In case you haven’t guessed it, I am in love with this game. I spent a large part of it in ferret shock, running around from one shiny thing to the next. Fishing, trading, cooking, alchemy, hiring workers and building a manufacturing/trading empire, farming, hunting, making friends with the NPCs … and don’t forget standard monster killing, questing and PvP. There are sieges, guild warfare … have I forgotten anything? I’m sure I have.
Read on for the details!
You begin the game in a small village – it’s the same village, but the particular starting point in said village varies by class – with a little black spirit companion and amnesia. Isn’t he adorable? This little smudge follows you around, offering occasional commentary and quests. He will also do things for you like upgrading equipment, and as you level up, he offers guides to beginning the tradeskills. I will note that you can begin them at any time, I suspect the level gating on the spirit’s guidance is merely to avoid overwhelming the new player. First you learn movement and standard MMO UI handling, then the game begins!
Pay no attention to the people saying the game begins at 50. It … really doesn’t. Unlike most MMOs, your progression in this game matters, doing the sidequests and other activities provide benefits that do not go obsolete. I’ve been scrambling to figure out what to discuss first, but this seems like a great moment to discuss questing!
Questing in Black Desert can take many forms. I found myself killing monsters certainly, but also fishing, shooting beehives to gather honey, shooting seagulls to help fishermen, milking cows, chasing chickens and missing cats, tripping pickpockets, hunting treasure, learning about monsters, NPCs and places … any activity in the game has related quests. Unlike in most MMOs, quests do not reward XP for leveling; probably this is why I did not find questing as boring as I do in most games. If I want to level, I can go off to some little corner of the world with monsters, and have myself a grindfest – in fact, doing so will level you more quickly than questing. Ahh.. monster grinding, how I have missed thee!
Instead, quests provide other benefits, such as XP to increase contribution points and knowledge, both of which are vitally important to progressing in the game. So let’s take a look at contribution and knowledge:
Contribution points, far more important than character levels, are the backbone of everything you do in the game. You use them to purchase houses and workshops, rent helpful items from NPCS, and unlock nodes. Unlocking nodes allows you to trade at full value (very important to fishermen and traders), send your workers to harvest raw materials, and for the combat oriented, fighting in an area with an unlocked node provides increased drop rates. This means that quests are always valuable – unlike standard XP questing that rapidly becomes outmoded as you level, you will never not want more contribution.
By the end of this first beta, I had 2 residences – interior decorators will love the residences, you can freely decorate to your heart’s content! – a tool workshop, processing refinery, a bunch of warehouses to hold my stuff, lodgings for my hired workers, and I’d begun working toward opening a costume workshop. I also had a decent sized trading route, as well as several harvesting nodes. My workers were busy little bees, running between the forest and the quarry to get raw materials that they then refined and turned into fishing poles and other tools for me! You can even see other people’s workers bustling about the gameworld, ferrying goods around.
I wish I could flip a switch and turn XP from monster killing to contribution XP!
Knowledge is information that you pick up about the game world. You can learn it by talking with NPCs, exploring areas, hunting monsters and some quests. It tells you interesting bits about the lore of the world, and is used to increase your energy pool – the pool of points used to do things like harvest and personal crafting. I do like that it controls certain activities, thus making accomplishments seem like actual accomplishments … but I found that the activities controlled by energy are the activities that I like the best. Specifically conversing with NPCs, cooking, gathering, and alchemy. So I would often blow through my energy and then wander around killing monsters waiting for it to regen so I could get back to what I wanted to do. I often had too much or too little – if I wanted to work on cooking, then I never had enough energy, but when hunting or fishing I felt like I was ‘wasting’ it. I always do hate having activity pools pinging at the cap without being used.
In a way, energy makes the game feel very disjointed – it’s a sandbox game with lots of different things to do, but if you’re the kind of player that I am, more interested in crafting than in combat, then your play time is gated in ways that combat oriented players don’t experience. I can kill as many monsters as I want without limitation, but if I want to cook – once my energy pool runs out, I’m done. I can’t even go harvest or farm to stock up my materials as gathering takes energy as well. I’ll make friends with the NPCs while I wait! No … building friendships also takes energy. One interesting thing that I noted while talking to my fellow players however, is that in this instance, your mileage will vary quite a great deal. I was constantly pinging my energy empty, but many people I spoke with about it said they never came close to running out, and never even really noticed it was there.
By the end of the weekend, I was running my energy dry, then setting up afk fishing and just leaving the computer for a half hour. I saw quite a few people in general chat advising the same. That to me is a problem when a game is encouraging me to walk away, although it did let me get some chores done while I played!
All in all the questing system is very well done. By removing XP, they’ve made sure quests remain relevant no matter when you decide to do them – in fact, the power leveling sprinters will often go back to the starter areas to do the quests that they skipped. I like how interconnected everything is, rather than each system standing by itself, everything works together to create the whole. Questing in Black Desert is closer to a return to something more ‘old school’ in that they point you to the areas where you will level, rather than being the vehicle themselves for the leveling. That is very much my preferred method. I would like an even slower XP leveling curve, although I know slow leveling isn’t in vogue these days.
Stay tuned for part 2!