Black Desert Mobile (Free) is widely anticipated as the next big mobile MMO, and for good reason: The PC release features combo based skills, beautiful graphics, and a truly overkill character creator. For a fan of action MMOs, it’s a slam dunk… except for the micro-transactions. Although they aren’t required, and even buying only a few significantly eases the pain, their existence does not bode well for the mobile release. That said, I got an early look, and man… it’s pretty fun. While it’s lacking the combo system of the PC release, running around and smacking baddies with spells and skills is satisfying, the quests and world are interesting, and the character creator is something else entirely. Before we dig in, though, I’d like to preface this by saying that this is not a final build! Things can, may, and probably will change before release, so take everything I say here with a grain of salt. It’s cool, but it very well may change.
Visually, Black Desert Mobile is a little lackluster. Not bad, just… not as good as I would expect when compared with other mobile games, or Black Desert Online. Close-up, it looks good. Character models are sharp, detailed, and absolutely gorgeous, spell effects are stunning, and the environment is beautiful. If you decide to pan out and get a better view at your surroundings, however, the initial beauty fades rather noticeably. Character models are jagged around the edges, particularly on the small details, and blur when zooming in or out or when turning the camera. Moreover, the view distance is incredibly limited, and the environment fades to a colourful, but entirely empty landscape only a short distance from the character. In the far distance, mountains, clouds, and other features are blurry and indistinct, but not in the clever way that simulates distance in the real world; no, this just looks like a low resolution texture. Just to top it all off (and I’m getting pretty nit-picky here), the clouds don’t move. The weather doesn’t change, and it’s always half past noon with a slightly cloudy sky. It’s downright depressing, actually.
Gameplay, on the other hand, feels great, even though it’s lacking the combo system and somewhat more aggressive monster tuning from the PC version. I’m not sure if it’s the flashy effects, the spells themselves, or that a certain amount of interaction is required (a shocker, I know) to progress through quests, beat bosses, and develop your camp and trade networks, but I’m a fan. Now, there are definitely some systems that are downright uninteresting, if not exactly bad. For example, the camp like it’s just there, without an immediate gameplay reason. It’s explained away narratively, and presumably it’ll be used later, but that doesn’t negate the feeling that it’s there to allow a great deal of grind later on. Alternatively, there’s Black Spirit quests. Quests that, as far as I’ve seen, are there for the explicit purpose of grinding, conveniently aided by the introduction of auto-battling (something that is not there from the start). Sure, the rewards may be great… but is it really necessary to put ’em behind three quests that need you to kill a couple hundred enemies each?
On the topic of overkill, the character creator is… wow. Maybe I’m just easily impressed, but being able to change every little detail of a character is kind of impressive and a little (okay, more than a little) overwhelming. I mean, adjusting foot size or hair curl gradient? While the sheer depth and variety of options are far, far overkill for most players, they are there for those who are really into role-play or who really enjoy character creation. Additionally, while the game isn’t available until December 11th, character creation opens December 9th for those who can’t get enough of the stuff, or for those who’d really rather get it over with sooner rather than later. Get in early for your choice of family names and a head start on creating your perfect avatar!
On the whole, I’m hopeful for the future of Black Desert Mobile, though not without reservations. I haven’t made it far enough to really comment on how much of a grind the game becomes, or how the end-game (or, more aptly, the “slightly-later-game") is handled. I hope for a smooth leveling experience rife with quests and exploration, excellent boss fights and dungeons, and perhaps even an interesting economy, and while I hope for the best… I fear the worst. The most important question, that of how the game will be monetized, is unanswered. There are only hints, which isn’t enough to ward off fears of pay to win gameplay, absurd walls to slowly climb, and endless repetition. Unfortunately, until the game is released properly December 11th, there is no way to know for certain which way the pendulum will ultimately swing.