Extensive content, the best combat of any MMOG, great gameplay and visually stunning. However the game is complex, the community features need some polish, and grinding is a requirement.
Complexity & Forced PvP
RNG for Upgrades
Black Desert Online Review Introduction
Black Desert Online (BDO) originally launched in Korea in 2014 and the North American version released on March 3rd, 2016. Initially received with mixed reviews leaning on the positive side, BDO was recently the highest rated game on mmorpg.com’s game list, surpassing Guild Wars 2, Final Fantasy XIV and others (it has since declined, but is still in the top list).
While I traditionally write reviews roughly a month after the launch of a new product, BDO is such an immense game I felt waiting until the release of the Valencia expansion and taking multiple classes to 50+ was warranted before writing a review.
Black Desert Online is truly a next-generation MMOG. This is a very important point to make; gone are the traditional restrictions of tab-targeting, level caps and limited or unavailable management of assets and regions within a fantasy world. This game has so much to offer beyond the standard kill, level, raid, and get the next best item approach. In addition to combat, PvP, leveling, crafting and gathering, players can trade between cities, build a network of nodes for worker production, purchases homes to auto-craft items, build wagons, boats, go on fishing and whaling adventures, build their family’s wealth and more. The economy is robust and the world is packed full of players (and growing at a steady rate). It’s also important to mention the end-game of BDO is focused on a mixture of PvE and PvP. It’s generally impossible to avoid PvP, so even with all of its great features, for those who do not want to participate in PvP (of any kind), BDO may not be the best choice.
Ultimately, while BDO can be overwhelming (and even confusing) to newcomers, once a player is entrenched in the game, it becomes an extensive and immersive long-term experience.
The Story & Lore of Black Desert Online is a shrouded mystery the player must intentionally go digging into to discover (allowing for those who don’t care about story or lore to just ignore it and “play the game”). For those who are interested, the history of the world revolves around an ancient race that used the power of Black Stones to revive and extend life; this included the creation of animated constructs. But the “ancients” died out long ago and how they died is unknown. After the ancients, the world empires began to grow and flourish until a plague overcame the nations (the black death) and devastated the people. War erupted between the empires and savage races (harpies, goblins, ogres, etc.) obtained a foothold throughout the lands. Once the power of Black Stones was discovered and unlocked, they became the most highly sought after objects in the world. The character is injected into this post-war world with a Dark Spirit Companion that acts as a guide and provides both direction and support for gaining strength and surviving the perils of the hostile lands.
The World of BDO is seamless and huge. It consists of six regions: Calpheon, Keplan, Olvia (aka Balenos), Heidel (aka Serendia), Mediah and Valencia (the desert). There are no instances (raids/dungeons) in BDO. While there are large underground regions to discover and explore, the entire world is seamless. Day and night cycles play a big part in the game; night time is often so dark one needs a lantern to see (especially in underground caves, which adds to the immersion). Monsters also do more damage at night, but give more experience. Weather is also a factor; rain will lower a player’s defense and cut down on visibility – so if you’re fighting tough monsters and it starts to rain, look out! The game also features ships and ocean exploration. Ship combat is going to be a part of the next expansion.
BDO has the liveliest world I’ve ever seen in a MMOG; the game feels alive like no other as hundreds of players run through the city, drive their trade wagons around, travel the roads with magnificent horses, and engage in world PvP. The Valencia Desert is the most dangerous area in the game, and it’s recommended a player doesn’t even consider going there until their character is at least level 52 (but 56+ is recommended). When in the deep desert, characters must carry specific items to prevent Heat Stroke during the day and Hypothermia during the night. Tents are also necessary to obtain protection from sandstorms. The world map doesn’t work in the desert, so a character has to travel solely by sight, which makes getting lost very easy. There are Ancient Compasses that allow viewing of the map, but they are rare. The good news is some of the best grinding (both experience and money) is found in the desert, so once you master the region and are strong enough, there are many riches to be had (including digging up valuable items!). In an upcoming patch, there will also be a bandit town where red/negative karma people can stay and use services. Those with positive karma will be attacked! I’ll cover Karma and PvP in more detail below. Here’s a great guide on Surviving the Desert.
New content is constantly planned and released. The next big patch brings Awakening weapons (and skills) along with expanded areas to Valencia and PvP changes. The game also has regular events such as extra drops, warfare and holiday events. Since the US version is “behind” the Korean version (usually by a few months), keeping an eye on the Korean version gives us a heads up on what to expect in the near future.
While Character Customization is class-based (each class has a distinct look and feel, and is locked in this look and feel, including the sex of the character), it is very well-done, allowing the player to adjust everything from tattoos to facial structure, hair, make-up and even eye pupil type and color. The game also has a Beauty Album where players can screenshot and share their character customization for others to see and even use during the creation process.
There are a total of 11 classes in BDO: Warrior, Ranger, Berserker, Sorceress, Valkyrie, Wizard/Witch, Tamer, Musa, Maehwa, Ninja and Kunoichi. The class you chose defines the race (and sex) of your character. Each class plays quite differently, catering to numerous play styles revolving around Attack, Control, Defense, Combo and Evasion. Some classes are up close and personal (melee) while others like to fight from a distance (ranged). It’s recommended a new player tries multiple classes to 50 before deciding which class they want to invest in and take to 56+. This is important because of the of the time, energy and effort it takes to build a character to a level of play and power sufficient for exploring the most dangerous areas of the world. Getting from 57-58 takes more time than 1-56, and high-level equipment is required to survive the best places for a 56+ character to maximize experience and item drops.
Skills are unique to each class and come in four ranks (A to C, then Ultimate or other). The diversity in skills between classes is very impressive, and skills can be acquired through skill points (which are awarded by fighting and obtaining skill experience). A player can also augment certain skills once they hit 50+ using the Skill Trainer (Skill Awakening). While a character can change skills on the fly at any time, it costs energy. Changing skills through a trainer will not cost any energy. It’s important to note that it takes time to learn the key and mouse combinations to execute not only the base skills, but the combinations as well. I’ve encountered players who are level 56+ who are still learning and refining their combat techniques. It’s not easy, and requires patience; this is another reason it’s recommended to choose one class to “main” because learning, memorizing and executing the complex skill combination of one character is tough enough – doing it for multiple characters is nearly impossible.
It’s important to talk about a player’s Family. When creating your first character, the game will ask to name your family. Be sure the name you choose is the one you want since it cannot be changed and all characters you create will bear your family name. BDO endorses the creation of multiple characters because it’s the best way to increase your maximum energy and contribution points which are used to invest in nodes and housing (covered below). An online character will gain 1 energy every 3 minutes while offline characters gain 1 energy every hour.
The game provides nonstop flow of Quests that cover the following categories: NPC (storyline), Guild, Black Spirit and Daily Quests. Quests never provide Combat Experience; instead they provide Contribution and Energy experience. Remember; only fighting monsters provides combat experience! The number of quests in the game can be overwhelming, and many experienced players only focus on doing the black spirit quests while avoiding the others because there are so many; but new players are encouraged to take nearly every quest they come across as they will send players to explore all corners of the world. Pressing O in-game to bring up the interface and clicking on Suggestions shows a list of quests a character has missed that provide specific rewards such as Inventory Expansion, Contribution Points, etc. There are also guild quests, which provide money and skill points for the guild. I will cover this feature in more detail under the Guilds section.
The diversity of Enemies is excellent, ranging from dancing goofy-looking frog-like people to giant burrowing crab creatures that spring up from the ground. There are giants, legions of soldiers, enraged trolls, wandering ogres, giant trees, animated constructs, angry centaurs, screeching harpies, and of course demon-worshiping cultists. But it’s not just the types of monsters, it’s the sheer volume of them – more than I’ve seen in any other fantasy MMOG. Fields, hills, caves and ruins are packed full of hundreds (and even thousands) of creatures, all ready to be slaughtered (or mob and kill you). There are also elite monsters, which are much tougher than their normal counterparts, but can drop some great loot. One nice feature about this game is one has to kill enemies in order to gain knowledge about them, and in learning about them, they become easier to kill and drop better loot. When a player finally learns about an enemy they receive a ranking of S, A+, or A-C (where S is the best but hardest to get). It’s also important to note monster knowledge is family based, meaning it is shared across all characters. A player can reset a lower level of knowledge in the Calpheon Library with the NPC Annolisa Rosie, who provides the service of Knowledge Management. This allows the player to try and get an S or A+ on key monsters a player regularly farms (Ogres, for example, which raises the chance an Ogre Ring will drop). It takes 10 energy to reset monster knowledge, and can only be once per day. The better the knowledge, the better chance of loot, higher damage output, and lower damage input. A player can also purchase pearl items (glasses and earring) to increase the chance of achieving an S or A+ rating on a monster.
Knowledge on enemies is key for getting better drops. Experienced players park an alt at the Knowledge Manager in Calpheon and at the end of each day of grinding go in and reset any farmed mobs that aren’t A, A+ or S in rank. This makes a huge difference in getting better treasure from mobs.
As mentioned, the density of monsters in this game is the best I’ve seen in any fantasy MMO; there are many places where the combat is nonstop and intense, making the fighting experience and required strategies to survive different depending on the class one is playing. While there are World Bosses, most players do not enjoy fighting them because they are so difficult and you’re essentially guaranteed to die at least once (especially if you’re a melee class). Those who do the most damage have the best chance or receiving drops, but many players complain the World Boss fights are boring and lack interesting mechanics even though they are the best way to get the most powerful base items in the game (e.g. Bheg’s Gloves). There are a total of eight wold bosses currently in the game: Hebetate Tree Spirit, Giath, Muskan, Bheg, Nouver, Red Nose, Kzarka, and Karanda. Because the 1% experience loss from death can be way too harsh for a character who is 58+ it is not uncommon for players to park alts (only level 50-52) at the boss spawn locations, so when a boss is “up” they can jump to another character and participate in the battle for the chance of getting a boss drop.
Unlike other MMOGs, BDO takes a very different approach to Items (namely character equipment). There aren’t thousands of items (weapons, armor, rings, etc.) for characters to pursue like other games; instead the game focuses on core gear sets that can be upgraded. For example, there are only 6 general tier 1 weapon types: Yuria, Kalis, Bares, Azwell, Krea and Rosar. Each weapon has a different “modifier” to it (Yuria, for example, does additional damage to humans). Tier 2 weapons are Liverto, and Tier 3 weapons are Kzarka. There are also upcoming Awakening weapons that are specific to each class (and can be obtained at level 56 through a quest). The base cost of weapons and armor is actually pretty affordable; but there’s a huge difference between a base item and a +15 (or TET IV) version. For example, a base Yuria Longbow is 16~21 AP (attack power). A +7 Yuria Longbow is 31~41. A +15 is 68~73. A Tri (III) Liverto Longbow is 106~110. Weapons and armor can be upgraded to +15 while jewelry can only be upgraded From PRI (I) to PEN (V). The order of upgrades are: (+1 to +15 for weapons and armor), PRI (I), DUO (II), TRI (III), TET (IV) and PEN (V). A PRI weapon is more powerful than a +15 version of the weapon (PRI is essentially +16 and DUO +17, etc). I’m not sure if anyone on the North American servers has created a PEN weapon as of yet.
This game is all about upgrading your gear, not replacing it. There are three methods of upgrading gear through the Black Spirit: Enhancement, Transfusion and Item Reform. Enhancement is the application of Black Stones to raise the level of your weapons, armor and accessories. Transfusion is used to socket (or remove) crystals from an item. Item Reform is used to upgrade an item (e.g. a Green or Blue Yuria Longbow to a Yellow Ultimate Yuria Longbow).
Let’s dig into the most complex and often confusing aspect of BDO item upgrading: Black Stones and Failstacks. When you use a Black Stone on a weapon, armor or accessory piece, it is either successful or fails. A failure on an accessory can destroy it, but a failure on a weapon or armor piece results in a loss of 5 max durability (unless it’s DUO or higher, in which case it can revert one level). When you fail you also receive 1 fail stack (you receive 2 when trying to PRI+). The more fail stacks you receive the better chance you have to being successful. Failstacks are character specific, so each character can have their own set of failstacks (which is important to know for high level upgrading). If you have +13 armor and want to get to +14, it’s probably a good idea to have around 20 fail stacks (for a much better chance at success). Higher level items (like TRI+) can easily involve 40 or more fail stacks. This means 10 failures will lower (for example) weapon durability to 50% and you must purchase more of the same item (e.g. Yuria Longbow) to rebuild the durability (10 per weapon). This gets rather costly. Add in rebuilding durability and Black Stones and it can easily cost $20M or more to get a chestpiece to +15. Once you try for PRI and higher, Concentrated Black Stones are required, which cost between $3M-$7M, so each failed attempt lowers durability and eats up to $7M. And if you have a DUO or higher weapon or armor piece, it can fail down one level (e.g. DUO to PRI). The chance of this happening can be somewhat protected by Cron Stones stones, but even with crons, there’s still a 30% chance of degradation or destruction (for accessories). The game also offers forced enchantment, which guarantees progress, but is very expensive and reduces an items durability to 0. Also, because Tier 2 and 3 items (and boss armor) are so rare and costly (as a base item) players need to use Ancient Relic Crystal Shards to recover max durability. Each shard sells on average for $750k a pop (and only provides 2 max durability per use). This translates to more than $14M just to recover the durability of Tier 2+ items. This is why TET (IV) items often sell for well over $400M. Ultimately, it takes time to get this system down, and RNG (random number generation) can make it either exhilarating or tedious beyond belief (some players have quit BDO over constant bad RNG luck). I have friends in the game who have gotten a TRI Liverto with just 25 failstacks while others are at 60+ failstacks and still have yet to reach TRI (and sometimes their DUO is downgraded to PRI!).
The Night Vendor can be a source of very rare and expensive items at a bargain deal, including some of the most sought after items in the game, including boss armor. They appear only at night and cost 50 energy to access. You can find their locations here.
Items are not bound to characters, which means you can trade and sell them at any time, but the market will take 35% of the sale value as a tax. This also means you can give weapon and armor sets to new/different characters, which is quite useful. So when you upgrade the weapons and armor on your main character (to Kzarka, boss armor, etc.) you can keep your previous +15/PRI/DUO items and save them for a new character. All equipment items have durability which requires repair on a regular basis. Another interesting note is there are no level restrictions to gear; so if you can afford it, you can put very powerful weapons and armor on your starting character. Here’s a great Guide to Upgrading Gear. There is also an excellent Failstack Optimizer tool for planning your failstack approach.
Weapons and Armor have Crystal Sockets which are used for augmenting gear. Crystals are found as drops, can be crafted, and can be purchased on the Marketplace. Augments include increased luck, damage reduction, increased attack speed, experience, casting speed, max hit points and more. Black Spirit Essence can be purchased from the Pearl store if you want to extract a crystal without losing it (useful for crystals that are worth $10M+). It’s important to note Crystals can break when you die, but only in PvE (not PvP). Here’s a great Crystal Sockets Guide.
Alchemy Stones are unique items that fall into three categories: Offense, Defense and Life. Depending on the stone, they are toggled on/off and “recycle” every 3 minutes on average, taking 1 durability per cycle. Most have 150 durability so they can be active for 7.5 hours before they need to be “refueled”. While they can be found on the marketplace, many players craft their own with the Alchemy skill. Depending on the level and the potential loss factor from leveling them up, the stones can be expensive to use, maintain and grow, so many players avoid using them; but some stones have dramatic positive impact on a character and are more than worth it, especially for end-game content. Here’s a great guide to Alchemy Stones.
Inventory is expanded by completing quests, through the pearl shop, and with the monthly subscription. Weight is a big factor in this game; even if you have the slots, carrying too much will cause your character to slow down (dramatically, if you go 120% or higher). This can be very, very problematic when a character’s weight reaches 101%+ and they’re in the middle of hostile territory. When this happens, most players end up destroying items to lighten the load so they can move unhindered. Learning to manage weight and inventory space when grinding is critical in this game.
BDO has numerous Outfits and Costumes available through the online cash store and marketplace. These purchases aren’t just cosmetic, they also add bonuses to your character; for example, a complete Outfit provides 10% bonus experience (the main reason players purchase them). There is also a Camouflage suit that prevents a character’s name from being seen so when they engage in PvP they can hide in the bushes and other players cannot see them, allowing for ambushes and anonymity. As mentioned above, a player can also purchase glasses and an earring that both increase the chance of gaining a higher level of knowledge for monsters (i.e. A or S). Players can also Dye their outfit/costume/armor/weapons as well as the equipment for their horse and wagon. There’s also a feature to combine dyes for custom colors. Any purchased outfit/costume is specific only to the character the item is purchased for (it is not shared).
Characters can also Rent items from NPCs. Most of these items are for new players without an established family economy, but some are quite fun (the flute, which allows one to play a piper for gathering critters) and useful (strongboxes, which allow the placement of a shared warehouse in a home, allowing for storage in node areas that generally don’t have storage).
Once a character is strong enough to “grind sausans” it saves a monumental amount of time to place a strongbox in a house located in Kusha, allowing for easy depositing of the trade-in silver received at the Sarma outpost. One can also purchase a Maid and place her in the same house, giving access to the marketplace without having to go to a major city.
The main Currency in BDO is silver. It has weight and is quite valuable because it is not easy to come by. Players can spend weeks and months saving for very expensive items to upgrade their AP or DP. As with most MMOGs, there are Merchants spread throughout the world that sell numerous items for silver. Learning how to manage the weight of silver (especially as it relates to item trade-ins that can provide large stacks of cash) can be difficult and frustrating for new players; but don’t worry, you’ll get it down. This is where the Storage NPC comes into play. There is one in every major city, and not only can the storage NPC hold your items and silver (an unlimited amount) it can also convert your silver to bars so you can personally transport your money from one location to another. For example, it’s impossible for a character to carry 100 million silver (it just weighs too much) so what you do is convert the 100 million to one of the 100M bars (which weighs like 5 units). You can then carry it from one city to another. It’s important to note that silver is not shared across cities; it’s based on its location, so you can have multiple repositories of cash and items that you need to manage and move from one location to another.
It’s also important to note players can pay for automated Transport to move goods from one city storage unit to another. The fee is nominal and the feature allows a player to easily move a large volume of valuable goods (say ores and timber) from a remote location to a major city where those goods can then be sold on the marketplace.
The Crafting system of BDO is quite extensive and complex. It has eight separate parts: Nodes, Fishing, Farming, Alchemy, Cooking, Processing, Housing (Craft House) and Gathering. Some crafting is available to the character (such as crafting potions through alchemy or cooking food) while other crafting (weapons, armor, etc) requires housing and workers (covered in detail below). Once housing and workers are secure, the player can create workshops including: Woodworking (Furniture, wooden weapons, tools), Blacksmithing (armor, weapons and tools), Jewel Crafting (accessories and weapon upgrades) and Trading (all other items used in trading). Note Gathering, Processing, Cooking and Alchemy level as you use them, so as you progress, you gain access to better worktables and recipes. Here’s a great Crafting Guide.
You can search for any NPC in the game and get a path to them by typing the name of the NPC at the bottom of the “Nearby NPC” Window!
Fishing is a big deal in BDO and has its own mini-game. There are numerous fishing poles that enhance what you’re able to catch, Great Blue Whale hunts, and even support for (and endorsement of) AFK fishing. Farming is another feature, allowing players to plant crops and maintain them. Groundwater, temperature and humidity are all factors when doing this (and can be reviewed on the world map). Processing is how you refine raw materials (e.g. convert iron ore to iron ingots). Alchemy supports the creation of potions, crystals, and alchemy stones. Cooking is used to create food and meals that can provide great buffs. Here’s a great Alchemy Guide.
Gathering in BDO is similar to other games. Characters can chop wood, collect resin & blood, harvest plants, meat and hide, collect water and mine. Gathering requires tools, and there are numerous tiers of resources a player can go after. All of these materials are used to do everything from buildings ships to cooking savory meals. There are numerous ways to enhance gathering quality and speed including costumes, gathering tools and guild buffs. Here’s a great Gathering Guide and Remixed’s Complete Gathering Guide.
The Marketplace in BDO is the center of trading for all players across the server cluster (Uno, for example, is the North American cluster). One thing that makes the marketplace in BDO unique is the price range for every item is controlled by Daum (the company that built the game), so players cannot corner or control the market – they must sell and purchase within a specific range. Players can set up notifications and even create pre-orders for items that are rare. There is also a feature in the game where a party leader can set loot dropped by monsters to automatically sell through the marketplace. This is excellent when grinding, and it shares the profits equally with all party members (even long after the party has disbanded). Loot from the “auto sell” feature can be found in the Special Deals section of the marketplace. The price for these items is lower than average and drops 3% every 10 minutes. Players can also view the marketplace from anywhere through the main menu. It’s important to note the Marketplace charges a 35% tax on each listing, so that’s how they keep the economy in check. The Value Pack lowers the sales tax amount by 30%, providing even more enticement for players to become “subscribers”. BDO also allows players to sell Pearl Shop items (things purchased with real money) in the marketplace as well – up to 5 a week. When a player receives notification an item they are looking for has been posted, it takes between 9-15 minutes (with an average of 11) for the item to “show” in the marketplace. So when your notification comes up, you have at least 9 minutes to get a character to the market in order to purchase the item. But that doesn’t guarantee you’ll get the item because others may be waiting for it, just like you, and it’s first come, first serve (or first click). The marketplace is shared by all servers in a cluster/region (North America, for example). If you are having trouble getting the item you want, here’s an excellent video showing how to “snipe” items.
Next we have the Pearl Shop. This is where the player can spend Loyalty Points (acquired by playing every day) and Pearls (which are purchased with real money). Within this shop players can purchase costumes for their character (which provide things like +10% experience, as covered above), attire for their mount, other visual augments, the “subscription” Value Pack (a monthly subscription) and numerous other useful items (such as the horse skill training item). There was a recent change to the game allowing Pearl Shop items to be sold on the marketplace, often refered as P2W (Pay to Win). This resulted in a huge debate where numerous players cried unfair and that people would be able to “buy” their way into the best gear in the game. At this point only 5 pearl shop items can be sold on the marketplace per week, and the most expensive items sell for a little under $20M (there is no tax on selling pearl shop items). These items cost roughly $30. This means a player would have to spend $150 a week to make roughly $100M silver. This is very, very expensive, and most players will not do this, but for those who do, it will still take them more than a month to save up for an item like a TRI Liverto weapon (which sells for more than $400M). This is hardly “pay to win” and for those who are very skilled at the game, a player can easily make $100M a week grinding — which also raises the character’s level, skills, etc. Of course these players can both grind and sell items, and over time it will add up, but it’s not so unfair as to destroy the balance of the game as the most powerful items are easily selling for well over $1B silver. Additionally, even if a player has hundreds of millions and wants to obtain a rare item (like Bheg’s Gloves) they must play the same first come first serve “marketplace luck” game that others do. So just having money doesn’t mean a player can easily obtain the item they want.
I highly recommend the 30-day value pack. It costs $15 (or ~$10M silver if one is on the marketplace) and provides 16 extra inventory and storage slots, +10% all experience, Distant node investment, +100LT max weight limit and 30% discount to the Marketplace sales tax. It’s worth every penny.
There is Player Trading, but it only allows trading of consumables (food, potions, etc.). Players cannot trade silver, weapons, armor, or Black Stones, etc. This means a player must put the effort into their family/characters and build their wealth up through playing the game, which is a good thing.
There are a number of Pets available in the game. Besides being cute and following you around, they are for picking up loot and providing bonuses (some of which are very valuable). Picking up loot may not sound like a big deal, but when you are farming and there’s 20 glowing lootable bodies around you, having your pets out makes a big difference. Dogs, Cats, Birds and Foxes are just some of the pets you can own, and they are purchasable through both the Pearl Shop and Marketplace. You can also breed pets. By default, pets are Tier 1 and can get to level 10. In order to breed pets, they need to be the same breed; but you can breed a tier 1 and tier 3 pet in an attempt to get a tier 4 (the highest). A level 1 tier 1 pet loots every 12 seconds. A level 10 tier 1 pet loots every 4 seconds. A level 10 tier 3 pet loots every 2 seconds. You can have a total of 4 pets out at a time. Pets require feed to keep them active and Pets can never die. Pets are available to all characters within your family, so they only need to be purchased once, which is why investing in them is a very good idea, especially when you breed them and get valuable bonuses (such as extra gathering or training experience).
Nodes are a key part of BDO as they serve as the networked foundation for workers and receiving item drop benefits for specific regions. There are two types of nodes: Adventure Nodes and Production Nodes. A player can invest in a node by spending contribution points (which are acquired through completing quests) and create a connected network of nodes by strategically planning the connection layout. Individual characters can then invest energy into an adventure node to improve the drop rates of items from monsters. Unfortunately at this time, investing energy into a production node currently has no impact on the productivity of that node, but rumor has it they will be adding this in the future. A production node (such as Wheat) can only be secured after the connecting adventure node has been secure. Once a production node has been secure, a worker (defined below) can be assigned. Guilds can also engage in Node Wars for control over the taxation of a node, which can make a guild millions of silver per day. Each node can be contested once per week during a certain time (I will cover node wars in detail below). Here’s a great Nodes Guide.
Housing is an important feature of BDO since it allows players to hire workers, store items, decorate, and automate the crafting of items. The types of houses are: General Housing (for workers – beds), Horse Ranch (allows for more than 3 horses to be registered at a stable), Warehouse (adds more storage space in a city warehouse), Refinery (used to create black stone power and black stones), Workshop (to build items such as weapons, armor, wagon parts, etc), and Processing (for processing ore, lumber, etc). Depending on the house, the level of your house type can be upgraded (e.g. Lodging from 1 to 2 allows for an extra worker). Much like nodes, additional houses are made available by networking them together, so a player must invest in housing and “expand the tree” to gain access to more prestigious versions of homes in a network (and thus gaining access to houses that may have unique or rare usage types such as a ship part workshop). Players can also engage in Cooking and Alchemy in their house, but this requires the placement of specific tools/workbenches. Players can also decorate their home with a wide variety of furniture and collectibles and even open their home for visitation by others. Here’s a great Housing Guide.
Understanding the transportation requirements for money is very important in BDO. Because silver has weight, a player must be strategic as to where they park their horse, taking into account where the closest exchange is, and how to get money from a farming spot to their hub. At first this may seem cumbersome, but this aspect of the game makes the world feel more realistic, immersive and alive.
Workers are a great feature in BDO, allowing the player to assign tasks for NPCs to execute regardless of whether the player is online or not. Workers come in 5 tiers: grey, green, blue, yellow and orange. Each worker has a core set of stats: work speed, action strength, luck, and movement speed. Before you can hire workers, you must have enough beds for them to sleep in (lodging houses). When you are ready, you will visit a city’s Work Commissioner and hire them there. Once hired, you can assign a worker to connected and invested nodes (such as iron ore, wheat, etc). Workers must be fed in order to recover their stamina; Beer is the most commonly consumed food. After awhile, a player can upgrade their worker to a higher tier through the promotion option. Only one worker can go through promotion at a time. Here’s a great Workers Guide and a video showing the top 10 worker nodes in the game.
There is no instant transportation in BDO. Travel is conducted either via running or Mounts. The most common mount is a Horse. They come in multiple tiers (1-8), can level up (max 30), and can learn very useful skills for speed and combat. Players can also tame and breed horses to create higher tier mounts (note the number of deaths on a horse impacts breeding). Horses can be acquired through the horse market (which is attached to the stable, not the main market) or through taming wild horses (which go up to tier 3). Characters can also equip gear on their horses (similar to character equipment, such as Stirrups +15 for better movement speed), enhance the look of their mount with flare, and also store items on them in case a player’s inventory gets too full (unfortunately they cannot hold silver). Horses have stamina which can be recovered through feeding them or at a stable. BDO also features mounted combat, and your horse can be killed (but easily recovered at the nearest stable, for a price). There are also Camels (for the desert) and War Elephants (available through guilds, but very costly and rare). For those who are interested, here’s a good Horse Taming & Breeding Guide. It’s also very important to mention Horse Skill Training. There is a lot to this; you can have a high tier fast mount, but you must train specific skills, like Sprint and Drift. This is another very cool layer of depth to the game, allowing the player to not only level their mount, but also refine their mount’s skills. A horse can have a total of 16 skills. Be careful where you leave your horse in a combat area; monsters (and players) can attack and kill it! You can also give friends a ride on your mount with the right skill. Horses with the right combination of skills (and a high tier) can sell for $20M or more.
Next we have Trade Wagons. They are used to transport and carry goods from one location to another (supporting a trading lifestyle for players who like that sort of thing). Wagons are also used by farmers and grinders to haul items for turn-in. Both mounts and wagons can be augmented with enhancements to increase speed, carry weight, etc. Note when you’re transporting goods with your wagon, you can be jumped by bandits (shown on the world map as the little red hooded icon). Here’s a great Trading Guide.
And finally we have Ships, the basis of deep-sea fishing and inner-island transportation. Players can build ships, upgrade them, and use them to not only explore and fish, but also participate in whale hunting events (basically sea boss spawns). Ship Combat is also coming in a future patch! Trade Wagons and Ships both have durability, but unlike the stamina of a horse, wagons and ships cannot have their durability regenerated; so you won’t have your favorite trade wagon or ship forever – sooner or later it’ll degrade to the point of needing to buy/build a new one. Here is an excellent Ships Guide.
In-game Mail is different from other MMOGs because players cannot send mail to other players (chat through the friends interface is used instead). In BDO, Mail is used solely for receiving content/communications, including notifications of sold Marketplace items, purchased Pre-orders (which are attached), communications from support, and the shared silver profits from group-based farming.
Characters are not server-specific; only region specific. This means a player can switch between servers anytime (with a 15 minute cool-down after the last switch). This is very useful if you find other characters are in your favorite farming spot or if you want to avoid PvPers. You can bring up the server selection dialogue by clicking on your current server above the minimap.
The Game Map of BDO is unique compared to other fantasy MMOGs and a key part of reviewing the characters location, destination, controlling interests in nodes, reviewing weather and other factors. This interface also allows the player to feed their workers, assign contribution points, invest energy and track transported items.
The two most important Stats in the game are: AP (Attack Power) and DP (Defense Power). We also have a class-specific “resources” such as WP/MP (for executing actions and casting spells). Secondary key stats are Attack Speed, Casting Speed, Movement Speed, Critical hit Rate, and Resistances (Stun/Stiffness/Freeze, Knockdown/Bound, Grapple, and Knockback/Floating). There is also luck, but nobody quite knows what it impacts (drop rates, monster identification, enchantment, etc.). I like how the BDO team has simplified the values of the game; gone are the numbers in thousands and hundreds of thousands (or higher) for key stats; BDO keeps it simple. But make no mistake, there’s a huge difference between 50 AP and 150 AP. Unfortunately there are also hidden critically important stats, like accuracy (which impacts your chance to hit and the damage done). I believe the developers intentionally hid such information so players couldn’t strive to achieve known documented values. There are also items in the game (such as Bheg’s Gloves) that provide stats (like accuracy) but they don’t say how much. All players know is they “make a huge difference”. As with traditional MMOGs, BDO has numerous Buffs through food, potions, awakening skills, guild skills, pearl shop items, GM scrolls, and more.
The game also features Parkour climbing and jumping, which means a character can scale walls and jump up and grab ledges. This allows players to engage in exploration not available in other traditional MMOGs. Swimming is part of the game as well, but most characters will never swim anywhere except across the occasional stream, or to get out of the harbor bay when they miss the jump to get on a boat.
There is no Level cap in BDO. Getting to 50 is pretty easy, but once you hit 56 things really start to slow down. I don’t know if there is anyone above level 60 on the North American servers yet, but rumor has it there are 65’s on the Korean server. While there is powerleveling in BDO, there’s a big penalty for mobs that are purple to the lowest level player. So if you want to be powerleveled or have somebody powerlevel you, stick to red mobs (for the lowest level players). But the reality is because there are no gear restrictions, it’s better to just get expensive gear on a new character and have them blow through the content; they will also receive more skill points. There are three types of experience a character can obtain: Combat, Skill and Life. Combat goes towards your character level, Skill experience goes towards your combat skill points, and Life experience goes towards tradeskills (gathering, etc.). For those who are interested, here’s a great 1-60 Leveling Guide.
One of the most useful features of the game is the NPC locator. Located just to the upper left of the mini-map, the player can find the closest NPC of any kind and receive not only a marker on their map, but an in-game trail to follow.
BDO hides the damage types within the game. While Fire, Cold, Electrical, Poison and other damage types appear to exist, it’s not known what resistances and impact they have. We do know there are stuns/knockdowns, grapples and knockback (shown under resistance) a player can gain resistance to, but that’s about it. It is interesting to note that BDO doesn’t really have a DOT (Damage Over Time) class. While some classes can cause bleeding and other “tick-based” DOTs, there is no play style that is designed to kill mobs solely with DOTs. Perhaps we’ll see this in the future; such a class would be very cool!
Regeneration is critical in BDO and executed mainly through potions, which are a requirement at higher levels and during PvP. Potions can be purchased from vendors, crafted, or acquired through the marketplace. There are weapon crystals to leech health, and some classes have health-leeching attacks (through awakened skills) while other classes have a high level of regeneration or the ability to siphon (such as the Wizard/Witch).
Every NPC in the game has something called Amity, a measure of how much they like you. A character can gain amity by engaging in the Amity mini-game. Increasing Amity with an NPC can unlock new quests and provide access to new items (for purchase). The mini-game is fairly straightforward, but most players ignore it as the system doesn’t really provide anything grandiose based on the effort put into it. I honestly don’t know any players that really play the Amity game; they would rather fight, craft, fish, PvP or explore. But for those who are interested, here’s a guide to the Amity System.
I stated this before, but I’ll do it again because so many players are not accustomed to this: there is no instant Travel in BDO. Players must run or ride a mount everywhere they go. The only exception is the guild rally feature. However one nice feature of the game is the auto-run feature which can be enabled either on foot or on a mount. This allows the player to click anywhere in the game world, press T and their character will automatically run to that location, which often gives time to go AFK for a bit.
Death is a part of the game and can be the result of PvE, PvP or environment (falling, etc.). When you die in PvE (are killed by monsters) there’s a chance crystals in your equipment will be destroyed. Additionally, a player will lose 1% of their experience if they die to a monster (including world bosses). While this isn’t much prior to 55, once a player reaches 56 and beyond, 1% of experience can amount to hours (or later on, days) of gameplay. Plus, end-game players can have very, very expensive crystals in their items (some worth well over $10M). It’s not fun when those break.
The Combat in BDO is the best I’ve seen in a fantasy MMOG. It’s fluid, fun, and doesn’t use the old school previous generation “tabbed target” system; instead, it’s directional and interactive. Players must be very strategic in the way they fight, not just with PvE but in PvP as well. Knockdowns, knock-backs, stuns, and rear-attacks play a critical role in maximizing damage, and battle can quickly become overwhelming as the player is swarmed by wave after wave of enemy creatures (which is usually fun!). The execution of skills is done through keyboard and mouse combinations and can get quite complex; so it’s very important players learn to combo their keystrokes. The good news is the game provides a very good tutorial for each skill, instructing the player on how to use it. The game also has something called Black Spirit Rage. This is a bar that fills to 100% as you kill creatures; the character can execute the rage (thus doing more damage) by using one of many skills that release the energy. Different classes have different rage consuming skills (and you can tell which skills consume rage because the description will say so). Characters can also transfer their fury to another party member, allowing for some very interesting strategic actions during PvP. One aesthetic note: I love the blood splats in the grass and against the rocks! When things get tough the player can enact the “V” escape strategy which turns them into a glowing orb that can quickly run away; this can be useful in both PvE and PvP when your enemy is far more powerful than you are. But be warned, some classes are so fast in PvP they can keep up with and catch you even after your escape completes. Characters can aggro a total of 8 monsters at a time, which means even if the character runs into a group of 30 only 8 will go after them at once (and they can only damage 8 at once). This can be doubled to 16 for Tamers and their pet, or a character on a horse.
Mounted Combat is a big part of BDO and opens up a whole new style of gameplay. This is another reason high tier horses, horse skills and training those skills is critical. All players can engage in combat from their mount, but executing skills from a mount often utilizes a different set of keystrokes; this requires the players to learn a different pattern of skill execution and combination.
There are a number of Rewards available within the game. Many are variable depending on what you’re doing: fighting, fishing, trading, crafting, or playing the Marketplace. Luck, Knowledge and Node Level all increase the percentage and quality of item drops. There are rare drop items such as a Golden Dagger (which can drop anywhere) and is worth $5M silver. The game also has attendance rewards (which can be quite lucrative and provide excellent valuable items for crafting) and unique events that provide additional drops. One very nice thing about the game is the player can almost always find useful and valuable items, even with new characters. Ultimately, the game rewards you for just playing, which is a very good thing.
Due to the unique nature of the game, the Learning Curve for BDO is fairly steep. The game has so many mechanics beyond a normal MMOG that it takes time for new players to understand how everything works, namely weight management, contribution & energy, nodes, monster knowledge and item crafting/enhancement. Here’s a great video outlining the Top 10 Things New Players Need to Know.
Progression is excellent at the beginning and it’s very easy to get to level 50 even with a new character using basic gear, but once a character hits level 50, things really start to slow down, and once a character hits 56, progress comes to a crawl. Once a player hits 58+, the 1% experience loss from a PvE death can cost hours of gameplay. This is why many players are cautious and create alts to fight world bosses (which can one shot most characters). But the good news is well-geared level 58+ characters can easily make $5-$10M silver an hour (or more) depending on the mobs they’re grinding.
There really is no End Game for BDO; instead there’s unlimited progression. Players can always grind levels, get better gear, participate in guild events (including PvE missions), raise gathering & crafting, build the node/trade network, gain family energy/contribution points, fish, breed horses, and PvP (node wars, guild wars, etc.). It’s also important to mention exploration; the world is huge and players are always discovering new monsters, quests and unique areas. This brings us to great Replayability. Because of the variation in classes, a player always has something different to do or try. Need a break from your Level 58 Berserker? Level up that Sorceress! Tried of grinding? Start gathering! Want to see something new? Wander the desert! Just make sure you don’t freeze or die of heat stroke. But make no mistake; this game is really all about grinding to make money and level up. But the grinding is usually fun. That’s what counts.
Turn-in items are a critically important part of the game and key to making good money. For example, you may find mobs drop an item that allows you to turn 100 in for 100,000 silver. You can right-click on these items in your inventory to find out where the turn-in NPC is. Many players farm areas specifically to find and turn-in such items for quick silver turnaround; but keep in mind it all has weight so a character needs to head back to town when they’ve gotten enough silver to reach near 100% weight.
PvP is a part of the BDO end-game. First, we have the open-world Karma system. This allows any level 45+ character to “turn on PvP” and attack/kill any other level 45+ player for any reason (except in safe zones such as cities) – but the aggressor will take a Karma hit. A player loses 60,000 karma for killing another player who does not have their PvP flag on, and another 20,000 for killing that player’s mount. Max Karma is 300,000, so a player could technically kill 5 players (or the same player 4 times) without going in the negative. If Karma drops below 0, that player is blacklisted and cannot enter towns without being killed. A player with negative Karma can regain it by grinding mobs. Players with negative Karma take an extra experience hit when killed and have a higher chance of losing crystals. Karma also impacts the success of enchanting (even if it’s above 0), so when enchanting it’s always good to have max Karma. A player who is PK’d will not lose any experience or crystals. Bounties and jail are coming in future patches, so if you keep getting PK’d by that “bad person” you will be able to put a bounty on their head and other players will hunt them down and kill them. It’s also important to note if a player kills a mount, wagon or ship with trade items, they can loot those items; so some “bandit” players will hide in the bushes with a camouflage costume, wait for people to park and run off to farm, and then kill their mount/wagon/ship and steal any trade items they can find. This is why it’s very important to “check your ship in” when you go somewhere, like Pirates. One advantage to negative karma is if you die while negative your items have a chance of losing a level. As such, many players use this system to lower (for example) a +15 item to +14 to help build failstacks. So they intentionally go negative (by killing others players or mounts) and then equip only those items and run into a bunch of monsters/players and die. The advantage to this is it allows additional fail stack chances (again) for 14-15. PvP is really unavoidable in BDO, but it’s not so invasive it completely destroys the fun factor of the game. For those who wish to focus solely on PvE, you can simply switch servers, run with groups, or gear your character to escape when somebody begins to harass you.
The Red Battleground is an “instant team PvP” system that is accessed through the main menu. Players are awarded red seals for participating and winning, and red seals are used to obtain Red Essence, which is used to create awakened socket crystals. There is also a daily quest players can complete which awards energy and seals. The Red Battlefield is a fun way to learn PvP with a team.
Next we have Guild Wars. Two guilds can voluntarily enter into war without a cost, or one guild can declare war against another by paying a fee during the war period. When war is declared, it’s open season on members of the involved guilds. But fear not weaker guild members; when a guild goes to war it can choose the participants, thus protecting the “weak members” from strong members of the opposing guild. This is a nice feature that ensures newer and weaker characters aren’t automatically targeted by other much stronger enemies. There is no benefit to guild wars other than the fun factor unless both guilds enter a final war; if the two guilds enter a final war, the loser of the final war must pay all the war costs of the winner.
Node Wars are when guilds battle for tax control of a region. Nodes come in 4 tiers with 1 being the lowest/easiest and 4 being cities. When guilds register for a node war (once a week), they must build a fortress and can also build defenses such as flame towers, etc. Node wars can be extremely profitable for guilds. They last 3 hours, and if there no clear victor, the node will have no owner. A guild must complete their fort 1 hour before the war starts or the guild cannot compete, and if this happens when the other guild has completed their fort, the node is automatically given to the “winning” guild. When a server enters node war mode, all monsters disappear; so if you log into a world and are wondering where all of the monsters are, the server is probably in node war mode and you can just switch to another server. Guild wars are a huge deal as success means a tax rate on a node and can amount to tens of millions into the guild repository on a daily basis! Siege Wars are the most difficult in the game and are for control of cities, which are the tier 4 nodes. They pay the highest amount (sometimes hundreds of millions) and are contested by the most powerful guilds in the game. Here’s a great video covering Node Wars.
There are also Arenas located outside of most major cities where players can voluntarily practice PvP combat.
Community & Support
BDO features Announcements of player accomplishments (or failures), such as successfully creating a TRI weapon or making level 19. These constant messages bring the world to life and share just enough about interesting events to keep players up to speed as to what others are doing. It’s also very cool to see a player get that TET Kzarka Longbow, providing incentive for others to try and achieve the same thing! But for those who don’t want to see them, Announcements can be turned on or off in the game settings.
Groups are fairly traditional compared to other MMOGs except for one very cool feature; the ability to set item drops to auto-sell on the Marketplace. This allows a group to “grind” high level targets with good drops and have those items automatically post and sell on the Marketplace, which results in page after page of money. Players can make millions of silver with this method. The game is also set to auto-accept group requests if somebody sends an invite; this can be turned on or off in the game settings.
While the game has Clans, nobody uses them; everyone goes straight into a Guild. The guild system of BDO is a key part of the game, robust and well designed. Members are recruited with a contract, allowing the guild to pay each of its members. Guilds can obtain Guild Skills which are passive and shared among all members; this can enhance AP, DP, crafting, fishing, and other in-game systems. Guilds can also produce items and purchase things like War Elephants for combat. When a guild takes control of a node and makes money, the guild has the option of paying out “incentive” to its members, supporting the acquisition of better gear. It’s also very cool to see your guild banner flying throughout a major city!
BDO has hands down the worst Friends list I’ve ever seen in a game. It’s so bad, it’s only worth mentioning as a terrible thing. The confusing part is the rest of the game is so stellar, I don’t know why they are unable to create a usable friends list. It makes absolutely no sense… But there is a 1:1 chat feature with friends embedded with this system that allows you send messages (and communicate) directly with another person on your friends list outside of whispering.
Pets really are a must-have for the game; as you progress, you’ll begin to kill so many targets that it takes up way too much time collecting your loot. You can acquire them either through the Pearl Shop or the Marketplace and up to 4 can be active at once.
In-game Support is found in the Mail interface, but this kicks off your browser and doesn’t operate as an in-game support system. Typical response time is a few days, so don’t be in a hurry.
Rankings are server specific and keep track of the players and their progress in Gathering, Fishing, Hunting, Cook, Alchemy, Processing, Training, Trade, Farming, Wealth, Growth, and the Red Battlefield. When a player achieves a rank high enough for the top 3 positions, they gain a visible icon next to their name, signifying their status. If you want to see the highest level players on a server, look at the Growth selection under rankings.
There are 7 in-game chat channels: Roleplay, Localwar, Server, Guild, Whisper, Channel, General. Each channel is specific to the server you are on except for Guild and Whisper. Most of the chat takes places in Channel, and it’s a mix of quality; there’s plenty of loudmouthed people yelling swear words, but there’s also many players who have interesting discussions or answer questions that new players may have. There is also a 1:1 chat window available for those on your friends list. This feature is rarely used as most people just whisper each other. The player can also configure different chat tabs (similar to other MMOGs) to control the messages that scroll by.
The Population of the game is excellent and the world is alive with grinders, farmers, traders, questers, gatherers, fishers, and occasional player bandits. There’s no question the game is growing as the cities are packed with more characters now than they were a month or two ago.
The Forums are active, have detailed profiles and a very nice interface. The quality of the community varies. Like many other MMOGs there is a mix of toxic players and positive/helpful players, however I find the end-game PvP aspect of BDO brings out more aggressive and toxic players than other non-PvP focused MMOGs.
Gold spam is very rare since the game doesn’t allow for trading between players. The only messages that get posted are those offering “leveling” services.
BDO has the best Graphics of any fantasy-based MMOG currently on the market. With a high-end video card, the game is stellar. For those of you who are new to BDO, here’s a great video showing the beauty of the game. There are issues with particles slowing the rendering speed down when the 3rd person camera gets at a very close range/angle (usually when up against a wall) or when the player goes to a boss fight and there are tons of people around. But the graphics engine is top notch and there are numerous settings one can select to optimize the speed and quality based on what video card a player is running.
The Sound FX are excellent, ranging from the passive sounds of wildlife and weather to subtle notification FX of item finds. One thing I really like is shooting armored monsters and hearing the individual “clinks” of your projectiles hitting the armor. It’s impressive. The music is passive and defining given the events and environment, but it’s not anything that’s overly memorable, just supportive.
The Connectivity of the game is very good. I live in Reno, Nevada and the servers are located in San Jose, so they’re relatively close to where I am. I haven’t really had any type of lag, latency or connectivity issues, however, I’ve heard of many players complaining about latency, lag, and disconnections, but most of them are on the east coast, so I believe it’s more of a routing problem going from east to west than server or hosting issues associated with the game.
The Interface is very well designed and can be easily customized. There’s also an option to turn on keyboard and mouse representation, which allows streamers and those creating tutorials on how to play classes and execute skills to easily show what keyboard/mouse combinations they are using. It’s also important to keep an eye on the minimap to track potentially hostile incoming characters and monsters. The minimap is also used to locate elite monsters, which will “ping” nicely when you get close enough (which is important for grinders who are looking to farm elites for their drops).
The Tutorial is quite good, walking the player through the basics of the game and introducing them to the complex skill execution system (tied to mouse and keystroke combinations). But not even the tutorial can make the nodes/failstack/trading/upgrading system easily understood; those things take time, and the tutorial just lays the foundation for learning more complex game systems.
There is no additional Security beyond user account and password at this time (i.e. authenticators). Since the game doesn’t allow trading, I don’t see a need for it.
I really haven’t noticed any major Bugs in BDO, which is impressive given the scope of the game. The only issues I’ve had are some display problems with chat text (which are quickly corrected by switching tabs), a few minor latency hits (that only last a second or two) and getting stuck in the world (which can be fixed with either executing the escape option from the main menu, or sometimes switching servers). While it’s not a bug, there are problems with auto-pathing, and especially the ocean-based auto-pathing (to the point it’s just embarrassing). I’ve had the game crash only once, and that’s when I was switching to a character that was camped at Kzarka.
BDO is a next-generation fantasy MMOG that offers an immersive experience for all types of players. Old-school MMOGs just can’t compete with everything this game has to offer, including the regular expansions of content. The lack of a level cap and constant progression keeps the end-game open to nonstop play for anyone who find the class they truly love. While there are some hiccups regarding the Korean to English translations, the random nature of upgrading gear can be frustrating (and costly), and the open-world PvP can be either awesome or annoying, the overall experience is top notch. If you’ve read this far but haven’t played BDO, get it. You won’t be disappointed. I also highly recommend buying the $15 value pack (essentially the one-month subscription). It’s worth every penny, especially for new players who want to try the game out. Many things are planned for the future of BDO including ship to ship combat, adjusted and expanded Valencia content, an updated PvP/Bandit/Bounty system, and Awakening Weapons for each class. Now is a great time to dive into this excellent game!