There are dozens of mobile MMOs available to play right now, and many of them are flawed. They fail in many areas, they don't manage to achieve the sense of scale which MMOs are known for, they have boring worlds, ugly visuals, and many of them just play themselves. There's no such thing as a perfect mobile MMO, but Black Desert Mobile has kept my attention for much longer than any of its competitors because it does a lot right.
The world is large, the scale is, well, larger than most, and the visuals - on a capable device - are very nice indeed. But Black Desert Mobile tackles a problem that too many mobile MMOs run into. And that's the game playing itself.
Play AxE: Alliance VS Empire, and you can play and make progress without ever really touching the screen. You look away for a minute, and quests just complete themselves, you never need to get involved. These MMOs are designed to streamline the player to the maximum level, at which point the grind sets in, and microtransactions make the developers money.
I don't want to reduce the mechanics of these games to financial incentives, but in the mobile market it can be difficult to do so when it comes to free-to-play games, and mobile MMOs are pretty predictable in this regard. But that's where Black Desert Mobile comes in.
- Interview: Hidden Variable Studios on making Skullgirls Mobile's mobile multiplayer work and future plans
Black Desert Mobile is not perfect here but is still far more compelling than its contemporaries. The fact is, you can just tap quests from a menu, and your character will travel there automatically - and this becomes even faster once you earn your first mount. Being able to navigate the world automatically does detract from the immersion, but it also ensures casual players won't be getting lost.
What's especially nice is that combat isn't automatic - mostly. You'll be using your moves yourself, tapping away on the screen, and what's more, this game features action combat. It's not a fixed RPG experience like many other MMOs, here you will be able to dodge and roll out of the way of enemy attacks, meaning that your own skill matters just as much as your statistics.
This will keep you engaged at all times, whereas in other mobile MMOs where you'll fall off as the game just endlessly plays itself.
While you're leveling you'll also be tasked with taking care of a camp, complete with people you can hire, a boss rush mode, and multiple ways to earn materials and items. This will keep you engaging and coming back to the game, even when quests start to feel repetitive.
Of course, that core mobile MMO mechanic focus on min-maxing your statistics is still present, but whereas in other mobile MMOs that feels like the only input you have on the game, here you feel like your decisions have so much more impact. This is, again, aided by the focus on real-time combat, which makes boss fights far more engaging than even raid bosses in big MMOs like World of Warcraft.
Even when not against bosses, the position of your character can mean the difference between hitting a single enemy and hitting multiple at the same time, adding yet another layer of depth many other MMOs struggle with.
How Black Desert Mobile will feel to play once you get closer to the level cap is hard to say at this time, but our early impressions are broadly very, very positive, and even if you're not usually an MMO player, it's worth trying out for one of the most impressive and large games we've seen hit mobile yet.