Black Desert Mobile Review: Barren Wasteland

When we first learned that Black Desert was coming to mobile, we were pretty excited. It didn’t really matter that it wasn’t a direct port, as Pearl Abyss made it clear that it would be Black Desert as we know and love it, just redesigned for the tiny touchscreen.

And for all extents and purposes, that’s pretty much what we’ve got. While I haven’t put that many hours into the PC and console version of Black Desert, I’ve played enough to recognise that the major features are here: action-packed combat, wide variety of classes, combat progression revolving around world boss fights, PvP, and loads of non-combat skills like gathering resources, taming horses, farming crops, and fishing.

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However, it isn’t long before you start to notice the mobile version’s shortcomings. All of the classes are gender-locked, questing borrows from Lineage 2: Revolution in that it’s almost entirely automated, and the touchscreen controls are a lot more fiddly than its PC and console counterpart. Playing with a controller does mitigate this somewhat but everything outside of combat still requires a tap or two, so it’s not really a genuine solution.

So what do we like about Black Desert Mobile? Well, the combat is the initial highlight. It’s basically identical to the main version of Black Desert, with a wide variety of skills to unlock and chain together to create massive, action-packed combos. We played as a Warrior, and were surprised to see many returning skills and animations – it genuinely felt like a miniature version of Black Desert.

Black Desert Mobile Promised to be a Familiar Experience to the Original, but it Isn’t Long Until You Experience its Shortcomings

Also, despite the sheer amount of automation we do like the progression system. As you complete quests, battle monsters, and greet new NPCs you’ll fill up a region completion percentage bar. At any moment you can pop into the ‘Knowledge’ section of the menu and see how far you’ve come, or find a few new things to tick off and bring you closer to 100%. It really pleases our inner completionist, which gets a kick out of ticking things off a list.

Building your base camp also gives us similar kicks. You can build a variety of buildings out of the resources you gather while wandering the world, which, in turn, produce even more resources for you. You can also send your workers, which you’ll hire as you quest, to gather resources for you, you can plant crops in your farm, or fish on your pier – there’s loads to do in your base camp that doesn’t involve fighting, and it’s a nice change of pace.

Unfortunately though, the amount we dislike about Black Desert Mobile far outweighs the good. Our biggest red flag is just how ugly it is, which is unforgivable when you consider how poorly it performs on a technical level. For reference, we’re playing on a third generation iPad Pro 12.9inch, which is one of the more powerful mobile devices currently out there, so if it’s struggling this much on this, we’d hate to experience it on lower end devices.

But why is it so ugly? Well, for one, the resolution is very low – even when set to maximum in the settings. The result is a very blurry experience, which, when combined with the weird shiny effect on everything, gives off the impression that you’ve smeared Vasoline over your phone or tablet. Couple that with texture pop-in, that poor frame rate, and jagged edges literally everywhere and the result is a hideously ugly mobile game that plays worse.

It’s a Hideously Ugly Experience Too, With a Low Resolution, Low Frame Rate, and Nasty Texture Pop-in

When we say play, we mean it in the loosest sense of the term too. While the combat is terrific, the rest of the experience generally involves watching your character automatically move between quest markers, chatting to NPCs that bombard you with painfully written dialogue and even worse voice acting. When you do get into a fight, it’s often over as soon as it began too, with very little challenge ever truly on offer.

However, when the challenge is there – when you fight bosses, for example – the screen is usually such a mess of blurry colours that you can barely make out what’s going on. Good luck dodging powerful enemy attacks that can eat half of your health pool – it’s basically impossible to spot them.

Then there’s the pay to win, which is sprinkled liberally on top of the experience. The cash shop is full of cosmetics, granted, but there are loads of ways to buy power, including skill and gear enhancements. On top of that, there are two different bi-weekly subscriptions that drastically speed up your progress. To grab both, you’ll be spending on average about $20 per month, and that’s without buying any of the other potentially necessary upgrade items.

Overall, we’re thoroughly disappointed in Black Desert Mobile. It’s a hideously ugly experience that runs even worse than it looks, is full of pay to win and autoplay, and features a bunch of frustrating decisions like gender-locked classes. It’s 2019 – that should not be happening in this day and age.

Old School RuneScape Need Not Worry

Old School RuneScape is under no threat whatsoever from losing its crown as best mobile MMORPG, and those that actually don’t mind autoplay experiences are far better off playing Lineage 2: Revolution, which is simply a better version of this garbage in every single way.

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