Tuesday, April 6, 2021

She Really Shake You Donkey Up

Before Valheim appeared out of nowhere back in February, I'd been spending a fair amount of time in Black Desert Online. I'd updated all my details in preparation for the switch from Kakao to Pearl Abyss and I'd been running around somewhat aimlessly with my Shai, doing a bit of levelling here, a bit of exploring there...

It was fun. I wasn't planning on stopping. And then I stopped.

I kept meaning to get back to whatever it was I thought I was doing there but it never happened. The handover came and went and I still didn't log in. Then, eventually, the viking stranglehold began to lose its grip. And I saw this:

Who could resist the lure of a flying donkey? Well, I could, apparently, at least for a while. The event began on March 31st but it wasn't until today that I finally got around to taking a look at it.

But first I had to patch. Because of course I had to patch. Black Desert's an mmorpg. It couldn't possibly go a couple of months without adding a few gigabytes of data to my overloaded hard drive, could it? 4.27GB to be precise.

Seriously, that's four Valheims. What did they add? I have no clue.

As you can see, the counter didn't work. It sat determinedly at 1% the entire time and then the Patching button flipped to Play and in I went. Gives you confidence in the new owners, doesn't it?

The first thing that greeted me was a screenful of login rewards and other freebies. I'm starting to think I may be past the point of appreciating these. It was less than a couple of years ago that I was praising Riders of Icarus for its incredibly generous login bonuses and I do still very much enjoy a good freebie, but that old saw about it being possible to have too much of a good thing is starting to sound a little less ridiculous to me than it once did.

Other than that, Black Desert isn't the worst mmorpg to come back to after a break and I had only been away for a matter of weeks. All the same, it still took me a good while to get to grips with the UI and the controls again. 

It's as fussy-looking a game as I can remember on the fornt end. Did you know that the default UI has thirty-seven non-combat icons? Well, mine does. Thirty-seven! And doing anything seems to take more keys than feels reasonable. It's a game for octopuses. Octopi. Octopodes. Squid.

Enough of all that. On with the main event. Flying donkeys!

The event I'd come for requires you to play your Shai character and that your Shai character be riding her donkey. The first part was easy enough. She's my main character anyway. The second part turned out to be a little more problematic.

For some reason that I can't even begin to imagine, last time I played I ran her all the way out to Trent. Maybe I needed something out of the bank there? I don't know. Oh, it seems I can imagine it after all... Anyway, it was a fifteen-minute run back to Velia, which was where she'd parked the donkey.

BDO has some big distances to cover but it's a pleasure to do them if you're in the mood. I just set the route on the map, hit "T" for autotravel (once I'd looked up which key it was), switched the UI off and sat back. It's like watching a travel video. Very relaxing.

At the stable I got my donkey back and climbed on. It took me a minute to remember how to get him moving but once we were going at a canter I hit space to see him glide. He sprouted wings and a shower of stars flew out. It was like he was the main event at a six-year old princess's birthday party.

And did he glide? Not he did not!

He juddered along like... well, like a donkey with a pair of papier-mache wings strapped to his back and a box of cheap fireworks exploding in his saddlebags. It was inelegant to say the least.

I ran along the road like that for a while, failing to get airborne. I took a bunch of screenshots, all from behind. It wasn't getting me anywhere, figuratively or literally.

I'd read there was a series of quests to go with the event so I looked that up. It starts at Casta Farm. It wasn't far so I set a route on the map and tried to autopath there, only I would keep trying to make him glide so of course the pathing broke. I nearly ended up in the sea at one point.

I have to say, the screenshots make the whole thing look far more amazing than it was. It looks almost magical here but at the time it felt more like riding a faulty ride-on mower over a field full of rocks.

I got there in the end, somehow. You have to be mounted on a donkey to get the quest or the NPC won't even speak to you. That was a challenge in itself. Donkeys have momentum, inertia and a mind of their own.

The quest is a time trial in which you run from Herar the questgiver to... Herar the questgiver. How he gets from where he is to where you find him I have no idea. I assume he has a teleporter. I wish I did.

On the first run I drowned my donkey in a river. I wasn't expecting to succeed that time. I was pretty pleased with myself just for working out where I had to go. 

Since the whole point of the event was having a flying (okay, gliding) donkey I figured I'd go as the crow flies rather than following the road and just glide over anything in the way. When I came out of a stand of trees and found myself hurtling over a cliff I didn't panic. I hit the space-bar twice to double jump and "E" to glide just like I'd seen in the instructions. 

My donkey and my shai cruised gently over the river, right into the cliffs opposite. They hit about two-thirds of the way up and fell into the water. The donkey went under and vanished. My shai managed to struggle to shore although it was a close call.  

I ran her all the way back to the stables in Velia, paid the stable guy a hundred thousand silver to recover the donkey and set off to try again. The route back had taken me past the point where the quest would have ended and even with the donkey dead in a ditch I'd only missed the timer by a few seconds so I was optimistic for the second attempt.

And rightly so. This time I stuck to the road, crossed the river by bridge and made it with thirty seconds to spare. Which was just as well because it took me nearly that long to manoeuver the donkey into talking distance for the hand-in.

I nearly called it a day right then. I don't like timed quests much and I didn't want to push my luck. In the end I thought I might as well give it a go so I took the second quest and found it wasn't on a timer at all. I  was able to meander over to where Herar had magically transported himself at my own pace.

I found him, looking like a member of an elven Killing Joke tribute band, all mohawk, pointy ears and pantaloons, standing next to a couple of mountain goats on the edge of a high escarpment. Okay, I know what's going on here, I thought to myself. He expects me to ride my donkey off the bloody cliff. Well, more fool him. I've already done that!

So I took the quest and rode my donkey off the cliff. Why the hell not? And to my utter amazement I managed to get the creature to glide, after a fashion, all the way down without either of us dying. 

I would not say it was thrilling or exhillarating or a magical experience of any kind. Okay, alright, a donkey with wings is de facto magical. I guess you have to give them that. 

Compared to gliding in... well... in any other game I have ever played that had gliding in it, though, this was clunky and daft. But then, it is an April Fools event. What did I expect?

It did, however, work. I carried on in a bee line for the marker. There were a couple more small dips. We glided down those. There were several walls and fences. We glided over them. The quest allowed two minutes and we did it with time to spare.

The rewards seemed fair for the effort involved. Food and drink that give ten minute buffs to various kinds of mount experience. I'd have liked a title (Donkey Dropper, maybe) but you can't have everything.

The event runs for another week, finishing on the 14th. It's definitely worth doing if you have a Shai although I don't think I'd go so far as to make one just to do it.

As for flying donkeys as a general mode of transport, I think I'll pass. Just give me an actual glider and we'll call it even.

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