Black Desert Online is really an oasis, a refreshing panacea for a genre that’s increasingly conservative and mostly free-to-play. It’s still very much an MMORPG, certainly, and one complete with the pretty fantasy lands and tonnes of grinding that you’d expect from a Korean MMO. Underneath that, however, is a slew of complex, interlocking systems that breath new life into often overlooked aspects like trade and conversation.
The game’s unconventional approach means that there’s a lot to learn, even for seasoned MMO adventurers, and the necessary information needed to wrap one’s head around the multitude of new systems is often hidden away or not offered when it’s needed.
Will Black Desert Online be the next game to get added to our list of the best MMORPGs on PC?
Understanding how trade, diplomacy and the game’s resources work, as well as how each feature is connected to the next, will make your journey from a burlap-wearing nobody to an affluent merchant or arse-kicking wizard smoother. So! Why not fill your brain with nutritious information by taking a gander at this here Black Desert Online beginner’s guide?
Black Desert Online’s thankfully brief tutorial would have you believe that this very pretty game is an action-MMO with some dodgy writing. And it can be, if smashing things and setting enemies on fire in a gorgeous fantasy land is what you’re looking for. But it can also be an expansive trade simulator or a game about exploring every nook and cranny of the world as a diligent prospector. That’s not clear from the get-go because – perhaps reasonably – the initial focus is getting players to understand how to survive, specifically by fighting monsters.
That is, actually, a bit important, really. There are a lot of foul beasties slinking around the world, and even if you fancy yourself a potato baron or a purveyor of fine beers, you’ll still need to get your hands dirty with monster blood from time to time, as Black Desert Online’s various parts are all related.
Fighting is fast-paced and kinetic, encouraging offense and mobility. Basic attacks and blocking are all mapped to single buttons, you double-tap movement keys to dodge, while special abilities usually require an extra input. For instance, left clicking with the wizard unleashes his basic staff attack, but using it in tandem with S transforms that into a fireball attack. Each new active ability, unlocked by spending skill points gained through questing, essentially unlocks a very simple combo. It’s also possible to add these abilities to the hotbar, allowing you to use them by hitting the number keys, but this incurs an additional mana cost.
While there are a lot of combos to learn, Black Desert Online’s PvE likely won’t cause much strain, as vast numbers of foes can be eradicated rapidly. Bosses pose more of a challenge, of course, but your standard mobs – despite their myriad skills and ferocious attitudes – can be dispatched without much fuss. It makes unfortunate quests like “Kill 100 Goblins” a lot less daunting when it only takes 10 minutes. So don’t be afraid of leaping into the fray and tackling groups on your own – it’s why so many of your attacks hit multiple enemies.
- Warrior - A sword and board class, the warrior is an extremely mobile tank that’s as home when dishing out damage as it is when serving as a tank. With his shield, he’s able to negate all frontal damage, while his combos carve a swathe through enemy ranks. The warrior is one of the simplest classes to play.
- Valkyrie - Like the warrior, the valkyrie is a tanky fighter wielding a sword and shield. She’s slower than the warrior though, but makes up for her lack of mobility with a few support abilities like healing that make her even more handy in a group.
- Witch/Wizard - Witches and wizards are identical, save for gender. This spellcaster class can be played as a damage dealer thanks to potent AOE spells, but has some limits imposed on it thanks to cooldowns. It’s also a great support class, one of only two that can heal.
- Sorceress - This highly mobile melee spellcaster is a bit more complex than her witch counterpart. As well as casting spells that use mana, she can consume shards that are generated when she’s attacking with other skills. These shards can both restore her mana and apply a damage buff. Despite being a close to mid range class, she’s squishy, but can dart in and out of a fight rapidly.
- Berserker - If you’re looking for something easier to get to grips with than the sorceress, then look no further than the berserker. He’s a giant, axe-wielding maniac who leaps into combat and is happiest when he’s pummelling groups of foes. He’s as good at controlling mobs as he is at smashing them, too.
- Ranger - A longbow-wielding Elf, the ranger snipes foes from afar, but is mostly limited to single-target damage early on, until her AoE abilities are unlocked at level 20. She’s less capable of taking a beating than some of her melee pals, but what she lacks in defence, she more than makes up for in her ability to kite enemies like a right old pain.
- Tamer - Finally we get to the pet class. The tamer and her beast fight together, creating co-op combos. The beast can only stay in battle for a limited time, but can be re-summoned after a very short cooldown. It can also be consumed for a big buff and, when the tamer reaches level 49, she can ride her beast into battle and control it directly.
If it wasn’t for the constant notifications about guilds declaring war on each other, you couldn’t really be blamed for not knowing there was any PvP in Black Desert Online. The open PvP, for example, doesn’t unlock until you reach endgame, while the rest of it is hidden away, like the consequence-free arena battles which can be found in cities that the game’s tutorials forget to mention. These allow you to leap into random battles and test your skills against the masses.
The open-world and guild wars are the real meat of the PvP system, however. You can wander the land, as long as you’re flagged for PvP, slaughtering anyone that’s that’s high enough level, but to put players off senseless murder, there’s a cost involved in PKing without consent. The cost comes in the form of karma, and if it drops below zero, you become public enemy number one, and open season is declared on your hide.
More structured guild wars involve guilds actually declaring war on an enemy by paying silver. Other than the thrill of large-scale battles, these guild wars serve another purpose: they allow guilds to chase other guilds out of high-value areas, opening up region to hassle-free grinding, monster slaying and gathering.
The usual motivation for embarking on a spot of scrapping, at least in PvE, is gear and experience. You kill things to get new gear that allows you to kill bigger things, faster, and level up to do the same. That’s not really how it works in Black Desert Online, though. For one, there’s hardly any gear.
Weapons and armour are less important – and not level-restricted – than the augments you give them through enchantment and transfusion. Transfusion takes crystals with specific properties and places them in item sockets, conferring those bonuses to the weapon or piece of armour. Enchantment strengthens the item using black stones, increasing the defensive capabilities of armour and the damage of a weapon. So fancy, powerful swords and cuirassas aren’t what you will be striving toward.
Indeed, you might discover that it’s the abstract resource known as contribution points that you’ll be wading through enemies for, so you can buy a new house or expand your trade network.
Contribution points and energy
Contribution points can be spent on a myriad of things from purchasing property to unlocking the nodes which will allow you to harvest physical resources like corn or iron using workers. You can even rent special items from NPCs using them. No matter what you decide to spend your time focusing on, you’ll probably require a significant amount of contribution points.
You can get contribution experience as quest rewards, but not from every quest. Take a look at the rewards before you accept a quest to see if it’s worth your time. You’ll need to do a few before you have enough contribution experience to gain a new point, though. The points are refundable, so if you decide to get rid of a house or give back a rented item, you get the points you spent back.
Energy is just as important as contribution points. You’ll be spending it on new conversation options, purchasing new skills while you’re out in the field, crafting and gathering. Conveniently, energy regenerates over time, at one every three minutes while you’re in the game, so you’re never far off having some to spend. They regenerate faster if you use a bed, and they’ll also regenerate while you’re offline, though at a slower rate. There’s a limit to how much energy you can save up, but the pool size can be expanded. That pool is a reflection of a character’s knowledge of the world, and by increasing that knowledge, the pool grows.
Black Desert Online wants you to explore it – walk every inch of it, delve into every cave, speak to all its inhabitants. It’s a world worth scouring just for the bounty of striking screenshots that you’ll end up with, but there’s also a more practical reason: there are a plethora of rewards for fattening up a character’s brain.
Simply uncovering new areas or chatting to groups of NPCs is rewarded with an expanded energy pool, but it also has a knock-on effect, giving you more options with NPCs, and if you have enough knowledge, you can start playing a mini-game in an attempt to gain their affections even more. Meeting the right NPCs can open up conversations with other ones, and you’ll start finding new quests and items in shops. Even fighting increases your knowledge. Kill a type of enemy enough times and you’ll get an advantage over them, like being able to see their health bar.
Having a gab with an NPC not only fleshes out the world more effectively than the main quests, townsfolk also offer up hints or mention new areas that are worth exploring, which is particularly helpful when you’re on the lookout for new nodes for your burgeoning trade empire or places to gather up resources.
Professions are handy to have whether you’re gathering resources and crafting items to sell or looking to kit your adventurer out with new weapons and armour. You can dabble in each profession if you want, though the energy cost of gathering and crafting means that it’s better to make alts with their own focus. Regardless, you can level up all of them if you’ve got the time, and you can do that just by using the skills.
With crafting skills like processing, cooking and alchemy, levelling them up increases the number of items produced, while a higher gathering level will let you use fancier gathering tools, better able to fell trees and rip shrubs out of the dirt. Levelling up training will let you horse’s skills level up faster, skills like smashing faces with its hooves. If you’re going to be doing a lot of fishing, you’ll learn how to catch more species by levelling that up, while increasing your land-based hunting skill will allow you to use a musket. Finally there’s trading, which expands the number of trade items available.
Becoming a successful merchant is possibly the toughest venture in Black Desert Online, due to how involved it is, but it’s also one of the most rewarding. To rise to the top, where you’ll be swimming in pools of gold, you’ll need to get into every aspect of the game, from going on quests to acquiring knowledge from NPCs.
You can get started right away simply by hitting up trade and node managers (they offer a broad selection of goods as well as a lot of information about where they can be sold and are denoted by a wagon wheel on the map), crafting or finding trade items that you can sell, or by dabbling in the player-based marketplace. Or you can go out and gather resources yourself, visit other merchants and transport everything on your own weary back. These aren’t the most effective ways to get rich, however. You’ll really want to make a chain, from resource node to warehouse to buyer. With enough time and money, you’ll be able to automate most of the process and just watch and the gold rolls in.
First, though, there’s work to do. And it starts with finding nodes. These take the form of mines and farms and camps that all generate tangible resources from potatoes to lumber. These raw materials can be sold on their own or hammered into something a bit fancier through crafting. So you can take the potatoes, add water and a few other ingredients in a crafting station, and voila, you’ve got booze.
Anyway! So you’ve found a node. Let’s say it’s that aforementioned potato farm. To turn this into your own working farm, rather than somewhere you sneak into and steal crops from, you need to put contribution points into it. To do that, you’ll need to make sure it’s linked to a central node, such as the game’s first major settlement, Velia. If it’s not connected, then you’ll first need to activate the previous node and so on until you’ve linked up the node you want to exploit. Once you’ve spoken with the node manager and spent your contribution points, it’s part of your trade network and you can start working it by hiring minions.
Oh minions, how wonderful they are, though they do prefer to be called workers. Humans, Giants, Goblins – workers of all shapes and sizes who can be hired for energy – will do all the heavy lifting for you, smashing rocks to get to that lovely ore or working the plough in the fields, before heading to your warehouse with a bounty of goods.
Each worker has a set of stats that make them better suited to different tasks, but finding the right one is a bit of a gamble. You spend energy then get offered a random worker, and if you decide that it’s not what you were hoping for, you’ll need to spend that energy again to see another option.
They require booze, too, as it regenerates their stamina. Given how hard they work, and without complaint, it’s really the least that they deserve. Luckily, if they’re harvesting potatoes, then you’ll already have one of the main ingredients for creating their liquid payment. You’ll need a house if you’re going to be crafting that, though.
Workers need homes, as well, and goods require storage, so it’s time to get on the property ladder. There are buildings and rooms for sale everywhere. Cities, towns, hamlets, even farms – they all contain property that you can snatch up with contribution points.
Properties are bundled into groups that are usually linked because they are on the same street or are rooms in the same inn. This isn’t all that important, but it does mean there’s some limitations to what rooms or buildings you can buy. You need to grab the first one in the chain before grabbing the others. So you can’t buy room 2 in an inn before you buy room 1.
On the property information screen, you’ll be able to see how the building can be used. For example, you can live in an inn, and your workers can as well, but you can’t use the inn to expand your warehouse storage. After you’ve dropped some contribution points on a new building, you can upgrade it if you want, expanding its storage capacity or the number of workers who can live there.
You’ll also want to purchase a refinery so you or your workers can turn crude stone into black stone powder. This can be combined with ten potatoes or ten chunks of ore to create the trade crates that you’ll be selling to NPCs. You can also buy trade crates at the trade manager.
Money making time
Ok, so you’ve got workers, property and nodes that net you basic resources. Now it’s time to turn that into lovely, lovely cash. The workers will automatically drop off your goods that you can turn into trade crates at the local warehouse, but you still have to transport the goods to a buyer. Before that you’ve also got to figure out where you’re going to sell the items if you’re not going to immediately dump them in the player marketplace.
There are several elements that will affect your profits: needs, saturation, distance travelled and the trade network itself. So, to get the highest profits you’ll need to find somewhere to sell your goods that doesn’t produce them already, where players haven’t already sold the exact same goods, far from where the goods were gathered, but still connected to your network of nodes that you’ve invested contribution points into.
If you’ve found somewhere that fits these specifications, then it’s time to load up the cargo and head there. You can carry goods yourself, on your own back, but that’s incredibly slow. Luckily, you’ll be given a free mule very early on in Veila, which you’ll reach just by following the main quest. Mules aren’t very fast, but they can carry a lot more than an adventurer, so you won’t need to make as many trips. Horses are even better, but also quite expensive. You can capture and tame your own horses, however, but only once you’re level 20 and have a training level of beginner 5, which is easily achieved simply by riding your mule a lot. If you’re flush with cash, you can even buy a wagon or get yourself a boat.
After riding up and down the land for countless hours, you might want to delegate, like a proper business owner. Conveniently, you can hire workers to carry the goods between warehouses while you put your feet up. Once you’ve done that, you’ve got yourself nice little system going, from gathering and manufacturing all the way to the sale. Just keep an eye on your map for bandit threats, as they lie in wait along roads, hoping to get the jump on roving merchants.
While Black Desert Online’s in-game tutorials miss a lot of important information or don’t offer it up at the right time, there is another resource that should prove handy if you do find yourself stuck. The community wiki is available in-game by selecting ‘Help’ in the menu. But hopefully this beginner’s guide will have set you on the right track.