Black Desert Xbox Review: Addictive & Layered but Lacking Innovation

Black Desert Online cover

Update: New Xbox screenshots and pricing info on launch bundles added.

Black Desert is the latest high profile MMORPG to make its way to consoles, but it might be the first released (on Xbox One at least) that feels like a natural fit for a controller. Whereas a lot of ported MMO titles feel stilted and awkward, especially in later stage combat hotkey requirements, Black Desert has simplified its game mechanics when compared to its PC counterpart. Thanks in part to this ease-of-use approach, Black Desert is an addictive, layered and thoroughly entertaining experience, though it does suffer from a lack of ambition when it comes to its implementation of quests.

Black Desert takes place on an unnamed planet in what can only be described as a run-of-the-mill high fantasy setting, with all the standard races that have populated fantasy for decades. It's not an original concept and developer Pearl Abyss doesn't do much to subvert tropes or the typical trappings of the genre, but most MMO games aren't focused primarily on compelling narratives. Still, Black Desert does have some solid world building boiling beneath the surface that makes traversing its surprisingly large map and interacting with NPC characters an enjoyable enough experience.

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Like most RPG games, MMO or otherwise, players start Black Desert by creating their characters and picking a class. While the PC version has considerably more classes, the console version launches only with six and they're all the standard ones that anyone who has played a game like this will expect (Warrior or magic-based options like Sorceress and Wizard). Black Desert is played from a third-person perspective, which is again another standard MMO staple. It's clear from the get-go that the game is not out to redefine a genre, but the customization options are layered enough that most players will still spend a considerable amount of time creating their perfect avatar.

Black Desert Xbox Screenshot 02

The combat in Black Desert is intensely satisfying as well, with moves being mapped to certain controller buttons and/or a combination of those buttons pushed at the same time. It's an easy system to learn and the first indication of the title's easy-going and addictive nature. On the surface, it may sound repetitive to fight nameless goblins and NPC enemy humans for hours on end, but there's so much variation in the combat system that it never actually feels like a monotonous venture. And with six different classes to try out (and more to eventually come) that all have vastly different combat needs, there is plenty of incentive for repeat playthroughs.

Player versus player combat in Black Desert is somewhat unique, with players activating their own PvP mode and achieving a level beyond 40 (level 35 in certain cases). Players that have PvP mode activated and are beyond the required level can attack anyone else level 40 or higher, even if the that player doesn't have PvP mode activated themselves. This can be frustrating for more peaceful players, but luckily Pearl Abyss offsets this with a karma system that sees griefers attacked by NPC guards and losing experience and on-hand loot at a higher rate upon death. The best part of PvP is easily the Guild Wars system, which can see large scale battles with up to four guilds contending for a certain zone of the map. It's extremely layered and also some of the most intense combat situations that Black Desert offers.

Black Desert Xbox Screenshot 04

Still, while the PvE portion of Black Desert is certainly satisfying enough, there's a notable lack of innovation permeating throughout the game. Quests are generally a lazy and tedious affair, ranging from killing a certain amount of creatures to fetch quests that were outdated even ten years ago. There's also a lack of endgame content for the more PvE-oriented players and it feels like the game tries to push PvP a little too hard. The crafting system, while highly in-depth, is too complicated for how grindy it is and there's simply too much guide-hunting that players will have to do to master it (Black Desert is not a game that likes to hand-hold or even offer up much beyond its initial tutorial). In the end, it's just more of what's found in other MMO titles, only with more frustration involved.

Graphically, Black Desert is one of the best looking MMOs to ever grace the console. Player characters and NPCs alike are colorful and a joy to look at, and this goes double for the various landscapes and large cities that populate the map. But there are some technical issues that are simply too prevalent throughout to be ignored. Textures can be painfully slow to load and it's frustrating when cutscenes start and all that can be seen are grayed out husks without faces or bodies.

Black Desert Xbox Screenshot 12

None of these failings are enough to stop Black Desert from being an above average MMORPG experience and fans of the genre who are looking for a nice game that can be played from their couch instead of hunched over a computer with a mouse and keyboard need look no further than this game. It is easily the best of its kind to be found on the Xbox One and thanks to the tweaking and simplification of the combat for the system, it's a game that feels right at home on consoles.

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Black Desert's Base Game is available for $9.99 alongside three additional launch editions, Standard ($29.99), Deluxe ($49.99) and Ultimate ($99.99) that offer additional in-game items. It was previously released on PC in 2016. Screen Rant was provided an Xbox One copy for the purposes of this review.

Our Rating:

3.5 out of 5 (Very Good)
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