At the Game Awards last year, among all the other exciting announcements, one particularly exciting reveal came from South Korean developer Pearl Abyss. Known for its popular MMO Black Desert Online, Pearl Abyss is also working on another vastly different game: a singleplayer action RPG called Crimson Desert. After the visually impressive cinematic and gameplay trailer, many were surprised with the game's initial. Even more surprising is that Crimson Desert is due to release winter 2021, just a year after its first trailer. Many drew comparisons to a certain other impressive open-world RPG, specifically CD Projekt Red's The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt.
That comparison isn't entirely off the mark, but it's clear that Crimson Desert differs in several key areas compared to The Witcher 3. Other than the general framework of an outsider who's got a troubled past, who ends up somehow being enthralled in the political dealings of a foreign land, the world and general gameplay is very distinct in Crimson Desert. Whether it's the expansive and detailed world, the off-the-wall dungeons involving the manipulation of time and physics, or the much more bombastic and barbarian-esque combat style, Crimson Desert moves and plays very differently compared to the studio's previous efforts in Black Desert Online.
On a surface level, the similarities to The Witcher seem pretty obvious: A mercenary named Macduff will travel across varying villages, kingdoms, and lands, listening to the trials and tribulations of the people and helping where they can. Evidently, according to Crimson Desert's first trailer, this expands beyond helping commoners to being embroiled in the politics of both their homeland and the places Macduff travels to. Gameplay also shows Macduff hunting what appear to be monsters and animal life as well, but it's not clear whether or not his occupation is primarily a monster hunter, unlike Geralt of Rivia. However, that's really where the similarities end.
Though it's unclear whether or not it's in the same universe, Crimson Desert is not directly connected to Black Desert Online in any specific way. The game does feature some PvP and MMO-like elements, but a majority of the game's storytelling is focused entirely on the singleplayer aspect of the game. Rather than players creating their own character, they all embody a unique version of Macduff, meaning the emphasis of singleplayer storytelling is especially important in Crimson Desert. As for how that's going to work in multiplayer has yet to be revealed, but really all that's been shown of the game is gameplay and narrative moments from singleplayer moments.
Especially different compared to Black Desert Online, and tangentially The Witcher, is the game's action RPG battle system. Much of the visual flair and style found in the combat abilities from Black Desert Online are present in Crimson Desert, but this game is clearly designed to have much more player feedback in combat. Attacks and enemy interactions are weighty and impactful, with tons of dynamic interactions like swords clashing, dodging, mounting, and tackling enemies to the ground. No particular spells were shown off like Geralt's Signs, but considering Macduff literally rides a dragon in one scene, the concept of using magic isn't totally far-fetched.
Crimson Desert's world also seems to be a pretty clear highlight of the game, with the first trailer for Crimson Desert showcasing a massive world full of peaks and valleys. The world of Pywel appears to be designed to inspire exploration through the use of landmarks, both in nature as well as civilization. Based on the developer commentary of the trailer, tons of detail was put into making sure giant landmarks like mountain peaks were as easily identifiable as possible when exploring. However, the variety of landscapes and biomes shown off clearly indicate the world of Crimson Desert is massive, not to mention any of the isolated time dungeons that are totally unique areas.
At the moment, it's unclear when players may get a new peek at Crimson Desert, though E3 would make a lot of sense. Pearl Abyss is not confirmed for any particular shows during the E3 2021 schedule so far, but that doesn't mean it can't be one of many third-party games showing at Microsoft's conference, for example. Either way, it's certainly worth keeping tabs on Crimson Desert as it approaches release later this year. Black Desert Online was a popular MMO, but the strides taken in Crimson Desert show this could be a very impressive story-driven action RPG, something vastly different compared to Pearl Abyss' previous work.
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