* I am writing this review as someone who has 300+ hours on the game.
Before getting into what Black Desert Online exactly is, we must go back in time a bit and have a look at the last decade, because seriously: the number of actually good, quality MMORPGs released in the past 5 years is so low that you don't need more than one hand to count that. There were a lot of multiplayer role-playing games released, but only a few them actually had an impact on the gaming community, for example Tera, Blade & Soul, or Neverwinter. Then BDO (Black Desert Online) got released... Let's start.
A short introduction to the world of BDO: the game is set in a fantasy world, but unlike many other fantasy MMOs, the feeling, the atmosphere somewhat a reminder to the Witcher games', or to Game of Thrones, Lord of the Rings, and so on... The genre of this game is actually a kind of "fantasy realism" (one of the main things that really got me), so you won't have 3 ft short, blue skin-colored alien looking fat cat-human hybrids whoopin' around, spamming their fireball spells... It has a somewhat realisitic world spiced with high fantasy elements, which applies to everything: the graphics, character design, armor and weapon design, skills and abilities, the environment, etc.
The story is something that's quite good for an MMO game, there are conspiracies, betrayals, giant bosses, a kingdom, a history, etc. What matters for the player are the main storyline, and the Black Spirit, who will guide you throughout the game, developing itself, gaining more and more power.
The way the quests are carried out is also a positive point for the game, having not only "go and kill this and that" and "go here and there", but also escorting quests, protection quests, convince this person about a topic, gain privilages to something, etc.
Leveling up in BDO is basically gaining EXP for quests, grinding, etc. Howewer, the structure of the leveling system, especially the limitations are something new. There is a "soft cap" and a "hard cap" in the game; soft stands for the maximum level according to the current state of the game, above which lies the hard cap, which is programmatically the absolute maximum level one can reach.
Character creation works in a similar (you pick a class, then start making your character), yet different way compared to other MMOs; this game does have the most detailed character creation I have ever encountered in a game. You can literally move every single signifact bones and joints on your character separately - you can be muscular, fat, tall, short, but not only with premade presets, but you can also create yours - not talking about the INFINITE possibilities you have while designing your character's face.
Once you are done with your character's look, you can set his/her zodiac sign. Each zodiac sign describes itself with a few human personalities and/or talents, such as "conservative", "ambitious", "honorable", etc. These signs do not have a huge impact on the game, but if you wanna be on the top list once, then you should choose wisely.
BDO also puts naming your character into a very creative perspective: upon account creating, you pick a family name, then, at the end of character creation, you give your character a given name. This aspect of naming your character might increase the immersion, at least it did for me.
* On the pictures you are seeing above, I tried to make the Red Woman from GoT, Might Guy from Naruto, and a kinda realistic revision of Zilean from League of Legends.
The combat system is hack 'n slash. Due to the combat system, skills have been also taken into a different point of view; there are combo based attacks and separate spells and skills, howewer, despite of having premade combos, Black Desert doesn't take away the opportunity from the player to make their own combos, it's really up to your playstyle. Talking about playstyles, in BDO there are no carries or supports or tanks in their definitive meaning: you play the way you want, you build your character the way you want. Of course, there are recommendations.
The game also has a complex, unique guild system, which I am not going to talk too much about, because it is, well... complex. So for people who want to participate in guild wars, gaining control over a territory, having guild houses, receiving addtional money after taxes, then you also have a point.
Talking about territories, the map of Black Desert Online is huge. A realistic element is that the landscape doesn't change drastically, rapidly. We have a huge green territory and a huge desert, yet the map is still colorful, changing in a realistic way with hills, mountains, fields, forests, etc. The game also have a dynamically changing time and weather system, which also have actual effects on the game, such as hostile creature becoming more powerful and agressive at night.
Graphics design is something I am not going to talk too much about, because it is simply stunning for an MMO. No matter if you are fighting on a wheat field, in a deep forest, top of the mountains or in a cave, or just traveling under the sun, or keeping warm in a wooden shelter, everything is just photogenic. Especially when combined with the amazingly immersive medieval fantasy collection of soundtracks, fancy sound effects, and the continous ambient sounds.
* for graphics comparison, I would recommend GD's own comparison video.
Of course, there are some drawbacks, the biggest one is microtransactions. Yes, even if you pay for the game, there are still things that you can only buy for real money, which wouldn't be a bad thing if they were cheap, but they are actually pretty expensive. Howewer, Black Desert Online still tries to compensate that by making a lot of real money purchases sellable for in-game cash on the in-game market, also with daily rewards that actually worth something, and multiple useful gifts.
The game is well optimized if you take everything into consideration, having lower FPS doesn't neccessarily mean bad optimiztaion. You must have some local issues if you have a beefy computer but still getting low FPS. Having the need to mess around with 3rd party programs in that case might be a drawback for some people who aren't really into these things.
* with a 3GB GTX 660, i5 3470, 8GB ram, and an HDD I played on max settings 1080p with 38 avg. FPS with high-end mode disabled.
The conclusion? Black Desert Online is technically a very good game, would recommend it to any MMO lovers, especially for those who prefer soft-fantasy ones with enough realism. Thank you for reading this review.