The Secret World: Just the worst quest ever, that’s all (Besieged Farmlands #9)

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(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!)

The Girl Who Kicked the Vampire’s Nest (action mission)

There’s a good reason why, when you hear Secret World players discussing their favorite NPCs and missions, that Transylvania’s Zaha never comes up. It doesn’t help that she’s pretty dull, characterization-wise, but it really doesn’t help that both of her missions are frustrating and deal with the local vampire headquarters. We’ll have to do the less-annoying one first, which is an action mission to assault the camp’s strengths and weaknesses and put the vamps out of business, at least temporarily.

For all of Zaha’s talk of being this kick-butt vampire fighter, she sure does a lot of standing there with binoculars while I’m the one going in and saving the day single-handedly. I’ve heard this mission mentioned as one of the game’s worst, but I’d have to disagree. It’s not particularly hard, just very long and very repetitive. The vamp has a packed mob density, so being able to walk carefully and take out groups quickly is essential. Fortunately, I can do both.

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I have… no idea why the vampires build stuff that looks like it’s set dressing for Silent Hill, but they do and it’s very weird. Like rusty industrial with few handrails.

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I kill wave after wave of mobs, disable trucks, destroy supplies, eliminate blood supplies, and target their leaders. One tent shows me that these vamps have serious firepower at the ready — more than enough to conquer the region, if they have the discipline and know-how to drive these vehicles.

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What is interesting about this mission to me, at least, is how it paints a wordless picture of vampire society and organization. The use of Soviet tech, lots of industrial machines and metal, and brutal practicality is a far cry from the gothic vampires that we often get. There is no romanticizing any of this, no “gee I hope I get bit and gain vampire powers.” It’s vampires as nightmares, which is proper.

On my way out of the leader’s tent, I steal a supposedly important box containing a Blood Sample (side mission) to give to the Vampire Hunter. He thanks me, gives me a hug, and we go to Krispy Kreme to celebrate the beginning of our lifelong friendship.

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Bearing Gifts (side mission)

What do you get the girl who has everything and loves to criticize how non-stealthy you’re being? An ornate dagger that’s been plunged into the back of a warden of the forest, apparently. Here you go, Zaha. Feel free to stab me with it.

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The Cost of Magic (sabotage mission)

Here’s a fun game to play: Find a friend who is a Secret World player, simply say “Cost of Magic” to him or her, and then watch their response. And oh yes, there will be a response. Recoil, hissing, rolled eyes, grunts, PTSD flashbacks, the works. In an MMO where there are a lot of very challenging, very difficult missions, The Cost of Magic is one of the most notoriously hard quests to complete — and most assuredly very frustrating as well. I doubt it’s the hardest the game has to offer, but it’s definitely in the top five. Top three, even.

So what’s the deal with this quest? Well, if you’ve played the game you need no explanation here, and if you haven’t, you might think that we are whining a bit here. Let me reassure you, it’s worthy of its reputation.

Let’s highlight the main reasons why Cost of Magic is so hard and hated:

  1. It’s a sabotage (i.e. sneaking) mission, so combat is useless
  2. It’s very punishing, with ways that keep setting you all the way back to the beginning of each stage
  3. It’s quite long, with four sections that are each their own monumental challenge
  4. It’s far more platform-y than you get in most MMOs or even in most of the rest of this game
  5. It sucks.

Zaha wants me to gather ingredients for a magic ritual, but said ingredients are in the worst places possible. The first stage (my most hated one) involves going up on these illogical walkways in the sky where there are landmines, vampires that use a skill to push you right off the edge, and giant mobs that one- or two-hit you to death. I’ve never been able to master this part properly, relying mostly on luck and a lot of corpse runs to finally get to the ladder reaching the top.

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Proof! But before you get to this point? You will fall and die and fall and die and fall and start to construct voodoo dolls of Funcom developers and die and fall and die. I’ve seen some players say that this part is pretty easy once you get the pattern down right, but I’m not quite there after playing this only two times and I’m not eager to keep practicing after this.

Stage two has you trying to nab a heart from the middle of a poison swamp with patroling ghouls. There’s a back way in, and I was actually able to dart in, get the heart, and port out without a problem. Easiest step yet.

Stage three is… well, you know how there are always those deranged devs that love jumping portions?

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JUMPING STAGE!!!!1!

Yeah so you have to make your way up to the top of this rock by leaping onto floating magical disks that curve around. They’re timed and disappear after a while, plus you can only make these jumps at a full sprint, so you don’t have as much control as you would merely running. I won’t embarrass myself by telling you how many times I fell here.

20.

OK?

I fell 20 times. I do not do well on platforming bits.

The fourth stage is an obstacle course of sorts with land mines, punji pits, grenade trip wires, and invincible one-shotting patrolling golems. That I only died three times on this seems like a minor miracle.

But I did it. Took me about an hour this time around, much faster than last time, but I did it. And now that I’ve faced this horror twice in my life, never again. Do you hear me game? NEVER AGAIN.

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10 thoughts on “The Secret World: Just the worst quest ever, that’s all (Besieged Farmlands #9)

  1. Sylow February 27, 2017 / 10:22 am

    “I doubt it’s the hardest the game has to offer, but it’s definitely in the top five. Top three, even.”

    Depends on the point of view. When i did it the first time, i felt the very same. Then i learned that some people were able to do this mission in less than 7 minutes, without deaths, to quickly progress on the skillwheel. (Yes, by now we usually have more AP than we can ever spend, but things were not always like that. ) So i decided to accept the challenge and find my way of doing it. My personal solution was a chaos/fist setup, with all health and heal rating and the elite ability immuteable (immortality for a few seconds) for specific situations. I never got to the 7 minutes, but i was able to reliably beat the mission at almost exactly 9 minutes and without dying, which was good enough for me.

    So just like many other missions, analysing the environment and adopting to it was key. (Just like some missions in the Shadowy Forest were hell for me for a long time, till i finally understood what their nightmare-buff actually did and how it was a direct counter to my prefered synergy setup. )

    On the cost of magic, in my eyes it gets hard if you don’t use speed to your advantage and drag enemies into the minefields on the walkway to dispose of them. So if you try to actually get the stealth achievement or do the first part in a stealthy way, it can be done but is a real challenge. In that case you have to pay a lot of attention, carefully consider each step and when to take it, but do it quickly and precisely when the moment comes. So the achievement in this case really is one.

    Anyway i understand where you are coming from. Doing this mission the very first (or second) time, it was hell to do. The fact that the jumping parts are challenging and that i yet have to see any MMO where movement precision is in the same league of the platformers such missions try to copy doesn’t help, either. Anyway, i kind of expected an article like this on the Cost of Magic.

    Or to answer this:

    1.It’s a sabotage (i.e. sneaking) mission, so combat is useless

    Yes, mostly it is. But once you know that the deadly traps are just as deadly for the NPCs (and they can easily be dragged into them), killing is actually very easy.

    2.It’s very punishing, with ways that keep setting you all the way back to the beginning of each stage

    That’s actually only really true for the first and fourth part. If you mess up the second you respawn right next to it again, and the third doesn’t kill you ever, you just fall down and have to start the climb again. Which indeed can be very frustrating if you haven’t figured out the non-physical jumping of MMOs. Mind you, jumping works the very same way in many other MMOs, so pointing fingers doesn’t help. They all suffer from the same movement model of no-actual-inertia, which is counterintuitive for somebody who regularily uses a physical body in the real world. It’s just usually no problem, as most MMOs don’t have such jumping challenges or in GW2 terms: jumping puzzles.

    3.It’s quite long, with four sections that are each their own monumental challenge

    As said, i felt the very same when doing it the first time. But once i learned it, it also sparks a tiny bit of pride of being able to do it quickly and without dying. (Although it’s probably over a year since i last did it and i’d probably die a few times again now. )

    4.It’s far more platform-y than you get in most MMOs or even in most of the rest of this game

    Very true when you compare it to the rest of the game. I am aware of two other missions which require as precise jumping and thus are as frustrating when not being prepared for it. On “most other MMOs”, good question. When comparing it to GW2, things suddenly look tame here. But i guess that’s a different story…

    In my eyes the worst mission is yet to come, it’s in the Shadowy Forest and it’s not The Castle. Yet i am curious on how things turn out for you.

  2. Tyler F.M. Edwards February 27, 2017 / 10:35 am

    The Girl Who Kicked the Vampire’s Nest’s reputation comes from back when it was a nightmare mission. Back then, it was pretty brutal. One of my proudest gaming achievements was finally beating it solo while undergeared. But it got nerfed into oblivion along with most of Transylvania during the EPEEN. Still kinda bitter about that.

    Cost of Magic is sheer hell. There’s just nothing else to say about it. I mean I hate jumping puzzles at the best of times, but they’re infinitely worse in TSW because of how utterly broken and nonsensical the jump physics are in that game. I don’t like the jumping puzzles in GW2, but at least there if you hit the jump button your character usually jumps and ends up at least somewhere near what you were aiming for. Those are not things you can count on in TSW.

    Ever shoot yourself off the side of the Black Pyramid? Yeah.

  3. pkudude99 February 27, 2017 / 10:58 am

    For me it’s a mission I still don’t really like to do, but it’s more becuz I’ve not memorized the sequence of the ritual at the very end and have to keep looking it up.

    For phase 1 I just sprint through the minefield jumping over the mines as best I can, then intentionally die in the “safe spot” between the minefield and the big mobs to let the mobs reset. Run back, rez in place, then blow past the big mobs to the ladder. Phase 1 complete.

    Phase 2, as you noted, there’s a back way in. No problem.

    Phase 3….. IIRC, I did it just fine my 1st time, and only on later re-runs did it ever get weird when I started overthinking it. It wasn’t as bad in the beginning becuz if you fell there were no mobs below, but later they added some werewolves down there for the Flamethrower series, so…. they’re easy, but still annoying to have to sometimes fight them after a fall.

    Phase 4 I just take it slow for the tripwires and generally stay over to the left side of the path to avoid the hidden mines behind the fallen logs.

    I’ve never timed it, but I’d guess I can do the whole thing in 12-15 minutes if I really care to.

    FWIW, my “I can do it fast and easy mission that most people can’t do” is The Castle. That was my big “rerun on cooldown for lots and lots of AP’s” mission to fill out my wheel.

  4. Aywren Sojourner February 27, 2017 / 11:54 am

    Ugh. Cost of Magic. Congrats on beating it. I still haven’t. Jumping puzzles/platformer content is not TSW’s strong point.

  5. Karinshastha February 27, 2017 / 1:40 pm

    I learned to farm Cost of Magic in five minutes when I needed AP. I’m not proud of it. At all. My personal kryptonite is The Castle. We all have our preferences as to which types of wretchedness we care to tolerate a bit better than others.

    Cost of Magic is quite annoying until you figure out how to optimize your route – which makes it a bit like doing challenging group content: you may not want to bother. If you’re interested:

    1. Sprint 6, put on every health talisman you own, pray that your eyesight is good enough to spot the grey-colored mines on the grey-colored platforms. Memorize patterns and keep running forever. Climb the ladder while being mobbed, then open the chest when they get bored and put you out of combat. Anima leap.
    2. Run at the lake from the left side, drop down, platform onto the central island with a couple of jumps. Right click at range and run through the pea soup with your immunity buff.
    3. Go complete a non-trivial Guild Wars 2 jumping puzzle. Come back and pray that TSW’s wonky physics engine doesn’t dump you to the ground while wishing you were back in Tyria with those buttery-smooth jumps.
    4. Run up the right-hand side of the path until the last set of tripwires. Once up top, avoid the death pits and death golems and bear traps. If you’re not dead at this point, click the wolf and drop down to the stairs that take you to the ritual area. Remember the correct order, collect your rewards, and eat a bowl of ice cream while pretending none of this ever happened.

    Congratulations! You are ready for Kaidan sabotage missions.

  6. Asmiroth February 27, 2017 / 1:55 pm

    Cost of Magic is what made me stop playing TSW. It’s far too out of sync with the rest of the game to that point. I have no need to memorize floor plans.

  7. Sylow February 28, 2017 / 7:47 am

    @Tyler F.M. Edwards:

    I disagree on jumping in GW2 being any better. Did you for example ever try to beat the jumping puzzle in Ember Bay? I’ve spent several hours there, making my way up, trying to just copy the steps from a youtube video. Close to the end, i once again missed the target by what seemed like half a pixel, and it was back to the very beginning, so i decided never to complete that pile of coded frustration. Cost of Magic is a walk in the park in comparison and even on the first try i was able to do it in less than 90 minutes. I don’t know the exact time how long my first time took, i would suspect it was between 30 and 45 minutes, but i know i finished it in a “normal” evening gaming session, so 90 minutes are about the maximum it could have been. For the jumping puzzle in GW2, after failing it on the first evening session, i -planed in- a longer tour on a weekend, but quit it after spending -another- 3 1/2 hours there.

    So based on that, in my eyes anybody who claims that jumping puzzles in GW2 are any better either never was at one of the really hard ones, or is a helpless fanboy. My guess is the first, that you just haven’t stumbled into the “makes Dark Souls feel easy and relaxing” variant of GW2s jumping puzzles yet. 🙂 [Third option: you are lucky and have an advantageous combination of race and gender. Some jumping challenges are actually easier or harder depending on that… just like some abilities work better on certain combinations. A classical example is the whirling attack on a Guardians greatsword. Depending on race and gender, you might have all 15 attacks of the AoE being executed, or some might be missing… ]

    Mind you, i consider jumping challenges in any MMO to be bad design. Jumping in either of the two mentioned games (and also in about any other MMO out there) mechanically is the very same. They all suffer from being non-intuitive by having the MMO-typical inertia-free movement pattern. (Mind you, this movement model is necessary, would any MMO try to change that you could hear the outcry of all raiders without even using the internet, no matter where on Earth you live… ) They all also suffer from some lack of accuracy, which is inherent in the netcode and smoothening of movement. Higher accuracy would be possible, but you’d experience much more small motion glitches, rubberbanding and the feeling of lag, which would make the game feel bad.

    So the sacrifice of some accuracy in favour a better gameplay experience is something which -any- MMO does. The usual “trick” is just to add a little leeway in the players favour. A good example is GW2s dodging mechanic: why does it give you invulnerability? The most logical reason is that they had too many occurances where a player dodged, accuracy or latency issues still killed him. You can’t fix the whole internet, so temporal immunity is the easiest workaround. (TWS doesn’t have that. Normally it is fast and accurate enough not to need it, but this also is the reason why people in raids sometimes experience the effect of still dying despite having dodged out of a telegraphed attack on their screen. )

    This is just one example, i could make a list of many such small things i found throughout many MMOs over the years, but that’s beyond the point. The actual difference is that most MMOs don’t contain jumping challenges or at least design them in a way to make them much easier. So yes, both GW2 and TSW went the wrong way here, with TSW having the small advantage that it’s an exception while GW2 actually is proud on making that mistake again and again.

    @Karinshastha:

    In five minutes? Wow, i am impressed. That’s a good deal faster than i ever managed. Sure, you mention anima leap, which we didn’t have yet at that time, but i guess i couldn’t manage in that time even with it.

    (And i still disagree on your point 3, where you say that GW2s jumping would be smoother. Technically they behave the very similarily, including accuracy limitations. See above.)

    @Asmiroth:

    Quitting the game because of one optional mission? Now, everybody has to make his own decissions.

  8. Gamera977 February 28, 2017 / 8:49 am

    This is one of the missions that ‘cured’ me of rabid completionism in the game. I used to go though and make sure I’d finished every mission in each zone as I worked though them. But frankly I’m reminded here it’s a game, and it’s supposed to be fun. So if I’m banging my head at three in the morning and about to shove my fist though the monitor on a mission I’ll move on to something else. As Sylow said it’s an optional mission, if I don’t do it the only thing I’m missing is a full slate of missions checked off for the citizens of Transylvania and the zone. Big whoop…

  9. Tyler F.M. Edwards February 28, 2017 / 11:38 am

    @Sylow:

    Oh, don’t get me wrong. I am NOT a fan of jumping puzzles in GW2. I hate platforming in just about any context. I only ever did one puzzle in GW2, and that was one too many.

    All I’m saying is that in GW2 at least the jump mechanic was functional at a basic level. If I hit the space bar, my character always jumped, and I usually ended up somewhere at least vaguely near where I was aiming. Neither of those are things you can count on in TSW.

  10. Sylow February 28, 2017 / 12:27 pm

    @Tyler F.M. Edwards:

    Neither is that true for GW2, when you take a look at the harder jumping puzzles. Basically all MMOs have similar mechanics in place to hide lag and network problems, which results in similar accuracy issues.

    And at least for me, on a basic level jumping works in either GW2 and TSW, but when you need -accurate- jumping, either of them “requires patience”. For TSW it’s only a few missions which rely on that, but when they do, the problems get extremely visible, just as they do in the harder jumping puzzles in GW2. (The easier ones give you enough leeway to not have that big problems, but then i could also list up a number of missions in TSW where jumping is important but they are built with enough tolerance to not be that frustrating. )

    But i guess generally we’re on the same page, jumping challenges in MMOs are not what we like, especially since MMOs core mechanics work against good jumping controls. I personally don’t actually mind some jumping required, but if the game demands accuracy at a level which it is barely (or not reliably, due to being an internet game) able to supply, there is a problem.

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