This is the question that I’ve been asked the most lately. Blade and Soul or Black Desert? I only have time for one game, so which one is better? The short answer is due to health concerns taking up much of my time lately Blade and Soul will be available to play by the time I finish this. It is also free to play, so if you are looking for a game to play right now the only choice between the two is Blade and Soul. The longer answer is that they are both very solid games, but they do very different things, so the real question is which one is better suited to what you enjoy.
The first obvious difference is artistic theme. Blade and Soul is an eastern wuxia styled game. You’ll glide through the air with beautifully patterned sparkles floating around you, soaring over cloud-covered spiky mountaintops and asian temples, fighting baddies in the name of revenge for your dead master. Black Desert has a more traditional, medieval fantasy theme. Farmers raise chickens and milk cows, the streets are dirt and cobblestone, and rather than fly or glide, your first mount is a donkey. Which can be killed, I might add. My first mount death during the last beta was a drowning, when I tried to ride it across the ocean.
For the decorators, there is no housing and nothing of interest in Blade and Soul. Conversely, Black Desert has a very engaging house system. You can own multiple houses and freely decorate them – there are even benefits to owning a well-decorated house. I was amazed to discover that there is reason to seek out houses with great views – you can actually open the doors and windows in your house and look outside! Cooking and alchemy require a house to set up your workstations, and I spent a good hour and change wandering the cities looking around at the various housing options. Apartments come in different shapes and sizes, with varying views, layouts and entry points. There are city town homes, cottages in remote hard to reach villages, dreary basements, corner apartments, rooftop garrets – it is truly a dream for those who love to throw themselves into residential decorating.
Crafting in Blade and Soul is closer to recent ‘traditional’ MMO crafting. You pick your 2 crafting and harvesting professions and if you want to level others, it’s time to create an alt. Both harvesting and crafting in Blade and Soul are done via the NPCs – you go to the NPC, tell him what you want, and then wait. When the timer is up you either go back to the NPC to collect your items and start a new craft, or pay a premium to have them remote delivered. Crafting is more of a sideline than a full activity; the two seconds to click and begin paired with what can be up to an 11 hour wait means that there is no way to actually focus on it as a main source of play.
Crafting in Black Desert can be as all consuming or as light as you want it to be. There are some professions, cooking and alchemy, that must be done directly. You purchase your workstations, install them in your house, and then go there to cook and make potions. There are also sub professions that can be done anywhere, like drying fish and meat. I am particularly fond of the little touches in Black Desert like drying only being possible on days when it’s not raining. Want more? Create a manufacturing empire by hiring workers for more ambitious professions like making furniture, weapons, ships and wagons. You can harvest by wandering the world with harvesting tools, and you can harvest by sending out workers while you do other things. Farming works the same way – you can tend personally to your farm, keeping an eye on things like water levels, pests and diseases, or you can let it run on its own at the cost of reduced harvests and increased growth times. Best of all – it’s a sandbox you can do everything style, with no need to pick and choose other than how you want to spend your time and energy today.
Both games are action combat with no tab targeting, with the main difference between them being the level of prompts you receive. Blade and Soul uses the standard hotbar, with flashing prompts when you proc an ability. Black Desert abilities function both on and off the hotbar, so you can keep your hotbars clean of everything but buffs and consumables if you remember your ability key combos. Both have ability trees, although Blade and Soul allows freely respeccing your spent points while Black Desert requires the purchase of respec vouchers from the cash and mileage shops.
In Blade and Soul you can hop into your own private dungeon instances and level by running through dungeons, complete with cross server dungeon finders, or follow the linear quest path through the zones. In Black Desert you wander the open world. There are quests in Black Desert, but they operate more as guides to possible hunting spots, rather than as a highway to end game. During my time in the beta, I wandered here and there randomly killing my way back and forth across the areas. Some days I took quests, other days I simply found a spot and killed to my heart’s content, picking up the bounty tokens that I could turn in for various things like cash or crafting materials to interested NPCs.
Want PvP? In Blade and Soul, PvP is a mode you enter by equipping PvP costumes. No PvP costume equals no PvP. In Black Desert, everyone is a potential threat at all times. The karma system and soon to be implemented bounty hunter system, are there to provide more PvE minded players some manner of protection, but there is no getting around the fact that in Black Desert there is no way to opt out of PvP other than running away any time you see another player in case they might prove to be hostile. It reminds me very much of my days in Lineage 2; friends are much more meaningful when you never know who might be lurking in the shadows planning an ambush.
Want a cash shop comparison? Blade and Soul offers keys to the treasure chests you find in game as well as rare materials for crafting in the cash shop. Black Desert offers pets, costumes and furniture for your house. Ok, ok, they each offer more items than that, including XP items, but in my not so humble opinion, the only people who are really affected are the PvE players in Blade and Soul. By offering treasure chest keys and rare crafting materials in the cash shop, Blade and Soul creates a very real gap between wallet warriors and time warriors. PvE gear acquisition doesn’t make a difference in its PvP, so anyone looking to compete in faction warfare is completely unaffected by the vast amount of PvE progression time that can be skipped through the purchase of cash items.
My ultimate conclusion is that they are both fun, solid games. Those looking for an open sandbox will likely drift toward Black Desert, whereas theme park players will likely find Blade and Soul more to their liking. If PvP is a concern, those seeking to avoid it completely will find Blade and Soul preferable, and those seeking it have the choice between open world PvP in Black Desert vs fully consensual PvP in Blade and Soul. I haven’t played either game long enough to make a full evaluation on the gameplay effects of their cash shops, but my gut feeling is that the Black Desert cash shop will be the less noticeable over long term character progression.