The Secret Adventures: Drive them back into the sea! (Kingsmouth #2)

(You can follow my playthrough of The Secret World on Bio Break’s projects page!)

beforeElm Street Blues (action mission)

  • Andy!  Who doesn’t love Deputy Andy?  He’s just so loveable, kind of a puppy dog character who’s seen and known about some pretty terrible stuff.
  • “Every town has a dark side.”  Yeah, but I think Kingsmouth takes the cake here, bud.
  • Other than Andy’s ominous intro, the quest is exceedingly straight-forward: Kill a lot of zombies around the station, then run down the street and kill a big ol’ Draug.  Simple.
  • I get enough AP from this mission to buff up my Martial Discipline skill with a passive that gives me another HoT.  I’ll take all the heals I can get in this game, thanks.

draugDraugnet (action mission)

  • Andy’s follow-up quest is a little tougher, sending me out to the shore to meet the Draug (think “mutated sea zombies”) and cut down some of their eggs.  Andy also gives his famous speech about his dad drowning Andy’s kittens, a story that will come back a couple of times in this game.
  • I’m pleased to see that I can hold my own against three Draug at a time, although it does come down to the wire.
  • I’ve been using my ferocious wolf pet, which I just now noticed gives me a 5% damage buff and a chance to throw a DoT on enemies.  Have pets always had bonuses, or just this one?
  • I’m glad I had that bonus, because this is the hardest mission yet for my lowbie.  I take it slow and careful, and die only once because I pulled too many.  Good thing this harbor is at low tide so that we can conveniently wade out a half-mile from the shore!
  • Geary asks a good question, which is what, exactly, drew all of the townsfolk out to sea to be drowned?

missingMissing Persons (side mission)

  • On a bulletin board in the sheriff’s station is a list of several missing folks in the town, so I take it and go people hunting.  Of course, this is all pretty futile as 98% of the town is “missing” right now.  But XP is XP!
  • I’m constantly amazed at the level of detail in The Secret World for its locales.  The team obviously went to great lengths to get everything just right, down to the parking signs and style of New England architecture.
  • This is another “let us show you around the town” mission.  It’s nothing hard — you don’t even have to kill the zombies, just ID them.  Out of the entire list, only one guy is alive; Christopher is holed up in the church.  It’s funny that another missing person is the fire chief… who is in the fire station.  How is it that he’s missing?

saboHorror Show (sabotage mission)

  • Sheriff Bannerman gives my character her very first sabotage mission.  Oh, you poor, poor lowbie.  You don’t even know yet how awful these are.  If you’re new to Bio Break and my history with TSW, let’s just say that I hate sabotage missions with the fiery passion of a sun going supernova and leave it at that.  It’s good to have mission variety, but some of these are bang-your-head-against-the-wall frustrating.
  • Bannerman wants me to go find some surveilance equipment so she can keep an eye on the zombies.  Fair enough.
  • Sabotage missions usually aren’t about fighting, but navigating the environment and being stealthy as to not get one-shotted.  The first part of this quest is easy, since you just have to climb up on roofs to get cameras.
  • But then it sends you down into the basement of the mining museum, where an “Insane Survivalist” infected by the Filth has set up a truly impressive array of booby-traps.  Where did he get all of the laser tripwires and explosives?  No idea.
  • At the end, after I kill him, I find a box with a Filth pod in it and a nearby lore entry that suggests a trucker might have brought the Filth into town.  In Kingsmouth, it’s really hard to figure out how everything went so bad, since there are numerous sources of evil and numerous problems.  The sea had the fog, the Draug, and the Lady Margaret.  This box had the Filth.  How did the zombies arise?  Not exactly sure.

blowingDeath, and the Instruments Thereof (action mission)

  • The sheriff’s station is a great little quest “hub” in early TSW, and I recommend that new players do all the quests they can here before moving on.  The game doesn’t really cluster its questgiver NPCs like this together very often, and it’s certainly nice to run down them while getting one’s bearings and solidifying a build.
  • This is the first of Moose’s missions.  Moose is a biker who came to help out during lobster season but found himself on the front lines of battling the dead.  Naturally, he’s an expert with explosives and a semi-philosopher, and I find myself respecting his laconic nature as he preps devices four feet away from the undead.
  • Moose has a giant shopping list but claims that going out into the town is kicking his butt.  So… me then?  OK.  Cool.  I can come back from the dead, I can see why I’m more expendible for this type of thing.
  • As I’m running around grabbing random items for Moose, I’m more than a little disturbed at how this quest is kinda saying, “Hey kids!  Here are common, everyday components that could be turned into bombs!”  At least it doesn’t give you step-by-step directions as to how to do it, but in any other context grabbing ball bearings from a kid’s tricycle to make explosives would be unsettling to the max.

endSuicide Note (side mission)

  • I always thought that this was one of the sadder missions on Solomon Island.  At the front door of Jack & Wendy’s Bed and Breakfast — a Kingsmouth staple — there’s a suicide note.  It basically says that Jack got called into the sea but Wendy was left behind.  She can’t live without him, so she’s going to the end of the pier to find him or kill herself.  It’s kind of a setup where you instantly don’t WANT to do the next part, because you know nothing good is going to come of this.
  • Also, suicide in MMOs?  Not a topic often covered in quests.  It’s even a little cringe-inducing.  I guess it goes to show you that TSW is willing to get dark, really dark, when it wants to.
  • The mission itself is really quick — I run down to the end of the pier and find a hanging corpse (Wendy).  Clicking on her summons one of TSW’s creepy spectres.  After defeating the ghost, I pick up an amulet and realize that it was this trinket that protected Wendy from the call of the fog.  And yet she still died.

RIFT: Glad to be back, baby

flamethrowerIs there a term for the opposite of buyer’s remorse?  Where you get or do or buy something and are increasingly satisfied with that decision?  That’s kind of how I feel about RIFT as of late.

I’m tremendously glad I’ve gotten back into the game, although those feelings may well be from that returning glow that one gets (and causes us bloggers to gush about titles we haven’t played in a while) and the excitement over the upcoming Nightmare Tide expansion.  It’s certainly not all I play, but the fast load times and the bite-size nature of questing and rifting lends itself well to short play sessions.

What’s making me happiest is seeing/realizing/re-realizing how friendly RIFT is to players.  There are several legitimate paths to leveling.  There are free server transfers.  Everyone gets housing almost right out of the tutorial and it’s a pretty good system.  There is a good amount of account security (coin lock, two-factor authentication).  There’s a great mentoring system that will soon allow you to scale up in levels as well as down.  The LFG finder works wonderfully for dungeons.  Artifacts are still addicting to collect.  There’s a decent mobile app.  The soul system allows for a lot of playstyle customization.  And I’m hearing word that there will soon be a unified currency to allow endgamers to save up and buy gear whether they raid, run dungeons, or PvP.

Sure, there are drawbacks.  RIFT wasn’t very sticky to me the last couple times I came back, although right now I’m level 32 and still trucking.  Storm Legion is excessively long and leveling through it is slow.  There are a lot of mindless quests, although a few are genuinely engaging and full of great story.  I’m feeling as though the newer souls are so much more powerful than the old ones, which makes me hesitant to use the older ones (and that’s a shame).  And man am I glad for the wardrobe system, because so much of the armor is (and this is a professional writer’s term) icky.

I’m ridiculously excited about the minion system that’s coming with the expansion too.  I know it’s silly and not a huge game-changer, but I like collecting NPCs to order around on tasks (such as Neverwinter, Star Trek Online, and SWTOR).  I really want to hear more specifics on where we can get these minions so that I can start planning to do so even at my level when Nightmare Tide hits next month.

The Secret Adventures: The long zombie road (Kingsmouth #1)

(You can follow my playthrough of The Secret World on Bio Break’s projects page!)

boone1Dawning of an Endless Night (story mission, tier 1)

  • Right out of the Argartha portal, I meet Boone, the so-called last of the cowboys.  He’s the first quest giver in the area, and I always thought it was disappointing that you don’t really interact with him more than these first two quests.  Seems like a cool guy.  Never learn much about him.
  • The first stage of this story mission is easy: To reach the sheriff’s office.
  • “Find out why those people died.  And you bring a reckoning.”  Will do, Boone.
  • Arriving at the station, I meet Sheriff Helen Bannerman.  She’s an interesting character (as are they all) — clueless about the large problem, but calm and competant.  She’s kept as much of the town as safe as she can, admitting that Kingsmouth might have had this coming.  Then she mentions a few of the survivors not at the station, including Norma and her shotgun.  Off to Norma for the next step!

boone2For a Fistful of Zombies (action mission)

  • Since I’m heading down the road to the sheriff’s station anyway, Boone tasks me to kill a whole bunch of zombies along the way.  And that’s pretty much what the quest is — a lot of zombie killing.  It’s actually really easy to die here since you’ve got all beginner gear and virtually no skills.
  • I’m trying out blades for the first time.  I know it’s super-popular, and while I’ve never been a huge fan, if it can dish out AOE damage and get some healing going on, I’m all for it.
  • This short quest ends with a fight against a giant zombie gorger.  I love how the camera shakes when huge things hit in this game — it really lends a feeling of seriousness and intensity.
  • Best part of this quest?  It rewards a green quality weapon, which makes it perfect for a starter replacement.

outfitBullets for Andy (side mission)

  • One of the easiest quests of the game — I just have to pick up some ammo and drop it off to Andy.  It’s a good quest to repeat along with Fistful of Zombies early on.
  • While the rewards are paltry, I am treated to full access to the item store when I arrive.  This allows me to both retrieve some odds and ends from my account unlocks, as well as buy a new outfit (a military ballistic getup, above).

suziesSupply Run (action mission)

  • Sheriff Bannerman says that the station’s survivors might outlast what supplies there are, and so asks me to head out to see what I can scrounge up.  Essentially, this mission is to get a quick lay of the land.
  • The phonebook has several not-so-subtle references to other horror classics and authors, including Stephen King, Flagg from the Stand, HP Lovecraft, and Dunwich.  I just think it’s a shame that we can’t visit Pam the Clam, ’cause that place sounds like the bee’s knees.
  • Probably the toughest part of the mission is when it sends you into the fire department.  For a fresh new character, this place can be a wee bit of a deathtrap if you’re not careful, as the mobs are pretty tough and have some telegraphs going on.
  • Geary tells me that the town’s population was 1,547 and they expect that 98% of them were converted into zombies or whatever.  That number seems awfully high for the few houses actually seen.

cleaningDirty Laundry (side mission)

  • A dead “cleaning lady” on the side of the road has a cell phone that tells of a secret cache, the code to which is the first song that the church was going to sing on Sunday.
  • This is pretty easy, as the church has a list of songs up front in the sanctuary.  I actually work at a Congregational church, much like the one here in Kingsmouth, although the whole song sign thing is a relic of an older era.
  • Since nobody is playing the organ in the church, it’s a little creepy that there’s music playing.  Maybe the pastor has a boombox somewhere?  Anyway, the mission complete notice informs me that the cleaning lady was a member of the Illuminati sent to keep an eye on the pastor there.

notesThe Curious Case of Joe Slater (side mission)

  • Near the station is a psyche report on Joe Slater, one of the sailors to come back on the Lady Margaret (a ship that features heavily in the Kingsmouth storyline).  There are several pages missing from the report, which means that I gotta trot all over the place to find them.
  • I am NOT a fan of this mission.  Those pages are teeny-tiny and so easy to overlook, even after I’ve done this mission several times.
  • Reading the final report about Slater is a little unnerving.  He’s mentioned of having spoken in “Old Icelandic,” a detail I don’t remember from past experiences with this mission.
  • I’m really liking blades/assault rifle so far!  I have a bit of healing going on almost constantly, and against groups I mow them down.

STO: In which I hate the Defiant

p1It’s time to bring you up to speed on what’s been happening with me in Star Trek Online.  I barely had time to get to know the Black River, my Ambassador-class ship, before I crossed the threshold of captain rank and got a new starship.  This is thanks to the double XP that Cryptic is running from now until Delta Rising’s launch.  Between that and duty officer missions, I’m absolutely rocketing up in levels.  That’s neither great nor horrible, as I’ve dedicated myself to going through all of the episodes in order anyway.  I guess it’ll be nice to get my tier 5 ship sooner rather than later.

Actually, it’ll be a huge relief to get my tier 5 ship, because I seriously have the buyer’s remorse with my captain pick.  At the captain level, you get your choice of three of Star Trek’s most iconic ships: the Galaxy (TNG), the Defiant (DS9), and the Intrepid (VOY).  Last time around, I went with the Intrepid, which I liked, but I wanted to see what the fuss was about regarding escort ships.  Really, I shouldn’t have bothered.

While cruisers are all about hit points and durability and science vessels about cool tricks, escorts are the glass cannons of the game.  They’re small, not great-looking (in my opinion), and more than a little flimsy.  On the plus side, they’re zippy and can slot cannons to pump out a very impressive array of firepower.

p2I’ve gotten my butt kicked a few times in embarassing ways, ways that would not have happened with a cruiser.  Sure, I’m trying to adapt by going all-out on offense and enjoying the fireworks show, but I think I like living too much to be an escort captain.  Fortuantely, I’m already captain 36, so four more levels and I can graduate to something that doesn’t fall apart when an enemy shouts “boo!” at it.

I was really pleased at the reward at the end of the Nimbus mission chain, as I got a device that allows me to summon three pirate ships to fight with me every 15 minutes.  Those ships actually do decent damage AND heal you, so they’re great in sticky spots.  I try to save them for big fights.

Right now I’m in the middle of the Romulan series of missions.  It’s like fighting dark Elves, so I’m down with that.  I took some time to level up my bridge officers and train them, and then went to Earth Spacedock to make all of our uniforms the Wrath of Khan variety (only navy blue instead of blood red.

p3We have a lot of fun on ground missions.  I enjoy pulling out seeker probes and going nuts with my minigun while my bridge crew pulls out an array of impressive skills to turn the tide of battle.  My favorite part of ground combat is my ex-Borg officer, whom I gave a sword to that I got at the completion of a mission.  It’s a hoot to see her charge into combat waving that thing above her head every time.  If seeing a Borg with a claymore running full-tilt at you doesn’t give you immediate pants-pee, then I don’t know what would.

There’s still a long way to go before getting up to Delta Rising content level, but that’s fine.  It’s a lot less boring now that I’ve got access to better ships, weapons, and skills.

TSW: RICKYYYYY PAGAAAAAN!

pagan1Last night Massively’s MJ and I livestreamed one of the new Tokyo missions featuring a new instant favorite character, Ricky Pagan.  It only took us an hour and a half to bumble our way through it, but I gotta say that it was totally worth it.  The Secret World almost never fails to make me say two things:

  • “That’s one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen/heard in an MMO!”
  • “Well… you don’t see that every day in a game!”

And this mission did both.  Without spoiling it too much, it was about a rockabilly-loving gang in infected Tokyo and your efforts to reunite them.

Using music.

pagan2Yup, that’s us strutting down the street with boomboxes on our shoulder, blasting out tunes in hopes of making one of the Filth guys dance.  It’s so ridiculous and sublime that I couldn’t stop smiling and laughing throughout this entire quest.  There are even five new tunes just for this mission alone.

pagan3And why not cap off the mission with a dance party among ghosts?

Bravo, TSW.  That right there alone made the price of this mission pack totally worth paying.

The Secret Adventures: Tutorial

me1While I am certainly full on gaming as of late, I’ve begun to keenly miss The Secret World.  Over the past several months, our regular group has dwindled in both size and focus, popping up only to tackle the new missions and then disappearing until the next ones came again.  While this is fine for what it is, I’ve had a strong desire to go back into the game and see if I could do it again but better.

Thus, the idea for a new project called The Secret Adventures was born.  The concept here is that I’ll be creating a brand-new character, an Illumanti (mostly for the flavor text I haven’t fully experienced) who will use blades and assault rifle based on this Wolverine regen build.  I chose that because I want something that can handle the game’s many packs of mobs while keeping survivability high.  This character will then be going through the entire solo game in an attempt to finish every main mission and side mission.

I won’t be doing full reviews of each mission or walkthroughs (as others have covered those in far more detail), but simply taking notes, observations, and screenshots to relay back to you.  If you’ve never played TSW or gotten through all of the zones, this series could be a way to experience it vicariously.  I want to keep it entertaining and observational, not necessarily informative.  Hopefully the combination of a new build, a fresh character, and the allure of documenting this journey will overcome The Secret World’s alt-adversive nature.

Let’s get started!

me3Opening cutscene

  • I forgot how awesomely creepy this opening sequence is.  Knowing what I know now about the game, hearing the two sides try to woo you and seeing the bee go into my mouth for the first time gives me goosebumps.
  • The TV offscreen talks about the infection in Tokyo and the Orochi tower… which we’re just now starting to get to in the game.
  • So my character is infected by the bees and turned into one of the anima people (I’m still not sure how or why I’m chosen for this).  The opening scene shows a week of time passing while my character (Syppi) gets used to her new powers.  It’s always troubled me that she doesn’t bother to clean up her place, even after a week.
  • I like the nod to The Longest Journey with “Arcadia / Stark” on the poster.
  • And a recruiter for the Illuminati comes by to pull me in.  Well girl, time to go face down nightmares and incredibly frustrating quests!

me4No Sleep Til Brooklyn (story quest, tutorial)

  • This mission is nice to get bearings in NYC, but as I’m trying to get to Kingsmouth as fast as possible to really begin this series, I’m going to blitz through it.
  • A lot of UI elements are disabled at the start and slowly introduced over the tutorial’s progress.  I can’t access the item store yet, which is a bummer since I want to give her a new outfit.
  • This is about the easiest mission in the game right here.  Follow some security cameras to underground tunnels, follow signs to the Illuminati’s Labyrinth, and then get knocked out by the “pink noise.”
  • Syppi wakes up in a medical chair, freaking out as the bees rewrite her body.  Then Zurn (a wacked-out Illuminati doc) tells her that she’s going to have an out-of-body experience to complete the process and experience what happened in Tokyo.

tokyoGround Zero (story quest, tutorial)

  • Ground Zero is fully skippable, but I’ll go through it for the story elements and because it’s more relevant as of late.
  • Hey it’s Sarah before she went fully insane!  Hi Sarah!
  • Apart from teaching the bare basics of combat, this mission does a great job to introduce the Filth during the opening days of the Tokyo epidemic.  It’s a series of subway station set pieces that have pretty cool fights.
  • Hilariously — when compared to the rest of this game — you can’t actually die during these fights.  If your health goes below 375 it bumps right back up.  TSW giving you false hope that the game will be easy.
  • Sarah gets separated from the group and then encounters a platform that extends into the cosmos.  She faints.  Still don’t know exactly what that was about.

trainingTraining Day (story quest, tutorial)

  • The last tutorial mission gets you prepped for your incursion into Kingsmouth.  It’s nothing special, just choosing your first (and second) weapons, getting your phone, and meeting Kirsten Geary.  She’s awesome, in a foul-mouthed sort of way.
  • It’s kind of funny how my starter set of gear puts me at pretty much the same exact health that my endgame character has (~2000 health).  TSW doesn’t really do the typical stat progression.
  • The Labyrinth is an incredibly fascinating place — I really wish we got to see more of it.  It’s all weird angles and suggestions of massive rooms and long passageways and all sorts of secrets.
  • Geary is a fan favorite and it’s easy to see why.  She’s fast-talking with lots of vivid metaphors and a business-bottom-line attitude.  Just watching her character move about as she talks shows you how great TSW does natural body movement and gestures (less so with natural-looking faces).  I like when she walks her fingers across the desk.
  • From Geary’s office, it’s a hop, skip, and a jump into Argartha and then through a portal to Kingsmouth.  Time to begin the real game!

Quest for Glory: The Three Stooges

(This is part of my journey playing through Quest for Glory 1. You can follow the entire series on the Nostalgia Lane page.)

f1After far too many failed attempts, my hero finally scrabbles over the wall and into the brigand’s fortress.  Woo!  It looks intimidating but is eerily devoid of other people.

f2Walking over the rug causes me to fall into a pit (while my eyes hilariously bug out).  Even though I am dead, four bandit archers pop out of nearby windows to pile on the overkill.

f3Is this another trap or just the brigands being so dumb that they need to label their non-traps?  Oh well, that’s why God invented save games.  Happily, this bridge holds.  There are also triplines all over the place, but once I investigate them, my character automatically walks over them without setting them off.  I AM ALL THAT IS THIEF.

f4Inside the brigands’ hall is a tricky section where three guards (who look — coincidentally, I’m sure — like the Three Stooges) keep trying to get into the room.  I can’t fight them; they’re instant game over if they come in.  So I have to keep moving around to block the different entrances, topple some candles to stop their advance, then leap up on the table and bring the chandolier down on their heads.  It’s actually tricky in terms of timing to do all of this, and I had to reload about a dozen times until I got the pattern just right.

f5It’s quite worth it to see the Stooges do their panicked dance and then be knocked out.  Quickly, I duck through the back door before more guards arrive.

f6What the… bloomin’ onion…

Well, Mr. “Me” here is that laughing warlock I’ve heard so much about, who is also Yorick, the jester who supposedly went off looking for the Baron’s daughter.  Seems like he got mixed up in a bad crowd, now didn’t he?  The room is tacky, covered in smileys and whatnot, and it’s also extremely weird to navigate.  Like a fun house.

Now Yorick claims that he’s here in disguise as a warlock but still wants to help Elsa.  The problem isn’t Yorick — it’s Elsa:

f7Plot twist!  Elsa is the brigand leader!  Huh… this changes a lot… and makes a weird sort of sense.  I sense family angst coming on soon.

f8Navigating this room requires figuring out which door goes where, all while avoiding trap doors and Yorick’s attempt to throw fruit at you.  Again, if he knows that I’m here to help and he’s all for it, why is he doing this to me?  Happily, all of this is a lot easier to beat (and less deadly to slip up) than the previous room.

f9This brings us to the brigand leader, Elsa.  She’s… not happy to see me, if that sword didn’t give it away.  Actually, she’s still cursed by the Baba Yaga and can’t remember who she really is.  So I give her a face full of dispell potion, which wakes her up.

f10Huzzah!  That’s two kids and two curses down.  Naturally, Elsa and Yorick can escape with her amulet but I can’t, so she gleefully leaves me behind as brigands attempt to knock down the door.  That’s the thanks I get?  I snatch up the magic mirror on the table and dash out the secret passage.

f11The mirror makes defeating Baba Yaga a trifle — I merely point it at her while she’s trying to turn me into a frog (yet again) and the spell bounces back on her.  In her anger, she sends me outside and her chicken hut flies off.  I don’t know whether to question why the hut has chicken wings and legs or the fact that chickens can’t, y’know, fly, but hey, I won!

f12It’s back to the Baron’s castle for a well-deserved celebration, as I am officially crowned the Hero of Spielberg.  I’m sure this picture has a lot of Sierra in-jokes going on, although I’m most drawn to the Starfleet officer on the right-hand side.

f13And with that, I board the magic carpet and head south for Quest for Glory II.  The end!

Final Thoughts

For a game that I had never heard of nor played until recently, Quest for Glory is undoubtedly one of the best old-school Sierra titles I’ve experienced.  It’s certainly unique, with a hybrid adventure/RPG setup and three classes with their own playstyles.

I loved how many of the puzzles had several solutions and how the world felt cohesive and immersive.  After bumbling about for a few weeks now, the forest of Spielberg will forever be remembered by me as a “real” place with iconic locales and characters.  Major props go out to how the game allows you to explore and solve it (mostly) in a non-linear fashion, giving you time to establish yourself and build up your inventory and stats.

On the down side, the RPG mechanics are certainly lacking.  I wasn’t a huge fan of how you needed to do repetitive tasks to level up skills, nor how bland fighting was.  Combat should have been exciting, but ended up being annoying speed bumps between where I was and where I wanted to go.  From start to finish, every encounter played out pretty much the same.

As a thief, I only got to steal from one house (there was another one, but I couldn’t get in) and only had to sneak once or twice.  It didn’t really feel like a huge difference in playstyle.  And all of that gold I ended up getting mostly went to waste, as there wasn’t much to buy.

Quest for Glory is funny, interesting, and lacks a lot of hardcore frustration that was present in early Sierra titles.  This VGA remake version looks pretty good, with colorful sprites and some hilarious animations.  I won’t be going into the next chapter of the series, at least for now, but I’m glad I got to play through the original at least once.