Preview: Black Gold Online

The mixing of both steampunk and fantasy is a thematic occurrence that appears in many different forms of literature and art, but it hasn’t exactly had a huge representation in the MMO market. Enter Black Gold Online (hereby referred to as BGO) Snail Games’ latest addition to their impressive game line-up. While the steampunk and fantasy themes no doubt play a pivotal role within the game, they’re anything but synergistic; in fact the game has the two main factions or ‘alignments’ pitted against each other in a war reminiscent of age-old technology versus nature. Even with the game currently being in an open beta, there is more than enough content to get your feet wet.

One of the first things I noticed when I loaded up the character creator is that there were a ton of classes to choose from. BGO is planning on launching with 18 classes and 6 races, and while there were only four races available in the beta (two for each alignment), there was more than enough class selection to ensure that players would find a suitable class to play. The game doesn’t deviate from the standard traditional trifecta of Tank, Healing, and Damage roles.

A point to note about BGO is the combat system. It uses a seamless action style combat system, similar to MMOs like Guild Wars 2, Tera Online, and Wildstar, but there are some targeting elements in there as well, such as for healing or for abilities that can only target one unit. As you level up in the game, you’ll slowly ease into the mechanics of your class. For example, my Assassin class required me to generate ‘Rage’, which was then expended by use of certain abilities. Regardless, BGO still looks and plays like a standard action MMO with a variety of different control schemes, ensuring that controlling your character doesn’t get too awkward.

Your character is limited to carrying 6 different skills into combat. This allows a player to customize their skill selections to choose a fighting style that appeals to them, and allows you to try out different builds for different situations.

BGO definitely feels like a PvP (Player versus Player)-focused MMO, with heavy emphasis on the war between the Kingdom of Isenhorst (Technology) and the Erlandir Union (Nature). The simplest way to get into this is to simply attack members of other faction in the world. Otherwise there are also more structured ways to do PvP, including world battles, battlegrounds, or a battlefield that only begins on a set scheduled basis. At higher levels Energy Wells become hotly contested territory between guilds, which allows them to take certain territories under their control.

However, if you were looking for a primarily PvE experience, fear not because BGO will still have you covered. Each race has a unique starting quest line which will take you across the lands of your respective starting zone. Later on you’ll be able to partake in standard instances with bosses and loot at the end, trials that pit you against waves of monsters to test your skill, open world events, and even treasure dungeons that are scattered across the world map. As for end-game content, you’ll be able to participate in up to 20-man instances to have a shot at some of the best gear in the game.

In addition to all this, along the course of the game you will eventually receive your very own Battle Carrier, which serves as a combat mount for you to use in both PvE and PvP oriented encounters. The Isenhorst manufacture and mount in Battle Vehicles, while the Erlandir harness the power of War Beasts to serve them in battle. The Battle Carrier system is actually quite in-depth, with each carrier having its own active skills, classes and rules of engagement. You’ll be able to upgrade your Carrier and even change its class, depending on what kind of role you wish to fulfill on the battlefield.

The graphics of BGO are nothing to scoff at. They don’t have quite the same amount of model and texture fidelity as some modern games do, but relative to other MMOs, they can definitely be considered above average. Perhaps the one element I was most enticed with is the overall visual aesthetics of the game. As I traveled through the barren and technology-influenced environments of my starting zone, I could definitely feel the detail and care that the designers of BGO put into the levels. Everywhere from the attire of NPCs on the streets to the architecture of the hub towns felt like I was part of a kingdom that was dependent… no, consumed by the necessity of technology. I didn’t make an Erlandir character, but I have no doubt that I would have been impressed by the contrast between the two alignments, in both environments and ideology. One thing the game could have really used is voice-acting for some of the beginning cutscenes. Other than that, I give due props to Snail Games for managing to craft this world into an MMO.

Snail Games’ Black Gold Online so far has a solid foundation for an MMO, and certainly has enough tricks up its sleeves to set it apart from the masses. If you’re ready and willing to fight for one of the two major alignments of the game, then you can begin by registering for their Open Beta which has been open for about a week now. The full release is slated for release sometime this year with a free to play model and a cash shop.

Time will tell if Snail Games’ can hit Gold in this saturated market.