Black Desert: Prestige Edition – Xbox One Review

Overview – developed and published by Pearl Abyss, Black Desert is an MMORPG set in a fantasy world filled with magic and monsters. Create your own custom character from a variety of classes, battle enemies in high intensity combat or take it easy with activities like fishing, crafting, cooking and more. Then Black Desert: Prestige Edition is available on the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One (the game is also on Windows). This is an MMO with various packages available for purchase, however I will be focusing on the Prestige Edition with a link for to purchase the specific bundle at the bottom of this review.

Disclaimer: before I get into the review, I would like to thank Tinsley PR for providing the copy of Black Desert: Prestige Edition that was used for this piece. The provision of this software and content has not influenced the contents of this review, all thoughts and opinions contained within are my own. Please note that the standard Xbox One hardware was used for this review, so some opinions may not apply to other system variants.

Now with the introductions out of the way, let’s get into the review. I will be omitting story details as I feel that the narrative should be experienced first-hand, so I will be going directly into the gameplay section, providing detail of the basic system mechanics on offer.

Gameplay – Black Desert is an open world MMORPG, featuring a living world that changes over time, with special timed and regular updates to keep the game world stable. The sandbox nature of this title gives players the freedom to explore the world, there is a caveat to this due to the fact that some features are restricted due to level requirements and/or joining an in game Guild. These restrictions encourage co-operation and heavy grinding, leading to long play sessions in game.

Now I want to take a moment to discuss the character creation element of the game. At the start of the game, the player must select their server and create their character. In the customization menu, the player has the option to select from 20 classes, with each one tied to a specific race and gender. However, there are similar classes with minor differences depending on if they are male or female, such as the Witch/Wizard and Ninja/Kunoichi.

In the character creation menu, the player can alter the body, hair and overall appearance through the use of various sliders and color options. There is a preset selection of parts and features that the player can use to build their avatar alongside the in depth settings, giving all players a process that fits their style of play. The only negative that I found with the system was the limited character slots, requiring purchase with premium currency to create more than six characters, limiting options for class diversity.

After character creation, the game begins spawning the player in the starting zone and setting the player off on their journey. Here the player meets the Black Spirit, a mysterious entity that will guide the player through their quests, providing clues and objectives to complete. Between the missions provided by the mysterious companion, other NPC characters also give tasks that must be completed in order to progress through the story.

The objectives themselves range from simple enemy elimination and talking to key figures, all the way to battling hulking boss monsters and clearing dungeons. When an objective is complete, the player will receive a reward depending on the level and complexity of the task, providing appropriate spoils for a job well done.

While on quests or exploring the surroundings between objectives, dangerous monsters roam the land, in the areas called combat zones. During travel through the lands, enemies may attack the player initiating a combat encounter, with some being passive to the player unless they are attacked first. The high intensity combat is where the action lies for new players and those who just want to fight monsters and grind alone.

During battle with the various monsters, the player has access to a range of attacks and skills. The main attacks in a characters arsenal are the primary, secondary and kick attack, which are effective in almost all situations. However, some high level combat scenarios will require skills and strategies that work best in a party or raid group, so ensure that you are prepared to enter dangerous areas.

When enemies are defeated in battle, experience will be given to the player increasing the combat level of the player at specified amounts. As characters level up they will gain skill points, which are used to unlock new attacks and improve currently available ones. The cost of ability unlocks will vary depending on their level, giving players the option to wait and save up points, or spend them as soon as they are earned by leveling.

The last part of the combat leveling system is the Awakening system. At certain level milestones, the player will unlock a new system called Awakening and providing a new weapon, increased power and a new set of specialized skills. The new skills and weapon unlocks provide more encouragement to continue playing the game, while allowing the ability to freely switching between the main weapons and awakening weapons.

All of the combat skills and systems add to the depth of gameplay available to players, with a system that is easy to pick up yet complex enough to provide a rewarding experience. The only issue I found in combat was the lack of ability to lock onto enemies, this did make some combat rather clunky and cumbersome at times. However, the combat focused quests and objectives are not the only ones that are available to the player in the world of Black Desert.

Featured alongside the traditional battle focused quests of the game are life skill quests, providing a more relaxed experience compared to the intense battles before. Life skills are similar to professions in other MMO titles, with fishing, crafting and more available to players. These skills will level independently from the combat level of the player, providing a secondary focus with just as much enjoyment to be had compared to fighting monsters.

There is a variety of PVP (competitive) modes available to the player, they each have different requirements to activate and participate in. The main competitive modes are the Red Battlefield and Arenas, where players can freely battle other players with few penalties. The other PVP content revolves around Guilds and independent player choice, with large scale Guild wars where factions battle each other to see which group is the strongest in the region.

The final PVP system is the “non-consensual” battle system, where players can be attacked openly depending on their status. This system has significant penalties with a mechanic called Karma, altering how the world will see the player. The Karma system allows for the freedom to participate in negative behavior, functioning with a rudimentary law and order system as the offending player will have bounties placed upon them until they atone for their in game sins.  

The final part of the game I want to talk about is the financial ecosystem of the game. In the world of Black Desert, there are two main currencies that I want to focus on for this last segment. The first is Silver, a freely obtainable currency that can be earned from Life Skills, selling items to merchants and by offering materials/equipment to other players in the Central Market. The Central Market allows for the open sale of permitted items, however there are taxes applied for completed sales so bear that in mind.

Second is Pearls, a premium currency that costs real world currency to purchase. While I understand that the use of premium currency in MMO titles allows the game and servers to be maintained, the cost for some of the cosmetic items is too high for me to justify using the system. There is a positive to the use of Pearls as a currency, as the vast majority of items available for purchase from the premium store are purely cosmetic, adding zero gameplay advantage for the player.

There are items that can provide a temporary boost for players in the game as well as reducing the amount of time needed to level up other characters. This can be used to save time when playing several characters, or to boost the characters that the player may be struggling to level up. Another upside to the premium items is that some items have purchase restrictions to them, preventing a pay to win ecosystem from developing during in the system.

Before I move onto the other aspects of the game, since this is covering the Prestige Edition specifically, here is the content that you can obtain with purchase of this pack;

  • Exclusive Pet- Black Leopard x1
  • Limited Edition Glorious Shudad Premium Set x1
  • Value Pack (30 Days) x1
  • [Event] Enhancement Help Kit II x1
  • Advice of Valks (+40) x1
  • Blessed Message Scroll (100 min.) x15
  • Pearl Box – 2000 x1

The Prestige Edition is a special physical release of Black Desert, the items featured boast a total value of $140 (taken from the official website). Players who have already purchased the digital version of Black Desert will be able to receive the bonus content, this will be tied to one account so there are limits to how the bundle may be used.

Now I’m going to continue to the other parts of the game, having covered the basic systems present to a degree that I am happy with. So let’s get into the controls.

Controls – the controls for Black Desert are consistent during play, with inputs that work well when navigating menus and in combat. There is an issue however as the camera can be difficult to control during high tension situations, with the camera swinging wildly when trying to battle multiple enemies. Other than the problems with the camera, the layout and functions of the game suffer from no delay or problems during play.

Presentation – this is the most difficult part of the game to discuss. While the visuals are impressive and the graphical assets are beautiful there is a frustrating downside to it, but that may not be the fault of the software. While I was playing Black Desert, there was a consistent issue with both framerate and overall performance. The lag and frame drops are possibly due to the limitations of the hardware I was using as the system used for this review was the standard Xbox One.

These inconsistencies with the performance of the game were a source of frustration. Fortunately there are optimization options that can alleviate some of these shortcomings, helping to reduce the strain on the system as multiple assets are loaded at once, but not entirely. The sound for this release is pleasing, with a traditional fantasy score playing throughout the game and adding to the atmosphere in game. There is voice acting present in this title, which is effective although there is minimal implementation of voiced dialogue.

Final Thoughts – Black Desert was a mixed bag for me, the world, the narrative and the gameplay on offer was able to pull me in, keeping me playing for hours on end. However, the issues that I faced were jarring and broke the engagement that I had during the experience. The game excels in many areas that others of the genre are lacking when it comes to character creation, flow of combat, in world economy and depth of gameplay in general.

The downsides of performance with the drops in framerate, the lack of target lock-on and the camera controls soured the enjoyment for me during play. That being said, the graphical issues I encountered may be a symptom of the limits of the standard Xbox One hardware, so experiences may vary for other players.

At this point I will hold off on recommendations as I am unable to accurately determine the general performance of the game from my experience, but i will say that the value of the content on offer is worth the price tag. New players who want to experience Black Desert for the first time should look into this bundle, the base game is $9.99 alone and at $29.99 for the Prestige Edition this is an excellent deal. The only flaw with this bundle is that the premium currency included can’t buy a lot in the Pearl Shop.

In the end, I give Black Desert: Prestige Edition a score of 3.5/5. The world is immersive, the gameplay is engaging and the presentation is impressive, offering hours of content for all. The value of this bundle is a great selling point for new players and returning adventurers who want a little more, with $140 of content in a modest package. If you want to check this out for yourself, a link to purchase this release will be available below.

Link to Amazon page for Xbox One and PlayStation 4 physical version (US) (HERE)

Link to Amazon page for Xbox One and PlayStation 4 physical version (UK/EU) (HERE)

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