Secret World: Telemarketing and truth

My adventures in South Africa continue as I use a dead girl’s bracelet to fudge my way into the Anointed section of the Morninglight compound. I honestly thought that there would be a lot more grinding and more missions in the first section, but… nope. A couple of action missions and a half-dozen petty chore missions, that’s it.

Che meets me there and gives me the next task — to find out information on something called “Foulfeather and Gideon.”

The Anointed section is definitely a step up from the third-world country look of the first part, but it’s not that much nicer. I actually preferred the cozy little shacks of the first part to the more drab and larger dormitories of the second.

Going into the Morninglight compound, I kind of suspected that there would be a ton of sabotage/stealth missions. That it took this long for one to start surprised me.

I moseyed on over to the call center, where NPCs are trying to sell people on the Morninglight. Just saying that if Funcom really wanted to pull out all the stops and if it had our actual phone numbers, it would have been a trip to have gotten a real phone call at this point with an automated message from one of these people.

There was one lady who was talking to her mom about how this wasn’t a cult. Yeah. Sure. Keep telling yourself that. You can actually start to understand through these missions how people get suckered into these places and then are manipulated to stay, conform, and believe through and through.

Also, let us not kid ourselves: The Morninglight is a thinly veiled version of Scientology. Self-actualization and all.

So I’m looking around for a terminal to access the info Che wants, and I am embarrassed to say that it took me way too long to realize that there was a door behind this shelving unit. When you’re in this room, you look at those shelves head-on, so it’s not that apparent. Well done, devs.

Below the call center is one of those basement corridors lined with booby traps that Secret World loves so very much. This time we have the addition of patrolling drones that will kill you if you make any movements when you’re inside their spheres.

One little environmental detail is that a couple of the demon hyenas have busted through the vents and were killed. What’s up with the dogs in the vents?

I’m happy to report that the stealthing part of this mission wasn’t too bad — only died once, and that was on the way out. There is a lot of interesting info that unwraps more of the John/Tokyo/Ground Zero saga. Basically, the Morninglight was priming two different people to carry the bomb and the first flaked, which led to John being the one chosen. Che was called to be his “enabler” and prime him for the task. All of it was to help the evil Dreamers, so we already know who’s really behind the Morninglight and what this cult worships.

Less than a day into this mission, and I’m ready to move on up again. Che is ticked at the betrayal he sees in these files (the Morninglight was stringing him along) but happy that I got it, so he said he’ll sneak me into the Favored section during the night. Or I could just use my angel wings and techno-hoverboard to zip over there and blast everyone. That sounds like a lot less stress.

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Secret World: For the night is full of terrors and I cannot sleep

With my first day done at the Morninglight compound, it’s time for a good night’s sleep and some fearsome night terrors.

Noises wake me up, and I head outside — against the cult’s curfew policy — to see that the compound is crawling with creatures. Mainly, these people-pterosaurs and neon demon hyenas. It’s a monster jubilee, and I’m invited!

A lady has been dismembered by some of the critters, and wouldn’t you know, she was due to be promoted to Ascended tomorrow. Well, nothing to be done but mourn her short-lived life and then scavenge the bracelet off of her arm — wherever it may be — so I can take her place!

Secret World, you do take me to such delightful head spaces.

As I explore the compound after dark, what’s really weird is finding these grates in the wall separating the newbies from the higher-ups. Obviously, someone on the other side of the wall is letting these critters through. For what reason? Curfew enforcement?

“Cleaners” come by to scoop up the dead woman and put a fake goodbye note on her bed. Judging by how many of those notes I found the day before, I’m guessing a lot of people get killed at night here.

Meanwhile, I’m killing packs of these mobs like it ain’t no thing.

Before heading back to bed, I engage in a few side quests, such as graffiti…

…and shooting fireworks at flying dinosuars. Seems legit.

Out of all of the questions that this zone has raised so far, the one I want answered the most is: What is going on in this room? What are those things? Is she telling them a bedtime story?

Secret World: Infiltrating the Morninglight

I think that a lot of us Secret Worlders were pinching our arms yesterday, unable to truly believe that the game had just added new story content, a new zone, and a start to the long-fabled season two. It was certainly surreal.

Almost as surreal as Che — Che! — offering me a ride down to South Africa on his dinky little plane so that I could help take down Philip Marquard. Still not sure why I should trust him or what his deal is in all of this, but hey, anything to get me out of Tokyo! Let’s do this.

We arrive at the Morninglight compound, which is very unsettling despite being out in the bright sunshine. Something about the walls, guard towers, and management by an organization that I have very good reason not to trust.

Che tells me to infiltrate the Morninglight and work my way up so that I can take a shot at Marquard. With that, he boogies off, because thank you so much you hippie stoner. My new mentor is a former Templar who joined the cult as a personal rebellion against the secret world.

So the idea with this zone, at least as it is originally presented, is that I have to work my way up through three ranks: foundling, ascended, and favored. Do certain tasks, get points, level up. It’s almost as if this is a snarky commentary on rep grinds and OF COURSE IT IS.

I did poke around a lot in the first part of the compound, but other than the occasional person who is having second thoughts about joining up, nothing really suspicious or sinister was spotted.

So… off to grow corn in the desert then? Yeah. Sure. This was worth two years of waiting!

I started to despair that this all was going to be a lot of repeated dull activities to grind points, and hey, it might be. I did get a measure of hope from the fact that at some point, my character basically says “forget this” and swipes a guy’s full corn basket and turns it in as my own.

Other “fun” activities: listening to the world’s most boring preacher, emoting in front of paintings, and delivering new member materials to cabins. It was interesting to read the farewell notes from the cabins’ former inhabitants. I kind of wonder if they’re all dead. Probably.

Just wanted to say that this is one of the cooler pictures that I’ve taken in this game. Stealthy me!

Toward the end of Day One, I spot some lights in the compound’s warehouse and investigate. Turns out that there’s an Agartha portal opening up inside. Iiiiiiinteresting.

As the day draws to a close, I wonder what terrors the night will bring. There’s a curfew, but since when do I follow the rules by crazy people organizations?

Unlike some, I’m not going to rush through this new content. Probably going to be a long while until the next batch, so it’s off to savor country for me! So far I’m liking what I’m seeing, although the zone is deliberately drab and I do have concerns about the amount of effort that it might take to advance in rank. We shall see.

Secret World Legends: South Africa, eh?

Well, that’s settled then: Flappy and Company are heading to South Africa!

Just when I thought I was out, they pulled me back in. First there was the allure of Northern Mirkwood in LOTRO, and now Secret World Legends has finally (FINALLY) announced the start of season two and the first new story content of this reboot. On April 4th, we’ll be heading to South Africa, a locale that I think surprised a lot of people. From the hints that the game was giving us, I think most players assumed Antarctica, the Congo, or the moon. I can’t even recall if South Africa was mentioned anywhere in the game up to this point, but I wouldn’t be too surprised if Funcom slipped it in under the radar.

We know a bit here, but not as much as I would like. For instance, we don’t know how big this zone is or how many quests will be involved. But we do know that this will take us to the cult compound of the Morninglight, a prominent cult in the game that’s emerged under many names and in many locations (including the Fear Nothing Foundation in Tokyo). There is just nothing good with the Morninglight and everything to give us the extreme heebie-jeebies.

Probably the biggest question that we have left to answer — or the biggest reveal — is the person of Philip Marquard, the cult’s leader. We’ve never seen his face in the game to date; one quest shows John meeting him, but his face is obscured in a bright light. I did do a Google search and it turned up this piece of concept art showing a Morninglight temple and some portraits of what looks to be a very South African-looking man.

So we know that we’ll be infiltrating New Dawn as a prospective member of the Morninglight, which is definitely an interesting angle to go. Although I’m a little wary of the potential for sabotage missions out of the wazoo; I’d prefer a straight-up fight, especially now that I have my angel wings.

We also know that South Africa will bring some new creature types inspired by the region’s folklore. So far this looks to be a grinning hyena-thing and a bird-thing. Sort of reminiscent of the Filth creatures but not as goopy and droopy.

Anyway, it’s free, and there is just about no reason I won’t be there on Day One to explore the first part of the post-Tokyo storyline. Here’s hoping that Funcom can really crank up its narrative machine and start delivering new content on a much more frequent basis than what we’ve seen so far with Legends or even in the past couple years of The Secret World.

Not that impressed with Secret World Legends’ agent system

Well. Here we are. The first truly “new” piece of content for Secret World Legends that it didn’t import over from the old game (if we’re not counting the new tutorial)… and honestly, it’s pretty underwhelming. I’m not even evaluating it based on expectations of new story missions but as compared to timer-based assignment mission systems that are found in many other MMOs (SWTOR, WoW, RIFT, STO, among others).

Let me say that I actually really like these systems. They contain a modicum of strategy, there are some nice rewards, and psychologically, it’s enjoyable to know that I’m making some sort of progress in the game even if I’m offline (which I am more often than not). Logging back in to get a bevy of goods is a great way to start out a session. Bonus points if these systems come with a mobile app, which is something I greatly like about WoW’s Legion order hall missions.

My initial impressions of what Secret World Legends is doing here is not kind. The interface is simply way too cluttered, non-intuitive, and filled with a very unfortunate choice in fonts. This sort of system shouldn’t be that complicated, really, but Funcom is obviously trying to inject it with some gravitas and at least the appearance of depth. Unfortunately, none of it really makes sense other than the big percentage sign of anticipated success.

A couple other immediate negatives. First is that I was baffled trying to find my way back to the agent screen. There was no icon on the screen that I could see and the system didn’t show up in the master menu. Eventually I googled it and found out that it was “P,” but seriously, I shouldn’t have had to do that.

Second is that while we’re given one generic agent at the start, that’s it. And then we’re not really told where to get more. Again, googling shows me that these agents are (very low) random drops on missions or I could try to buy a pack with some premium currency, but that’s it. As a Tokyo-completed character, I really anticipated being grandfathered into more agents than just one. To be honest, there’s no way I’m going to go back and grind missions. So that means I’m probably not going to use this system much unless I get into season 2 (whenever that is) and hopefully start seeing agent drops.

Maybe I’m missing out here, but I’m very underwhelmed so far. I’m not going to subject myself to RNG just to get the tools to participate. I would have thought that some missions would contain a 100% chance to drop certain characters, but that’s not what I’m seeing. So I guess I’m going to chalk this up to another “nice idea, poor execution” example of Funcom in the vein of the museum.

It’s time we heard about the next phase of Secret World Legends already

Last fall, I found myself pushing hard through Transylvania and Tokyo because I was worried that I wouldn’t be “done” and caught up in time for the wave of promised new content that was due to start arriving in late 2017. Well, I fulfilled my end of the bargain; I’m finally caught up at the end of the main storyline and have a halfway-decent character who is ready to go on.

Funcom? It’s a whole heap of quiet over there. And no new content yet, I might add.

I think I’m disappointed in two things. On a small level, that the new stuff hasn’t happened yet. We know we’re due for three things: a “Dark Agartha” scenario, an agent system, and the start of season two in a new zone. At least some of this was supposed to happen last month and didn’t.

But the greater disappointment isn’t any delay, it’s that Funcom just isn’t talking with us. Aside from running the winter event last month, the studio’s been really quiet concerning SWL. It seems to be dealing with this game in spurts, giving it some attention before wandering away, and that’s a sign of a poor community management team (or a poor CM, period).

There just isn’t any info or talk coming out of the studio for fans. There aren’t any official forums, so Funcom primarily uses Reddit and Discord. I don’t hang out in Discord these days, but you’d think that a CM who has repeatedly promised WEEKLY communication updates and has delivered maybe three of them would pop over to the Reddit once in a while. About the only hope we have right now is the fact that some of the in-character NPCs are now talking once again on Twitter after a long silence.

Anyway, I’m sure there’s a delay and I’m sure we’re still due for more good stuff, but I’m tired of treading water in Tokyo. I can’t really bring myself to run the same Tokyo missions I’ve already done for no new story or better rewards, so other than logging in once a day to get my free key, I’m just not going to play until or unless Funcom pops out some new content. I am shaking my head here, because Secret World Legends had some good momentum last summer, but it feels like the studio has squandered that and once again turned its back on this game.

Let’s sincerely hope not.

For more thoughts on this, check out GRM Adrian’s video on the subject where he voices many of the same frustrations that I’m feeling.

Secret World Legends: Ascended angel

Office naps? I could totally work at Orochi. You know, if it wasn’t for the unlimited horrors that all of the floors seem to contain.

I’m actually really glad that Funcom decided to make us go through all of the floors in a linear fashion, because there are some downright interesting levels that I hadn’t seen yet. It’s definitely some of the best environmental storytelling that the team has put out to date, with tales that are in turn funny, sad, and downright creepy.

I could have done without the poltergeist level, though.

Do you think that Orochi cuts out the middleman and just hires corpses? I really, really should have kept a tally this time through the game.

So pretty. So deadly. Orochi Tower was a good excuse for Funcom to reuse assets and ideas from all over the game, including killer, out-of-control fungi.

I probably felt the worst on this level, which featured a “Bee” from The Hive who was subject to numerous amputations (since he could regrow his limbs) as Orochi studied animated flesh. Wasn’t sure if he was dead or not… I think so, but otherwise I would have appreciated a way to free him.

There was one floor with the lights completely out. Could have done without that as well.

Weirdest floor? Pac-Man. Definitely wasn’t expecting this, but got a few good belly laughs out of it.

Finally to the Penthouse I went and faced down Lilith for a second time in my Secret World history. Much of what she said made more sense this time around, although I did think that the whole conclusion took far longer than it should’ve.

Oh hai, Deus Ex Machina! I won’t lie, it was pleasant to see Lilith get her comeuppance for once. Although I did notice this time around that Emma was pretty absent from the proceedings. Wonder what her story is going to be going forward.

Took a short breather on my way back to London to smackdown Hel. I only have about 14 or so of those snowflakes left, but I don’t know if I have 14 fights left in me, especially since they’re timed on the hour.

It’s been one VERY long intermission so far. C’mon Funcom, let’s get on with it!