Black Desert: Prestige Edition is a convenient new package for an MMO that has been out for a while on the Xbox One for some time, the question is – does the core game still hold up after a year and a half? Thankfully the answer is yes, this action-RPG is still quite enjoyable, even if there might not be enough here to convince previous players to come back and give the game a go. Newcomers to this title who enjoy the genre
I actually played Black Desert on PC when it first came out a couple of years ago, and found it generally enjoyable but I had a lot of other games I was tackling at the time, and it just wasn’t quite sticky enough to keep me coming back at o it at the time. I thought that it looked really pretty, but beyond that I ran into a few hiccups that I always assumed would get ironed out, but I didn’t return to world as the life of a game reviewer can make it hard to focus in on an MMO and give it the time you need to really sink your teeth into it. That being said, I’ve been considering a return for some time, and the Black Desert: Prestige Edition seemed like a great excuse to go ahead and give this title another go.
The beginning is something of a chaotic one, as you are presented with minimal backstory and sort of take on the tried and true RPG trop of amnesiac that has to learn everything about the world, giving new players an excuse to be clueless about their surroundings and ask a bunch of questions to help with the world-building foundations needed to make a vast game like this interesting enough to invest in. There are numerous NPCs willing to have a conversation with your character about… well, pretty much everything going on in the world, but local and larger scale.
Even though it’s been a couple of years since I last played Black Desert Online, I have to say I came away immediately impressed with the visuals still. Every now and again I poke in on my old favorite, World of Warcraft, and while WoW is like video game comfort food for me right now, it’s long since moved past being an overly attractive title. By contrast, Black Desert: Prestige Edition is gorgeously detailed, both with characters and environments, and the game knows it. There are numerous opportunities to just pause and look out over the expansive, varied fantasy landscapes.
The part I was more curious about was how well a title like this would translate to console / controller life. After all, many of these action-RPG MMOs rely heavily on hotkey bindings and a mouse for quick navigation. To its credit, Black Desert did a great job of mapping things intelligently to radial menus and face buttons that make it easy to find what you need and not have to click around endlessly to get there. Admittedly, it took me a couple of minutes to get the hang of moving around in the conversation boxes given how little hand-holding there was in general right out of the gates, but this is about the easiest I have ever seen inventory management handled in an MMO and I certainly appreciated that.
Additionally, Black Desert does a great job keeping you on-task. Quest targets are clearly labeled, you have a glowing guided option to help you move from one target to the next and your quest information is always readily available in the UI. These things kept me moving with purpose through the game’s early stages as I allowed myself to enjoy the lore and get more attached to the setting than I did the first time I played the game on PC in the past.
The controller also suits the action-heavy nature of the combat rather nicely. I went with a typical warrior (my usual go-to in MMOs as I am learning my way around, given they tend to be a bit less squishy than many other classes), and it all feels quite natural on console. I was tapping and holding buttons to pull off various combos, leaning into the triggers a bit to execute other moves and found it a very natural way of stringing together attacks that frankly work as well – if not better – than mapped hotkeys on a keyboard. The one area that the controller does suffer a bit compared to the point and click accuracy of a mouse is in selecting certain things. If there are a couple of targets nearby, instead of just mousing over the one you want to talk to / interact with, you need to be a bit more careful in your x-axis placement. Ditto, I would have loved a lock-on for combat, given the swivel-nature of the camera and again how it can be a bit imprecise. I realize that is likely an intentional design choice, but I think it’s a bit more of an issue with a controller versus a mouse and keyboard.
The narrative is set against a backdrop of kingdom versus kingdom politics, though I often found myself jumping off of the beaten path to do just about everything but the core storyline. That’s just sort of my MO on MMOs – find things to craft, play the market, do a zillion side quests for just… fish. It’s funny because I don’t fish in real life but I absolutely would be appalled I am sure, if there was a way to figure out how much time I’ve spent fishing in MMOs.
In terms of the overall presentation, I touched on the graphics already – and they are gorgeous. This even presents itself as early as in character creation, which has a surprising amount of detail available. Character models look fantastic and I found myself sinking more time than usual into character creation as a result. The music is also appropriately majestic and the sound effects are all quite appropriate. Probably the weakest link here is the voice acting, which ranges from ‘decent’ to ‘hammy / awkward’ depending on the interaction. Most of the more notable characters tend to sound a bit better, which is good since they are the ones with content of substance that you might be interacting more than a time or two. Many of the one-off side-NPCs fare far worse.
Progression is solid, with the typical skill tree / point spends to compliment experience / level gains. Equipment options become more diverse and powerful as you progress as well. I actually found myself sinking a decent amount of time into the non-adventure life of house and shop ownership, as I did not particularly care for the Player vs Player elements that become more prominent in the game’s upper level ranges. The structure around it is fine, I just have a tendency to get annoyed with PvP in MMOs and tend to avoid it more often than not, and that holds true here for me as well. In terms of the PvE side of things, it’s all been done before (kill a zillion of this and fetch me a gaggle of those), but it all works fine. It helps that the layered combat at least makes the fighting fun and helps to stave off what would be otherwise painfully repetitious before too long.
This is where Black Desert: Prestige Edition falls into the same rut most MMOs do – the world is meant to be something of a bland one that anyone can imprint their own story on mentally. As a result, quests tend to be redundant, the overarching narrative does little to tickle the emotions and most of the world’s characters are there to serve a purpose but seldom become memorable in any particular way. By now though, this is what I think the majority of players expect. You get less nuanced storytelling with an MMO because of the way the world needs to interact with a large number of players, versus a single player experience that can tell a nuanced, gripping narrative. If you are a fan of the MMO world, and your expectations are set accordingly, Black Desert: Prestige Edition will be rather enjoyable.
What does the Prestige Edition come with? Well, you get the core game of course, but some extra pets (Snow Wolfdog and Black Leopard), some gear for your mount as well as a mount, pearls and more that play into the microtransaction portion of the game. It is worth noting that you can buy the game and access everything it has in it (versus some of the free to play MMOs out there that restrict access to some parts of the game unless you purchase them), but there are plenty of small items that can be bought that accelerate / enhance the gameplay. This currency can be earned in-game or purchased for additional money.