Black Desert Mobile First Impressions: Great visuals and engaging gameplay
After a soft-launch in South Korea and a few other regions, Black Desert Mobile is now finally available to download globally. Black Desert Mobile is an MMORPG (massively-multiplayer online role-playing game) built by the Korean developer, Pearl Abyss. The PC counterpart continues to attract over 100,000 concurrent users since its launch in 2015. Black Desert Mobile is completely based on the PC version and there’s also a fresh Xbox and PlayStation 4 version as well. However, cross-platform play is not available yet.
In this article, we’ll be taking a look at Black Desert Mobile, attempting to give you a deeper look at the game, beyond what the Play Store listing brings about.
Black Desert Mobile looks like a serious attempt at competing with the best MMORPGs in the market for Android/iOS. It’s also quite big as it requires 3.24GB of in-game download post Play Store install before one can even start playing it. We took the mobile version for a spin and here are our first impressions on the gameplay, visual UI, and performance aspect of the game.
Black Desert Mobile has pretty incredible and polished visuals. From the different landscapes to characters and beasts, everything looks good and vivid that will keep you immersed in the game.
However, do note that it isn’t as stunning as the PC version. The characters, especially, are downsized and hence look rough around the edges and not-so-smooth when zoomed out. Pearl Abyss has worked hard to deliver a smooth and visually immersive experience to players and this does not disappoint. Graphics can be changed to Max settings, but my Redmi K20 Pro could only go up to High, which I found to be good enough.
The in-game HUD looks very cluttered though, especially for new MMO players, which can be very confusing. Although, to be honest, the game with its vastness has many facets that require those tabs and controls. It still would be nice to at least render some elements semi-transparent or completely turn them off.
Right off the bat, Black Desert Mobile offers tons and tons of customization features with the story character. At first boot, users will be directed to choose from five player types – Warrior, Mage, Valkyrie, Giant, and Ranger.
Once you’ve chosen that, you’ll be able to change everything from their skin tones to their clothes. The options are limitless. If you’re one of those players that care about the looks of your character, this will interest you.
Like the character options, the mobile version also adopts a quest and combat system similar to the PC version albeit more simplified and streamlined for a smartphone screen.
For the beginning few quests, you’ll be led by the Black Spirit across the seashore and town where you woke up without your memories to meet the townsfolk and start your adventure. The early quests are simple and the character is supposed to help the townsfolk in their day-to-day tasks. This is part of the tutorial as a new player gets used to the interface. You’ll run around the town and get to meet the chieftain, the healer, and a few more people who will hand you small tasks to complete.
The character control and combat are very intuitive and standard, pretty much in the same way you find on most MMO games. You need to button mash your way through enemies, as combos rely on repeated contact hits instead of skillful combinations or timed reactions. You unlock special attack buttons as you progress, which changes according to the character. You can fall back and dodge incoming attacks but there is no specialized blocking per se, so you have to be wary of your positioning during combat. As for weapons, you acquire them along the way when you complete quests and there are some that you can also purchase from NPCs.
I did not have any trouble navigating through the new terrain in the game. There’s auto-pathing which allows the character to move automatically towards objectives, people and quests. You can turn it off if you prefer to play your game yourself.
Monetization and Free-to-Play Elements
Black Desert Mobile is a pay-to-win game with free-to-play features. Now, this doesn’t mean you won’t be able to progress through different levels at all. You’ll still be able to have fun, but you won’t be as competitive as those spending money. At the early levels, there won’t be much of an advantage for spenders. The in-game currency is called Pearls. There are Black Pearls as well which can be exchanged for Pearls, and there’s Silver that can be earned or traded on the market with other players in exchange for all sorts of items. Pearls can be purchased starting as low as ₹85 (roughly $1.2) and can go all the way up to ₹4,250 ($50) or even more, though pricing can differ across regions.
You can purchase pets, special costumes, weapons, crystals, and skills, some of which can give you an edge over free-to-play (F2P) players especially at the max levels. That’s why those who spend on these in-game perks will have an advantage over F2P players. There are, of course, events and quests that will help you to earn freebies without having to shell out money, but that will still slow down your progress compared to spenders, as you will have to grind your way to the end.
There are a variety of packages that can be bought from starter packs that increase your basic statistics, to resource packages, to pet chests, and much more. You’ll be able to access the store by tapping on the “C” button on the top left corner. As you enter, there will be a number of tabs as is visible in the screenshot. This store is accessible from inside the game anytime.
The performance wasn’t lacking on my Redmi K20 Pro, and this is mostly a subjective thing that will depend on the smartphone you use. Mine was running at 30FPS with High graphics. Pearl Abyss recommends at least 2GB of RAM and Android 6.0 at least to be playable. Also, it should be playable on mid-tier phones too, with optimizations done by Pearl Abyss.
Pearl Abyss has done a commendable job to port many important elements of the PC version of the game to mobile. The visuals are great, the gameplay is engaging, and the depth in the story can keep players glued for hours. There are many modes such as PvP (unlocks at level 18), PvE boss raids (unlocks at level 50), guilds, and others that can keep players immersed for weeks.
So, to answer the question, is Black Desert Mobile really worth playing? While Black Desert Mobile borrows many elements from the MMO genre which make it somewhat predictable, the incredible depth in the content of the game is what sets it apart from most other similar games. There’s also a healthy user base that indicates the game will live long.