Battle Bards Episode 32: The Secret World

It’s the show that Syl’s been dreading for almost eight episodes now: The Secret World!  Between conspiracies, zombies, ancient myths, and present-day cabals, is there actually music in this game — and is it any good?  The bards investigate in this creepy, kooky, mysterious, and ooky show!

Episode 32 show notes

  • Intro (featuring “Main Theme”)
  • “March on Templars”
  • “Through the Hollow Earth”
  • “Factions”
  • “Sand Meets Sky”
  • “Combat part 6″
  • “Sleepless Lullaby” by Bright September
  • “The Zombie Stare” by Amy Sweet and Clyde Shorey
  • Which one did we like best?
  • Mail from Crim
  • Mail from Imakulata
  • Outro (featuring “Nassir’s Dance”)

Listen to episode 32 now!

The Secret World: We are the song that reminds demons to tremble

doraHey, Dora the Explorer is plenty smart.  I learn from her every morning, thanks to my kids!

Our weekly Secret World group assembled last night to run a couple of the new action missions from Tokyo.  One of the missions was borked and wouldn’t progress, so we left that to a future week, but we were able to do the ones from Gozen and Daimon.  Hey, any chance to get another Daimon cutscene is good enough reason for a quest in my book!  The guy is looneybins, but he’s entertaining looneybins… and he might be more Dragon than most Dragons.

clawThe quests themselves were adequate but nothing that blew up my skirt.  The first had us hopping from Tokyo to Hell and back in an effort to track down a demon, while the second was more complex, with a series of challenges to protect various folks in the region (including — yes! — an escort mission).  The latter did have a very interesting segment in a graveyard where we had to set up a shrine all while trying to handle these ghosts that couldn’t be permanently killed.  Instead, if you aggroed one you had to demolish its AEGIS shield and then slap on some item that put them back into a trance.  We had a couple bad moments when we got too many of the mobs on us in such a tight confined space.

Unfortunately, I think we’re coming to the end of the Tokyo missions, even having strung them out as long as we have.  I hope the next issue will come sooner rather than later, but I haven’t heard much on that front lately.

gearyKirsten Geary is what now?  I’m not sure how to interpret this.

I was thinking last night how much I wish that Funcom would have made rolling alts in this game more of a compelling factor.  I’d love to have a good reason to go back through much of this again (the writer says, conveniently forgetting the quests that made him tear his hair out), but as it stands, there would be scant new experiences with an alt.  You could create another build, true, but there’s no build I can’t create right now anyway — and doing quests on an alt would be robbing me of the AP I could be putting into my ever-hungry main.  Faction choice is pretty much only there for a slight change of flavor, and that’s the end of any alt argument.

I don’t know what Funcom could do to encourage alting.  Considering the slow roll-out of the new issues, it’s something that could be very useful in retaining players.  What if you could recycle your character in a DDO/Kingdom of Loathing-style reset?  You agree to start your character over in exchange for more powerful stats or some other exclusive perks.  That would be pretty cool.

Maybe if there was a new game+ system in place that would open up access to new weapon sets only for veterans going back through it.  Maybe quests with alternative challenges.  I dunno.  But it’s a sad to me how little I’m motivated to ever roll an alt in TSW, because the journey is why I play.

TSW: So someone at Funcom is a big origami nerd

loveThis is Gozen.  Gozen has been in love.  And Gozen thinks that her past love affair is a really good reason to send us players on a silly mission across a Filth-infested Tokyo to deliver some origami book to someone who stood up someone else in her restaurant.  Sorry Gozen, but as far as quest motivations go, I am really not buying this one.

Anyway, our weekly Secret World group was incredibly excited to do this new investigation quest, Love and Origami, because, y’know, origami!  I used to be huge into origami back in… uh… 2003 or so?  Like, I have a shelf full of origami books and those origami-of-the-day calendars.  It was fun and I regret getting out of the habit.  But any opportunity to do an MMO mission in which we had to make cute little paper critters in real life, that had to be worth something, yes?

So imagine our disappointment when the quest really boils down to a series of translation challenges.  I mean, there’s a loose theme of origami, but you never have to make one.  You just need to keep translating kanji, which we did via Google Translate’s neat tool that lets you doodle characters and create them for you.  So we hunkered down to do a mess of translating, and by “we” I mean “other people in the group because I was making origami because darn it, I’m not going to bed until I make a paper animal.”

origamiAww isn’t it beautiful?  It’s nice of TSW to give players an in-game guide to many origami folds, I just wish it had been a part of the mission instead of its motif.

The story also ended very anticlimacticaly, with us finding the final origami and getting some juicy rewards.  We did discover that the guy who stood the girl up at the bar was the crazy kid from the main storyline, the guy who is in the apartment with a tin foil hat and all that.  That’s interesting, but it really illustrates how TSW needs closing cutscenes to tie up these missions instead of just ending abruptly as they often do outside of the main storyline.  Stories need good endings, people!

The Secret World: The only thing to fear is fear nothing

It’s a little late, but here we go with this week’s adventures in The Secret World!  Our crew of four finished up Issue 9’s main storyline with the two missions The Pachinko Model and Spiral.

p1Pachinko Model starts with a visit to Daimon, who might well go down as my new favorite TSW NPC.  He’s a Japanese crime lord who is bat-poop insane (and a big believer in Dragon philosophy, apparently).  His very long cutscenes had me rolling with his eccentric use of vocabulary and the weird things that Funcom made his face do.

p2Of course, it wouldn’t be a TSW cutscene if there wasn’t some sort of clipping issue or — in this case — pieces of fish magically floating in the air far away from their intended fingers.

p3The quest sent us to investigate the headquarters of Fear Nothing, some cultish center that was brainwashing kids.  Here, Ten Tentacles, MMOGC, Rich and myself stumble through the gloom and individually think, “Man, I’m glad I don’t have to do this all by myself!  I’d be so freaked out right now, but I’m going to act brave for the group!”

z1Seriously, TSW, what is *UP* with you and those creepy dolls?  Was there a sale somewhere before the apocalypse?

z2The goal of the Pachinko Model is to get to the top floor of this building.  That’s not very easy to do: stairways are blocked off and even the hidden elevator that we found required keycards to go higher.  Who farted?  MMOGC, I’m looking in your direction.

z4Other than the occasional ghost and/or demon, the trip through the office was pretty sedate at first.  Most of the backstory of what happened here is delivered through journal pages.

I’m not as up on my TSW lore as some, but there are obvious connections to the Morninglight with Fear Nothing.  Creepy cults?  Sun worship?  That’s never a good thing in this game world.

z5Looking up, we saw what looked like flies on the skylight.  Well, that’s not a skylight, that’s a floor.  And those aren’t flies, they’re bodies.  Golly, we couldn’t wait to get up there!

z6The challenge ramped up when our investigations kept disturbing one very ticked-off ghost.  When she showed up, you had to hide or else she’d one-shot you.  Of course, you could choose what I called the “MMOGC and Rich” strategy of running right into the arms of death while yelling in confusion.  That worked too.

z7They drank the kool-aid, or whatever the local equivalent was.  We were kind of blitzing through the place so I didn’t pick up 100% of what happened here, but I get the gist.  At least some of the kids escaped before this.

z8Like Voltron, the ghosts combined to form this abomination.  ‘Twasn’t too hard to kill, however.

s1The following quest was a good palate clenser for the tense, disturbing experience we just had.  We had to navigate another building, this one an apartment complex, to find one of the escaped kids from Fear Nothing.  Hilariously, the kid had booby-trapped the entire place with rakes, marbles, and potato guns.  I can just imagine how the angry filth reacted when smacked in the face with a falling paint can.

a6Kid + sugar = this crazy girl.  At least she’s friendly and highly regards me.  Wait, you’re not drinking the kool-aid right now, are you?

So that’s it for Issue 9’s main storyline!  We got a “to be continued” notice in the quest log, so I guess next week we’ll move on to side missions and the like.

The Secret World: Little girl, don’t cry

yak1With the others AFK, sick, or otherwise unable to come, it was up to Ten Tentacles and I to carry on our Monday night Secret World adventures in Tokyo.  We began by picking up a trio of side missions to assassinate various bad folk around the area.

Two of these fights weren’t that bad, but the above guy was absolutely horrendous.  Remember how I said that I really hate the new AEGIS shield system?  You can add about twelve “reallys” into that sentence after last night.  So here’s how the above fight went:

  1. Start attacking and avoiding his constant barrage of AOEs.
  2. Whittle down his psychic shield to reveal his cybernetic shield.
  3. Whittle down the cybernetic shield, but after about 15 seconds the psychic shield would be fully restored.
  4. Whittle down the psychic shield only to see that the cybernetic shield was regenerating.
  5. Keep flipping between these two damage types in a futile hope to one day see the blessed green health bar underneath.

It was bad, and I think part of that was due to not interrupting his recharge, if that’s a thing.  Eventually we put out a SOS to general chat and had a group show up to help us beat this guy down.  “I hate that %@#$ so much,” one of them said.  I concurred.

yak2Following that was a return to the main storyline, which had Tentacles and I holding hands as we descended into another parking garage from hell.  For those not familiar with The Secret World, there’s an earlier mission that has you going through a parking garage that manages to scare 10 kinds of living crap out of you.  It was probably the first truly terrifying mission of the game.  Well, despite reusing those garage assets, this mission was even scarier.

For one thing, your head lamps and flashlights are rendered unusuable in this space, so you’re at the mercy of a foggy filter, flickering lights, and pools of shadows.  Then, as you descend, you keep seeing small shadows that disappear as soon as you notice them.  Plus, TT got stuck in this particular chamber and had half of his health sucked away by… something… as horrible red lights came on.

After finding out what we needed from the very bottom, the quest became about one thing: survival.  And there were these lovely creatures standing between us and sunlight:

yak3Yup, it’s the Japanese ghost girl(tm).  Man, for all of the overused horror trope that it is, Funcom really nailed it with making these girls creepy (yes, there are more than one).  They hide their face from you Weeping Angel-style while you look at them, but turn your back for a second and they’ll port to you, show their glowing green eyes, scream from a way-too-large mouth, and insta-kill you.  Making it past them took a very long time with many, many deaths.  It didn’t help that you kept hearing their awful noises and mutterings, nor when you got to certain levels and there were multiple girls lurking about.

yak4Anyway, we got through it like the two little scared kids we are, and were reunited with our questgiver: A giant demon with a translator mask who likes R&B and grinding up on mannequins (the demon, not the mask).  TSW is a genuinely weird game.

The Secret World: Flipping worlds

Yeti-2014-06-09-22-44-17The lesson here is that when you are going up a stairwell and you turn the corner to see a flaming boulder rolling down on you, you’ve got to both run away and frantically hit the screenshot key without peeing your pants in fear.

So last night our Secret World group started digging into Tokyo proper.  Man, it’s great to be in a new zone — urbanized and crawling with Filth even so.  I didn’t have time to really poke around, but I’ve seen enough to know that there’s been a good deal of attention paid to it much like the other regions.

Ten Tentacles and I teamed up to run a couple of side missions while we got the hang of the new AEGIS system.  Basically, all of the new mobs now have a second health bar in the form of a specific shield (demonic, psychic, or cybernetic) that you have to wear down by flipping through a new specific buff that allows you to target one of these three shield types.  Oh, and you have to level these buffs up by grinding mobs.

Truly, AEGIS sucks and is there to be nothing more than a time sink — busy work for those who blow through the Tokyo quests too fast.  The devs have made noise about how this adds another layer of complexity and challenge to fights, but it doesn’t.  It just makes fights longer and more annoying, not more strategic and interesting.  As much as I love TSW, I am concerned how Funcom seems to love bloating the combat system with useless systems (augments, anyone?).  I’d trade it all for a traditional MMO combat system/class setup in a heartbeat.

Fortunately, we play despite the combat system, not because of it.  After the side missions were done, we got into the main story mission that had us tracking down a many-toed demon through a sewer system that was apparently designed by Lucifer himself.  This was an interesting misson, balancing combat with platforming, trap evasion, and a cool mechanic that had us flipping between the regular world and a “red” world, kind of like Silent Hill or A Link to the Past.  The portal hopping was smooth and offered up a lot of memorable moments, such as the aforementioned flaming boulder run.

It was certainly a lot better to run it as a group than solo, just to keep the combat portion short.  I got to say that between WildStar, Guild Wars 2, and The Secret World, I am becoming the master of telegraphs.  I just wish TSW and WildStar had an auto-attack going on while I am doing all of the fancy footwork.

The Secret World: Savoring the sequel

h1Oh YES.  Bring it on.  Let’s go… to Tokyo!

Issue 9, aka the long-awaited Tokyo release, finally came out last Wednesday.  That kind of sucked for anyone who had just gotten into WildStar in a big way, but I’d rather have more good stuff to play than I can handle than not enough, yes?  Our group got together to start exploring, but in a cruel twist of the knife, Funcom only made Issue 9 available for subscribers — us lesser peasants had to wait an additional three days.  So I was only able to start the content last night.

The cost for the issue was 1200 points — $10 — which felt pretty fair, considering the sheer scope of what’s being delivered.  Issues 9-11 will make up an expansion’s worth of content, and $30 isn’t that bad for it at all, especially considering the buy-to-play nature of the game.

I only had time for the first quest, Venice Sinking, so I didn’t even get to Tokyo proper during my session.  It was a good prelude, however, with a closer look at the Council of Venice and the return of a certain purple-clad faction.

h2As great as it was to be running new missions, having the first be a sabotage-style mission was kind of a kick in my character’s non-existant nads.  You have to navigate a tricky series of platform obstacles throughout a canal interior in Venice.

TSW never fails to show me how it loves being frustrating right up to the point of making me want to dropkick the game across the room — but making the challenge fair enough so that you feel accomplished when you beat it.

Maybe I was a little groggy last night, but there was a certain section I just could not get past.  I kept throwing myself at it, dying again and again.  At one point I howled out an anguished “NOOOOO!”, startling my wife from across the room.  It’s okay honey.  It’s just my hobby driving me insane.

h3I really, really do not like you lady.  But at least I’m done with this mission and Tokyo bound!  Man, I hope they have some cool outfits over there amongst all of the suffering and horror…