Black Desert asks the question: What if we made an MMO expansion and didn't invite any monsters?

Countryside with two warriors watching over it
(Image credit: Pearl Abyss)

Black Desert Online has been around since 2014, and has been enchanting players with its limitless progression, fighting-game style combat, and gigantic roster of playable classes. There's no level limit—once you hit the 'soft cap' of 62, experience gain slows to a crawl, but it's still there. In the last decade the studio has released updates that focus on PvP, PvE, and PvT. 

(That's player versus tree. There's so much crafting.)

What the studio hasn't done, however, is release an expansion focused more on story than on having tons of monsters to grind. Until now.

Land of the Morning Light is the new update for BDO, out June 14. It features a brand new continent, found far to the northwest of the lands currently occupied by heroes grinding just a few more blood wolves before bedtime. It's inspired heavily by Korean myths and medieval culture, and developer Pearl Abyss hopes that global players who've been exposed to more Korean media over the last few years like Squid Game, The Glory, and BTS will find it both familiar and intriguing.

You'll find lots of new things on the island, like Korean goblins called dokkaebi and new manors to decorate. What you won't find are zones packed with monsters, at least in the overworld. The expansion is organized into eight questlines that you can explore in any order, each tied to a new boss for you to fight. Instead of being sent on fetch quests to grab 15 weasel whatsits and 10 goblin gubbins, you'll follow each quest as it explores the island and a bit of Korean folklore. After you uncover the secrets of the fox spirit Gumiho or the Golden Pig King, you'll be able to challenge them in battle and then move on to the next questline.

These all culminate in the final quests for the expansion, including a couple more secret questlines and bosses. Players of any level will be able to participate in this content, as the entire expansion is scaled according to your level and gear score—in fact, new players will be able to roll a fresh character in the Land and start their BDO experience here, good news for anyone looking to pick up the game for the first time.

For existing players who have been on the grind, however, all of their blood sweat and tears won't be for naught. While 90% of the AP and DP for your characters will be calculated from the new system, 10% will be directly correlated with your character's stats. The hope is that this will give existing badasses a leg up while allowing the rest of us noobs a chance to battle the new bosses.

They'll need that leg up, as well, if they want to climb to the top of the weekly leaderboards. The endgame of the Land of the Morning Light features each of the eight bosses (and two endbosses) scaling up 10 levels of Calamity, each level making the boss progressively harder. The levels past five aren't even available for a player to challenge until someone playing the same class as them defeats Calamity Five, unlocking it for everyone else. The leaderboards are separated by class as well to make it a fair challenge, as some classes will have an easier time with certain bosses and a tougher time with others.

To aid players in their quest for glory as the first to unlock Calamity or the top of the leaderboard, there's an attribute system in place. As you unlock the story quests of the island you'll be given Light Orbs that you can attribute to Sun, Moon, or Earth, each of which correlate with different bosses. As you gather more of them, your base stats will increase and you'll have an easier time with the Boss Blitz.

For a game that's approaching its 10th anniversary on a formula of kung fu battles and monster grinding, Land of the Morning Light is a risky bet. With no PvP content and no monster zones to grind, this new expansion is definitely a bit outside their comfort zone.

What's clear, though, is that they believe it's a bet worth making. Pearl Abyss is making a concerted effort to attract new players—between the attribute balancing found here and recent updates like the Arena of Solare (a PvP zone where you use premade characters, all equally geared), it's clear that they've realized they need to do something about the scaling of characters and the new player experience. 

As far as bets go, it's a good one. There's nothing worse than an MMO that doesn't take risks and stagnates over time to the point where no one plays it—and there's nothing an MMO fan loves more than a race for a world first, which we'll definitely see with these Calamity levels. This boss based gameplay should be a breath of fresh air for new players and old alike, and it's clear that they've put an enormous amount of care and attention into building this new area and making it sing with Korean history and culture.