Snail Games’ free-to-play massively multiplayer online role-playing game Black Gold Online shows promise. At the center of the experience lies an engaging action oriented battle system, packed with a diverse set of characters with unique attributes and a reward system offering prizes for almost nothing -- which is a good thing. However, the game is plagued with fetch quests.
We’ve played BGO for several hours and we already feel as if could predict the remainder of the game’s quests. Go here and kill that, or speak to them and retrieve this. The formula is recycled time and time again, with almost no change other than the individuals you speak to and the enemies you encounter.
In the MMORPG fashion, before jumping into the game our first stop was the character selection screen. Players can choose to play as one of two factions: Isenhorst and Erlandir. The former inhabits the area west of the Ellescadia Mountain Range, which divides the continent of Montel in two, while the latter tenants the east.
“The idea behind the game is that these two worlds are at war over the [black gold],” Kevin Doyle, community manager at Snail Games told Examiner. “It’s this precious energy crystal, you can actually see it in the world sometimes. And on the steampunk side [Isenhorst], they mine it and they refine it and they use it as a fuel source for their industry, manufacturing and for their technology, and on the fantasy side [Erlandir], they worship it, they revere it, they protect it and they use it as the foundation for their natural power.”
We went with Erlandir.
After choosing our gender, race, class and making our stylish protagonist, we were greeted by a dull opening cutscene with bland text and no voice acting. The battle tutorial was short but informative, and soon enough we finally arrived in the sunny, cheerful, dangerous province of Sunrise Hills.
As we mentioned earlier, the first few hours consisted of mostly fetch quests. We followed the main storyline throughout the entirety of our playthrough in order to make the most of our short time. But even so, our last mission was much like our first. What’s even more disappointing is that we paid little interest in the actual story.
However, we were fully engaged in BGO’s battle system, which offers a bit more than your average MMO. Dodging is a huge part of combat. Knowing when to strike and when to evade is crucial to attaining victory, especially during a player-versus-player battle, and you need to carefully aim your attacks in order to land a hit.
Once a player reaches level 10 they can also summon a wide range of vehicles and creatures called battle carriers, which help to fight off stronger enemies while keeping combat fresh and exciting. Our first battle carrier was this doglike creature called Tenderfoot Homodont, who allows you to strike foes while mounted to deal substantial damage and also has a deadly tackle attack.
Some carriers feature range attacks which can, in a way, transform the gameplay into a shooter. “Black Gold Online, in addition to traditional MMO third-person hack-and-slash, actually blends the elements of third-person shooter and also first-person shooter,” Johnny Lau, senior content lead at Snail Games told Examiner. “You can switch perspective at any time. It also revolutionizes the mounted combat system which is lacking in MMOs nowadays.”
Carriers can be built and customized in the game; the steampunk faction builds different machines, while the fantasy side produces a variety of creatures. Some carriers can be built with schematics earned by completing side quests, using resources found around Montel. When mounted, a health and fuel bar is displayed in the center of the screen. While the former is self explanatory, the latter indicates a carrier's energy and how often it can attack. Once it’s fully depleted, the vehicle/creature is pretty much rendered useless until it’s refueled. According to Doyle, there are over 100 different carriers featured in the game.
After level 15, players can battle it out in epic 1v1's in the Arena, which can earn them items as well as pride (since wins and loses are recorded). Progression in BGO earns players a ton of stuff. Reaching certain levels, signing in at least once each day of the week, staying online for a certain period of time, all are ways of earning players cool new items and features. For this, we applaud Snail Games, and not just because we earned stuff left and right with no knowledge of the rewards we received -- though that sure did help -- but because we truly felt that every thing we did in the game meant something...even if it was one of those tedious fetch quests.