Everything we know about Crimson Desert

Crimson Desert's player character clashes swords with an enemy.
(Image credit: Pearl Abyss)

Oh, hey! Crimson Desert exists! The open world action game from devs of Black Desert Online spent a few years in conspicuous silence after its reveal at the 2020 Game Awards, leaving us with nothing but the few details on the game's official website. But thanks to an appearance at Gamescom Opening Night Live 2023, Crimson Desert is reasserting its place in reality.

Crimson Desert seems a little Witcher-ish, a little Dragon Dogma-esque—there's even some Grand Theft Auto DNA in there? And of course, there's plenty of the flashy, punchy impact that Pearl Abyss brought to bear in Black Desert Online. Here's everything we know about Crimson Desert.

Is there a Crimson Desert release date?

Crimson Desert doesn't have a release date yet. It was originally expected in Winter 2021, but Pearl Abyss announced a delay in July 2021, establishing a tentative late 2023 release window in its Q3 2022 earnings presentation.

Considering we're entering late 2023 as of this writing without a release timeline update, it's probably safe to expect that we won't see Crimson Desert this year, as always: We can only speculate about release dates until an official announcement.

Crimson Desert trailers

Here's the latest Crimson Desert gameplay trailer

Crimson Desert reemerged into the spotlight with a gameplay trailer for Gamescom Opening Night Live 2023, ending its three year streak of PR silence. The gameplay trailer throws a hail of gameplay clips of all the different things you'll do in the fantasy land of Pywel, and by god it's a lot of things. There's dropkick-heavy swordfights and horseback archery. There's a shot of the player character hijacking a horse-drawn wagon that looks straight out of a fantasy Grand Theft Auto. The player character fishes. He pets a dog. He lifts a cat. He plays a flute. He dives from a floating archipelago and into a cosmic wormhole. Crimson Desert seems like it has a lot going on.

Watch the Crimson Desert reveal trailer

This five minute Black Desert reveal 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."

Crimson Desert gameplay and story info

Is Crimson Desert a sequel to Black Desert Online?

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 reveal 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 games share a universe. Seems like you won't need any Black Desert experience to play it, though.

What’s the story of Crimson Desert?

We still don't have much information to work with, but Pearl Abyss has given us some background on the story itself. Set in the world Pywel, you play as a mercenary in Crimson Desert, recruiting allies to your cause as you travel to different regions.

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 the combat like in Crimson Desert?

Crimson Desert's player character glaring at a crowned goblin as they duel.

(Image credit: Pearl Abyss)

It seems at first to be your standard, vaguely 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.

In the Gamescom 2023 gameplay trailer above, combat in Crimson Desert seems to stay pretty sword-heavy, but the enemies the player character faces get progressively more bizarre. At one point, he's advancing through a barrage of projectiles so that he can swordfight the Da Vinci-esque tank that's shooting them. Later, he's in a swordfight with a clockwork golem while a metal dragon swoops down to observe.

There's more pro wrestling antics on display, though. At one point, the player character grabs an enemy by the feet so he can whirl them around to strike other nearby enemies, before throwing his improvised hapless improvised weapon as a living projectile. We'll have to see whether Crimson Desert offers more styles of combat.

Is Crimson Desert single-player, or an MMO?

Breaking from its MMO pedigree with Black Desert Online, Pearl Abyss has confirmed that Crimson Desert is a single-player game. However, earlier interviews and press releases closer to the game's reveal had mentioned online elements without any specifics. Crimson Desert's latest appearance at Gamescom didn't mention any online or multiplayer elements, so it's unclear whether Pearl Abyss is still planning any online features. For now, it's safer to expect that Crimson Desert will be primarily a single-player game, if not entirely.

A screenshot of a town marketplace in Crimson Desert, showing human townsfolk alongside trolls and orc-like folk.

(Image credit: Pearl Abyss)

What else can you do in Crimson Desert gameplay?

The Crimson Desert gameplay trailer from Gamescom 2023 shows all kinds of gameplay. While we don't know any of the mechanics involved, here's a brief summary of what was shown:

  • Lots of melee combat, primarily involved swordfighting, but also featuring a lot of pro wrestling-style grappling
  • Tavern arm wrestling
  • Toppling an entire watchtower in combat
  • Horse riding
  • Horse archery
  • Horse taming
  • Horse drifting
  • Sheep-wrangling
  • Wagon hijacking
  • Hostage rescue
  • Buying cooking ingredients (so, presumably, cooking)
  • Fishing
  • Mushroom gathering
  • Dog petting
  • Cat cuddling
  • Playing a pipe while leading a procession of small void sprites
  • Piloting a hot air balloon
  • Entering a magic portal to an otherworld of geometric light-forms
  • Puzzles on floating islands
  • Climbing trees and buildings, Assassin's Creed-style
  • Telekinetically manipulating objects with a telekinetic tendril, almost like moving things with Tears of the Kingdom's Ultrahand
  • Pole vaulting
  • Leaping from a sprinting horse to sprout a mess of ribbon-like tendrils from your back, allowing you to glide
  • Climbing a treant
  • Skydiving through a field of aerial incendiary mines
  • Combat quick-time events
  • Falling through a cosmic portal

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. 

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.

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