Black Desert Online’s Land of the Morning Light wants you to bring your friends

Black Desert Online’s Land of the Morning Light wants you to bring your friends
Images courtesy of Pearl Abyss

Written by 

Lloyd Coombes

Published 

5th Jun 2023 14:00

It’s been a hot minute since Black Desert Online made its debut. In fact, the MMORPG arrived in Korea almost a decade ago at the tail-end of 2014, and it’s continued rolling out to new regions and platforms in the years since.

The game has always had two major selling points that have set it apart from many of its contemporaries. Its heady mix of visuals that are a cut above many MMOs, and flashy, third-person combat that wouldn’t feel out of place in a more traditional third-person action game, make it a visual feast.

Still, as with any MMO, there’s always a concern that players may struggle to initiate their friends, as the culmination of update after update (weekly ones, in Black Desert Online’s case) can make games of its ilk feel impenetrable.

Thankfully, Pearl Abyss has set its sights on new and returning players alike with the Land of the Morning Light expansion, launching on June 14. We went hands-on last week, and it may just be the most ambitious expansion the game has ever seen.

Land of the Morning Fight

Nampo Harbor in Black Desert Online’s Land of the Morning Light expansion
Click to enlarge

As part of our preview, we were able to use highly-leveled characters from the expansion’s outset, but the new continent in Land of the Morning Light is also intended to be a perfect jumping-off point for players quite literally fresh off the boat.

Wrongly imprisoned for a crime you didn’t commit, the initial questline is fairly standard MMO fodder, albeit buffeted by a gorgeous new Korean-inspired location that uses a new, softer palette that makes Black Desert Online look even better.

“Many games are based in medieval European culture and history, and since the game [Black Desert Online] is now eight years old already, we wanted to offer our player base brand new experiences based on history,” Lybee Park, CEO of Pearl Abyss Europe, tells me.

“Throughout years of development, our developers became confident of introducing our own culture, so it felt like the right moment.”

A story mission encounter in Black Desert Online’s Land of the Morning Light expansion
Click to enlarge

It’s not just the Land of the Morning Light itself that’s been touched by Pearl Abyss’ Korean heritage, either; the developer has worked to incorporate eight self-contained narratives, each based on Korean folklore. These questlines can be completed in any order, and while we didn’t get to play all of them, the one we did experience was memorable at its best, and harrowing at its worst.

A story of an adopted daughter with incredible power, reckoning with the circumstances of her birth, the quest offers multiple paths and fun combat design to produce something that feels a cut above traditional MMO fare.

Still, Black Desert Online remains a world of possibilities - players will often log in and sit and fish all day, or trade their wares without ever engaging in combat. Others prefer to challenge others in PvE. How does that mesh with a more curated set of stories?

“If you look at the history of our updates starting with Eternal Winter [the game's 2022 expansion] there was a shift in focus to for our stories,” Sang Hyun, Live Operations Manager at Pearl Abyss tells me, pointing to overhauls to in-game lore via new voiceovers and cutscenes.

“I think Land of the Morning Light took all the lessons from that and brought it together in the fresh new storybook system”.

That means, feasibly, players can log into Black Desert Online and enjoy the eight self-contained stories before logging off, but Pearl Abyss is doing more to keep players engaged - no matter how long they’ve spent with the game.

The Long Haul

As mentioned earlier, Black Desert Online’s biggest strength lies in its approach to combat, leveraging an action-based system of combos alongside class-based abilities.

That lineage continues with the flashy new Awakening Woosa class and Awakening Maegu class. The former uses flowers to cast AoE attacks, while the latter fights alongside a fox spirit.

Black Desert Online Maegu and Woosa classes, added in Land of the Morning Light
Click to enlarge

Whichever class you pick, however, Land of the Morning Light will offer a new place to test your combat skills. The Black Shrine, located on the new area, will let players summon monsters with different modifiers to try and be the first to take them down.

This "Black Desert Boss Blitz" includes fearsome enemies found in the Storybook questlines and will track your fastest times for defeating them.

These more confined encounters feel closer to Monster Hunter in terms of spectacle, and it’s not just additional content - it’s a core pillar of the expansion that’s sure to see players combing through build ideas and class strategies.

Black Desert Online is usually based on PvE monster zones where you kept defeating lower-tier monsters, hundreds of them at a time,” Sang Hyun explains.

“In this expansion, you focus on one huge boss that you have to get the mechanics down for before you’re wiped instantly, where you have to figure out when to attack and factor in timings”.

If you were worried the Land of the Morning Light would focus too much on combat and story, however, there’s plenty more. 

The customisable home in Black Desert Online’s Land of the Morning Light expansion
Click to enlarge

There’s new Player Housing, with furniture that can be added in a way that feels like a Korean take on The Sims, and there’s a whole new customisable ship, too, the Panokseon, with its own crew hiring system.

Fresh mini-games reduce the time it takes to complete things like woodcutting, animal skinning, and more, including one particularly wild sniper rifle one for hunting.

With such ambition, can Black Desert Online simply keep going? Hyun thinks so.

“The community love, support, and feedback keeps the devs impassioned to make amazing new content,” he says.

“Building their vision of the Black Desert World, I think the sky's a limit on that.”

Bring Your Friends

A character exploring a mountain range in Black Desert Online’s Land of the Morning Light expansion
Click to enlarge

If this all sounds good, then there’s likely only one problem that remains - getting your friends to commit to a new MMO. This writer is a keen Destiny player, for example, but explaining which expansions are required, the levelling process, and more, means my attempts to get others to play with me often sound like static.

“The developers really considered was that a lot of other games where they released new expansions, players have to go through all this levelling process to catch up and then play the new expansion,” Hyun explains.

“So you see a marketing ad for a new expansion, and you can’t really jump in. That was an important focus that led to Land of the Morning Light also having a “level one” system where new players can jump in alongside existing players.”

Players can also expect regular (every few months) Seasonal Server events that make the levelling process smoother, even for those that have dipped out of Black Desert Online at any level.

The idea is to provide a curated tour through the game’s content to catch players up and ensure they’re able to fend for themselves (although it’s primarily focused on PvE, Hyun clarifies, it'll help players feel more confident approaching PvE).

Final Thoughts

The MMO space has never been more competitive than it is in 2023, and while Black Desert Online may not be the genre entry on the tip of everybody’s tongue, it definitely feels as though Pearl Abyss is making all the right moves with Land of the Morning Light.

From accommodating newcomers to adding extra detail for existing players, and further diversifying what Black Desert Online is to those who play it, it might just be the game’s most important, and impressive, update yet.

Previewed on PC. The Land of the Morning Light expansion arrives free for all Black Desert Online players on June 14.

Lloyd is GGRecon's Editor-in-Chief, having previously worked at Dexerto and Gfinity, and occasionally appears in The Daily Star newspaper. A big fan of loot-based games including Destiny 2 and Diablo 4, when he's not working you'll find him at the gym or trying to play Magic The Gathering.

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