Black Desert Initial Impressions: Japan Open Beta

Were you looking for a reason to upgrade your computer? Black Desert is probably going to be that reason.

Let me clarify quickly, I’m not going to go over how to access the JP beta for the game here, you can find all of that information and know-how at this site:

Let’s move on.

Black Desert is a Korean MMORPG that gained enough popularity to get licensed for various other territories, including of course Japan, and in America sometime next year. Playing in the Korean version of the game is a very difficult process, and I have literally zero knowledge of the Korean language, but when the JP open beta was released I felt it was time to finally get a taste of what I’d been waiting for.

One of the very few times that “Her jugs” sounds less like an innuendo.

Having played Phantasy Star Online 2 for so long on the JP servers, and being a piece-of-shit otakui, I felt confident that I could enjoy this game in Japanese and just possibly could stick with it instead of waiting for the western release. Well, I was wrong on that account, and also for another unexpected reason.

I don’t even know where I am to be honest.

This game is deep, way too deep for me to navigate on limited Japanese knowledge. One reason that Phantasy Star Online 2 was relatively easy to play in Japanese was that many of the game terms were written in Katakana and most of the stuff you had to learn to do in that game was straightforward. Black Desert doesn’t use as many sci-fi “let’s just pick out random sounds and put them together” terms as PSO2 but instead uses real life names and terms for their environments, etc. Thus, the game is just riddled with Kanji that is, for now, an insurmountable wall for me. I was also told by other more “experienced” players that there are many aspects to the game later on that would be difficult to understand, even if you could read the text.

My computer wasn’t ready.


To be honest, I should have expected this, and I’m not even talking about graphical/computer lag (but I’ll get to that later), I mean latency.

Throughout my “career”ii in Phantasy Star Online 2 I connected directly to the game, as Sega apparently just didn’t care about overseas audience playing it, even though it was supposedly in the ToS that it was for JP players only. Then the PSO2 servers got DDoS’d, but we persevered, and I connected via Amazon Web Services using a private VPN connection to a Japanese web server. In both cases the latency was barely an issue, except in some instances where the game was in high capacity. Later Sega started lifting the bans, and everything is back to normal now.

Again, I won’t go into too much detail about it, as the article I linked above does a great job of doing so, but to be short, you have to connect to a VPN to access this game from outside of Japan. Well, for some reason, Amazon Web Services does not work. I believe it may have something to do with it being traceable back to the States, but I’m not 100% sure. Therefore, you have to connect to what is essentially random people’s computers in Japan and connect to the game that way. It’s as bad as it sounds.

Write a story about this scene in 500 characters or less.

So, in the end, this game is not going to work for me to play on the JP servers. Damn though, this game is awesome, and I can’t wait for the western release.

Time to jump into the game itself.

One of the big draws of this game was the very in-depth character creation system. Anyone who’s been following this game from the beginning knows that character creation was highlighted very early on, even before we saw any type of real in-game, or combat footage.

It did not disappoint.

I couldn’t even get CLOSE to being this creative.

I got lost at character creation. That’s right. There were so many damn options that I literally could not figure out how to work the eyes, or various other things for that matter. At one point my character somehow resembled a normal human being so I just said “fuck it” and went with it. I am very excited to see what I can do with it once it’s in English and I can go about figuring it out, this time around I really just wanted to jump into the game itself.

These horses are parking…………. PARKING!!!!

I have one gripe with the game, so I’m going to get it out of the way now: classes are currently gender-locked. I’m told that they will be introducing the models required to have both genders for each class later, but it was unfortunate that I wanted to play a sword-wielding class and I couldn’t be a total hottie as well.

I stood here for about 10 minutes before I realized I had to place a flag to spawn the boss.

This game looks BEAUTIFUL, and my computer knew it all too well, that’s why I got ~20 fps on what I think were max settings (there were a few options in Japanese that I didn’t know if they were increasing or decreasing quality). Let’s quickly examine the specs of the computer I was playing on:

  • Processor: Intel Core i7-2600K @ ~3.4 GHz
  • Memory: 8GB 1800MHz DDR3
  • Graphics: Radeon R9 270 – 1050MHz Core – 2GB GDDR5 @ 1.4GHz

These aren’t the end-all determinants of the capability of the computer, but I don’t need to go further to say that this build was struggling quite a bit with Black Desert. I actually think this is a good sign overall, as it shows that a 2+ year old computer build can be playable at near-max settings, so it should be plausible for many people to play with even more ancient machines.

Black Desert‘s combat is FUN, compared to similar MMO styles as something like TERA or Guild Wars 2. When you’re fighting, it feels and looks like a scene straight from an action movie, and the movement feels very fluid, again similar to Guild Wars 2. Black Desert combines the usual skill bar style of play with a button-combo system that allows you to push your 1-9, etc. or hit a combination of movement and attack buttons to use a skill. By default you have a left click, right click, and kick attack, so for instance if I wanted to do my backflip kick attack (like I could read the name), I could either bind it to a number, or press back>back>kick to execute it.

I just trampled that fool.

What really brings out the excitement in every battle is the way the game utilizes special effects and lighting with every attack, spell and movement. This is also what drops your frame rate like a rock, but it’s worth it. When you hit monsters in this game, it looks like it hurts, a lot.

If these were good guys, I was still trying to whack them anyways.

Black Desert does not have a level cap at the moment. In about 4 hours of playing I got close to level 20, and supposedly you get to level 50 relatively quickly, which is apparently a good enough level to do most of the later content. I’ve never played a “never-ending” MMORPG before, but I am curious how I will enjoy it in the long run. Not having that itch to hit max level in such a game will either be a refreshing or frustrating experience.

Can I opt for the route with more enemies?

There are a lot of nice “Quality of Life” touches in the game that some may appreciate more than others. One thing I enjoyed was that you can set a way-point and have your character run there automatically via a line on the ground that I assume was generated by Google Maps. Later you do get a mount as well. I saw people on horses running around, but what I found hilarious (and unfortunately didn’t screencap) were people just falling off their horses while running. I’m not sure what caused it, but it might have something to do with the extreme amount of collision detection in the game. If you run into NPCs walking around, they’ll look at you with an annoyed expression and flinch. If you’re moving quickly enough you’ll even stumble a bit.

Straight from Zelda I think.

For reasons unknown, this little black spirit fellow follows you around and you can talk to him whenever you want. Any usefulness aside that I may have most likely missed, you do turn in most of your quests to him which is extremely convenient as it reduces the amount of total running around you have to do.

I was hoping to be able to better understand exactly how leveling up affected your character, but I’m sure there are some resources out there with information on that. All I can say is that there are a large number of skills available, and it uses a tree system of some sort with prerequisites, etc. Also you do not gain skill points when your character levels up, but when the top bar of the 3 bars next to your character’s level is filled. This may be in place as some sort of limit to the amount of skill points you can acquire since there is no level limit. The second bar dictates the amount of certain actions you can do, but I never felt like I hit a limit so I’m not actually sure what it limits. The third bar is a complete mystery to me.

I wish I could have explored more of the game but time, patience, and extreme amounts of lag were not conducive to my experience with Black Desert. I will definitely play this game when it hits here in the US, and I implore you to at least try it out when it does.

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