Hobo Gamer: Black Desert vs ArcheAge

ArcheAge - Sail Boat

After finishing my recent Hobo Gamer posts on Black Desert and ArcheAge, I couldn’t help but find myself comparing the two games in what turned out to be a challenging struggle to crown a victor, and it sounds like I’m hardly alone in attempting to make the comparison. This comparison was inevitable. Both games share strong similarities in objective, but take different paths to reach it. Which will be the stronger game, even if only for me? I want to take a look at exactly that in this post.

It needs to be stated that while ArcheAge has not yet been released in North America, it has been released elsewhere, meaning the facts surrounding it are much more concrete than those concerning Black Desert. This gives Black Desert a distinct advantage, as the less certainty there is surrounding a game’s mechanics, the more prospective players are able to fill in the blanks with their own hopes and wishes. Veteran MMO players will surely be familiar with this phenomenon, as it has lead us all to disappointment so many times. With that analytic weakness disclaimed, let’s get to it!

The Basics

Black Desert is visually gorgeous, a quality extending to all aspects of the game, from its awesome character creation to its beautiful, expansive world. ArcheAge isn’t a bad looking game by any means, but it, as with every other MMO I can think of, finds itself easily overshadowed by Black Desert‘s titanic graphical supremacy. Black Desert‘s advantage in modernity isn’t simply limited to its looks, either. The game’s dynamic action combat, limited action set, and minimalist UI all make the game feel and play much more in line with what I expect from an MMO in this day and age than ArcheAge‘s traditional tab-targeted system.

Currently ArcheAge holds the advantage with its impressive naval battles, but it is confirmed that Black Desert will likely receive them in the future, potentially negating what would otherwise be a large advantage. Black Desert also features an Assassins Creed-esque parkour system for moving about the world and scaling buildings. Excitingly, both games have implemented mounted combat systems.

ArcheAge‘s build-your-own class system with its free skill tree choices presents a more open method of character development, which I find much more compelling than Black Desert‘s rather traditional class design. While neither game has implemented my personal preference for a skill-based classless system ala Star Wars Galaxies (pre-NGE/CU), ArcheAge is undeniably a fair bit closer to that benchmark. Further, I absolutely cannot stand Black Desert‘s gender-locking of classes; if I were keeping tack of points, this would be put a huge one in the ArcheAge column.

I give Black Desert the metaphorical point for immersion – not just for its minimalist UI, but also for its promise that players will never find cosmetic items that do not fit with the game’s medieval setting – instances of which ArcheAge is already riddled with – and worse.

However, the advantages listed above are only peripheral features to what will ultimately decide which game is preferential – their core, driving mechanics.

Black Desert - Sorceress Fighting Dobby

In Black Desert you apparently get to fight that asshole house elf from Harry Potter. Ten points to Black Desert!

The Sandboxes

Both games feature a sandbox core with unique twists. ArcheAge represents more of a casual oriented, sandpark approach, whereas Black Desert goes full on sandbox with a system that may not be for the faint of heart.

ArcheAge‘s approach to the sandbox is centered on accessibility and mass appeal, and while I have no problems playing a game without those qualities, I’m glad to see a game taking a smart look at bringing the sandbox MMO genre to the masses. ArcheAge‘s philosophy appears to be to emulate a lot of EVE‘s game systems, but to implement them in a softer, less punishing way, and to supplement those features with a cadre of themepark offerings to ease players into the game. The two preeminent examples of this are the separate continents, and trade packs.

In ArcheAge, players start off on one of two continents depending on their NPC faction, as determined by their race choice. These continents provide players with a healthy supply of traditional themepark content like quests and dungeons, while the factions give them a set enemy to provide an initial direction in PvP. However, this all changes when players arrive at the third continent (which is optional). This new land is a blank canvas reminiscent of EVE‘s nullsec, allowing players to mold the terrain by building their own towns, cities, and fortresses. Same-faction PK restrictions found in the earlier regions are also set aside, with players forming expeditionary forces free to determine their own allies and enemies in their fight for territorial dominance in the new land.

Trade packs in ArcheAge simulate EVE‘s resource driven PvP without actually implementing item loss on death. Where in EVE, everything is lost and can be looted when you are killed, ArcheAge foregoes all of this, instead implementing a new profession centered on trading and commerce. Players in this profession will craft trade packs in one location, then transport them across the world to a delivery location for a hefty gold payout. However, trade packs do drop when you are killed, and severely limit your walking speed while carrying them to hasten that death. To avoid being PK’d, players will seek out vehicular transportation to avoid losing their wares, be it by road or sea.

Both of these features seem to do an adequate job of appealing to players with a preference for high-risk, high-reward playstyles, as well as offering safer avenues of play for the more risk-averse. In this way, ArcheAge has a lot of potential as a game to painlessly introduce sandboxes to the uninitiated MMO masses. Make no mistake either, while I refer to ArcheAge as taking the casual approach, this is largely as a comparison between these two games, and not the market as a whole. ArcheAge is a casual game when compared to Black Desert or EVE, but I would never call it casual in comparison to modern themeparks. There is a lot of PvP to be had in the game, and its third continent is going to be brutal. The developers refer to the game as a PvP title, and from its feature set, I have no doubt that this is the case.

ArcheAge - Gliding to the Sea

And when the pain sets in, you can gtfo in style with some sweet gliders.

Black Desert is, well, not so kind. With items dropping on death and experience loss on top of it, the game is much closer to the hardcore sandbox experience many old-school gamers are used to. Featuring a completely unique in-depth regional progression system and truly localized economies (unlike ArcheAge), Black Desert seems much better poised to introduce a truly vibrant sandbox economy. Where ArcheAge has simulated the transport of trade goods with its trade pack system, Black Desert has implemented the real deal, though at some cost to mass marketability and accessibility.

Like ArcheAgeBlack Desert has keep sieges, but in a less sandboxy capacity. Where in ArcheAge players will construct their own keeps on the third continent, Black Desert gives players 4 pre-built keeps to fight over for broad territorial control that will likely be less impactful than what we see in ArcheAge‘s un-policed frontier. By segregating its sandbox PvP to its own continent, ArcheAge opened up the door to a much bolder gameplay experience, giving the players more freedom to shape its world.

Black Desert‘s system to limit PKing in the open world is largely unknown at this point, so there is a chance that it will turn out quite restricted. Although the game’s unforgiving death penalties lead me to believe they won’t be holding too many hands, that’s entirely speculative.

In line with its sandbox PvP advantage, ArcheAge has the edge when it comes to housing. Black Desert allows players to bid on three month leases for non-instanced pre-built apartments throughout the game world, while ArcheAge allows its players to choose and place houses at select building locations throughout its world, with broad freedoms to do so on the third continent. Further increasing its edge, ArcheAge allows players to construct functional farms on the portions of their plots not in use by the structures (or to just place a farm with no house at all), which is really cool.

Update: As of the second CBT, Black Desert‘s housing is now instanced. That’s even worse. 

Closing Thoughts

Even after expounding on a comparison, I find it hard to declare one or the other a clear victor using on-paper analysis. To sum up:

Black Desert ArcheAge
More Concrete Information Currently Available
Amazing Character Creation  Character Creation Still Very Good
Action Combat
Limited-Action Set System
Sea Battles Being Considered Sea Battles Already Implemented (And Awesome)
Parkour Movement
Mounted Combat Mounted Combat
More Open Class System
No Gender-Locking of Classes
Miminalist UI
No Immersion Breaking Cosmetics
Casual Friendly and Accessible
Has Familiar Themepark Elements
Less Punishing
Contains Blank Continent for Players to Shape and Fight Over
More Hardcore with Consequences for Death Simulates Hardcore Sandbox PvP with Trade Pack System
Economies are Localized
Great Regional Progression System for Crafting
Keep Battles Are More Sandboxy
Better Housing System

Although I don’t believe in tallying these up numerically (I would have to devise a weighting mechanism for it to be meaningful, which would be tedious), the relatively even split does seem to speak for itself; both Black Desert and ArcheAge bring something unique to the table for potential players to consider; a choice between the two would be very hard to make.

Fortunately, we don’t really have to. ArcheAge will likely release well before Black Desert, giving us plenty of time to play both, if that’s what we end up wanting to do. With ArcheAge‘s strengths largely revolving around accessibility and attempts to bridge the gap to sandboxes for themepark players, it’s great to see it be the first to make it to release. If you’ve never played a sandbox MMO before, ArcheAge will probably be a good game to check out, even if it’s only a stepping stone on your way to Black Desert.

So that’s my answer – both. For now, I’m going to immerse myself in ArcheAge‘s sandboxy world – a pirate’s life for me!

ArcheAge - Boat Commander

I am Captain Cop-Out of the seafaring vessel No Editorial Perspective!

What do you guys think? Is one game a clear victor over the other for you, or do you want to give them both a try as well?

#MMO #BlackDesert #ArcheAge

6 thoughts on “Hobo Gamer: Black Desert vs ArcheAge

  1. Very well made and helpful comparison, I am hyped for ArcheAge more then I am for Black Desert, both of them look sweet.


  2. I’ll add 10 more Black Desert bonuses that I think are better.

    Interaction with NPC’s
    More populated cities
    Fort towers/conquest skirmishes separate from castle sieges
    Exploration requirements are sandbox
    Environment affects game play uniquely
    Crouch walking for open world hiding
    Unique support party system
    Populated cities
    Dyeing highly customizable
    No levels

    1. Black desert has a deep integration with the NPC’s. You can personalize with them and they”ll reward you with new items for purchase and more quests by building an relationship with them. If you have the same astrological sign as them, then you get an even more personal benefit.

    2. Black desert has a better interaction system than AA. Their are many mini-game requirements to get things done. In mining you actually have a mining cart, you actually have to milk your cow “by hand” and it will even kick you if your over aggressive. You have to physically train your mount, shake certain items,etc.

    3.Players can build forts/command centers that other players have to destroy. This is separate from the castle siege mechanics. I’ll admit that AA actually letting you build a castle is nice, but These little many battles that can be constructed between players in Black Desert seem to implement something that can happen often and not just something seen as an event.

    4.Exploration is encouraged in Black Desert through the fact that you have to unlock these nodes in order to do business in some areas. Most are through unlocking people , but some involve the environment and even some monster areas.

    5.Players have the ability to crouch walk which makes their names and guild names disappear. This is a great strategy when attempting to sneak on players, and a great tool for solo players who want to gather resources. A great take on stealth in a sandboxy way.

    6.Environment/cycles affects gameplay. Fight at night and the monsters are stronger, but reward more xp. Fight in the rain and you deal slightly less damage. (Not sure if this is skill based or not). They even said that it may affect mounts as well in the future according to the terrain being desert or snow.

    7. Black Desert has put a unique spin on support classes. Rather than give one player the ability, it requires players to have certain formations to grans bonuses like support and damage arrangements.

    8.Populated cities. Black Desert has a better involvement of NPC’s going about their business in large numbers in important areas. AA isn’t exactly a desert in sites, but Black Desert does a better job of world immersion in this department IMO.

    9. The new dye system for Black Desert lets players dye each armor part into 3 separate colors. In AA you can only dye costumes ATM. AA does counter this by letting you take the look of any armor, but Black Desert still has a better dye system.

    10. Black Desert has no level cap. It gets more difficult along the way, but they said that they will let players continue to gain levels.(not aware with how this affects skills).

    Housing is instanced within cities, but other players use those same buildings (if you didn’t know) and requirements of houses having different uses depending on type (cooking,forging,etc..) is kinda unique IMO. You can own more than one, and you have to connect house to get to certain other ones. It’s a little game to play, but at least it gives lots of interaction. Housing items grant bonuses also (reading books, trophies, etc…). It’s not the great house placing of AA, but they made up for it with the sandbox interaction of them.

    AA 1.7 patch was just released (as of July) and more content has been released like ship customization, another giant ocean boss, a skateboard mount (AA is winning in variety there with so may mounts) , more content for the 3rd continent, etc..though

    I’ll say that Black Desert is currently has more sandbox gameplay overall, but “better” is all opinion. ArcheAge definitely has it’s moments, but Black Desert has no problem stealing and adding all of that content to their own game which was already remarkable. I hope the ArcheAge developers recognize this great game of chess. Either way, the future looks bright for sandbox games.

    I love my ArcheAge, but Black Desert is doing exactly what I suspected. Learning everything that works and adding it to their game.

    Great written article by the way.



    • Thanks for the great comment! Yeah, this article has become fairly outdated and I may revisit it at some point. I have to say, at this point, a lot of negatives have shown up for ArcheAge (with its 1.2 patch) and a lot of positives have been implemented into Black Desert. I’m pretty excited to see how it turns out.


    • “Housing is instanced within cities, but other players use those same buildings (if you didn’t know) and requirements of houses having different uses depending on type (cooking,forging,etc..) is kinda unique IMO. You can own more than one, and you have to connect house to get to certain other ones. It’s a little game to play, but at least it gives lots of interaction. Housing items grant bonuses also (reading books, trophies, etc…). It’s not the great house placing of AA, but they made up for it with the sandbox interaction of them.”

      There really is no point comparing the housing systems. AA’s system has everything BD’s system has plus some other things and not being instanced. You can populate your house with several items that will help you (and anyone else you give access to) craft better or do anything you’ll do in a town/city. You can place a mailbox so you can just check/send you mail from home, you can bind a location to your teleport book so you can just create a portal back home (anyone you let access your house can memorize its location too), you can place chests so you can store stuff in it (chests’ accessibility can be set individually, so you can have your own private chests, chests for your family, others for your guild, etc…). I’m very happy with the housing system and this is a point AA will never lose to BD (unlike other things like naval combat for example that BD may be able to implement better).


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