When Black Desert first released stateside back in 2016, I wasn’t interested. At the time, I was deeply invested in running Guild Wars 2’s fractals, and I wasn’t in the market for any sort of new MMO. And then one day, during a visit to my brother’s house, I saw him playing it. My first reaction was, “Wait, where’s the desert?” My second reaction was, “Whoa, what the hell is that?” when he summoned his character’s Black Spirit.
But what exactly is this Black Spirit? For today’s Desert Oasis, we’ll explore what’s known about it so far and its intentions. Mind you, there will be a spoiler from the Mediah campaign later in the article, but I’ll be sure to put a spoiler warning.
The Black Spirit has got to be one of the most unique ways to deliver quests and justify the endless killing players commit. As I noted in my column on the game’s lore, the Black Spirit is the ideal call to action for our player character, perfectly posed as the opposite of the oftentimes altruistic reasons an MMO character goes off on an adventure. While player-character stories in MMORPGs are open-ended enough for the players to fill in the blanks, there are some limitations. In Final Fantasy XIV’s case, you are the titular Warrior of Light. The other people you party up with are very power and talented individuals, but not Warriors of Light. In the context of roleplay, the general assumption is that the Warrior of Light is not you. The dynamic changes with the Black Spirit, though. The lore insinuates that there is more than just one Black Spirit, so everyone you meet, canonically can be possessed by the Black Spirit.
But what led to all these Black Spirits spreading through the land?
Origins of the Black Spirits
According to the lore bits found in the Valencia campaign, a massive meteor crashed on the planet in prehistoric times. (This is not to be confused with the meteor that crashed in Star’s End; that’s from a recent event.) This older ancient meteor took a much more dramatic toll on the planet’s ecosystem: It introduced the black stones. In fact, those black stones actually formed The Great Valencian Black Desert. In a striking similarity to the Guild Wars franchise’s Crystal Desert in which the grains of sand are actually microscopic crystals, the Black Desert’s “sand” is primarily composed of microscopic black stones. And that’s where the Black Desert – and the game itself – gets its name.
It’s not clear if the Black Spirits were already on that meteor, but the common belief is that they formed from particularly powerful black stones. For some unknown reason, these stones seem to have a desire to get more powerful. For some of the stones, that desire manifests into said spirit. These entities are timeless. According to the Valencia storyline, the Black Spirit did indeed know you in a past life. Black Spirits can even see beyond the physical features of a person: They can recognize people from their souls.
While most people in the Black Desert world do not hold outright prejudice toward those possessed by the Black Spirit, they are wary of them, treating them as sick people. A few people know the player is possessed, yet they invite you into cities no problem. On the other hand, people like the mysterious Illezra see the spirits as a major annoyance. But being annoying isn’t their only feature…
Properties of the Black Spirit
Black Spirits are parasitic beings. They bury themselves into the minds of people and give them the drive to get stronger, which strengthens the spirit itself. By the end of the relationship, the Black Spirit overtakes the host and fully possess the body.
Unless given an excessive amount of power, Black Spirits do not have a corporeal form. They need a host body, which is shown in both Black Desert’s lore and the original shadow arena. As timeless beings, they simply don’t care about what’s going on in a person’s life. Every character class has a story that the Black Spirit disregards. In the Ninja’s case, he was in the middle of a mission when he got possessed. In all cases, the Black Spirit possessed the characters, locked away their memories, and focused on strengthening them, holding their memories as ransom.
The Black Spirit’s modus operandi is to get stronger and will do anything to reach that goal. One of the most important properties of a Black Spirit is its ability to strengthen his host. It can come in the form of raw physical growth or enhancing weaponry and armor. The spirit is also capable of giving items, though whether that’s created or gotten from somewhere else is a complete mystery. Whatever strengthens the host, the Black Spirit will provide. They are also only seen by their host, but can be detected through other magical means.
Oddly enough, black spirits are not picky. The Bree Tree Ruins are peppered with possessed animals and weaker adventurers. Oddly enough, they’re not hostile to the player, and the game doesn’t punish the players for killing them; it’s unclear why the player’s Black Spirit picked a particularly powerful person when a majority of Black Spirits possess weaker beings. It’s totally possible their possession inevitably strengthens that creature, so it’s a sort of investment.
The most clear-cut case of this is with Red Nose the Imp. He used to be a teeny tiny imp with a massive red nose. Sadly, Santa did not ask him to lead his sleigh. Instead, a Black Spirit got to him first and told him to slay. As he grew in strength, so did his Black Spirit. Eventually, it completely overtook him, and all that could be done was to defeat him. There’s pretty clear evidence have a touch of malevolence in their intentions. What makes it surprising is the player’s Black Spirit, who seems a little different… assuming there isn’t a sudden blast of black energy.Click to reveal spoiler about the Black Spirit in the Mediah storyline.
Non-spoiler summary: There are items in the world that can apparently drive Black Spirits into some sort of craze.
This column just scratches the surface on the Black Spirits. There’s more to it than just their properties, and every answer leads to even more questions. Despite the mystery, BDO wouldn’t be what it is without our toothy little friend. Do I trust him? Sometimes. He’s been pretty cool recently. Will I check out his teeth? Absolutely.