Monday, 28 March 2016

The Drug Fields of Calpheon : Black Desert Online

Black Desert Online comes on in a rush. From the moment you step out of character creation into the small country town of Olvia you're assailed with contradiction, confusion and chaos. Almost all "First Impressions"  pieces begin with some variation of "I had no idea where I was or what the hell I was doing".

If you give the game the reins it immediately hands you over to the Black Spirit, a disembodied entity with a cartoonish appearance and a voice that sounds like the untranslated yipping of some forgotten Saturday morning sidekick. That Black Spirit is both the most unreliable of narrators and, I have long suspected, the falsest of friends.

Oh, you look harmless now...

The first and among the worst of the many bum steers and gobbets of bad advice he, she, or most probably it, throws your way is a swiftly accelerating sequence of quests that seeds from the moment you make the mistake of listening to anything he says. Before you have any chance to get your bearings or orient yourself the animated smokestack sends you spiraling off across the landscape on an increasingly frenzied and purposeless series of murders.

It begins, bizarrely, with wildlife; weasels, foxes and wolves, all of which mill around the fields and meadows of Olvia in an existential funk, predators absent prey, merely awaiting their own pointless predation, by you. From there the Spirit moves you to slaughter various denominations of imp, to desecrate their holy places and generally tear their playhouses down for no more reason than as a test of your mettle for his amusement.

Like that's going save you, Mr Fox.

Before you have even the inkling of an idea of what you're about, your discorporate director of operations has you half way down the road to the bustling seaport of Velia, by which time you are thoroughly lost, both morally and cartographically.

Most accounts of play sessions thereafter move on to fishing, boat-building, trading and the road to Heidel and the South. The Black Spirit has you where he wants you - in thrall to his agenda.

But what if you hadn't listened to that wheedling voice? What if you'd quit after the weasels, said the hell with this, turned back to town and just got on with your life as if it were, indeed, your own? What's so bad about Olvia, anyway, that the first thing you have to do is leave?

Everything's a little blurry around the edges. I wonder why that might be...

Well, maybe Olvia has something to hide. Perhaps the Black Spirit has reasons to move you along, before you begin to look around you too closely and start to notice things.

Olvia on the surface seems as interesting, or as uninteresting, a small town as any other. It has most of the facilities you'd find anywhere: storage, trade, stabling, shops. It has the regular industrial and residential opportunities. It also has access to a fine, sandy beach with abundant fishing. As the locals will tell you if you stop to chat the coastline is underdeveloped industrially because of the fine opportunities it offers for leisure and tourism.

The key thing about Olvia that your Black Spirit won't tell you, however, is that it's on the high road to Calpheon. And I mean "high".

Wait a minute. Why am I the only one doing this?

After all those days pounding the highways to the east in search of the great city it turns out it was barely an afternoon's ride away to the south-west from where you started. The hinterland is studded with farms, most of which seem to be involved with the alchemy trade.

Alchemy. It was never "respectable" but here, there's something hazy, even shady, about the whole enterprise. The piles of herbage literally glow. The workers appear dazed.

Why did I come up here again? I feel sleepy. I'm just going have a little lie down.
Robed men in floppy hats that hide their faces smoke pipes as they eye the childlike Shai tending to the poppies that grow in the thatch of the roofs. Slow-spoken giants mumble to themselves as they haul huge baskets to the wagons. Make no bones: there are indisputable narcotic overtones.

Yeah, and I bet they talk to you too, right? Backing away now...

There's money being made here, too. Big money. The adventurers' addiction to "potions" drives the economy. In Black Desert you'll soon learn to chug with one hand while slicing up imps with the other or you'll not be an adventurer for long. Here, in the fields of Calpheon, is where they bottle those demons.

I just bet they did.

And don't let anyone tell you its "safe". That it's "just a potion". Look around you. Wake up and smell the "herbal medicine".

I mean, just how stoned would you have to be to design and build a production line that has you extracting alchemical ingredients by bouncing up and down on a giant set of bellows? What would you need to be smoking to come up with the idea of harnessing racoons as an energy source? Just how far gone would you have to be before you allowed birds to nest in your beard?

Give them the sweet taste.

The trip from Olvia to Calpheon is Black Desert in a nutshell. On the surface it appears to be the most naturalistic, authentic representation of a fully working environment, architecturally, socially and geographically. Look closely and the realistic veneer peels away to reveal the seething madness beneath.

The drug fields of Calpheon, They explain so much.


9 comments:

  1. Too funny! I haven't yet explored out that direction, but that explains the dull-witted giants' speech I've been hearing. XD

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    1. Like that endless and endlessly annoying bickering between the giant hammering a nail and the Shai telling him he's doing it wrong that plays over and over at the Warehouse in Velia? I wish those two would take a smoke break!

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  2. Aaaahhh, you found Florin. Creepy ain't it? Everything there just screams 'run away'.

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    1. I didn't make the connection with your previous warning when I was there but now I see just what you were getting at! Florin has the most uncomfortable vibe. I'm still not sure whether that's intended or not.

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    2. When I first found it, it gave off that small-american-town-from-horror-films feeling, where the population is secretly into ritual sacrifice and they're keeping an eye on you to see if you know too much for your own good.

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  3. I don't have anything to add (and I am not playing BDO) but I just had to comment because I enjoyed reading it so much.

    I don't want to ruin the in game story behind it by wondering out loud if the area is reflective of the mindset or personality of the person(s) who designed the town =)

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    1. Yes, I couldn't help wondering about the discussions that went on in the office when they were working on this one.

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  4. Fab posting!! Looking forward to explore this red light district of Calpheon XD

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    1. Thanks. It's a trip. In more ways than one.

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