Friday, December 25, 2015

Black Desert Online (PC) Beta Preview

I was recently supplied a code for the closed beta test of Black Desert Online.  It only ran for a week, but I got in a little time to play at, and after seeing the character creator, so did my wife.

Before I get into the creator, though, I would like to say the game looks really nice.  My machine is likely ancient by now (purchased 7 months ago), but the game ran smooth on the medium settings.  Setting it on high had a noticeable dip in the frame rate.  Either way, the character models looked really good, as did the environments.  The opening cinematic was a little choppy though.

The character creator was really, really good.  It had far more details than I would have thought.  Granted, there weren't a lot of costume options, likely because your character shows what they have equipped, but there are several selections to show you what some of their armor sets look like.  You first set a family name, that all characters on your account will share, but later name each individual.  You can set their astrological sign, which seems only good for RP purposes right now, and even see what they look like in different lighting conditions.

Many body parts are editable with sliders to the three axes (depth, length and width) to give some good freedom.  It reminds me a lot of the systems found in the WWE games for creating a wrestler.  Each hairstyle also has many points that you can click and drag around to give personal touches to it.  That was pretty impressive.

There were several character types/classes to choose from, but they seem locked into predefined genders.  There might be some reason for this, but it's not what I would prefer.  Either way, I spied at least 2-3 that I would like to try out, and so did my wife.  I first went with a sorceress, who, according to the description, has some strong ranged and melee attacks.  Sounds fun.

I don't play many games on the PC, but I have played my fair share of MMOs, so I have a decent point of reference for using the keyboard and mouse.  In Black Desert Online, it just felt...awkward.  Aiming with the mouse worked fine, and your two primary attacks were on the two mouse buttons.  So far, ok.  Moving was with the WASD keys.  A and D would strafe, but turn you if you were moving.  That may be a newer thing, but I prefer to have strafe and turn to be different buttons.  Nearby keys, like F, were other attacks that you could learn.  You could use the number keys above to do the hotbar attacks, like many other MMOs, but that also felt weird, simply because the combat was so action-oriented.  Using the keyboard, you just needed  a lot of different buttons, and no configuration seemed to fit me.

However, you can use a controller!  I was happy to see that, since there are just some things a controller does better.  And once I got used to the controls, I felt it did work better overall.  There are a lot of shortcut functions plastered on it, and remembering them all can be a chore.  The game does try to remind you of the buttons, but most times it reminds you in the default keyboard layout, which doesn't really help when you are using a controller.  There were a variety of combat moves, so keeping them all straight wasn't easy.

The environments looked nice, but there was a bit too much scenery for me, to the point where it interfered in combat.  Enemy types blended in to each other, and it felt liked I rushed through the first several missions on my way to level 9.  This of course may well be because it's the beta, but I just kinda went to the marker, killed stuff, and moved on.  Nothing really stuck with me afterwards.

The beta for Black Desert Online was kind of fun.  The combat was nice and action-oriented, and using a controller felt good.  There were a lot of commands to remember, which was a tripping point for me.  The UI was busy and needed a lot of tweaking before I got to something I liked.  Most of my small issues could easily be cleaned up by the next closed beta.  I'm looking forward to see any improvements they've made in the future.

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