In celebration of the North American and European versions' fifth anniversary, developer Pearl Abyss has regained publishing rights to Black Desert Online in those regions, unifying the game under one roof.

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To share this celebration with as many players as possible, Pearl Abyss has also dropped a ton of perks for newcomers into the game to draw a bigger crowd. The world of BDO is gargantuan and convoluted, but exploring it is worth your time. To help you on your excursion, here are some things to know before you set out.


No Shortcuts To Adventure

Three words, one very important thing to know before you embark: no fast travel. Don't let that scare you off, the world of BDO is teeming with life so travel on foot is a busy, and rarely boring, experience.

You'll eventually unlock a horse that greatly cuts down your travel time. If you're looking for a "magic loading screen" method of travel, BDO doesn't have one. You can also do some chores while your character auto-runs to the quest marker, if you're looking for an MMO that'll help you fold your laundry, this is for you.


Progression Is The Game Plan

For those familiar with MMO's of the "theme park" variety, BDO will feel like a bit of a departure, but there's nothing too jarring. Theme park MMOs tend to be story-oriented, with post-game content designed to be difficult enough to keep players busy with one or two raid bosses at a time, until the next content patch or expansion. Furthermore, gear and level caps increase at regular intervals and are comparatively easy to reach.

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Sandbox MMOs — especially from developers in Asia — tend to be more free form with progression, allowing players to level up characters or gear infinitely, with the very strongest characters usually being the result of years of grinding. Other players might choose to grind in other ways, neglecting combat to instead become the most prolific farmer or fisher on the server. BDO has a story quest, like most theme park MMOs, but the end game structure is decidedly "sandbox-ey." Be prepared for a long haul if you want to catch up to the best of the best.


Massive Multiplayer Optional

Walking around in BDO's open world feels exactly like you'd expect it to if you've played other MMORPGs. The major villages and towns see heavy traffic from other player characters, and yet, the game feels less social than other MMOs. That's not a bad thing on its face, if you prefer a lone wolf approach to your RPG adventures then BDO rarely requires you to meet and greet other players.

Of course, you still can join guilds and meet people through the chat log, and doing both of these is important if you plan to check out the large-scale PvP modes.


Combat Is Not King

BDO has some of the best combat in any mainstream MMO available today. Skills are executed and chained together in real time just like an action RPG or hack-and-slash adventure. Beloved as World Of Warcraft and Final Fantasy 14 continue to be, BDO spoils players with fast, reactive battle mechanics, making it hard to go back.

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Even with its excellent combat system, however, there's no shortage of players who choose to let grinding mobs fall by the wayside. While most popular MMOs expect you to take up crafting and gathering to feed your raiding career, BDO allows you to fish, hunt, sail, process materials, and more as a means and an end. Slaying demons got you feeling down? There's a farm up the road with enough land to till to keep you busy for weeks.


Say Goodbye To Your R Key

While BDO does offer exhilarating combat, chaotic PvP, a lively in-game economy to master, and a compelling story, sometimes it feels like all of the other things BDO has to offer get in the way of its plot. New players will quickly become acquainted with the R key spam, which has become a meme in the community at this point.

BDO is filled with so many NPCs that prattle on while you're just trying to figure out which dialogue lines are important that most players find themselves mindlessly mashing R just to progress the conversation to its end. The developers have discussed their intention to curb R spamming, which hopefully means trimming the idle banter and leaving only the important dialogue left for players to read.


Make Your Own Dungeons (For Now)

Another quirk of BDO that will take theme park veterans by surprise is the lack of distinct, instanced dungeons designed for four- or eight-person parties. There's no shortage of boss fights in Black Desert, and these can be taken on by player-organized parties, but the game never forces you to party up or places you in one to complete a particular trial.

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It appears that this will be changing in 2021, however, with the introduction of the "Ataraxian Co-op Dungeon" coming soon. Pearl Abyss is staying tight-lipped with the specifics, but so far they've announced that it will require 3 to 5 people, each sticking to a particular role (puzzles, bosses, trash mobs, etc.) in order clear the dungeon.


Idling Matters

Pay attention to safe zones and combat zones in BDO, unless you want to reminisce on the first time a Runescape scammer tricked you into wandering over to the wilderness. BDO pits players against each other in a full PvP environment once they reach level 50, even outside of PvP-specific servers.

Hunting players who haven't signified their willingness to duel incurs a penalty for the perpetrator, so this isn't a constant fear you need to carry. But, it's a possibility to keep in mind, so try to always return to a safe zone when looking away from the screen for an extended period.


AFK Matters Even More

Even when you're not playing BDO you can still play BDO. The aforementioned life skills in the game are divided into two categories — active skills and passive skills. Active skills include hunting, sailing, and horse breeding, while passive skills include farming and processing. Fishing is both active and passive.

Passive skills require a time investment, but little other input from the player. As such, it's common to see gangs of fishermen lined up at popular shores hauling in catches while they sleep in real life or go to work. This is why BDO players with 10,000 or 20,000 hours of play time aren't totally uncommon.


Possible Side Effects: Carpal Tunnel

With all of that real-time combat goodness comes the need for quick reflexes and ergonomic hardware, whether you're a PC or console player, or a keyboard or controller user. FF14 ninjas will feel right at home on BDO with the complex combos the game expects from those committed to competitive play.

Make sure to do some stretches during those long-distance auto-run treks mentioned above, and treat yourself to some new gaming gear if you plan to stick with BDO long-term — your physiotherapist will thank you.


Rule The Meta And Be Ruled By It

Looking back through the channels of YouTube's most dedicated BDO commentators makes it clear that the game has been updated a lot recently, and it looks like 2021 will continue to be packed with updates from Pearl Abyss. Even in slower seasons, BDO generally receives gear and balance updates every six months.

These updates can drastically influence the metagame, and because mature BDO accounts have characters that can be upward of four years old, this means that building a character for a particular meta is futile. By the time your new lahn is competitive, favor will have shifted to strikers or archers, etc. Enjoy your time in the meta sun, and when it sets, don't give chase.

Next: Black Desert Online Interview - Plotting Its Future And Remembering The Past




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About The Author

Joseph Burrell

(42 Articles Published)

Joseph Burrell is a University of Toronto journalism alumnus, a wedding & events photographer, a soon-to-be law student, and of course, a lifelong games enthusiast. He likes to break up the monotony of drilling LSAT questions with a spirited tabletop RPG session. When he isn't writing for The Gamer, or playing Bioshock again, he's probably out expanding his catalogue of Toronto's spiciest vindaloos.

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