We’re not going to lie – we at Droid Gamers were pretty excited about Black Desert Mobile. This was a mobile MMORPG that promised to deliver as close a proximation to the console and PC MMORPG that’s slowly been gathering steam over the past few years. Now that it’s here though, it’s more of a false prophet. This isn’t a big step forward for MMORPGs on mobile – it’s a considerable step backwards.
No doubt the brand will propel this MMORPG into stardom, and we’ll be talking up its successes for years to come but make no mistake: this is not a good game. It represents everything we’ve come to hate about mobile MMORPGs the past few years, with Pearl Abyss not even bothering to try and hide the autoplay, pay to win, wait timers, and malevolent monetisation that’s forced down your throat every few minutes.
Looking at the game itself though, it does bare resemblance to Black Desert. The interface is basically identical and when you create your character, many of the same classes, hairstyles, and general cosmetic options are ready and present. When we first created our character ahead of the servers officially going live we were pretty impressed. The visuals on offer were remarkably similar to the main game.
When the servers finally opened though, and we hit play with glee, we were instantly met with a huge surprise: Black Desert Mobile is one of the ugliest mobile games we’ve ever encountered. It’s easy to see why, too – the technology Black Desert is dealing with doesn’t match up to the level of ambition. So while this might have looked great running on a PC, the amount of scaling back to get this running on mobile has resulted in a complete mess of a game.
Black Desert Mobile is One of the Ugliest Mobile Games We’ve Ever Encountered
What makes matters worse is that we’re one of the lucky few to be able to run Black Desert Mobile in maximum settings. Our resolution and frame rate is set to maximum but it really doesn’t make much difference. It’s a blurry and ugly mess, with a messy frame rate and off-putting texture pop-in ruining the fun. We’re not overly obsessed with visuals at Droid Gamers, and even find the likes of Old School RuneScape appealing visually, but we just couldn’t get over how terrible Black Desert Mobile looked and ran.
The gameplay did offer some respite though, when we weren’t being led by the hand between NPCs and monsters at least. The combat system reigns supreme here, pretty much offering an identical experience to the console and PC versions. We played a Warrior, the beginner-friendly class, and got a real kick out of creating our own combos out of the many skills we unlocked during our adventure. If you really just want an MMORPG that lets you grind away at monsters for hours on end, you can probably ignore Black Desert Mobile’s shortcomings – the combat is that good.
It’s just a shame about, well, everything else. As we mentioned earlier, autoplay plays a huge part. Just like in Lineage 2: Revolution or AxE you tap on a quest description to run automatically between NPCs, who vomit terribly written and even more poorly voice acted lines at you before it’s time to move on. We genuinely don’t know who finds this rubbish appealing, yet it seems to plague most mobile MMORPGs we’ve played barring Old School RuneScape.
It doesn’t help that most of the quests are fetch or kill quests either, and that fetching is incredibly boring. Gathering resources is a huge part of Black Desert Mobile’s appeal but it pales in comparison to the 20 year old Old School RuneScape. As you wander the world you’ll simply find gathering spots that you interact with once to get a resource, possibly levelling up your gathering skill. You’ll tame horses, mine rocks, gather herbs, chop down trees, go fishing, and more, but all of it feels identical. It doesn’t even offer the grinding appeal of Old School RuneScape because most of your time is spent hunting for the gathering spots.
Most of the Quests are Fetch or Kill Quests
Soon you won’t have to bother though, because you’ll unlock the base camp. Here you can hire workers to build buildings that can gather resources for you, or you can send these workers to collect resources on your behalf. You can also grow crops in your own garden (good luck finding the storage space to pop them all in though), fish on the pier, and gather resources in the nearby surroundings. We appreciated that you could move your buildings around at any moment to redecorate the camp but it always felt a little too cramped.
Most of your time playing Black Desert Mobile will be spent completing quests, with the only other content being arena battles against other players and world bosses. Beating bosses is essential, as it’s the primary mechanic for unlocking new stuff. Bosses guard the best gear, new buildings for your camp, and more. They’re also the best content on offer in Black Desert Mobile with two caveats: they’re generally too easy for those that meet the gear score requirements and the blurry visuals and sheer amount of flashy effects makes it virtually impossible to figure out what’s going on.
Bosses telegraph their most powerful attacks, which helps you to avoid them. Given that these attacks do dish out a lot of damage, you really need to as well. But we really struggled to see what the Jeff was going on most of the time. Everything’s just far too blurry and skill effects are far too overdramatic. The gameplay mechanics really struggle to make an impact with so much going on. Fortunately, you can automatically drink health potions when your HP reaches a certain threshold so it doesn’t really matter.
Gameplay is a mixed bag then, but what about monetisation? Pearl Abyss uses every trick in the book here to get you to spend. There are extremely expensive cosmetic outfits, pay to win enhancement resources, and two subscription services that help you progress a lot faster. Criminally, both of these services only run for two weeks, and cost around $5 each, so a monthly sub for everything is going to run you around $20.
Black Desert Mobile’s Sub is More Expensive than World of Warcraft, Elder Scrolls Online, Final Fantasy XIV, and RuneScape
For the sake of perspective, that’s $5 more than World of Warcraft, which provides you with two games for one sub, and Elder Scroll Online’s optional monthly sub, $7 more than Final Fantasy XIV, and just over twice as expensive than RuneScape, which also offers two games for that single price. You can’t really argue that there’s value in that purchase when you consider the alternatives on offer.
Overall, we’re thoroughly disappointed with Black Desert Mobile on a number of levels. It’s easily one of the ugliest mobile games we’ve ever experienced and clearly just isn’t the right fit for the platform and the monetisation is out of touch with its competitors. It’s disheartening when you consider that it’s going to make a ton of money regardless, given the strength of the brand rather than the gameplay. Sure, the combat system is excellent and the best we’ve experienced on mobile so far, but it’s not enough to save Black Desert Mobile.
Black Desert Mobile’s excellent combat system can’t make up for its shortcomings everywhere else
Black Desert Mobile has an excellent combat system that’s easily the best we’ve experienced in a mobile MMORPG but the horrific visuals and performance coupled with shallow gameplay and greedy monetisation cripple the rest of the experience.