Russian Closed Beta Report - Does GameNet Deliver?
The 28th of May marked the beginning of the first phase of closed beta-testing for the Russian version of Black Desert. MMORPG.com had the opportunity to participate in the CBT along with the other testers.
GameNet, the publisher of Black Desert in Russia, has promised fans that its version of the game will be different from Korea’s and will be adjusted to suit the desires and interests of the Russian community.
Some of the promised changes to game balance and mechanics include:
Longer time required to level characters
PvP available starting at level 20
Death in PvP involving penalties, such as losing experience.
The CBT had limited the level cap to 30 and allowed players to choose from 4 different classes - Warrior, Barbarian, Sorceress or Ranger. Upon choosing character slot and class, players were presented with Black Desert’s remarkable character creator.
The character creator opens room for imagination and lends the tools to make that imagination take form. Along with standard functions like choosing hairstyle and color (split into 3 categories: roots, length, ends) and make-up, Black Desert also gives a wide choice of sliders and toggles to make the face and body of a character unique and fitting one’s vision.
One of the things I noticed in the many screenshots other testers have posted is the amount of characters who were given mismatched eyes and unusual irises by their owners. A pretty neat touch if you ask me.
First Moments in the Game
My journey into the world of the Russian version Black Desert began rather ingloriously - the future great Sorceress crawling out of the mud no less. Just as I thought it couldn’t get worse than that, a bulb of black energy with two red glowing eyes and annoyingly cute voice started ushering me to speak with villagers. After that I was instructed to attempt to destroy a local scarecrow in an amazing show of Sorceress’ abilities and then to kill some bugs. Well, all heroes have to start somewhere, right? Why shouldn’t it be bugs, really?
However, it didn’t get much better than that. Bugs were followed by ferrets. Ferrets were succeeded by foxes. After foxes the bloodthirsty spirit ordered me around to kill wolves and after wolves we switched to imps and then more imps, only the metal ones on the other side of the hill, together with their towers and totems.
After that came the time to leave the first city, forever linked in my mind with the initial confusion and utter demolition of local fauna for no apparent reason than “I want you to”.
But it gets better, right?
Well, not quite. In a nutshell, through the whole part of the game I experienced, quests could have been split into four groups:
a) Speak with an NPC;
b) Gain knowledge about a monster (through killing a dozen of monsters of the same kind);
c) Kill certain amount of monsters (doesn’t require getting knowledge about them, though, it usually happens anyway during the process of mass slaughter);
d) Open a location.
There seemed to be very few unique quests that significantly differed from this scheme.
Longer Character Leveling
One of the changes the Russian publisher promised to bring to the game is to lower the rate of gaining experience in order to make the game more hardcore, and it is obvious why: Black Desert has a breathtakingly beautiful, vast open world which deserves players wandering around marveling at its sights. Russian players requested this slowdown as they felt that the speed of leveling in the Korean version takes players to the soft level cap too quickly. In this, GameNet seems to have delivered on the promise.
But it’s impossible to please all and quite a lot of people think that GameNet may have overdone it a little.
The amount of experience a character is receiving from killing the mosters and completing the quests has been reduced, that’s true. However, the levels of quests and, thus, monsters have not.
Along with many other players, I was assigned to 26th-28th level quests while being barely above 20 myself. Upon trying to complete the quests, I found that my character kept missing her opponents, while they sadly did not. This forces players to return to previous locations to grind out monsters for leveling, and by doing so, they get in the way of others who are still questing there.
On a brighter note, Black Desert is a very diversified game, and it allows players to receive experience through gathering resources, crafting, trade transportations etc. Every player can pick something they like though this has its own minus in the CBT as well. Namely, players do not receive Skill Points while getting experience via those means.
The changes to the rates have also affected the gain of said Skill Points, which is not bound to the level-ups, and drops from the monsters, and while a big chunk of community feels the changes to the experience are justified, absolute majority thinks the changes to the gain of SP need to be re-done. As it is, you have all the chances to get a level or a couple before you get a skill point which seems unacceptable in a game such as Black Desert.
PvP at 20
Another thing that where the Russian version differs from the Korean is the fact that PvP becomes available with level 20. It looks great on paper: Why not let people spill their first blood early and get a taste of what the PvP system has to offer?
The realities, however…
My own first experience with PvP came at level 22 when I was attacked by a warrior.
“Oh no, you don’t!” I thought and retaliated in kind.
The next five minutes were accompanied with enthusiastic mashing of buttons, though neither of us moved below half of our health. Inexplicably, healing potions have only 4 seconds cooldown and neither of us dealt all that much damage anyway. The battle would have only ended when one have ran out of potions. Neither the warrior nor I decided to wait for it and admitted in chat that we were sick of fighting 15 minutes after our initial clash. We went into different directions, irritably counting how many potions were burned for this “brief” encounter and how much time and currency it would take to refill the lost potion supply.
For sure this is not what publishers had in mind when they promised PvP at level 20. The experience was frustrating enough without the possible high-level gank which would lead to losing experience and/or encrusted gems and returning to the grind of “tougher” mobs, speaking of which…
The promise of “hardcore” had me fully expecting my character to get wrecked upon pulling the very first group of mobs… Alright, maybe not the bugs, but for sure wolves or imps. Hardcore, I thought, would have me actively seeking a party to make the questing easier and faster. I was also careful to pull mobs one by one or just a couple at time, using everything I can to my advantage and being ready to bolt if they dragged in unexpected company.
However, as I progressed through the game, pulling 5-6 mobs at time easily and never dropping below half health thanks to that nearly endless supply of potions mentioned earlier, I started to wonder what “hardcore” meant. Apparently, I determined, it was adding more health to the monsters and lowering the loot drop rates, while leaving their attack the same, which in the end just meant longer grind.
But if experience gains were slow and awkward, combat was something utterly different.I absolutely love the battle system in Black Desert. It is a pleasure to unite lightning-fast normal attacks into breathtaking combos and all that in a wild dance of offense and defense. However, with the long - thanks to increased health of mobs - and repetitive - thanks to lower rates - grind, it got quite boring at about level 18. I found myself using the normal system of combo-evade-combo, without really paying attention anymore.
Long =/= Hard
The CBT is barely over, but the battles already start to take place on the forums of GameNet and Black Desert. There are people pouring out their frustration over the low drop and experience rates; players who’d enjoy lowering them even more; and those who like it the way it is. The first group so far has been most noticeable and vocal.
The now finished CBT for sure has shown us something interesting to ponder, but still, where shall it take the game? Hopefully we’ll see in the next phase of the Russian CBT or in the OBT when the time comes.
How do you feel about the changes GameNet has added to the game? Do you think it will affect the American/EU version when the game is published in these regions? Let us know what you think in comments below.
(Author’s Note: Please keep in mind that these impressions are from the first round of closed beta testing and that this is only a first phase. Things will doubtless change from the current version to the release version.)