Everything we know about Crimson Desert

Crimson Desert - a woman in furs with a bow stands in snowfall
(Image credit: Pearl Abyss)

Yes, the desert is crimson because it's covered in blood. That's the first (maybe even the most important?) thing you need to know about Crimson Desert, a new open world action game from the makers of Black Desert Online. The official site calls it "a saga written in blood," and that blood is, obviously, all over the sand.

So: What else is there to know about Crimson Desert? It debuted at The Game Awards in 2020 with a five minute gameplay trailer, although it wasn’t exactly five minutes of uninterrupted footage. Instead, it was one long highlight reel, showing off different locations, characters, combat styles, and sliced of story.

The trailer went by completely without narration, and bounced around so often it was difficult to tell what was going on all the time. There's definitely melodrama, but what's the story, and how does it connect to Black Desert Online? That’s where we come in. After combing through the trailer and checking out the summaries on Crimson Desert’s official website, we’ve pieced together everything developer Pearl Abyss has said so far about its next game.

What’s the release date for Crimson Desert?

Crimson Desert is currently delayed until an unspecified date late 2023. It was originally expected in winter 2021, but Pearl Abyss announced the first delay in July 2021. Pearl Abyss explained the length of the delay at its Q3 earnings presentation.

"We have decided that we need to dedicate more time to adding new ideas for an even deeper, more enriching game," Pearl Abyss says. "Therefore, in order to create the best possible experience, all the while ensuring the health and safety of everyone involved in delivering the game, we have decided to delay Crimson Desert's release. We will provide an updated scheduled in the future."

Here's the Crimson Desert reveal trailer (opens in new tab)

This five minute trailer premiered at the 2020 Game Awards, and promises that "built on Pearl Abyss' proprietary, next-gen engine, Crimson Desert will deliver high fidelity graphics & game features, and a highly immersive gameplay experience."

Is Crimson Desert a sequel to Black Desert?

Crimson Desert - a warrior faces off against an antlered creature in a forest

(Image credit: Pearl Abyss)

No, it isn’t a Black Desert sequel. It was originally planned as a Black Desert prequel, but developers Pearl Abyss have since suggested that it is not especially connected to Black Desert, and instead is its own standalone IP which shares some themes.

We know then that it’s not directly linked to Black Desert’s story, but they may share the same universe. Or they could be completely different. With the trailer sticking religiously to a gameplay highlight reel format, and the story summary on the game’s website avoiding references to Black Desert, we can’t say for sure whether the pair share the same universe, or just the same developers. Functionally, it seems like you won't need any experience with Black Desert to jump into this game.

What’s the story of Crimson Desert?

Though the links to Black Desert are unclear, Pearl Abyss has given us some background on the story itself. Set in the world Pywel, your job is to travel to the different regions, uniting them under your cause and recruiting allies.

There’s a few snippets on the game’s website, but the clearest summary of the story is this: "The King of Demeniss, Unifier of Lands, lies in a coma. In the ensuing power vacuum, those who have suffered under his iron rule now seek to exploit his weakness. Some who have felt the oppression of his conquests seek only independence, but others dream of gaining their own absolutist rule."

In this new power vacuum, you need to step in and earn yourself a slice of glory.

What’s up with that weird, magical gate?

Weird, right? No idea. Something magical, I guess. With no story given away in the trailer and it still unclear how closely this is tied to Black Desert, all we can say for sure about this weird, magical gate is that it’s a gate, which appears to be magical, and seems quite weird. [2:13 in trailer] 

What’s the combat like in Crimson Desert?

It seems at first to be your standard, vague-Medieval era fare. There’s swords, shields, axes, bows, that whole deal. The trailer puts far more emphasis on the melee weapons than the ranged ones, but bow and arrows clearly still feature. It seems to be a lot of close quarters fighting with big power swings rather than precise movements. Also, dodge rolling. There’s one moment where the player character just drops a Stone Cold Stunner (outta nowhere!) too.

A bit later on in the trailer we see a cannon, which doesn’t seem to fit the era at all. Reading the Crimson Desert website, it only gets stranger: “A new generation of weapons has emerged alongside the old: Pistols beside swords, cannons beside axes, and even hand-mounted cannons.”

Not sure I fancy running into battle with a wooden shield and a little sword if the other side has glocks, so it’ll be interesting to see how that balances. Assassin’s Creed 4: Black Flag did a good job of it, so it’s possible.

Are there fantasy elements in Crimson Desert? 

Crimson Desert - a dragonf lies across a sky with scattered clouds

(Image credit: Pearl Abyss)

Oh, you betcha. Pearl Abyss claims "each location has its own unique character that is both fantastical and grounded in gritty realism," and it certainly doesn’t skimp on the fantasy elements in the trailer. We saw dragon fighting, mystical runes, ghostly swamps, magically appearing walkways, a host of other fantasy creatures and of course, that weird gate thing. 

Is Crimson Desert an MMO or a single player RPG?

Most people would have expected it to be an MMO, since that’s what Black Desert is, though it's entirely possible to play solo. However, the trailer footage for Crimson Desert doesn’t look very MMO-y at all. There only seems to be one player character fighting at once, occasionally joined by a companion fighting alongside.

While details are spotty in the trailer, the game’s official Twitter page describes it as "an upcoming open world action-adventure," which doesn’t technically rule out it being an MMO, but it seems very likely that it’s a singleplayer RPG instead.

However, the game’s website asks “will you explore these strange new lands alone or venture into them with other players?” which suggests an MMO. It could mean online co-op, but still, not especially clear here.