We won’t lie to you: we had been looking forward to playing Black Desert Mobile for a couple of months before it came out. This was an MMORPG for mobile that promised to be a close approximation to the original Black Desert, which has garnered a pretty big fan base over the years. Now that it’s finally arrived, however, we have to say we were disappointed. This is not the thing that will propel mobile MMORPG forward as we hoped it would be. If anything, it’s a step backward, and a considerable one at that.
Yes, riding on the brand name “Black Desert”, this mobile version will undoubtedly become a financial success, but make no mistake: It isn’t a good game. It is everything we hate about mobile MMORPGs: greedy pay-to-win monetization, autoplay, extended wait timers. And developer Pearl Abyss doesn’t seem like it even tried to hide those things.
The game does bear a resemblance to Black Desert, we’ll give it that. The UI is practically identical, the character creation system is still pretty extensive with plenty of hairstyles, sliders to adjust facial traits, and many other general cosmetic options. We had a pretty good impression of it when we first created our character prior to the official opening of the servers, as everything looked remarkably similar to the original PC game.
When the servers finally went live and we logged in with anticipation, though, we were greeted by a huge unpleasant surprise: Black Desert Mobile is easily one of the most hideous games we’ve ever had the misfortune of looking at. And the reason is clear too: The game’s ambition is too big compared to the technology it has to work with. So while the PC version might have looked great, the developer has scaled it back too much trying to squeeze it into a mobile device, resulting in this complete mess.
Black Desert Mobile is just… not pretty
The situation didn’t improve even when we ran it in maximum settings either. We are never too picky about the graphics of games as we know full well not to judge a book by its cover, but these aren’t intentionally simplified graphics, these are just… badly designed graphics.
The gameplay did redeem things a bit, though. The combat is basically the exact same as it is on PC and consoles, which is fantastic. We opted for the Warrior as our starting class and had a great time stringing several abilities together to create combos. If you are just looking for a game in which you can beat up monsters for hours, then you’ll probably still get a kick out of Black Desert Mobile despite its shortcomings – the combat is indeed great.
It’s a shame that the same thing cannot be said about, well, everything else. As we mentioned above, autoplay is a major issue here. Similar to most mobile MMORPGs out there, you just have to tap on a quest description to have your character run between all the NPCs involved, who will then shower you with some horrendously bad dialogues before sending you on your way. We honestly don’t understand. It’s a universal fact at this point that these things are bad, yet why do developers keep including them in their games? It also doesn’t help that the quests themselves are a boring fetch-and-kill fest either.
Most of the quests boil down to fetch-and-kill
Yet despite how boring they are, you’ll spend most of your in-game time doing them anyway because, well, there is not really much else to do. The only other content you have is a PvP arena and world bosses. Defeating bosses is crucial too, as that is your main way of unlocking the best gear. It is also, in our opinion, the best thing about Black Desert Mobile, though there are two drawbacks: Bosses are generally very easy once you’ve met the gear requirements, and the terrible graphics combined with tons of flashy effects means it’s practically impossible to understand what the hell is going on.
The most dangerous attacks from bosses are all telegraphed, so you do have time to avoid them. And you really have to as well, as these attacks will shave off a good chunk of your health. The real challenge comes from actually being able to see these attacks coming amidst the plethora of over-the-top effects. Luckily, you’ll automatically chug a health potion when your HP drops to a certain point, so it doesn’t really matter.
Greedy monetization model
All things considered, the gameplay is a mixed bag, but the monetization is just pure evil. The developer looks like it’s really trying hard to get you to spend. The cosmetic outfits cost an arm and a leg, while there are 2 subscription services that allow you to progress much faster than usual – which screams pay-to-win basically. Even worse, both of these has a price of $5 and only lasts for 2 weeks, so if you want everything, you’ll have to spend roughly $20 a month. Putting into perspective, that’s $5 more expensive than what it takes for World of Warcraft and $7 more than Final Fantasy XIV, both of which are fully-fledged PC games.
For our final words, we have to say that Black Desert Mobile is a huge letdown on many levels. Visually speaking, it’s a mess that clearly isn’t meant for the mobile platform, and the monetization is as greedy as ever. And what’s even more disheartening is that it’s still going to generate huge revenue anyway, not because its gameplay is good, but only because it has the brand “Black Desert” slapped on its title. Credit where credit is due, the combat is actually awesome – one of the best we’ve seen on mobile in fact – but that alone isn’t going to be enough to redeem this one in our book.