“The audio in Niffleheim was brilliant. Turns out Frosty the Snowman is actually a pretty creepy song when it’s sung by the anguished wails of the souls of lost children.”
I realized last night that my Templar only has two unfinished missions in the entire game (barring dungeon quests), a realization that finally pushed me into doing the long-dreaded Cost of Magic. I think I’ve gone on record saying how much I despise stealth missions, both in TSW and, well, in every video game. They might be for some people, just not for me. So I had good reason to fear The Cost of Magic, especially considering the reputation it’s created as a soul-destroying piece of work.
You can kind of look at this mission like a very old school video game, broken into several different levels, each one sadistic in its own way. The worst level by far is the first one where you have to ascend platforms while avoiding vampires who can knock you off with just one blow. There’s a lot I don’t get about TSW, and the architectural style of Transylvania’s vampires is part of that. I mean, it’s certainly different, but what’s the point of building these rickety, rusty structures high up in the air — and then staff them with 400-pound monstrosities in bulky metal suits? What’s the daily accident report at that workplace, I wonder? Really, these things are just randomly bizarre, but TSW is usually good at providing some sort of explanation. Things in this world fit, so how do these structures fit other than just annoying me?
Actually, scratch that, the worst level was the part where I had to activate these floating discs and then jump along them to get to the top of a rock. TSW does not have spot-on jumping, and these small discs give no margin for error. Plus, they only last a little while, so there were times I was in the middle of jumping through them when they just turned off. Oh, hello ground. Didn’t expect to see you so soon.
All things considered, my first time through this quest took me a half an hour — not that bad. For stealth mission aggrivation, I’ll maintain that Dracula’s castle is far, far more annoying. But it’s not like I’m going to be rushing to do either one of these again any time soon.
Long-time readers of Bio Break might recall that my journey through The Secret World hit a wall of frustration around Egypt, a sticky spot that I eventually powered through the main story and skipped a lot of the other missions just to get to Transylvania. As a result, my experience there was swiss cheesed, and so I’ve resolved to go back and complete all of these main quests (and as many side ones that I can find).
It’s not been an unpleasant time, I must say. I think having better gear, a couple strong builds, and a more capable grasp on how to play my character helps. I plowed through pretty much all of the missions, only sticking on one sort-of buggy action mission in the Orochi camp. I even soloed Eye of Horus without pause, and if you’ve been through Egypt than you know that this is the mission that makes gamers spit unintelligable hatred.
Part of me feels like this is a waste of time. If I’m running missions for AP, well, Transylvania and scenarios are so much better for that than Egypt. The gear isn’t helpful and there’s no other significant reward or goal involved. But mostly, it’s reminding me of the best part of the game — the missions. While dungeons and lairs and scenarios can be fun to do with friends, they’re just not as captivating or challenging as missions are. Plus, the story. That right there is its own reward, and you get that front-loaded.
I’m still not a fan of the zone design, particularly in the City of the Sun God (oh, the canyons… the sand… the depressing atmosphere…). I don’t think any MMO is going to win me over to loving desert zones. I guess I can be glad that Egypt wasn’t three zones in the end, because there’s only so many talking idols that I can chat with before going slightly mad.
From here I’m going to do the same tidying up in Transylvania. I’m gradually working on getting set for nightmares, but I’ve got four more elite dungeons to run and a gatekeeper to kill, and scenarios seem like they’re more important these days in regards to getting augments.
I guess I just can’t wait for Tokyo. I really wish that I could take Guild Wars 2′s “every two weeks” content pace and substitute TSW instead. New missions every two weeks would be incredible. Barring that, a new zone is something that a lot of us have been waiting for, and I hope that new ones past that won’t take as long. Stalling tactics like scenarios and augment grinds and events and endless dungeon runs don’t cut it when the real meat of the game is on the grill.
The Secret World
First of all, hilarious detail in the Mansion scenario that I noticed last night. In the upstairs survivor room, there’s a little section that they’ve walled off with the sign “Occupied.” If you look behind there, you’ll see a homemade chamber pot.
Poop jokes! You’re never too old for them!
We had another good group scenario night running solo and duo elites with full groups. That feels like a good difficulty balance, especially since we were able to walk away from them with most survivors still standing. Lots of augment drops too.
I was particularly happy because I got enough oreos to put me over the top for my Tokyo certification. I guess now I can start saving up for that purple shotgun!
Lord of the Rings Online
As probably everyone knows, Turbine delayed the Helm’s Deep launch until tomorrow. That sucks a little bit, but oh well, it’s just two days and I know a lot of people still needed to get a pre-order or use their Bounder’s tokens. It’s not all about me, so if it’s helping others, I’m happy.
I logged in to make a new outfit for my Captain. Man, I should’ve taken a picture of it. Oh, coulda woulda shoulda. It’s awesome. You’re going to have to imagine it: Think of stuff all over my body except I’m a female and it’s all blue and swirly and there’s a cool cape and some metal. Got it?
Why is Neverwinter so dang compelling these days? Maybe it’s just what I needed right now, a stress-free romp through unspoiled content. I’m cooking up an article about things I’m finding attractive here, but suffice to say that it’s kind of the Cryptic formula: fast leveling, easy entry, and fun little systems.
I’d been logging on about once a day since they released to give them a go, with mixed results. I managed to get a bronze for a Hotel solo, wiped a bunch of other times, retuned and retuned my build, and had some very bad luck with pugs. You just need too much communication with scenarios to rely on the chat window, especially with TSW’s wonky chat.
So I’ve been a little down in the dumps — I want to like scenarios, I just maintained that they are too difficult, especially on solo mode when you have two or three camps being attacked simultaneously. I don’t care how good your gear or build is, it’s impossible for one person to be in more than one place.
Apparently Joel Bylos agrees, as he popped in the forums to respond to criticism about the scenarios, saying fun things like:
“A part of the problem is that people are used to the progression of difficulty being that solo is easier than group because that is how things work in most games. However, I would argue that solo scenarios are the most difficult and indeed nightmare solo is the hardest of the content we have released with Issue #8.”
The former I call BS on, and the latter just makes me cross-eyed. Solo is supposed to be the most difficult? Why is this a good design decision? Is this now The Bizarro World?
Anyway, our cabal broke up into two groups of five and decided to run all three scenarios on normal difficulty, duo mode. I think this was a good decision, since all six runs completed (ours got two silver and one gold). The duo setting felt adequate for a group — challenging but not overwhelmingly so. I only then realized that you do get a token or two per boss kill, so that made me feel better about failing a scenario, since you could still walk away with a couple tokens and the AP/SP earned.
We had fun getting a feel for the maps, often splitting up into two groups and keeping our baby birds alive. I really would love to see a different scenario type in the near future, as protecting mostly helpless NPCs is right up there with “escort missions” as potentially frustrating content.
So I’m feeling a little better about it all, although there’s no way I’m going to subject myself to more soloing. I’d love to be going back to running standard missions, to be honest, but scenario rewards — augments, the Tokyo certification, cosmetics, purple gear — are too good to ignore.
I hate ever saying anything bad about The Secret World due to my completely biased opinion that it’s one of the most unique and captivating MMOs on the market. I don’t want to warn people away. But in the interest of being fair, let me get this off my chest: This game can be just stupid-hard for no good reason.
“It’s challenging!” you’ll hear people reply to this sentiment. “I love that TSW challenges instead of coddles us!”
Challenge is good, I agree. And for the most part, there’s a good balance of challenge in the game. But Funcom also realizes that TSW doesn’t have the largest game world or the most missions, and so this “challenge” becomes a useful speed bump from players running slipshod through the content too quickly. My problem is when the devs tweak this up too high, giving us missions that usually end with my fist going through a monitor.
The reason I rant today is because Issue 8 finally dropped yesterday. This was pretty anticipated, although not as much as Issue 9′s Tokyo is. People need more stuff to do, and a repeatable skirmish-like system seemed like a great addition of content for those who are bored of or don’t care to constantly run dungeons.
And there’s a lot of praise I can dole out here. The introduction and setting of the Sunken Library in Venice is pretty cool, and I love how the “holodeck” rooms function. Even with just three scenarios out there right now, there are at least multiple group sizes and difficulty levels available, so you can adjust it as needed. And the vendors are really attractive — not physically, just in what they offer. In addition to the 80-token certificate you need to earn to get into Tokyo, there are purple QL10 weapons and cosmetic gear and all sorts of other goodies.
But this is where the stupid hard begins, because these scenarios are it. I don’t know what Funcom used to tune the solo standard difficulty scenario, but it must’ve been some Rambo in QL12s because it quickly mopped the floor with my face. I got through the first wave and boss fine, but egads these scenarios start throwing huge mobs of enemies at the survivors you’re supposed to protect to the point where your only defense is just to laugh at the absurdity of it all. In my opinion, a little challenge for the smallest, easiest scenario level is acceptable, but TSW just said, “Nuts to that!” and threw a monster party.
To make matters even more fun, scenarios have inexplicable cooldowns. If you fail, you have to wait an hour before retrying. Why? Beats me. If you succeed, you’ve got to wait 18 hours before attempting the same run. So Funcom made a repeatable content system that’s explicitly designed to be used as often as possible, and then time-locked it. This is frustratingly dumb.
So maybe it was just me and trying out scenarios for the first time. Our first-responders in our cabal logged on to tackle a scenario together, and we queued up a group scenario on the easiest difficulty. Mind you, this team is made up of folks that have no problem running elite dungeons and have been making good inroads into nightmares. So yeah, we got owned and hard. Strategy was pointless in the face of a stampede of bad guys. It was more a question of “in which spot do you want to die, here or there?”
We only succeeded by doing a four-man run of a duo scenario on the basic difficulty. So I will lend my voices to those on the forums questioning the “challenge” of these scenarios. So far I see Funcom devs sticking up for the way it’s set up and acting a little affronted that we dare to question.
Our group wrapped up the night by doing a few cat god nightmare runs (no shotgun drop for me, alas). I happened to see a rare zombie bear spawn on the way to the instance, and after dropping its shield we tackled it together. It didn’t give any great reward or an achievement, but I thought it was kind of thrilling to see a new monster model that looked so unique.
It’s an exciting week for The Secret World. We’ve been enjoying the Halloween content, but the real anticipation’s come from the imminent arrival of Issue 8. Scenarios and augments have a lot of folks buzzing. I’ve been keeping my SP and AP near the max in preparation for it. I hope that the scenarios will have a lot of replay value, because that’s what Funcom’s pitching them as. If I have to grind out lots of these to improve my skills, then at least they should be entertaining.
I’m a little torn on augments, however. On one hand, I’m all for more avenues of character growth and progression. Being able to tweak out and customize your skills is a welcome notion. But man, Funcom doesn’t sound like it’s going to make it easy. I can just imagine a cackling, zany-eyed dev going, “The skill wheel is too EASY! Too SIMPLE! We need something to break their MINDS! I don’t know why every last word I say in a sentence is in all CAPS!”
So we’ll see. At worst, it’ll be busy work to keep us occupied until Tokyo arrives and it’s very group-friendly. More things for groups to do together that isn’t just another dungeon run gets a thumbs-up from me.
On another note, Yeti’s changed her Argartha University major. On Monday night out group was doing a few runs of the Cat God nightmare mode for its sweet, sweet purple drops. The last run of the evening coughed up a 10.1 elemental talisman, and since no one needed it, I greeded and won it.
This turned out to be fortuitous, because (a) I have no purple weapons yet, (b) elementalism has nice strike synergy to go with my shotgun build, and (c) I have most of the elemental wheel fleshed out due to pursuing the Magus outfit a while back. Seriously, it was like I was preparing for this moment and I didn’t know it.
So while my passive build didn’t change much, I swapped out my hammer actives for a handful of new fiery magic. I’ve been test driving it in Egypt as I’m cleaning up all of the missions I missed when I skipped half of the zone, and so far it’s going great. I love the feeling of more long-range damage, and the increased DPS is very welcome. It’s kind of nice to be roflstomping all over these mobs that used to give me such problems.
Bring on Issue 8. Me and my fire hands are totally ready for it.
One of the attractive aspects of going back through a game a second time is to be as complete as possible and explore content that I skipped, ignored, or didn’t know was there the first time around. This is precisely what I’m doing with my hammer-wielding Illuminati in The Secret World right now.
I don’t think I realized just how many missions, both main and especially side, that I’ve never done so far. The game’s achievement system does have a checklist for certain groupings of missions, but it’s not comprehensive. So I’ve turned to this forum thread to give me a list of everything there is to do, mission-wise, and I’m plugging my way through it.
It’s been a great ride so far. I’m certainly not blazing my way through content or anything; I’m still poking around in Kingsmouth, building up that AP, and smacking the crud out of everything while screaming “HAMMERTIME!”
What’s been eye-opening are all of these little side missions that I didn’t even know existed. Like there’s a small boat under the big bridge leading off the island that has a mission to find a box of treasure. Because even the side missions in TSW can include complicated investigative or deductive elements, to figure out the coordinates I had to look up playtimes for Safety Dance and Don’t Stop Believing.
Really, this right here is the litmus test of whether or not The Secret World is for you. If you get a quest like this and find it annoying, then forget it. If instead you find yourself laughing out loud that an MMO is making you look up details of a Journey song (and you know you can’t help yourself from listening to it as you do), then TSW will have its hooks in you for life.
It’s going to be a big week this week for TSW with Issue #8 coming out. I think that any side projects are going to be shelved while I start working on Yeti’s augments and doing scenarios like crazy.