SWTOR, I don’t know you any more

swtor

Change is to be expected in MMOs. But what happens when an online game changes so radically that it isn’t the same title you knew at all? Game devs know that playerbases will bend with some degree of change, but if you make those changes too drastic, the connection between a player an an MMO snaps and bonds are dissolved.

I feel that this is exactly what’s been happening in SWTOR over the past year. And after looking at what the next expansion is going to bring, I’ve simply lost any desire to ever come back.

It actually hurts a little bit to think back to SWTOR’s launch back in, what, 2010? And to think of all of the great adventures I had in that game, especially over the first year. The Imperial Agent story was tremendous, and the free-to-play switch meant that I could leave and come back at my convenience. I might have drifted away, but it’s always been one of those MMOs that would come back into my orbit sooner or later. I was anticipating this event with this fall’s expansion, Knights of the Eternal Throne, but the more I find out about it, the more I know that this is not to be.

It’s not one big thing or a thousand small things, it’s somewhere in the middle — a death of interest due to a hundred medium cuts. The sheer contempt that BioWare holds for its F2P community is one such cut, and the news that not only will you be unable to participate in the expansion at all if you don’t subscribe but you can’t even get any gear at level 70 makes the free-to-play label laughably obsolete. A free trial, perhaps, but this has to be one of the most unfriendly, unwelcoming F2P systems in the industry. As BioWare holds what it must see as freeloaders in contempt, so I too hold the studio in equal contempt for shunning its free crowd and all but strong-arming people into subscribing.

Hey guys? If you wanted just a subscriber option, you should’ve stuck with it. Remember how your numbers tanked and you went F2P to draw in the crowds? Can’t have it both ways. That’s going to bite you, hard.

Beyond the business model is the structure of the game itself. Up through Shadow of Revan, SWTOR stuck to its original formula, with the classes distinct from each other, with their own companions, stories, and so on. Planets were released as adventuring zones with overarching stories and all was good.

But then comes Fallen Empire, and the paradigm of the game shifted considerably. SWTOR split into two games — the old, 1.0 experience that took players from 1 to 60, and the new 2.0 experience (which BioWare encouraged people to jump right to via boosts) that started in Fallen Empire and is continuing through Eternal Throne. There was a greater emphasis on a cinematic story, which was pretty great for storytelling. Less sidequest deadweight. Some strong new characters. I can’t condemn it for being ambitious or trying to hew more to BioWare’s strength, which is its stories.

Still, the changes were so drastic that they went beyond trying to change things up a little to reinventing most everything. The timeline was shifted five years into the future. The companions and relationships that we’d spent years cultivating had been abandoned, and in some cases, still haven’t been able to be recovered. All classes were funneled down into the same story with the same selection of companions, with many of the missions forcing us to use a certain companion instead of letting us choose. We were relocated away from our ships to the Gravestone. It was a whole lot of change to swallow, and while I was initially on board with it, after a while it left me feeling more disconnected than ever from the character I’ve had since launch.

And to be honest, the whole Zakuul storyline was starting to leave me cold, too. As another blogger said, how many evil empires do we need in a Star Wars universe? Very little of the Fallen Empire felt fun, like a high-spirited Star Wars adventure should. It was perhaps a little too solo, with very little open world exploring with the chance encounter of other players.

I don’t know. Looking at SWTOR right now makes me a little bit angry, but even more sad and wistful. I miss what it was. I don’t like what it’s growing to be. And I have strong doubts that I’ll be coming back to this game world because of it. If BioWare’s mission was to make it as difficult as possible to come back and enjoy the ongoing story, then that is fairly accomplished in this case.

Maybe we should start hoping that someone else starts working on a new Star Wars MMO?

Star Control 2: I am the one percent!

ship

(This is part of my journey going checking out Star Control 2. You can follow the entire series on the Retro Gaming page.)

I don’t know how far I am into Star Control 2 at this point, but my ship is already pretty decked out. I have tons of fuel, full engines, some weapons, the portal generator, and plenty of cargo space for my mining expeditions. The Bio Break feels responsive and zippy, and I’ve got a small fleet of bodyguards to protect me. So let’s crack open this galaxy and suck the wealth out of it! I am the one percent!

rainbow

The problem with this is, from a blogging perspective, that scouring through systems, scanning planets, and mining them doesn’t make for compelling narrative that I can share with you. I’m much more interested in interacting with the zany alien races, but we need to build up a base of wealth, and that means grunt work like this.

I do find some “rainbow worlds” like the one above. It’s too nasty to land on — Class 4 weather will eat my landers in seconds — but just scanning them is data that I can sell to the Melnorme later on.

thraddash

Along the way, I bump into yet another alien race, the Thraddash. They’re Ur’Quan battle thralls, sort of a mix between Klingons and warthogs. Always spoiling for a fight to prove dominance and worth, today is a good day to die, etc. I hated the Klingons. I don’t think I’ll like these guys much either, although he is rocking that cigar.

tatoo

At least the Thraddash have great war stories, and with some prodding, they’re very willing to talk your ear off. Before blowing you up, of course.

Also, did the game writer misspell “tattoo?”

crisp

From talking to the space warthog, I find out that the Thraddash have had a long tradition of blowing up their civilization and starting over, calling it “Culture Fifteen,” “Culture Sixteen,” and so on. But the Ur’Quan came, gave them a thrashing (which they respected), and now they’re guarding the flanks of Ur’Quan space.

I actually convince this guy to prove his worth by fighting the Ur’Quan’s enemy, and he leaves me be for the time being. Yay chatty me!

Star Control 2: Ur’Quitters

p1

(This is part of my journey going checking out Star Control 2. You can follow the entire series on the Retro Gaming page.)

I’m not back in normal space for more than a minute when I’m accosted by this elder god horror. The little inset creature reminds me of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle’s Krang, so I’m going to call them the Krangs until I learn different. It seems pretty put out that I’m a human roaming the stars. Racism is real, people.

Actually, the battle screen informs me that these are the dreaded Ur’Quan in the flesh. Ugly little twerps. I’m going to enjoy wiping the galaxy of their slimy presence. Buuuut probably not right now. They’re pretty tough and I don’t want to lose ships if I don’t have to.

p2

I head over to the Zog-Fot-Pik homeworld for some more laughs and discussion with these delightfully zany aliens. They suggest a mutual-assistance pact right from the start, so that’s a good sign. Little worried about me stealing their atmosphere, which I guess is something I’m known for in these parts. Where would I keep it?

p3

Anyway, I suggest an alliance and they latch onto it like a drowning sailor to a life preserver. Anything to keep from getting slaughtered — and they’ll even release details to their Stinger-class ships. The aliens talk more about this interesting war that’s apparently going on between the Ur’Quan and another faction called the Kohr-Ah. With free civilizations in the crossfire, this war is a danger to everyone.

f1

f2

There’s a lot to be learned from these goofy aliens. The guy in the back doesn’t talk, apparently. Ever. Also, there’s a sport called Frungy that the alien on the right is crazy over and the alien on the left is completely sick about hearing. I want to know more about FRUNGY, right now.

k1

Speaking of the Kohr-Ah, one ambushes me the second I leave the good guys’ home world. It’s obviously related to the Ur’Quan, although even uglier and also sporting a trophy bone pit. That’s normal and not serial killer behavior at all. Why, I fondle trophies from MY bone pit every evening!

Fortunately, my portal generator allows me to instantly enter quasi-space on demand, which lets me evade any pursuing ships. I head home to offload cargo, repair, and find out what’s been going on.

probe

In addition to noting that my alliance is growing, Commander Keen says that there looks like there’s a large fleet on the move somewhere and that the probe plague is growing exponentially. I really should put a stop to them soon, eh.

Also, the Zog-Fot-Pik (I think) dropped off three free ships for me to use. My fleet — and power — grows! I am the master of the universe! Or at least this sector!

The Secret World: Death Toddler (City of the Sun God #5)

q1

(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!)

Foundations (side mission)

You know, I’m not even exaggerating all of the dead Orochi in the game at this point. I kind of suspect that an ambitious-yet-lazy level designer went crazy on the cut-and-paste with one corpse and now the game is stuck with a thick carpeting of dead corporate suits. So what’s up with this schmuck? Looks like he got himself burned for a piece of the Ten Commandments or somesuch.

Maybe he’s just napping. Or tanning! Tanning, yeah.

q2

Um guys? WHAT did that skeleton used to be? I have never asked that before, probably because I’m used to giant skeletons in fantasy games, but this raises some disturbing questions.

Anyway, you know how I mentioned before that it is wise not to underestimate The Secret World’s side missions, because sometimes they turn out surprisingly complex? That’s just the case with Foundations. It’s kind of a mini-investigation quest in which you use the clues on each tablet to navigate the whole map and find the next one. Four tablets later, and I’m once again asked to kill myself (The Secret World might be the only game I’ve ever played that talks up suicide) in order to finish out the mission in the spirit world.

q3

Fashion show break! I used some of my bonus points to bulk buy those 80s bags, and scored a few nice cosmetics — including the sweet roller skates. I didn’t realize it before, but the skates also come with a unique travel animation. I am so using these for the rest of the game. Now to queue up a playlist of nothing but 80s hits. Kenny Loggins, take me to the DANGER ZONE.

I find the mouth-breathing Great Architect (he built the statues, I’m guessing?) and travel with him back to his skeleton, which I suppose is cathartic enough to end the mission. I’m a hero! I’m also wasting time!

huoy

Buried in Sand (side mission)

A mysterious (aren’t they all?) crate in the desert lets out several spirit fragments that necessitate a round-up. Hey, I’m of the opinion that if you love something, set it free, but that’s not how MMOs work. You capture them and bind them to your iron will, making them pay in screams and XP.

This short quest is merely a breadcrumb leading to the nearest statue, Huoy. As his dad says, Huoy got to channel the spirit of Anubis, the lord of the underworld. So… you gave the powers of death to a toddler? Death Toddler, coming soon to a theater near you. I would watch that.

aten

A Farewell to Arms (action mission)

Huoy and some of his siblings are recalling another chapter of their sad, lonely life in which their father brought them a movie to watch — Lawrence of Arabia. It’s so pitiful how this was pretty much the highlight of their lives to date, being trapped in stone and in his hellish landscape for so long. Huoy uses the discussion to mention how the cultists are moving materiel into the city, which bodes well for no one. Well, other than the bad guys, of course.

It’s all a jolly good excuse to get out there and shoot up half the countryside. Sometimes that’s all you need from a mission, you know? So I head out and work my way through an extensive Atenist camp, slaying cultists and smashing their crates full of equipment. None of it gives me any trouble, including the end boss who is really committed to the dress code of the cult.

Geary says that the bad guys are running circles around the statues thanks to a better organization and overnight shipping. CURSE YOU AMAZON PRIME! YOU HAVE DOOMED ALL OF HUMANITY WITH YOUR FREE SHIPPING!

b1

The Binding (investigation mission)

If you have ever wondered, as I have, what the deal is with this zone, the dad, and the seven statue-kids that watch over it, this mission has a lot to help with clarification. It starts out with Huoy asking his siblings to recount their story from the beginning, which is told in a vague sort of way. There was a bad pharaoh way back when, and the high priest of the land had to choose between him and his gods. After a great war, the priest somehow found a way to protect the land and preserving his children’s lives, although at a cost. The priest has also, apparently, lived many lifetimes. Reincarnation? Goes with the Egyptian theme.

A nearby talking falcon — not the first time I’ve been instructed by a bird in this game, nor probably the last — tells me that the high priest is starting to despair and needs to be reminded why this is all worth it. He says that there are objects buried where the statues’ gazes intersect, which means that this ENTIRE MAP has been hiding the coordinates for a massive scavenger hunt right in front of our eyes the whole time. Also, this is going to be annoying as all get out. How do you do this? Copy the map and start drawing lines while you go investigate in-game? There aren’t a lot of easy tools for this.

Five pieces scattered all over the map, and it takes ages to find them. And this is only tier one of ten, people!

Once assembled, the Staff of Amun talks about being placed in the center of a chamber, so it’s time to go tomb diving.

bw

Once the staff is used in the super-duper special area, a cutscene kicks in, showing Ptahmose – the high priest — praying to his gods. This is interspersed with grainy black-and-white shots of him working over his dead kids, transferring their life essence to these statues. What I want to know, what I really need to know right now is, did he kill those kids? Or were they dead and he’s trying to save them the only way he knows how? Because that’s a huge difference in my book.

smite

The mission sends me over to the lioness statue, who promptly tries to blow me up with awesome eye lasers. I was so stunned, I didn’t even get a good screenshot of her going all Star Wars on me. But it was VERY awesome. Then comes another cutscene where three of the siblings bicker about fighting the enemy and the appropriate response for this new and strange threat.

Meanwhile, I stroll into the statue’s base and discover a scroll leading me to the Black Pyramid. Wish I had eye lasers. Oh well.

stat

Instead of going underneath the Pyramid — that comes later, sweetlings — this mission sends me up to the middle-topish, where rooms contain frescos showing the story of Amun confronting the Pharoah, sacrificing his family to 3,000 years of statueville, and his eventual victory.

Yet it’s intensely bittersweet, isn’t it? I don’t think I can forgive this guy for offing all of his kids just to win a war, even one with such high stakes. And the closing cutscene, in which the dad spends time with his statue-children, is acutely depressing. Some of the kids are just gleeful to see him, hear stories, play games, and get another postcard on the wall. But one of the older girls radiates impatience and anger, wanting to know how long they’ll have to keep this up.

“As long as it takes.”

RIFT: Khar! KHAAAAAAR!

k1

Adventures continue through RIFT’s Planetouched Wilds, even as we prepare for the expansion launch in a couple of weeks. It’s my goal to try to finish up the major storyline here, although I have no idea how long or involved that will be.

When last we talked, I was just meeting the local warlord, a guy named Khar. Khar is… interesting, to put it lightly. I don’t think many of his “subjects” like him, even though he is somewhat of an accomplished warrior. Khar’s personality is best summarized as “educated frat boy with a sheep.” I thought I was going to really dislike him, but he’s grown on me with his Duffman-like attitude and quotes.

k2

RIFT doesn’t have flying, but you are able to take an airship tour around the zone. It provides ample opportunities for photographs, not to mention the chance to complete no less than three quests. Yes, I will light fireworks under this blimp. That seems totally safe.

k3

My prize for winning the guild trivia contest the other week was a full set of cosmetic earthbound armor. It’s kind of neat and I gladly added it to my wardrobe selections.

k4

Despite its name, Planetouched Wilds is pretty mellow for a zone. Lots of plains, relaxing scenery, and an abundance of these giant Easter Island stone heads. I’m digging it.

mup

This thing looks like an angry muppet.

us

Speaking of interesting characters, meet Usukhel. She’s a wildling who was empowered somehow by somebody in a holographic cutscene that went by when I wasn’t paying attention. All you need to know is that she is (a) savage and (b) the perfect counterpoint to Khar.

In fact, once you get these two together, the game suddenly diverges into sitcom territory, with the two spouting some of the most hilarious dialogue I’ve heard in quite some time. I was quoting it wholesale to my guild, just to share in the amusement. It’s just such a shame I wasn’t able to record it, as RIFT’s screenshot function automatically takes pictures without any UI, including on-screen dialogue text.

whale

For the most part, questing has been very pleasant in the zone. Mostly main story-stuff, straight-f0rward, lots of narrative. I haven’t felt bogged down so far, and that’s always a good sign.

On the downside, every once in a while you get a bizarrely high difficulty spike that makes soloing all but impossible. This one quest asked me to get two items, one from Mr. Upside-Down Sky Whale up there (awesome monster model, by the way) and one from a giant angry boar. Gotta have boars. I slammed myself against that brick wall for a couple of days before using a sleep spell to put the boar out of commission long enough to grab his egg. The sky whale got killed only with the help of another adventurer who also needed it.

rain

Loved coming up to the summit of this hill and looking out to see these incredible cloud/rain effects.

godzilla

And then RIFT took a detour right into a Godzilla film. I’m rooting for Mothra.

 

World of Warcraft has finally broken me of my altoholism

owl

Now that Patch 7.1 is out and we’re moving deeper into the Legion expansion, I think it’s time that I acknowledge the truth that’s been growing over the past two months. It’s not really feasible for me to play and support multiple characters in this game any more.

World of Warcraft has, to put it simply, broken me of my rampant altoholism.

This is neither a good nor a bad thing (more accurately, it’s enough of both to balance out); it’s just how it is right now. I’ve been a while coming to this conclusion as I’ve harbored hope that I would be able to dig out and play my alts once I got my Death Knight to a good place… but that’s just not going to happen. I’ve actually entered a phase in this game where the thought of playing more than one character is too much — and far too time-consuming, particularly when my attention is split between multiple MMOs.

So why is this? Why am I not fielding my small army of alts that flourished in Warlords of Draenor? Other than pressing time concerns from outside sources, a lot of the reasons come from the design of Legion itself.

First of all, there’s no fast path to getting a character to the level cap and gearing her up; every successive character will need to go through the questing zones and retread territory I’ve already done. It’s not as if Alt Number Two can choose to level up in dungeons instead. Even with the choices of leveling zone picks, the game still firmly guides you down a path of Blizzard’s choosing.

Second, even if I had the time to work on a second character and put in another two months to get that character to roughly where my DK is today, it would be too much on a daily basis. The world quest system pushes you to log in at least every three days to do emissary quests for the reputation and bonus rewards. Right now, a half-hour a day of doing these isn’t unreasonable. But tack on alts, and suddenly that’s going up to an hour, hour-and-a-half, two hours of emissary quests. No. Just no. I have other things to play and don’t need that monkey on my back.

And while alting in Draenor was lucrative, as garrisons were self-sustaining gold-making machines, Legion’s decision to put order resources out into the world means that you can’t keep doing missions forever if you’re not playing that character. Two or more characters doing daily emissary quests, trying to keep the inflow of order resources going, moving between characters to set missions… it overflows the small cup of my time and interest and energy.

One character feels enough right now. It feels right. I can keep pursuing all of the quests, the dailies, whatever I want to do, and I don’t feel pressured to play someone else in the game. I’m a little worried that somehow I will lose this character, but other than that, I’m very happy with the DK as a whole. The wraith walk is a wonderful tool, as is the ability to run on water. Fighting packs of mobs is a joy and I have pretty decent (845) gear for a non-mythic player.

I’m actually glad that WoW brought me to this point, because it also makes jumping between games that much easier. In every MMO I play, even the ones I dabble in, I’m down to just one character. I don’t need alts in individual MMOs; MMOs are my alts. And I feel like I get a lot more out of them when I have that broader experience.

Battle Bards Episode 85: Desert Calling

desert

The desert is calling the Battle Bards, but are they willing to make the trek across these vast wastelands to see if the music is worthwhile or not? Guess co-host Scott joins Syl and Syp for a listen through several desert tracks to see what can be sifted from the sand. Is there treasure below or sun-bleached boredom?

Episode 85 show notes (show page, direct download)

  • Intro (feat. “Tatooine, the Desert Sands” from Star Wars: The Old Republic and “Desert Wind” from AIKA Online)
  • “Kheshatta” from Age of Conan
  • “Desert Scape” from Aura Kingdom
  • “Sands of the Alik’r” from Elder Scrolls Online
  • “Desert Fortress Theme” from Cabal 2
  • “Liath Desert B” from Vanguard
  • “Tanaris” from World of Warcraft
  • “Sunset Desert” from MapleStory
  • Which one did we like the most?
  • Jukebox Picks: “Countdown” from Dota 2, “Ryoshima Plains” from Okami, and “Sepiks Redux” from Destiny: Rise of Iron
  • Outro (“Desert Sun” from Ultima X Odyssey)

AdventureQuest 3D: The Phantom Launch

adq1

AdventureQuest 3D didn’t actually launch this past week — it was more of a soft launch, what the devs are calling open beta. From what I can tell, it marked the start of a persistent game open to the public, so that’s a soft launch in my book.

I’d been pretty excited to give this a go on my mobile devices, but that wasn’t in the cards. While the PC, Mac, and Android versions all came out on the 19th, the Apple version is (at the time of this writing) still going through the approval process. I told myself that was fine, I could wait… and then impatience got the best of me and I logged in over the weekend on the PC client so that I wasn’t completely behind the curve. I’m counting this as my Try-It Tuesday pick because I did spend a lot of time fiddling about in it.

Thus, Syppi the Rogue entered the world. The art style of AQ3D seems to divide people, but I’m on the side that likes it. It’s a somewhat low fidelity game to accommodate the mobile crowd, but the stylish cel-shading art helps one get over that.

aq2

I’m pretty new to the whole AdventureQuest scene, but what I got from the start here is that it’s very tongue-in-cheek and willing to be all sorts of meta. Zorbak, the somewhat-evil little critter that serves as your tutorial guide (despite him hating them) has a lot of laugh-out-loud comments if you take the time to thumb through his whole dialogue.

aq4

Zorbak is very up front with the state of AQ3D — open beta is still beta, and this game has a long, long way to go. It’ll probably launch before the end of the year, but that doesn’t mean it’ll be near what we’d think of a launch state. The devs have a good track record of pumping out content, so here’s hoping.

aq3

Yes sir!

And off I was. The current client uses the same interface that’s designed for mobile, although a PC-specific UI is presumably on the way. What would probably feel very natural for a mobile user is a little awkward for the PC. For the most part it’s easy to intuit, but there are missing chunks that require some adjustment.

The combat and movement both are fine, which is definitely a big plus. No auto-attacking here; you’re going to be spamming the action buttons a lot. Could use more contact response from mobs and sound effects. I liked how my character looked swinging her giant dagger around (a sword, really).

sk

The tutorial is pretty entertaining. The dialogue from the few NPCs is worth reading in full, and I liked how this above guy was flinging skeletons to and fro in the background. Nice touch.

mop

I started off with a bare-bones inventory save for my awesome Massively OP cape. I’m going to wear this with pride! Do pink and orange go together? No matter.

meta

This… is not the MMO you want to play if you’re worried about fourth wall-breaking. Sally here was a hoot, particularly when you brought her back the amulet of her mother, confirming her death. Sally kind of cracks up and goes insane. I hope she becomes a supervillain later on.

tr

Following the tutorial is the introduction of the town of Battleon. It’s an amusing place to poke around in, especially the inn. This picture begs an explanation.

The inn also has a “secret” passageway down into the sewers where some level 10 slimes await. Too high level for my blood, so I’ll come back to that later.

ba

The band playing on the stage was pretty amusing. Would have loved to hear music from them, though.

nap

About half of Battleon’s buildings can’t be entered, as you get a notification screen like this one. It was like this in alpha, and I had hopes that these places would be built by the time open beta went live.

pet

I’m guessing this studio loves its little in-jokes among the small dev team.

secret

Even tombstones are under construction! Lots of work seems to have gone into these screens.

Anyway, I went out into the first zone and gamely worked on quests. Without a map and with only the ability to track one quest at a time, it was a little confusing. I would love a multi-quest tracker — and quests that pay out better rewards than a paltry handful of coins and XP. I’m still wearing my gear from the tutorial.

chicken

I remembered back during my dev tour that there was a cave with a giant chicken/dragon thing, so I made my way in there. Took a lot of fights against these level 3 beasts to get to her at the center. Finally, there I was, drinking in her majesty. Then she pecked me to death.

AdventureQuest 3D will be mostly a mobile activity for me, so I was happy when the Apple store unlocked it on Saturday night. The download was incredibly small and quick, and I was back onto the same character I played on the PC not 15 minutes previous. The interface definitely works better with mobile as it is and I ran it through the paces for about a half hour with no difficulty. I couldn’t enable some of the more advanced graphic effects without bringing it to a crippling halt.

All in all, it should be said that AQ3D is very, very much in a beta state. It’s a little too grindy and the gear system isn’t the clearest in the world, and there isn’t much to do right now other than follow the string of standard quests and hope to level up. It’s probably best enjoyed on an incredibly casual basis right now until more features and content gets added. I think it has a lot of potential, to be sure, and the core functionality is there, but this isn’t as full-featured as you might expect from a standard (even a cheap Asian) MMO. There’s probably no shame in waiting until release.

On the other hand, the Halloween event starts this week, so I do want to see what they come up with for a haunted house. Should be interesting.

Music Mondays: Mario, Amiga, Ys, and more

Here’s another batch of terrific video game music that I’ve listened to recently and wanted to share with you! Today we’re going to start with “Everyone’s a Super Star” from Mario Party 64. Just a crazy, cheerful track that has a few Mario tune reprises tucked in there.

I’ve only looked upon the Ys series from afar, but I gotta say that I really like “First Step Towards Wars” (although not the name, ugh). So peppy and inspiring!

“The City” is so heartbreakingly sad while offering just a small, tiny sliver of hope. It’s such a different type of music track than you’d normally hear in a game — almost church-like in its purity.

I love me some good Amiga tunes, and “Theme” from The Humans is a great example of why this system boasts some of the best retro computer tunes. It’s fast-paced, tribal, and extremely memorable. Let’s play it again!

If you want music that puts you in a good and relaxing mood, you usually can’t go wrong with a Sims soundtrack. I’m going through these song compilations and am finding them to be perfect writing music.

The Secret World: Fill in the blank endings (City of the Sun God #4)

bugged

(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!)

Bugged (side mission)

Clearing up a couple of missions on the north side of the Black Pyramid, I get the marching orders to exterminate some locust nests with extreme prejudice. Actually, the game often presents these quests as initiative on your part instead of someone telling you, “Go here, do this.” Maybe my character just really doesn’t like bugs? Doesn’t believe in a live and let live kind of world?

Not a hard mission. A tedious one, to be sure, lots of killing bugs and hives, but nothing hard. I only got in trouble when I accidentally tagged about three hives in a row and got literally swarmed by giant locusts. I valiantly put up a fight, but there’s only so much I can do, y’know?

ghoul

Ghoul, Well Done (side mission)

Out of all of The Secret World’s enemy groups, I can’t say that I’m particularly up to speed on the ghouls. I’m not even sure what they are, other than stock monsters. Did someone make them? Are they filth related? Bah, no time to google it, I have an article to write!

Our fascinating story begins with the above ghoul totem, which is apparently six third-grade art class sessions more sophisticated than one would normally expect from ghouls. Someone has been organizing and training these ghouls in deadly artcraft — but who?

Turns out, a grumpy jinn. Grumpy jinns are the cause of a lot of problems in this zone, so that’s not so much of a surprise as a, “oh, there’s another dead Orochi.” Just take it for granted.

points

Points of Impact (side mission)

It’s time for a little rant about one of the most frustrating aspects of TSW. We all praise the game’s storytelling, strong characters, and voice acting, and that’s all deserved — at least in my opinion. But it’s not perfect, and probably the place that it starts to come apart is in the conclusion.

Every quest is a three-act story (more or less). The cutscene — or text box — serves as the introduction, delivering the backstory, setting up the field, and giving us motivation. Then there’s the action on the part of the player to complete the mission. And then there’s the conclusion — or, more often than not, no conclusion at all. No resolution. Just interesting questions and situations that are scarcely explained. It’s lazy and frustrating and it always makes me feel like I *missed* something or that I have to go to outside sources to find that resolution.

This side mission is a good example. I find a weird meteor impact in the desert and am told to investigate other landing points for something “sinister.” The meteor in fact turns out to be a whole lot of lava golems that have crash landed. I kill about eight of them and then run off to warn the nearest statue-child about their existence. And then… the mission is over. No closing text — and no answers.

It’s a small mission, but what’s going on here? Are these lava golems from outer space? Weapons sent by the Black Pharaoh? A botched science experiment? If I’ve killed them all, why am I warning the statue-child? There’s just a big hole where explanation should be. I guess we’re supposed to fill in the blank with our own ideas and thank the game for being so magnanimous.

In all fairness, TSW has seemed to be getting better with more definite conclusions and better explanations, going so far as to occasionally including ending cutscenes. But nothing infuriates me more than a mission that shudders to an awkward halt with a form letter when you turn it in via the HUD.

OK. Enough ranting. Let’s move on.

thut

The Dark Places (action mission)

It’s time to meet another one of the stone children: Thutmose. He’s the oldest son and, from what I can tell, a complete drip. Kind of wonder why these kids haven’t gone completely insane from a thousand or so years being trapped in statues with only their siblings to talk to. My kids can’t go 20 minutes without getting into fights if they’re in the same room.

Anyway, Thutmose is dismayed that a bunch of filth ghosts are starting to make trouble nearby and enlists my help to cut them off at the head. Guess that’s going to take a lot of bullets.

/Syp puts on the Ghostbusters theme. WHO YOU GONNA CALL?

I have to hand it to this mission: It really surprised me. I expected to just go blasting through waves of mobs, but from the start, it turned out to be very unusual. For starters, I was tasked to go to a high point and scope things out with binoculars. The second I did that, the game startled me by throwing a large bird creature at me that knocked me off the perch and down into the canyon. Follow that up with an onslaught of mobs that ended up killing me within a minute — and that’s all part of the mission progression.

I had to find help in the spirit world. Fortunately, there was a “ghostly warrior” hanging out nearby. Wonder what he does in his off days.

warriors

It doesn’t get any less surprising from here. Using portals, I hop back and forth from the land of the dead to the land of the living, winning myself a magical sword that somehow rallies a quartet of identical ghost warriors to join me in my crusade against the spirits.

Then it’s a rematch of the battle that I first lost, only this time I have a full party with me. We plow through an entire liquor cabinet worth of spirits, slicing, dicing, and shooting. It all ends with a showdown against a mini-Flappy, but by then it was ridiculously easy. Way to keep me on my toes, game!

horus

The Eye of Horus (action mission)

With the Black Pharaoh raising an army and the statues challenged with waning power and a distinct lack of mobility, it once again rests upon me to save the world. At least Thutmose promises that if I can craft a sigil, he’ll lend me some of his power. We hope that it will be useful power and not, say, the ability to eat pop-tarts without gaining weight.

This mission took me to the Reformatory, just another ugly grey-and-tan-and-sandy temple with a lot of Atenists, filth, and nary a food court to be found. Again, this isn’t a particularly difficult mission — it is very straight-forward — but it does embrace the tedious side, as you have to assassinate a string of specific mobs all around the place. At least I’m having fun with my AoE field build that I’ve been tweaking. My kingdom for one more passive ability slot!

Afterward, Geary said that the Illuminati are supporting the statues not just because of aligned interests, but because their desperation makes for a good opportunity to gain leverage later on. They’ll owe us, big-time.