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2:45pm on Friday, 8th April, 2016:

200 Hours


I'm now 200 hours into Black Desert Online (you get a free chair as a reward), and am at level 46.

Level 46 is the point at which open PvP starts. So far, the worst that has happened is that someone shot me off my horse as I was approaching a city, probably in an attempt to get me to attack them. I didn't take their bait.

I haven't decided what to do yet when I am eventually set upon for real. There's little chance I'd win, because although I can solo level 50 bosses meant to be taken on by groups, I'm pretty sure the same will also be able to be said of my attackers. Being jumped by several players at once, all of whom are prepared for it, doesn't therefore sound enticing. Skill plays nowhere near as much a part in PvP as gear and strength of numbers do. I'm therefore considering not putting up any kind of a fight if I'm attacked, I'll just flee as soon as I get out of the first battery of stun locks — or maybe just stand there getting hit without drawing my weapon, just to disappoint my assaulters.

In terms of skills, my highest is gathering (so chopping trees, breaking rocks, picking herbs and skinning, butchering or sucking the blood out of animals). That's not exactly conducive to a PvP environment, though, as it takes around 10-15 seconds per gather. I'm also reasonably high for trade and for farming, although neither of those are exactly safe-from-ganking activities either.

The quests in Black Desert Online are quite frustrating. I see a bunch of mobs, I know there must be a quest to kill them — but where do I pick it up? Sometimes, it's only available if I've found the right NPC and buttered them up with enough conversation mini-games that they'll give me a task. Sometimes, it's only available if I'm the right level. The latter is particularly irritating, as it led to the bizarre situation in which I grinded my way up two full levels by repeatedly killing mobs in a cave and on a hillside  — something like 1,500 fights in total — so as to qualify to be given a quest in which I was asked to kill eight of the puniest ones. I've now reached the stage in which every time I go up a level, I check the towns near the mobs I'm farming or have been farming to see if the quests for me to kill them are available yet.

It's a similar thing with crafting quests. Some, you get from talking to NPCs (not that you ever know which one to talk to) and some you are offered unsolicited by NPCs when you're the right level (should you grind potion-making or whatever to get to that level then happen to walk close enough to the NPC that you see a quest marker on your mini-map).

As with most complaints about Black Desert Online, though, these are merely just minor issues. Overall, Daum have done a very good job here. The world they have created conflates depth with breadth, so it's not all that deep once you figure out what's going on — but there nevertheless is a lot going on. Its fiction is rubbish, but that's true of most MMOs. It's very well designed, and does have some sweet-tasting elements to it. They've done far, far more right than they've done wrong.

It doesn't have any soul, though. The designers don't seem to be saying anything. It's like reading one of those epic Fantasy series from the 1990s: it passes the time, it has some good bits, the bad bits aren't show-stoppers, it's well thought-out and well put-together, it does go on a bit but you knew that when you started, it's polished, it's professional and it has something for everyone. However, it's five volumes of 700 pages each that will change your understanding of the world or yourself not one iota.

I'll probably keep playing until I go off on back-to-back trips to Germany and Malaysia later this month. I want to make level 50 (which is just a few more days of grinding plus a boss to kill that I could probably have killed two levels ago) and I want to see if I can breed a tier 4 horse (I have a tier 3 mare: I only need a tier 2 or tier 3 stallion from the liaison between my tier 2 mare and one of my tier 1 stallions, then I'll be set) (I think I'll name it Kwisatz Haderach). Oh, I should probably get on a boat at some point, too.

The combat system involves so much mouse-mashing that it's going to do my wrist in if I carry on for much longer anyway.

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Copyright © 2016 Richard Bartle (richard@mud.co.uk).