-watch. I listened into the lively chat – which hasn’t changed a single bit–  and just enjoyed the simple vibe of being in my little corner of the internet.

It was at this point that I realized another reason I value the game for what it is. It’s the game that fits just right for me. BDO, and by extension Pearl Abyss, doesn’t follow the same paradigm that made the other big five games popular. It’s a game that took things that would otherwise be unpopular in other games and built on them. It didn’t abandon its systems like the enchanting system just to gain brownie points from whiny players who most likely still won’t play the game even without said system. In fact, part of the reason it does so well is because PA took the time to develop a system that’s unique to just this game.

The town of Velia. In the distance is Cron Castle.

It has made compromises. Players can get a guaranteed set of PEN gear now without worrying about losing progress. The game asks only for what every other MMORPG asks for: a level of commitment. In terms of MMOs, that’s a pretty reasonable ask. But this is a whole different conversation that I’ll write about in a later edition of Desert OasisThe point is that I’m happy with what the game is. I’m happy it’s still around, and I’m happy it continues to succeed despite what a vocal and critical minority say about it.

My relationship with the game has certainly changed. And that’s what’s so great about MMOs. I first started this game because I got tired of vertical progression and wanted to just do some good ol’ monster killin’. When I started writing for MassivelyOP, it became my writing outlet. And now, as I get older and take on greater responsibilities, it’s an anchor. Its the game I log into when I’m tired of playing other great games like Diablo 3 and Lost Ark. It’s the game where I can just be a mid-tier adventurer who likes killing trees (this sounds terrible out of context, but BDO players know exactly what I’m talking about). It’s a game that’ll be there through the years. And even though I took a pretty long break and was uncertain I’d ever come back to this game, I’m glad I decided to return.

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! Got questions or comments? Send him a message or drop by his Twitch channel to hang out while he’s streaming the game!
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