The Secret Adventures: I’m dead and that’s a good thing (Blue Mountain #6)

(Join Syp as he attempts to document a complete playthrough of The Secret World from start to finish. What will The Secret Adventures discover next? Find out in this exciting installment! WARNING: Spoilers and stories ahead!)

Funeral Crasher (investigation mission)

  • OK, how great is that title? I love me a good quest title.
  • So our third and final mission at the Franklin Manor is an investigation one. Eleanor is a little concerned for the ghosts, as they (and the cats) have been spooked since a recent storm. Time to dig out the Ouija board to talk to (pause for dramatic effect) THE OTHER SIIIIIIDE.
  • The board spits out a bunch of letters and numbers that point to an Orochi van down the road. Orochi. Never going to end well with these folks. Wonder how many corpses I’ll stumble over today?
  • The van mentions that Orochi was somehow trying to test the Filth on the spirits. Because THAT’S a good idea that shouldn’t have gotten laughed out of the room. Dude, the Orochi deserve every corpse they get. Idiots.
  • Then the ghosts get even cleverer by using the van’s headlights to blink morse code at me. Oh yes, this mission is a little famous for the morse code bit. Don’t ghosts know how to text?
  • So doing a little deduction and decrypting, the code mentions a lady’s path, and next to the mansion is a path with a girl’s name. The tricky part here — and what hung me up the first time through — is that you have to be dead to progress to the next part (since you’re dealing with spirits and all). TSW loves to create excuses for you to kill yourself.
  • From there it’s a relatively easy task to head over to the Franklin Manor’s masuleum and banish the angry spirit.
  • Instead of jumping back into my body, I explore around a bit as a ghost. Never did that before, and boy, Franklin Manor is the place that you want to visit as a spectral tourist. You can find all of the ghosts of the people killed, from the kid hobbling around in the yard to the servant locked in the cellar to the hippie near the graves. Can’t believe this was my first time noticing all of this.

chewie

Detritus Prime (side mission)

  • This side mission, near to the Franklin Manor, looks to involve completing a gadget that will allow the user to control those filth golems. Man, wouldn’t that be handy for the rest of the game?
  • Instantly I am attacked by one of the filth-controlled people. Instead of fighting back, I just listened to her rambling for a while because I haven’t fully done that before. She keeps apologizing for attacking me while going off on the price of milk and eggs. “I’m so sorrEEEEE” It’s still dang eerie.
  • After gathering a couple of parts, I turn on the remote and gain access to my very own golem — Detritus Prime. Honestly, it’s not as cool as you might hope. For one thing, you don’t control him so much as follow him through the swamp and keep him from getting killed. So… an escort mission.
  • And what do you get for all of this? The golem ends up going haywire and you have to kill it anyway. Well, that was a bust.

breach

Breaking News (side mission)

  • See, it’s not that I go out of my way to pick on the Orochi for being dead, it’s just that you can’t go 20 feet in The Secret World without tripping over another one of their corpses. I still feel that Funcom unintentionally made them out to be such a joke that even the visit to their HQ in Tokyo wasn’t enough to restore their status as a serious player.
  • So, another corpse, this one in the middle of the road. Apparently the Orochi were trying to chase down a news van because of some sort of media breach. Gee, what could the news be reporting on in this small quiet island?
  • The goal of the mission is to retrieve datacard chips from three of the news crew’s bodies. One’s been eaten by a wendigo, one’s in the middle of Ak’ab territory, and one’s become corrupted by the filth. Feel really bad for the news crew, I do.
  • Turns out that the Buzzing had something to do with the “media breach.” On the one undamaged card it reads, “The Buzzing appreciates all you do. The world is dying, it’s true!”

Maine Chainsaw Massacre (side mission)

  • Everyone has to do this mission at least once because it is such a joy. Basically, you find a chainsawed zombie on a truck and think, “Why not?”
  • From there you run around with a chainsaw one-shotting zombies left and right. It’s a thing of beauty, that chainsaw — and it’s a crying shame that the auxiliary weapon you get later on isn’t as powerful.
  • COME GET SOME.

cdc

Up in Flames (side mission)

  • Another nearby side mission that’s really easy to check off the list. This one has you investigating a burning tunnel, which is the game’s way of explaining why it’s not letting you do a full loop around Solomon Island back to the start.
  • The fun thing here is that you get to find, equip, and keep a full CDC hazmat suit, which is one of my most favorite costumes in the game. Even better, it comes in handy for missions that require a gas mask of some kind!

Syp’s top 5 non-MMO video games of 2015

fallboomGenerally, if I have gaming time I’m going to put it into MMOs. That said, there were a few other games that caught my interest this year, so here are five such non-MMO video games that I played and enjoyed.

1. Fallout 4

Other than a couple of titles that I just got on Steam’s holiday sale, Fallout 4 was the only PC game I bought during all of 2015. I couldn’t help it — I love this series, although Bethesda’s entries aren’t quite as sticky as the older ones were. Still, I’ve greatly enjoyed exploring the wasteland and seeing what wonders and horrors this world has to offer.

2. Dungeon Boss

Weirdly enough, this freemium mobile game has become one of my favorite go-to titles when I have a minute here and there. It’s a quick dungeon runner with a small four-person party, through which you gradually unlock other characters and build them up.

3. Star Trek 25th Anniversary/Judgment Rites

Probably the retro gaming series that I enjoyed the most this year, both Star Trek adventure games were a blast from the past, full of clever puzzles, vintage voice acting from the original cast, and a fun episodic structure. I never played Judgment Rites before, so I was glad to check that out.

4. The Walking Dead Season Two

Not quite as strong of an entry as the first season of Telltale Games’ vision of the zombie apocalypse, but it was still a gripping enough ride to create memories and make me consider strongly each choice that I made.

5. Knights of Pen and Paper II

I spent many enjoyable hours in the sequel to the strange D&D-themed Knights of Pen and Paper. Some people didn’t like the second game as much, but I appreciated its humor, its gear system, and its graphics more than the first. The two update packs that came out since the title’s release were welcome additions in the form of new quests and classes.

Battle Bards Episode 65: Fallen Earth

fallen

Welcome to the musical apocalypse! In this week’s episode, the Battle Bards get their Mad Max on with a trip to the premiere post-apocalyptic MMO, Fallen Earth. It’s a combination of western, action, and… “other.” What does the wasteland sound like? Find out in this episode!

Episode 65 show notes

  • Intro (featuring “Last Call” and “Renewal”)
  • “Escape from Hoover Dam”
  • “Blood-Soaked Sunrise (Welcome to the Apocalypse)”
  • “Scouting the Wastes”
  • “Risen Moon”
  • “Thwarting Alec Masters”
  • “Pathfinding”
  • “Survival (They Always Come Back)”
  • Which one did we like best?
  • Mail: Ironweakness: what’s a cost effective starting point for collecting MMO soundtrack music?
  • Jukebox (featuring “Almere Valley — Sunlit Forest 3” from Project Copernicus,  “Horseplay” from Red Dead Redemption, “Waiting for Fire” from There Came an Echo)
  • Outro

Listen to episode 65 now!

Syp’s top 5 favorite books of 2015

uprootedWe’re counting down the final hours of 2015, so I thought I’d wrap up the year with a few top 5 lists of my personal favorites. Today we’ll begin with the best books I read this year. I probably chewed through about 20 novels in their entirety and 15 or so others part of the way through (if I get bored, I don’t force myself to finish). Lots of great fantasy titles in particular this year and a couple I struggled with leaving off this list (Providence of Fire, the Autumn Republic). But these are the standouts for me.

1. Uprooted

Naomi Novik’s tale of a woman who is forced into servitude to a grumpy wizard was a shockingly strong and imaginative start of a new series. Every chapter was interesting and there was so much plot and imagination at play at times that it felt like this was two or three books crammed into one. I have to say that the antagonist, the Wood, was one of the creepiest evil entities that I’ve read in fantasy lit. So well done.

2. How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth

I’ve been building up my church library with titles useful for personal edification and sermon research, and I grabbed a few hermeneutical books while I was on a kick to brush up on my basics. I absolutely loved this title, as it broke the Bible down into literary sections and clearly explained some of the key differences to understanding how each type of book was written and should be read. I picked up its sequel (How to Read the Bible Book by Book) for a more extensive look.

3. Knight’s Shadow

I loved the Traitor’s Blade, the first of the Greatcoats series. That said, the sequel blew the first out of the water with a truly explosive and wild ride of these fantasy “four musketeers” as they try to fulfill a dead king’s desire to save a realm via a plan bigger than any of them. There were moments so awesome in this book that I actually cheered out loud. I love me some Greatcoats, I really do.

4. The Fifth Season

There are a lot of post-apocalyptic books out there, but this is the first such title that I’ve read that was primarily fantasy and set in a world that had suffered multiple devastating apocalypses — so many that the culture revolves around preparing for and surviving them. It was gripping and dark and moving, and it was also over too soon. Need the next book, please!

5. Saint Odd

The Odd Thomas series came to a close this past January, which definitely made me sad. I’ve loved these strange books and their cheery narrator who can see the dead and constantly thwart the really bad people of this world. While the ending wasn’t quite as epic as I had hoped, it did bring things to a full circle and provide a nice resolution. Stormy and Odd forever!

Moving my gaming pieces into place for 2016

piecesI see a lot of bloggers taking the time at the end of the year to engage in the traditional planning for what they want to do in the new year. Futile? Plans change and all of that, but I never think it’s stupid to make plans. Sometimes you follow through on them, sometimes they lead you elsewhere, but always they call you into action and force you to make choices and organize.

I’m feeling a little scattered and in need of some serious planning for what I want to do in 2016. Jumping around in titles is fun and all of that, but I recognize that it would help if I focused and at least tried to stop acting like a jittery kid who can’t decide which candy he wants to eat first. The Snickers! No… Starburst! No… Smarties! Wait, no one ever wants Smarties.

Home MMO

As I expressed earlier this week, I want to plant roots in a traditional MMO and work on making it a home (leveling to the cap, getting involved in the community, etc.). I love the idea of setting into a game — of committing, at least for a good while — but the big question is, which one?

I’m using the remaining days of 2015 to engage in a weird personal reality show-type game-off between five titles, daring them to vie for my affection and time: LOTRO, WoW, FFXIV, SWTOR, and RIFT. Each of those I’ve played before, know that they have something to offer in this department, have some strong pluses and minuses, and have good communities behind them. By January 1st, I’ll have made my decision with this. I’m sure you will be anxiously awaiting it.

Satellite MMOs

Variety is great and I don’t want to focus down so much that I lose the benefits of getting a broader experience and avoiding burnout. Here’s what I’m thinking for my satellite MMO roster:

  • WildStar: Definitely don’t want to leave this any time soon. I’ll keep coming up with little goals for my Engineer, attempt to flesh out her build with full AMP/ability points, and work on housing, housing, housing.
  • The Secret World: I’m actually quite excited to be back in the game and working on the Secret Adventures again. I also have the new issue to explore. That all should keep me quite busy even if Funcom doesn’t put out much new content in 2016 (which would be a shame).

Yup, just two. Two plus a home MMO plus an action RPG is more than enough variety for me and my limited time.

Action RPG

I love the idea of diving into an action-RPG — sometimes you just need that click-fest fix with a side of loot explosion. Devilian has lost my interest and I need to put Marvel Heroes on the backburner for now. So I’m thinking that Diablo III is going to win my attention, and I’m going to try giving the new season a go when it kicks off in mid-January.

Solo RPGs

Right now I’m a little burned out on retro games and have been really wanting to fully explore a single-player RPG (of which I have many). So I’m going to pull the trigger on Pillars of Eternity and do some more posts on here about it. Also, my exercise time will be initially spent going back through Chrono Trigger on my iPad. I haven’t done a full run-through of that since the 90s.

Putting out to pasture

This means that not every game that I have on my computer is going to get some attention — which I must remind myself is OK. Doesn’t mean I won’t dip into them from time to time, but sometimes you need to do a little house cleaning. So what’s getting sidelined?

  • Devilian: Uninstalled. It was reasonably fun for a few days, but once I got a better idea of what it had entailed for the game, I couldn’t see myself putting this as my action RPG of choice.
  • Skyforge: This has been installed — an unplayed — on my computer just shy of forever. I don’t think it’s going to get my attention, so out it goes!
  • Whatever of the main MMOs I don’t pick: I don’t need to try to be dancing between several MMO homes and communities, and three of them (SWTOR, WoW, and FF14) require subscriptions (SWTOR for the newer stuff).
  • Retro Games: As I said, Pillars of Eternity is going to take the place of these for the time being.
  • Path of Exile: I’ve logged in maybe a dozen times so far and haven’t found it better than D3 for my tastes, so I need to cut this loose.
  • Marvel Heroes: I won’t uninstall this, but other than logging in to get the daily rewards I want to let this go fallow for a while. If D3 doesn’t really work out, MH is a great candidate for a rebound title.
  • Trove: Cute. Accessible. Not my jam. Uninstalled.

On deck

Of course, there are always the games yet to come, and looking ahead, there are two I feel I should mention as potentials to be played in 2016 if they get to a launch or semi-launch state.

  • Project Gorgon: The title is going to Steam soon and should be more stable (in terms of features) than it was when I last played. I really do want to dive into it, but I keep waiting until it feels like the right time. Maybe this year?
  • Shroud of the Avatar: Another game I own and am waiting for a launch. Looks like maybe mid-summer 2016 right now. Want to give it a fair shake when that happens.

World of Warcraft: An annotated photo album

d1

This is my Dwarf Shaman early on in her journey. I don’t think the new faces were radical overhauls so much as welcome touch-ups. I like how she has different expressions based on what she’s doing, such as here as she’s casting a spell.

d2

Another fun expression as a yeti hits me pretty hard. My pug looks on in amusement.

d3

Hey this “falling to your death” thing is not as fun as advertised.

d4

Firefly quote for the win!

d5

You blew up the planet! DARN YOU! DARN YOU ALL TO HECK!

d6

Well… this cannot be safe. World of Warcraft does not believe in helmets or seatbelts as you’re riding rocket-powered mechanical osteriches.

d7

I got a laugh out of my pug’s swimming animations and his little air bubbles. It’s the little details that charm me.

d8

This slime had swallowed me and I was fighting it from inside. I tried to get a better shot because I was pretty impressed with it all, but this was all I could get before I won.

d9

I’ve been slimed.

The eternal allure of traditional leveling MMOs

looking

What’s one thing that WildStar, The Secret World, and Marvel Heroes don’t have that I crave?

A complete traditional leveling experience.

Don’t get me wrong; each of these games are great fun in their own right. But from each, something is missing. In WildStar, it’s a shortage of additional high-level zones being added and an ease of dungeon running (dungeons are there, but they’re still anything but casual). The Secret World’s quest structure isn’t quite the same as the traditional questing MMO, which means that I sample more than binge on it, and I’m not fond of its dungeons as endgame content either. Marvel Heroes has options coming out of the wazoo, but it’s not as if you really move through a world, leveling up (even in the story mode).

No matter how many or which MMOs are in a current personal rotation of games, I find that I need — I desire — a very traditional, full-featured title as an anchor for my gaming life. Kind of like how malls have big-name outlets as anchors — your Nordstroms or Macys — I find myself installing those kind of titles. What kind of games am I talking about? For me, they have to have the following features:

  • A traditional leveling system with a world through which you move through zones
  • An endgame that’s accessible (LFG dungeons, dungeons for noobs, dailies)
  • Regular tab-target combat (not action combat)
  • A healthy population and a good outlook (content/expansions being added)
  • A community (guild) that’s easy to plug into and makes me feel welcome

My mainstays with these have been limited to just a handful of titles that meet these qualifications. LOTRO, although I’ve never been super into the dungeon scene there (although there are more coming, so that’s a good sign). World of Warcraft, which is why it’s currently on my machine. Final Fantasy XIV, which meets these standards but has an aesthetic that’s a little hard for me to overcome. SWTOR, although these days the expansion — while fun — isn’t really about progressing through zones as it is doing the instanced story chapters. RIFT is the solid if forgettable candidate (why isn’t this game more sticky for me?).

Other possibilities include Guild Wars 2 (although that doesn’t quite scratch that main game anchor itch for a variety of reasons) and EverQuest 2 (which I’ve never been able to get into). But past that, it’s really those first five as potentials.

WildStar sates some of these desires, albeit with action combat, but when I hit that hard wall of “oops you’re out of zones and level 50 and have you thought about making raid attunement your lord and savior?” I start to look elsewhere for my entertainment. There’s still plenty to do in the game, to be sure, but it leaves a leveling void that isn’t being filled. Alts are an option, sure.

No matter how far I roam the field in search of entertainment, at the end of the day I keep finding myself coming back to the familiar, the comfortable, and the quite traditional. Maybe what I’m expressing is a desire to have a “home” of sorts. Right now I can’t claim any game as such, although WildStar still does get most of my regular time and attention. I’ve been flirting with most all of those five as of late (apart from FF14, and even that’s gotten some sidelong looks from me recently), going on dates with them and asking them tough questions about a potential long stay.

Do I return to LOTRO and work on getting my Captain through Gondor, perhaps jumping into the dungeon scene? Do I stick with World of Warcraft, since there’s an expansion on the way and I’ve got a long way to go in getting this Shaman up to the cap? Do I give FFXIV another try and see if I can’t access that stickiness that others have seem to found? Do I take RIFT out for more questing and instant adventures and dungeons? Or should SWTOR become my default fallback?

I don’t feel like I can really invest in a character’s career in any one of these for the long haul. I should probably make a decision soon. I just know that I need one of them to be my go-to in my gaming sessions. Does anyone else go through this?

The Secret Adventures: Ghostbusting (Blue Mountain #5)

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(You can follow my complete playthrough of The Secret World on Bio Break’s projects page! WARNING: Spoilers and stories ahead!)

The Ghosts and the Darkness (sabotage mission)

  • I know, I know, it’s been a long, LONG time since I’ve worked on this playthrough series. Nothing against TSW, just got out of the habit of it. So I’m going to try to complete a mission here and there to work up these posts.
  • So where did I leave off? Blue Mountain somewhere. Might as well head to the Franklin Manor and start knocking off those quests! First up is the Ghosts and the Darkness, in which Eleanor asks me to do something about those sad ghosts that got killed in the mine all those years ago. She’s so matter-of-fact about the ghosts, pitying them more than fearing them. It makes for a great story.
  • One thing I like about The Secret World is that it doesn’t hold your hand through the story and march you through it all linear-like. Going into this mission we know that something bad happened in the mine, that people died, and that Eleanor’s husband was involved somehow, but past that the details are vague. Going through these missions is a way to fill in the blanks and resolve the cutscenes that kick them off.
  • Getting to the mine is a little tricky, although it’s fun to ride a motorcycle through the abandoned factory and watch the golems go “GUH?!?”
  • The Blue Ridge Mine was one of the scariest locations in my first playthrough of the game, definitely. I never like dark underground locales with unknown evils lurking inside. And boy does this place have them.
  • So what do you have to look forward to in the mine? For starters, it’s dark but not quiet — there’s some generators running and a few unkillable, one-hit-death golems wandering around. Then the generators explode and it gets really dark, which must be dealt with on top of red rune rings that will nearly kill you, unstable dynamite, no map, and filth pods.
  • The goal here is to creep around and locate the four ghosts hanging out by their skeletons, then make them happy (get a picture, some whiskey, etc.). The common refrain they say is that Ed (Eleanor’s husband) took the fall for Jimmy’s temper. So Jimmy did something terrible here.
  • Ultimately, I mollify the ghosts and track down Jimmy’s spirit, who is quite the vengeful dude. Fortunately, the good ghosts help me out in what must be the first such time this game’s sent ghosts to bat for my side.

The Haunting (action mission)

  • Franklin Manor is as stereotypical of a haunted house as you’re going to get in this game — a game chock-full of haunted houses. And yet it’s not quite what you’d expect, especially as its sole living person is completely unafraid of the dozen or so ghosts, even the one of her husband. Eleanor asks me to check in on the ghosts, starting with a broken mirror up in the attic. And here we go with one of my favorite missions in the game!
  • I bump into Ed on the second floor, who tells me that he was ready for death. “I thought it would solve everything,” he said.
  • A flyer on the second floor talks about the various tragedies and deaths that took place in the mansion during the past hundred or so years. This is what we in the biz call “foreshadowing.” Why? Because this is a freaking TIME TRAVEL MISSION. A time travel haunted house mission. Perhaps the first such ever quest in an MMO.
  • The portal for our time travel is the attic mirror, which first takes us back to 1904. I was playing with headphones on for this mission and was really taken by the many sound effects, such as the eerie whispering that happens when you transition into this time period.
  • This quest must’ve taken the designers some time, as every time period features a different arrangement and type of furniture and decorations. Then again, the manor as a whole kind of remains the same since it has a timeless quality to it and Eleanor isn’t really the high-tech type of gal.
  • In 1904, the manor is rich and tastefully done, albeit with older furniture. Now, this is an action mission, so there are plenty of ghosts to kill (bitter servants). The goal of this time period is to find the servant girl who’s been locked in the cellar.
  • It’s a little unclear what I’m doing here. Am I actually changing the timeline? Because I don’t think that’s shown to be the case. So I guess I’m popping back to help the ghosts get revenge and soothe their souls or something. Maybe just some spectral sightseeing.
  • Next up is the winter of 1918. The mansion is definitely cheerier and more inhabited, and a kid is running around in the back yard. The goal here is to find the kid (there are a lot of decoys that transform into nightmares) and protect him and his mom from his axe-wielding maniac of a father.
  • 1966, and according to the calendar, Orochi’s Bingo soda is available to purchase. The mansion is more decrepit and is occupied by a ton of hippies. Dead hippies, as this is in the middle of a massacre. The corpses start rising — they always do — and one is called an “ungrateful dead.” Heh.
  • I’m tasked with (sigh) saving hippies from the murderous Billy. It’s not really that hard, although this is one of those missions where it’s like take two steps, fight a mob, take two more steps, fight a mob, and so on.
  • Finally, I zip back to the present and Ed shows up to say that now that I’ve seen the past, it’s up to me to decide which side of the mirror I want to stay on. What does that even mean?

Skeleton in the Attic (side quest)

  • While I’m up here, I grab a sasquatch skull and anima port back to the bigfoot camp to give it to the chief. Easiest sidequest in the game!