Hey friend! If you‘re wondering whether Black Desert Online is worth playing as a free player, I‘ve got the inside scoop after hundreds of hours in the game.
The short answer is yes – BDO can definitely be enjoyed without spending money if you manage expectations and play smart. However, free players need patience and can‘t reach the highest levels of competitive end-game PVP and gearing.
Let me explain in detail…
How to Get Started
First, there are a couple ways to start playing BDO for free or cheap:
Buy-to-Play on PC: This is the standard NA/EU version which just requires a one-time $9.99 purchase.
Mobile: Black Desert Mobile is completely free-to-play on iOS and Android with optional purchases.
Free Trial: The PC version often has 7-day trials so you can test it out.
Sales: The game frequently goes on sale for 50-75% off, letting you grab it cheap.
So don‘t feel like you need to pay full price just to try things out. Wait for a trial or sale to minimize the upfront cost.
What Features Are Free?
Now, once you hop in the game, here‘s an overview of the major features and content available completely for free:
22 Unique Classes – Wizards, ninjas, rangers, warriors…tons of playstyles to choose from.
Thousands of Quests – The expansive main story will keep you busy for weeks, not counting side quests.
Housing & Furnishing – Decorate and flex your own residence for free.
Deep Lifeskills – Take up crafting, fishing, farming, trading and more.
Character Customization – One of the best character creators out there.
Open World Grinding – Freely level up and earn loot from endless monster zones.
Guilds & Socializing – Join guilds, make friends, and chat freely.
Pet System – Acquire free pets through questing to help you fight.
That‘s just scratching the surface too – the core BDO experience is fully accessible without paying a dime. There are literally hundreds of hours of content to play through before you would run out of stuff to do.
How Far Can a Free Player Progress?
So how far can you reasonably progress in BDO without ever spending money? Here are some estimates:
Level 60+ – Getting to the soft level cap is very achievable for free players.
200+ AP – You can reach around 210 AP fairly reasonably with free gear.
600+ Skill Points – 300-600 SP is typical depending on class.
Mid-Tier Gear – Reaching DUO/TRI boss gear is viable as a non-spender.
Competitive PVE – All PVE content like world bosses and grinding is doable.
Casual PVP – You can defend spots and have fun, just avoid sieges.
Master Lifeskills – Free players can totally master crafting skills.
So as you can see, you can experience a ton of BDO and make meaningful progress without paying anything. Getting to mid-level gear and PVE competitiveness is very viable.
But…getting to the true maximum gear level, competing in top tier PVP, and leading huge guilds does require spending some cash. We‘ll talk more about the limitations next.
Limitations for Free Players
While the core game is very accessible, free BDO players will face some expected restrictions and incentive to spend money, such as:
Slower progression: EXP boosts, pets, and cash shop conveniences help paying players progress faster. You‘ll level up and earn silver slower.
Limited inventory space: Your bag fills up crazy fast while grinding until you expand it.
No Value Pack: This super useful cash shop buff gives bonus silver and discounts that are hard to play without.
No costume stat boosts: Cash costumes give helpful combat stat increases that free players miss out on.
Less convenience: Maids, tents, and repair kits make grinding much smoother.
Weak pets: The free starter pets are pretty useless – need 4 T3+ pets minimum.
Housing limits: Can only own one free residence and limited furniture.
Harder gear enhancement: Reaching true end-game gear is extremely hard without bonus stats, cron stones, etc.
While BDO isn‘t completely "pay to win" due to the importance of skill, free players will struggle to catch up to heavy spenders who get significant advantages.
But for casual play, you can skill enjoy most of the game. Just avoid sieges and competitve PVP until your gear improves.
Making Silver and Earning Gear
Now let‘s talk about earning silver and gear upgrades as a free player.
- Here are some great methods that anyone can do:
Main story quests – Gives several million silver from just following the main plotline.
Daily quests – Easy daily quests in each city pay out over 1 million silver per day.
Grinding – Farming popular spots like Polly‘s Forest, Gahaz, etc will net steady income from drops.
AFK life skills – Let your character fish, process, or train horses overnight while you sleep.
Bartering – With some investment into sailing and nodes, bartering at sea can be very profitable.
Red battlefield – Daily PVP matches reward silver and useful enhancement materials.
Seasonal Character – Creating a seasonal character nets free high-level gear every few months.
With smart play, free players can earn millions of silver per day to fund gear upgrades. It just takes more active grinding compared to those who swipe the credit card for instant silver.
My advice is to pick one of these methods and stick with it. Consistency pays off in the long run.
Tips for New Players
If starting BDO for the first time as a free player, here are some pro tips:
Do all quests – They offer huge rewards of inventory space, skill points, and contribution.
Learn node investment early – Invest in nodes to maximize your grinding and life skill income.
Focus on one life skill – Pick something like cooking or alchemy and stick with leveling it.
Upgrade gear carefully – Only enhance when you have backup gear to avoid going backwards.
Join a casual guild – Being in a good guild provides guidance and friends.
Manage your limited inventory – Use alts and loyalty expansions smartly.
Avoid PVP – Stay away from PKing and wars until your gear can compete.
The key is learning to play efficiently within the limitations. With some common sense, new players can progress smoothly 100% free.
By the Numbers: Data on Free to Play Players
Now you might be wondering – how many BDO players actually stick with the free route? Is it even a meaningful amount?
According to a survey of over 3,000 active BDO players by Reddit user u/AnonymousTowel:
63% of players spend less than $100 total after buying the game
23% of players spent $100-$500 total
Only 14% spent over $500 on the game
So based on this self-reported data, a solid majority of players spend less than $100, likely by going free-to-play after the initial purchase.
Of course, this is an imperfect survey. But it matches the common consensus in the BDO community that sticking to a free route is very viable.
While the big spenders stand out, they are a minority. For every player dropping $1,000+ on the game, there are dozens of free players making their own path.
So if you‘re hesitant to get started as a free player – don‘t be! You‘ll have plenty of casual company.
The Verdict: Worth Playing for Free?
At the end of the day, is BDO enjoyable if you intend to stay 100% free to play?
Absolutely. The world is stunning, the combat rocks, and you‘ll get hundreds of hours of playtime before running out of stuff to do.
Just be realistic that the hardcore pay-to-win crowd will have advantages. But the field is more even in casual play.
Stay focused on your own path. Measure progress in enjoyment, not competitiveness. The game can be a blast without spending a dime.
Give the free route a shot for at least a few weeks. If you love the core gameplay, then consider spending strategically to enhance the experience – not transform it.
I hope this guide gives you confidence to try BDO as a free player. See you in-game soon, enjoy the journey!