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!
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.
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.
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 ArcheAge, Black 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.
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:
|More Concrete Information Currently Available|
|Amazing Character Creation||Character Creation Still Very Good|
|Limited-Action Set System|
|Sea Battles Being Considered||Sea Battles Already Implemented (And Awesome)|
|Mounted Combat||Mounted Combat|
|More Open Class System|
|No Gender-Locking of Classes|
|No Immersion Breaking Cosmetics|
|Casual Friendly and Accessible|
|Has Familiar Themepark Elements|
|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!
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