Path of Exile: Helpful Websites and Tools

A list of the important websites and tools I use to improve my Path of Exile experience.

Black Desert Online: Journey to Port Ratt

A summary of my trip across the ocean in Black Desert Online to visit Port Ratt, thoughts about the related questline, and criticism of the frustrating swimming.

Black Desert Online: The Valencia Desert

Crossing the desert in Black Desert Online without a minimap, avoiding sunstroke and hypothermia, and digging in the sand.

Preparing for Path of Exile 3.0: The Fall of Oriath

Some useful links and information, mostly for new players, about loot filters and character builds in preparation for the launch of Path of Exile's enormous The Fall of Oriath expansion.

Path of Exile Breach and Legacy Leagues

A quick summary of the build I played in both the Breach and Legacy leagues in Path of Exile, Flameblast Totems, my first CI (Chaos Inoculation) build, and Energy Shield vs. Life.

December 9, 2017

Path of Exile Abyss League Day 1

My first day of the Path of Exile Abyss league (and War for the Atlas expansion) is over. I played for about 6 hours and reached level 48 and act 6. I am playing a Trickster using Essence Drain + Contagion, as well as Blight and Wither (eventually totem) for support. I am also running Blasphemy Despair (later Temporal Chains) and Clarity, plus Flame Dash for gap crossing. I will be using Shield Charge for movement soon, but I haven't switched off my wand yet.

I am mostly following Ghazzy's build guide for MoM ED/Contagion Trickster. I have also consulted Dsfarblarwaggle's Essence Drain Trickster league starter guide for some additional ideas and help. I am enjoying the combo of skills so far. Although my current gear has left me a little squishy, the ability to throw out the combo and then focus on avoiding damage (or moving forward) makes the leveling process pretty safe.

So far, the Abyss league is a lot of fun. The abysses themselves feel very similar to breach, spawning large amounts of monsters (some very dangerous) but feeling appropriately rewarding for the risk. The new Abyss jewels can have crazy stats like flat damage and life, mana regen while moving, various on-hit or on-kill effects, minion bonuses, and many other mods that cannot normally appear on jewels.

These jewels are so powerful that I think the new Stygian Vise belt type that includes an abyssal jewel socket is a no-brainer in most (non-Headhunter?) cases. Being able to roll the standard desired mods on a belt and then add a crazy jewel on top of that is really powerful. There is also a great flexibility in being able to switch out different defensive or offensive jewels as your build evolves.

A quick example of Essence Drain + Contagion from my Mayhem race character.

I have been to the "abyssal depths" which spawn at the end of some abysses a few times. The depths are a nice change of pace from the more frantic abyss chasing, and the boss at the end was challenging but not frustrating, despite a time limit.

Otherwise, I am enjoying some of the quality of life changes in the patch, especially the improved buff/debuff system. Flasks now show a duration bar, and by default, your flasks no longer clog up the buff bar. Similarly, your own auras do not show an icon by default, which makes sense as they should always be on anyway. Finally, debuffs now show on a separate line, making it much easier to notice dangerous debuffs like curses, shock, bleed, etc.

I was also glad to see the new quest reward screen which looks much better than the old repurposed vendor screen where you "bought" your quest reward. These small touches that have been piling up are going a long way towards making Path of Exile look less rough around the edges.

August 18, 2017

Path of Exile: Helpful Websites and Tools

Path of Exile is a complex game with many different interacting systems. Information is not always easily accessible or understood in-game. Luckily, the community has created some very useful websites, programs, and other tools to help players.

In my previous post on preparing for The Fall of Oriath expansion, I talked about a few basic tools for getting started, choosing a build, and setting up a loot filter. Here are many of the other tools I use to improve my Path of Exile experience as I get further into the league and improve my characters.

Last Updated: December 2017


PoETrade is currently the standard (popular) 3rd-party trading website. Using Path of Exile's public stash tab API, PoETrade allows players to search for items (and currency) available for sale. You can do broad searches, such as for a specific unique item, or increasingly detailed searches, like all boots with 30% movement speed, two resistances with a total greater than 80, and maximum life greater than 50. PoETrade makes it much easier to sell the loot you find and use the profits to acquire better gear for yourself.

You can read the original trade improvements announcement for more information about how to list items for sale using premium stash tabs. If you don't have premium stash tabs, you can use the programs Procurement or Acquisition to list items using the official forums.


PoEApp is another, newer trade website. I am not as familiar with the site, but it offers very similar functionality to PoETrade, including a currency market. I started using PoEApp more recently, especially early in the league when PoETrade was a bit overwhelmed with traffic. At this point, you can probably just use one or the other depending on preference, but I am personally more comfortable working with PoETrade due to experience.

Path of Exile Trade (Official Site)

Grinding Gear Games have also launched their own trade website. The functionality is very similar to PoETrade. The differences are mostly down to formatting and organization. I am mostly sticking with PoETrade due to familiarity, but to a newer player the official site is probably a fine choice.


PoENinja is a great supplement to the above trade websites (or trade in general), providing quick access to live average prices for currency, unique items, maps, etc. You can also see historical data to examine pricing trends. This is a great way to check prices of commodity items before you buy or sell on the trade websites. The green, yellow, and red bars represent the confidence in the displayed price, with green being highest and red being lowest confidence. More sellers provide more data resulting in higher confidence.

PoE TradeMacro

PoE TradeMacro is a versatile AutoHotkey script with a number of helpful trade commands. It includes the very useful PoE Item Info which shows otherwise hidden information like affix tiers and possible rolls, divination card locations, map data (bosses, layout, etc.), and more. The TradeMacro then allows basic price checking with fetched data from PoETrade or configurable advanced price checking. This is probably the best way to quickly check the prices of items in-game, similar to PoENinja but without leaving the game.

Whichever method you use to price check, be wary of players trying to drive the prices down with false listings. You will probably underprice (or overprice) your items a lot at first, or even miss valuable items entirely. The best price checking comes with practice, experience, and awareness of what makes items valuable or powerful. For some recent examples specific to jewelry, ZiggyD recorded himself crafting and pricing rings and amulets.

Engineering Eternity has a helpful video guide for using PoE Trade Macro.

Path of Building

In my post on preparing for The Fall of Oriath I mentioned Path of Building as something that many build guides will use. Once you move beyond the basics of importing builds, Path of Building is an incredibly powerful tool for improving your character. You can preview the results of every passive node, item, or skill change. You can configure the calculations for specific scenarios like fighting a boss in a map with specific modifiers while you have certain flasks and conditional buffs active. I often use Path of Building together with PoETrade to see how potential item purchases would affect my character.

The ability to easily calculate effective DPS and defenses is invaluable as you move towards the endgame. Path of Building can be overwhelming at first, but I cannot go back to trying to use the limited in-game information to plan my characters. As an example, here is an import code for my level 91 Righteous Fire Berserker (mostly based on Pohx's build) that I am currently playing in Harbinger League.

Engineering Eternity has another helpful video guide for using Path of Building.

CurrencyCop (Thread)

CurrencyCop simply calculates the total value of chosen stash tabs. I believe the prices are pulled from PoENinja. The calculation is not perfect, counting items you may never actually sell for example, but it can be used as a quick estimation of your in-game wealth. The best use is probably for tracking currency gains while testing out certain mapping/Atlas strategies or character builds.


PoEAffix has a simple interface for showing possible affixes on different item classes. This information is useful for crafting and trading alike. Although this information is available on other sites like the Path of Exile wiki, PoEAffix has the most concise and easy to use format.

PoEKit Atlas Tool

This tool provides a good visualization of sextant usage and blocking on the Atlas. The help button includes a brief explanation of sextant blocking and links to some explanatory videos.


As the name implies, POELab is all about Path of Exile's labyrinth. The layout of the labyrinth changes each day, and POELab quickly posts visual guides for each of the four difficulties. These guides show the quickest path and highlight the various side objectives like darkshrines, puzzles, keys/doors, reliquaries, and Izaro's pet Argus. The site also includes info on traps, rewards, and puzzle solutions. Whether you're just running the labyrinth for your ascendancy or you are interested in farming the the Uber/Endgame/Eternal labyrinth for rewards, POELab is invaluable.


PoECraft hosts a collection of unrelated tools, including affix info like PoEAffix, an interactive atlas planner, an area of effect visualizer, and even some guides.

Vorici Chromatic Calculator

This very specific tool calculates the odds for different methods of recoloring gem sockets in gear. You enter the item's stat requirements, number of sockets, and desired colors, and the calculator shows you the cheapest expected method of obtaining those colors. Note that in some cases this "off color" technique described in a video from Pohx may be more efficient, and is not taken into account by the calculator.


This small background program offers a few different methods for notifying the player of in-game whispers while the game is minimized or the player is away. The tool can be configured to play a sound or show a notification, send a PushBullet alert to your phone, or even send an email. The necessity of this tool has been slightly lessened as a recent patch made the Path of Exile icon flash on the taskbar if you are whisper while minimized. I still use the sound notification just to make sure I don't miss trade offers or other messages.


I am listing MercuryTrade at the bottom only because I haven't used it myself yet, but it still deserves attention. MercuryTrade is an overlay with features like buff and cooldown timers, chat scanning, stash highlighting, and a set of customizable trade notifications and responses. There is even a trade history.

More Tools

My list is not in any way exhaustive. You can find even more useful websites and applications on the Path of Exile wiki. There is also a subreddit for Path of Exile tool development where you can find some more information or check out works in progress.

An in-game price lookup for Kaom's Heart from PoETradeMacro.

August 4, 2017

Preparing for Path of Exile 3.0: The Fall of Oriath

Path of Exile's largest and craziest expansion, The Fall of Oriath, launches tomorrow (August 4th), bringing the game from 4 acts repeated across 3 difficulties to a single 10 act playthrough. There are of course many other changes in the patch, including a new tutorial/help screen, new items, skills, and support gems, numerous balance adjustments, and the new Harbinger League. While preparing for the launch myself and preparing to help some friends who will be playing Path of Exile for the first time, I've collected a bunch of useful programs, guides, and videos.

Since Path of Exile can be overwhelming and complex, especially for new players, I'm going to split these up into two parts. Part 1, below, will cover just the basics I recommend to start playing. In part 2, I'll include a list of websites and tools I use for most advanced aspects of the game, like trading, crafting, and developing your character.

Getting Started

Download Path of Exile (Steam).

Choose either the official client or the Steam client. The official client has a somewhat better patching process, while Steam offers the usual community features, achievements, Steam Wallet, etc. I play via Steam, but both options are good.

Choose a Loot Filter

Loot filters allow players to customize the display of the vast amounts of loot that drops in Path of Exile. Poor items can be hidden while important items can be highlighted with unique backgrounds, borders, colors, sizes, or even sounds. Some of the more advanced loot filters are adapted to the leveling process, the trade economy, and/or specific builds or playstyles. At this point in Path of Exile, I would consider a good loot filter to be essentially required, though they are technically optional.

There are many great filters to choose from, or you can try creating your own (mostly for experienced players). I personally use and recommend NeverSink's Loot Filter (generally semi-strict) plus his FilterBlade website where you can easily customize the filter according to your own specific needs. FilterBlade also has a fun "loot simulator" to test out how the filter will look in-game.

You can browse for other loot filters on the official forums or through FilterBlast (not to be confused with FilterBlade). FilterBlast also includes filter customization. There is also an older program, Filtration, which can be used to edit loot filters. The truly brave can use text editors but I don't recommend that.

Install a Loot Filter

All good loot filters should include installation instructions, but even if they don't, the process is simple. Place the filter in /Documents/My Games/Path of Exile, making sure it has the extension .filter. You can also open this folder from the interface options in-game if you have trouble finding the correct location. Once the filter is in that folder, you should see your filter available in a drop-down menu near the bottom of interface options. Select it, hit "reload" if needed, and that's it. You can have multiple filters available to switch between, though I usually just stick with one.

Choosing a League, Character, and Build

Choose a League

Before creating a character, you will need to choose which "league" you want that character to participate in. The permanent leagues are Standard and Hardcore, where dead characters are kicked out into Standard. There are also temporary, or challenge leagues, which last approximately 3 months, and come in Standard or Hardcore variants. You will also see a "Solo Self-Found" (SSF) option, which is a completely optional challenge that restricts you from interacting with other players in any way. No trading and no partying (you can still chat). There are no rewards for SSF mode except personal satisfaction.

The league that will be launching with The Fall of Oriath is the Harbinger League. These leagues have unique mechanics, usually, with some form of risk vs. reward, that may or may not be integrated into the standard game after the league is over. While playing you will encounter rogue exiles, strongboxes, prophecies, Nemesis monsters, etc. These are all examples of past league mechanics that are now part of the game.

These temporary leagues draw a lot of players in for the fresh economy, new mechanics, and challenge rewards (free cosmetics, given out for achieving certain amounts of objectives). I certainly recommend playing in the temporary league if you have the time to commit. You can certainly choose a permanent league if you don't feel you would make enough progress in a temporary league. Permanent Hardcore can be unpopulated relative to the other leagues, but Standard maintains a decent population, even during temporary leagues.

Choose a Character

There are 7 different character classes available in Path of Exile (one must be unlocked partially into the game), and a crazy number of potential builds with different combinations of passive trees, skill/support gems, and gear. All classes but the unlockable Scion have 3 "ascendancy" subclasses to choose from too (Scion has only one ascendancy). I am not going to go into too much detail because this post would never end.

In general, Marauder is good for melee/armor, Witch is good for spellcasting/energy shield, and Ranger is good for...ranged/evasion. The Templar falls between Marauder and Witch, the Shadow is between Witch and Ranger, the Duelist is between Ranger and Marauder, and the Scion is in the center of all of them. But these are not hard rules at all; there are successful spellcasting Marauders, melee Rangers, etc. Similarly, some ascendancy classes point towards certain build archetypes, but not exclusively. The Witch's Necromancer ascendancy implies traditional minion builds, but can also support other players, or provide defensive options for the Witch that may not otherwise be available.

You can definitely go in blind, pick a character, choose a skill that looks fun, and dive right in. For new players, your first character using this method will probably end up petering out somewhere along the way. That doesn't mean this method is wrong; as long as you enjoy the character and know that it may possibly "fail." Path of Exile does not offer true "respecs," and the limited respecs can be very expensive, especially for new players.

Choose a Build

If you don't have the time, stamina, or desire to go through that process, I recommend following a build guide. The official subforums for each class have many great guides available (example: Marauder), with the best guides giving a full breakdown of the passive tree, the leveling process, gems, gear, etc. Just make sure you are viewing guides updated for 3.0 (or whatever the current patch may be). You can also use the PoE Build Browser to search for forum guides, or PoE Builds to look directly at what the top players in each league are playing.

If you prefer video, many Path of Exile streamers have great video guides available on YouTube and elsewhere. Many of them also have guides covering game mechanics, leveling strategies, crafting, trading, etc. Some popular creators that I recommend are ZiggyD (probably the best beginner guides), Engineering Eternity (very beginner focused), LiftingNerdBro, Zizaran, and Mathil. Guides with keywords like starter, beginner, or budget are great for new players. ZiggyD and Zizaran also have Exiled, a joint podcast/video specifically about preparing for 3.0.

Many of these guides, especially newer guides, will include exported "Path of Building" info. Path of Building is an offline character planner with extreme amounts of detail, and you can import builds into it if you choose. All of the available data can be overwhelming, but the program allows you to very easily see how changing passives or items will affect your character. If the data is too much at first, you can just use the skill tree planner to guide your leveling.

I currently plan to start Harbinger League with some sort of life-based Righteous Fire (RF) character, probably a Berserker (Marauder ascendancy). Righteous Fire is a very old skill, but I have never actually used it in a full build. I am also looking at the three new skills coming in 3.0: Dark Pact, Storm Burst, and Charged Dash, as they each look unique, fun, and potentially powerful.

If you want to see more information about the tools I use to help me advance through the league, check out my list of useful Path of Exile websites and programs.

July 20, 2017

Black Desert Online: The Valencia Desert

After my detour into the ocean of Black Desert Online (Steam), my next destination was the desert city of Valencia. The Valencia expansion currently offers the highest level content available, plus two series of main quests. Part 1, the East Sands Kingdom Story, and Part 2, Treasure of Valencia, both reward relatively powerful rings for newer players. I wanted to grab the rings when I could so I could save resources for other, more pressing gear upgrades like weapons and armor.

The city of Valencia is across a long expanse of desert, and it is not an easy trek. Horses move slower in the desert, so you need a camel instead. Sunstroke by day and hypothermia by night drain your health but can be (temporarily) cured with stockpiles of water and tea. Even navigating the desert is a struggle; you cannot see your position on the map without a special three-part compass, and auto-pathing is disabled.

Standing at the Sand Grain Bazaar, a small settlement at the edge of the desert, all I could see was sand. Rather than following a road to the next easily located node on the map, I had to rely on manual exploration. Pilgrim's Haven, a small burial ground (and popular mining spot for players), was the first stop on the way to Valencia. Ibellab Oasis was the next and last stop before the city, and it was a long walk from there. Finally reaching the safety of the city, where the map and navigation worked again, was a big relief.

Compass or no compass, crossing the desert takes time, effort, and resources. I didn't see very many players during my time in Valencia. The journey may not seem worth it for many players (especially lower levels) when there are easier gains to be made elsewhere. There are benefits of course; higher level enemies equal more experience and better loot, or at least that's the idea. There are also villas you can buy weeklong access to for powerful buffs and vendors for convenience. The desert also includes the only two dungeons in the game, for high-level players.

As I was just passing through for the quests, I was probably at the bare minimum to be in Valencia. There was actually very little required combat so I didn't have too much trouble. I spent much of my time simply exploring the desert, meeting new NPCs, digging in the sand, and gathering new items. One side quest chain even took me in a long circle around the entire desert simply talking to people.

Despite the difficult travel, I actually enjoyed the desert more than the ocean. The quests were straightforward and the rewards worthwhile. I got a good preview of Valencia for when I progress forward and can deal with the stronger enemies. The desert was very different from the rest of the game, and the exploration felt more rewarding because of the effort required. I look forward to coming back, especially if it becomes more lucrative to travel there.

For more on my travels in Black Desert Online, see my previous posts on my exploration of the ocean and how I got started.

Part 1: Casually Exploring Black Desert Online 
Part 2: Journey to Port Ratt

July 6, 2017

Black Desert Online: Journey to Port Ratt

I recently took a break from the general grinding, leveling, and money-making in Black Desert Online (Steam) to complete the ocean questline, "The Uncharted Sea, History of Margoria." This series of about 20 quests took me from Port Epheria to a number of small islands, then across the sea on a 45-minute ferry trip to Port Ratt. The quests mostly required sailing, fishing, diving, and underwater exploration.

I started, regrettably, with nothing but the simplest raft. From looking ahead at the quests I knew I would receive a fishing boat down the road, so I decided to struggle through on my raft until then. I set my destination, turned on the autopath, and minimized Black Desert for a bit. This strategy worked well enough to get me through the first few quests and on to Lema Island, where I both received a fishing boat and caught the long ferry to Port Ratt. It is possible to make the journey on your own, but probably not a great idea in a tiny fishing boat.

Visiting Port Ratt was worth the trip. The charming little port, with its unique architecture and style, and a distinct lack of other players, was an appreciated respite from the normal bustling towns. Port Ratt has few NPCs and only a handful of quests, but they were just enough for me.

Although I enjoyed traveling around Port Ratt on my new fishing boat, discovering new islands, I would not say that the quests were particularly fun. The quests themselves were not the problem, but many of them required a lot of swimming, especially underwater, and frankly, the swimming in Black Desert Online is bad. 

The swimming controls are unresponsive, the movement is incredibly slow, collision issues are everywhere, and the underwater camera doesn't always work correctly. There is no danger; running out of breath simply forces you to the surface, unless you get stuck on something and have to watch the struggling animation repeat over and over again.

Worse, many of the underwater objectives are barely reachable with a full breath meter, a full stamina bar, breathing crystals in armor, a breathing potion, and high movement speed. At one point I resorted to logging out and logging back in to restore my breath underwater as I couldn't see any other way to reach the objective in time.

Of course, the cash shop does offer two swimming costumes. The "Splat Fisher Clothes" increase swimming speed and reduce endurance consumption in the water for only 2200 pearls (about $22). A shark-themed "Diving Suit," also 2200 pearls, offers the same, but with additional breathing time too. These are of course not strictly required but their purchase certainly seems encouraged.

Despite the swimming frustration, though, I did have a good time. For a few hours, I was able to mostly ignore combat. I could take my time fishing, gathering new items, and sailing the seas. Along the way, there were some nice rewards, like the fishing boat and a (cosmetic) diving mask. The finale, a dive into sunken, ancient ruins, had some valuable treasure.

I may not ever return to Port Ratt, but I am glad that I visited it once. If I do, I will probably build a better boat first, like the Epheria Sailboat. But that is another story.

For more on my travels in Black Desert Online, continue below to see my exploration of the desert or return to the beginning to see how I started out.

Part 1: Casually Exploring Black Desert Online
Part 3: The Valencia Desert

July 4, 2017

Path of Exile Breach and Legacy Leagues

Path of Exile's next expansion The Fall of Oriath is on the horizon, with six new acts and likely a large shakeup of the current game. With the beta around June and a full release a bit later, I thought I would take a look back at what I've played in Path of Exile so far.

I will go over the builds I have tried. Some worked, some didn't. I play somewhat casually, and I only play softcore now. Hardcore is a great, intense experience, but I just can't deal with "starting over" anymore. In general, I play only one or two builds per league, with limited trading if possible. I buy and sell items, but I don't follow the market that much.

I try to play "efficiently," but only when it doesn't get in the way of my enjoyment. I don't rush to maps in a day or two, I don't chain 20 maps in a row, I don't perfectly manipulate my atlas, I don't use a very strict loot filter, etc. I play sub-optimal builds and run some unpopular maps, and I make enough currency to get by, but probably not to get ahead.

Breach League 
Flameblast Totem Inquisitor ("Pizza Sticks")
Build Guide by viperesque

My Legacy league character clearing a Mesa map.

In the Breach league I started with this rather "meta" build as it was easy to acquire gear, easy to play, and relatively powerful. I didn't end up investing too much time in Breach though, and flameblast totems ended up having some issues clearing breaches quickly. With no leech, some breaches got very difficult very quickly. I completed 12 challenges and moved on, I think somewhere around level 80.

I did actually think the breach mechanics were great after some initial post-launch tweaking. Breaches looked impressive, created exciting gameplay, and could be dangerous but rewarding. My only complaint was that breaches heavily favored (almost "required") fast clear speed builds. But the game as a whole has been moving in that direction, so I can't place much blame.

Legacy League

When Legacy league launched, I took the opportunity to try flameblast totems again and had more success. With some lucky drops and a bit of trading, I acquired enough gear to transition to Chaos Inoculation (CI). Despite its popularity and power, I had actually never done a CI build until now. This build also included my first 6-link chest. I reached level 90 and stopped at 24 challenges. I may have been able to get to 36, but I was little frustrated by some of the more RNG-based challenges, and a lot of other great games came out during Legacy league.

A video by blajo referenced in the build guide above.

I had a lot of fun and success with this character, but Legacy didn't hold my interest too much. As a sort of last hurrah league it did well, but the mechanics were obviously all rehashed. The Ancient Reliquary Keys were too much of a gamble (I sold the few that I found). Leaguestones had some very fun potential and combinations but were clunky to use, and white stones were too common and too boring.

I did come to see just how much better CI is (or can be) than life, though. With minimal investment, I ended up with almost 10000 energy shield. Most of my life builds have been around 5000-7000. I exchanged my typical 1 or 2 health flasks for more powerful utility flasks. The weaknesses of CI such as stuns and freezes are easy to work around with proper items. I used Valyrium and a flask "of heat." I had essentially 0 armor and evasion, but the increased effective health pool and defensive flasks made me feel much safer. This build didn't even have leech; CI with the Vaal Pact and Ghost Reaver keystones can get even crazier.

I hope that Fall of Oriath ends up shaking up the differences between life and energy shield. I actually prefer the "style" of life. I would love to see changes to armor, evasion, flasks, and even hybrid builds (life and energy shield together) too.

In the next post I will go over the other builds I've played, such as in the Perandus, Prophecy, and Essence leagues. Beyond that it gets a little hazy.

June 29, 2017

Casually Exploring Black Desert Online

I recently bought Black Desert Online (on Steam). A combination of friends and an intriguing PCGamer perspective pushed me to look into the game. The cheap entry fee ($10) and no required subscription made the purchase decision easier. There are certainly some questionable cash shop practices, and endless arguments in the server chat about them, but I have mostly ignored both so far.

Generally, I haven't enjoyed most MMOs in the past. I did play Final Fantasy XIV (Realm Reborn) for a month or two but burnt out as I approached higher levels and raids. I enjoyed the Final Fantasy aesthetic, the exploration, and the journey, but found the combat dull and the story just average.

But after about two weeks in Black Desert Online, I am having a lot of fun. I am progressing slowly at my own pace, exploring the vast world. I only recently reached level 50, and from what I understand that is achievable in less than a day for prepared or experienced players. I accepted and completed almost every quest I found along the way, excluding some repeatable quests.

Velia, My First Home

The game begins in a small village named Olvia, but the main quest very quickly moves you forward and out towards the larger of Velia. I spent some of my first hours exploring the countryside around these two settlements. Olvia has a few nearby farms, but the coastal town of Velia has more "nodes" of interest, including mines, excavation sites, and forests.

It was in Velia, with some prompting from the game, that I set out to create my first small workforce to gather resources from these nodes. As with the rest of the game, this required me to interact with a number of different systems. Before I could even begin, I needed "Contribution Points," earned from quests and some other methods. These points (CP) are a refundable currency used to invest in nodes, rent houses or equipment, and more. I spent some time in Velia raising my (account-wide) contribution level, and then I was ready to go.

Velia Wharf

First, I had to travel around to the locations and "invest" in the node to unlock it. To start, I unlocked Loggia Farm for potatoes and Coastal Cave for iron and copper ore (plus some byproducts). Next, I needed to hire workers from the work supervisor in Velia. This process required spending Energy to "roll" for different potential worker hires. 

Energy is regenerating resource that each character accumulates, but the cap is account-wide and increased by gaining "Knowledge" of enemies, plants, people, locations, and more. This Energy can be used in a number of ways, including manual gathering tasks (chopping wood, mining, collecting herbs, etc.), improving Amity (relationship) with NPCs through a conversation game, special dialog options, and more.

The Work Begins

After hiring my first worker, I was informed that I needed more lodging to hire additional workers. I needed to spend more Contribution Points to rent houses in the city, only some of which could be used for lodging. Other houses could be used for personal residences, increased storage, workshops, or stables, but more on those later. I grabbed some lodging houses and hired a few more workers. Now the work could begin.

I assigned one worker, a giant, to farm potatoes, while a human and a goblin worker went to the mine. I was excited (and a little surprised) to see that the workers actually existed in the world. I followed my giant worker as he traveled to the farm, gathered potatoes, and returned to town to put them into storage. Worker icons appeared on the map too so I could watch them that way. Sadly, as far as I can tell, the workers cannot be named. Weeks later, I joined a guild, and can now see other members' workers around the world. It's a nice touch to make the world seem alive and also to see where others are choosing to assign workers.

Loggia Farm, Potatoes

A few hours later, resources started to come in. I simply melted the ore, using the "Processing" life skill, and put it up for sale on the player marketplace. I wanted to use the potatoes to "cook" beer, which was a little more complicated. I needed to rent a house to use as a residence, then buy a cooking utensil (a station for the Cooking skill) and place it in the house. Beer required a number of potatoes (or other grains), plus mineral water, sugar, and leavening agents which I purchased from an NPC merchant. Beer is actually one of the "foods" for workers, restoring their stamina so they can harvest more potatoes to be made into more beer. It's a good cycle.

Sandboxes and Systems

In Black Desert Online, resources must be gathered and processed by workers in workshops, or by players using the Gathering and Processing skills. Timber, for example, can be processed into planks, and the planks can be processed again into plywood. Ore can be melted, and the melted ore formed into ingots. Some of the base materials like logs and stones can only be gathered by hand. Even weeds have their uses.

Workers can use these raw or processed resources to construct tools, armor, weapons, wagons, boats, and more. Other resources can be used by the player for the cooking or alchemy, ranging from simple food and potions to complex meals and magical crystals.

There are other skills governing fishing, hunting, farming, trading, sailing, and the training of mounts. Collectively with gathering, processing, cooking, and alchemy, these "life skills" offer many different ways to play the game. Some players and guilds extensively focus on one or more of these skills instead of combat. Many of the items for sale in the player marketplace come from these skills. Horses must be caught and tamed by players or bred. Boats and wagons are built by workers. Foods and potions and elixirs are created by players. 

Velia Marketplace

Black Desert Online has flashy combat with combos and mobility, open world PVP, and large scale guild vs. guild combat. I'm not really into PVP and the enemies are mostly walking loot to be farmed, so the combat is not what keeps me playing (but it is good for an MMO). I am more interested in the almost-sandbox nature of the game.

There are so many different activities, ways to earn money, and methods to achieve progress. I am enjoying exploring all of these activities and exploring the world as I do. I have spent hours simply wandering around the larger cities collecting quests, learning how to craft new items, unlocking knowledge, and going down other rabbit holes of information. I am constantly juggling a growing list of quests to complete and workers to hire and resources to gather and items to buy and gear to upgrade and I am loving it.

For more on my travels in Black Desert Online, continue below for my exploration of the ocean and desert.

Part 2: Journey to Port Ratt
Part 3: The Valencia Desert