Massive online experiences are remarkable, sometimes life-defining, experiences that can transcend the servers they live in. It’s not new per say, players in “Ultima Online” were some of the first to build communities that were almost exclusively connected through virtual relationships back in 1997. Flash forward more than two decades and the MMORPG genre isn’t nearly open as it used to be, finding a unique community with the an impactful emotional investment has only gotten harder.
The high fantasy adventure of “Black Desert Online’”is one of the few examples of a modern MMORPG that absolutely hits it out of the park. The PC version, which released in North America in 2016, has more than 3 million registered users that treat the in-game world as a second home. Now the games expansive world and gripping combat are coming to Xbox One.
“The game is designed to be real, there aren’t shortcuts for everything,” said Gwang-sam Kim, lead producer on the Xbox One one version of the game. “You can’t fast travel, you have to experience how huge the world is as you travel through it.”
“Black Desert Online” has a handful of unique differences that made it the successful game it is today, it’s action-based combat is more similar to a fighting game than other MMOs. With varied combos, a unique targeting system, and interesting PVP mechanics. It’s been lauded as one of the best combat systems in the genre, and I realized why after my hands-on session with the Xbox One version at private session during E3.
“Battles are strikingly similar to fighting games with our own combos, airstrikes, and additional skills,” Kim added. “You can also see the scale of different fights, some battles will basically be wars with hundreds of players playing a part right in front of you.”
Pearl Abyss, the Korean developers of “Black Desert Online” threw a fan meet and greet and developer Q&A outside the conference where players were able to unite with their quest companions in real life and learn about the games mobile and Xbox One versions. Players got hands on time with the console version ahead of the beta launch this fall and got tidbits of new details including the confirmation of a new story quest landing alongside the console beta.
Kim, alongside other Pearl Abyss veterans, spoke about the challenges of bringing a game like “Black Desert Online” from PC to console.
“‘Black Desert’ is completely designed for a mouse and keyboard, we can use every key for something,” he said. “But on console we have to figure things out with the one controller, converting all functions is a big challenge and we’re still figuring that out.”
Kim went on to talk about the difficulties they encountered with game storage, which was already apparent to me after my time with the demo. While the world, design, and combat of “Black Desert Online” impressed me in dozens of ways I was repeatedly let down by the terrible technical performance of the demo. Including several button prompts that were completely wrong as well as hideous pop-in that made the land I was exploring feel completely artificial.
It may sound harsh, but I give that criticism alongside praise for nearly every other part of my experience. Combat felt like something I actively want to engage in, which is incredibly unusual for MMOs, a genre that just doesn’t mesh well with my gaming habits. Once Pearl Abyss fixes the issues I encountered during my playtime, the Xbox One version should draw in thousands of players looking for meaningful RPG action.
While “Black Desert Online’s” combat felt unlike anything I’ve played before in the genre, it wasn’t want piqued my interest initially. Every line that I waited in, demo station I spectated, and table I worked at during the Pearl Abyss event coincidentally featured real-life meetings between players who had played together online. It wasn’t just a casual meet and greet for many of these players, it was a reunion for them.
“Black Desert Online” launches a console beta on Xbox One later this year, it won’t feature cross platform play with PC but it will have new content.