Long-time Black Desert players know about a little town on the northwest corner of the map. It’s the city of Port Ratt, and for years, it’s been a pretty neat area to visit. Those who engaged with trading and the great ocean content found it a relatively lucrative way to earn some silver. But aside from general sightseeing, map completion, and a self-imposed challenge of swimming there from Velia, there wasn’t much else. Port Ratt was a dangling carrot. It was a hint of the future, the possible site of BDO’s very own Asian-themed MMO. But just because there’s a hint of a landmass doesn’t mean it’s actually reality. So for the longest time, Port Ratt was just that: a placeholder for a possible expansion.
The years went on; expansions came and went. And not much was really mentioned about that dangling carrot on this other side of the ocean — until this year’s Calpheon Ball when Pearl Abyss finally revealed the Land of the Morning Light.
Lore buffs and BDO’s RP community know how big a deal this is. The backstories of many of the classes begin in the Land of the Morning Light, including the Lahn, Maehwa, Musa, Tamer, Striker, Mystic, Ninja, Kunoichi, Woosa, and Maegu. It’s been a long time coming, and I’m not sure how much has since been retconned, but here are just a few examples: The Lahn was a princess banished for slaying her lover. The Striker learned his fighting style here. The Mystic left this land to find the Striker after he “struck out” and explored the rest of the world. The Tamer was raised by wolves and was trained by her master in the Land of Morning Light. The Ninja was sent on a mission to the Balenos region to kill somebody. The Kunoichi was sent from this land to kill the Ninja after he went missing. There are so many ties to the classes’ individual stories that finally adding this landmass is a pretty big deal.
But until today, it’s never been a place we could go.
Telling a good story is PA’s focus here. This particular expansion hits close for the development team; it pulls its lore from Korean mythology. Inspired from Korea’s early Joseon Period (1392-1598), it’s a stark contrast from the vast deserts of Valencia and the ancient forests of Kamasylvia. It’s even further from the desolation of Mediah. It’s a lush land filled with vibrant pinks, blues, and whites. Pearl Abyss and Jaehee Kim were very clear that this massive expansion is a vehicle for sharing Korea’s folktales with a wider audience. And they wanted to do it so badly that they were willing to completely change the formula for this expansion.
I got the welcome chance to try out Land of the Morning Light in a press preview build provided by Pearl Abyss before today’s launch – and I’m glad I did because I was pleasantly surprised by what I found when I fired up the new build.
A change of pace
I’ve been playing BDO since 2018. And whenever a new expansion comes out, I know what to expect: more grindspots, some new gear to grind for, more story, and a new town. But ever since the Eternal Winter expansion, Pearl Abyss has been looking to change that up a bit. This expansion is the most dramatic shift, and there was a very tiny learning curve.
As someone who plays Black Desert for the combat, I immediately checked the map for was the closest grindspot for some good ol’ fashioned violence. But lo! There wasn’t a single grindspot. Well, that was a surprise.
Instead of grindspots, the portraits of eight bosses dotted the landscape. Travelling to their locations won’t spawn them, but I figured there was probably something I had to push to activate the battle. Players know that bosses in BDO don’t just walk around in the open world; world bosses are on a schedule. Lesser bosses usually require players to use a scroll that activates the encounter when used in a certain location.
But this was a little different since I didn’t have an item in my inventory, nor was there any sort of quest hint. It turns out players activate the encounters through the Black Shrine in the menu. Players choose one of the eight bosses they’d like to fight, click a button that starts the encounter, and make use of a handy button that allows auto-navigation to the area. No need to grind for a scroll or anything like that. Just go to the location, open the menu, and activate the fight, then travel right to it.
It’s very convenient. And considering that this is the main form of combat content in the new area, I’m glad that it’s as easy as entering a grindspot and kicking butt.
The boss fights are really exciting too. Once players enter a boss encounter, all the visual clutter is removed except for the player’s health bar and skill bar. This includes the map and the chatbox. The team clearly wants you to treat the encounter with the brevity of running a raid in other MMORPGs. The bosses also have patterns: DPS checks, avoiding the red floors, and various mechanics such as add phases and using line of sight to prevent unavoidable damage. They’re MMO boss encounters, after all.
Players are allowed five boss clears per week, and every successful clear will enter the player into the leaderboard. Also, players can unlock “calamity levels” (CL) for encounters – basically difficult sliders. There’s a total of 10 calamity levels for every boss, but players can only access level 5. To get to the other levels, players need to defeat the boss at their highest possible CL before unlocking the next level. So to get to level 6, players need to beat the boss at CL 5.
I have no doubt that this was a deliberate choice. Boss fights in gaming are intrinsically more meaningful than killing trash mobs. Frankly, I don’t think PA wanted to relegate such important pieces of its folklore to “trash mob” status anyway. And considering how each boss has their own cutscene, mechanics and even theme, I think it’s pretty evident that PA wanted to make sure that these foes are every bit as ferocious as the stories make them out to be.
I’m only a few days in, and these are just my initial impressions, but so far, I’m impressed with Pearl Abyss for going out of its comfort zone with this one. It’s not often that MMORPGs change the way they do things in an expansion, but this was a good move for PA. Stay tuned; I’ve got more impressions pieces coming in Desert Oasis as I continue to play!