Posted in The Secret World

The Secret World shows me a (little) love

I honestly thought I was done with The Secret World. That’s because Funcom up and stopped developing for the game, all but abandoning it over the last year. Case in point, the last time I blogged about playing it, the date was August 2018 — and that’s because I had just finished up South Africa, the most recent content update for the game. 2019 came and went without much of anything, so I figured Funcom had given up. And it might have, but here’s something quite fortuitous for Valentine’s Day: A special, new investigation mission.

So yeah, sure, I’ll come back to see it.

The fun — such as it is — begins in the April Fools pocket dimension of Tabula Rasa. Here sits a weirdly sparking Soulmate arcade cabinet, which pairs me with another player. I thought we’d have to go somewhere together and cuddle, but no, it meant we needed to don some boxing gloves and smack the crap out of each other until one of us won.

I won. Bully for me.

It’s not the most intricate of investigation missions, but from where I’m sitting, it seems to involve the anonymous faction known as The Swarm (aka the anti-bees who dress up like wasps). From what I remember of two years ago, the game only started to tease the Swarm as a new wrinkle in the whole Secret World. I think they want to recruit me, and if so, I’m all up for that.

The mission tasks me with tracking one of the members of the Swarm, a purple-haired girl who is annoying adept at throwing all sorts of obstacles in my path as we weave and bob around London. After one failed attempt, I finally tracked her down to a portal and we had it out in a tepid fight (thanks, story mode). She narrowly escaped but Isabel — the daughter of Tabula Rasa’s owner — dropped her phone with some incriminating contacts and emails.

I like that, once again, the mission ends on a choice to help out the Swarm (wipe the phone) or obey my faction (send the info to the Templars). I’ll all pro-Swarm, assuming that this storyline ever actually continues, so I wiped it.

Thanks for the half-hour diversion, Secret World. See you again in two years?

Posted in The Secret World

Funcom has utterly failed The Secret World

I don’t think anything raises my blood pressure as quickly or vastly as when I see Funcom tweet that the Secret World team is doing some piddly livestream or in-game promotion while failing to talk about the game’s actual future. Because, let’s face it, there isn’t one. Funcom has virtually abandoned The Secret World — not once, but TWICE — and is running its corpse into the ground without putting in any more effort or resources.

Remember how Funcom was talking a big game about how the revamped Legends would not only deliver a more compelling combat experience (ha… no) and help fund the further development? That was a massive pill for TSW vets to swallow, to restart and go through a huge amount of content just to be able to access new story.

Since Legends’ launch in summer 2017, Funcom rolled out most — but not all — of the previous content that it hauled over from The Secret World, reworked the scenario system, and tossed in a whopping one story update (South Africa). The South Africa update was spring of 2018, and since then we’ve had pretty much nothing.

In fact, let’s look over what Funcom’s done with this game in 2019 to date:

  • It added a group mode to the Stonehenge occult defense mode in February. It also tried to sell a 12-month patron bundle that month.
  • In March, Funcom announced a Secret World spin-off single player game named Moons of Madness for a future release.
  • In April, there was a joke patch pushed out. Or was it.
  • The anniversary event was dug up to run this summer with activities, parties, prizes, and a scavenger hunt.
  • In June, Funcom also started selling a new epic cache key.

That’s it. That’s the whole year to date. That is not the picture of a game that is healthy, it’s a game that has been quietly unmoored from the docks and pushed out into a black ocean while the remaining community does what it can to keep itself occupied and cheered. It hasn’t stopped the quiet exodus of players who have seen the writing on the wall.

What really rustles my jimmies about all of this isn’t that Secret World may have turned unprofitable and not worth further development. That would be a tragedy, but it happens and it would be understandable. What upsets me is that Funcom has yet to address the failings of the Legends relaunch, has yet to really make good on all of its promises for the future of this game, and has shown that it is more than content to feed the delusion of the community that all is well and that there is hope.

Funcom leans hard on the community to run its own events and activities, because it’s far easier for that to happen and the studio to simply throw some promotion behind it than do anything new itself. It’s the appearance of staying busy without really doing anything significant.

But. Y’know. Thank heavens they got that epic cache key in the store. That was the important move right there.

The community isn’t completely oblivious, of course. That right there is what pops up on a simple Google search of the reddit, and it’s indicative of the wariness and despair that’s creeping into an MMO that hasn’t had its world change in any real way since a year and a half ago.

This is one of the most innovative MMOs and imaginative game worlds I’ve ever experienced, and it bothers me to no end that the studio running it is showing such a lack of responsibility and communication concerning it.

Funcom, you’ve failed Secret World. Twice. Shame on you.

Posted in The Secret World

Secret World: A bounty on my head

At this point, let’s be honest: I’m just in Secret World Legends for the story. I put up with the pretty blah action combat, the terrible gear progression, and all the rest just to pop in when — and only when — there are new stories to be experienced. Funcom wants to engage me? That’s the only way.

Last week we saw, well, something less than a full-featured content update and more than a hefty hotfix. There were four quests — three repurposed TSW factional quests with varied difficulty levels and one short epilogue quest for South Africa. It was something to keep us occupied for a while. I wasn’t that interested in doing those old quests (and certainly not on repeat), so I just showed up for that rather short sabotage quest, Public Enemy Number One.

In my Anointed quarters in the New Dawn compound, there’s a suspicious gift basket on the counter. Very suspicious. Nobody in this game world EVER loves me enough to send me a teddy bear and wine.

Yeah, that makes more sense. Not as much sense as someone thinking that they could blow up a Bee with a small gift basket bomb, but points for the overexcited card. BOOM!!

Thus began a little cat-and-mouse chase across the compound as a sniper kept trying to take me out. I wove in and out between buildings, trying to close the gap, only to find that Computer Cheating(tm) was at play and he magically moved to a far-off location.

This took me back to the slums, where I tried to track him down. Had a few opportunities to check in on the locals here, including this lady and her trashed abode. Was she robbed? Had a fit of pique? Or defended herself against the night monsters?

The bounty hunter — for such he was — eventually led me to a booby-trapped corridor with barbed wire and land mines. Considering that I just had thrown his own grenade back at him and left a bloody gaping wound in his side, you’d think he’d be a little less inclined to take me one, but give the man pluck for his profession.

Apparently the whole world still thinks that I’m responsible for the Ground Zero bomb in Tokyo and there’s a bounty out on my head. Considering that my faction only recently started getting my back again, that’s pretty par for the course in this game’s story.

Well, that’s it. See you next content update!

Posted in The Secret World

Secret World: Marquard’s mansion

I can’t believe that I got all the way up to the last mission of this big South African content drop in Secret World Legends and then didn’t actually finish it. It’s been a few weeks since I last logged in, and I felt this unfinished business nagging me. So let’s do it. Let’s tunnel our way into Marquard’s mansion and see what this Morninglight lunatic has been up to.

Our adventures start in a sort of mineshaft underground, which actually makes for an interesting level. It’s very straightforward, but there are plenty of booby traps, a handful of critters, and some roving probes. I felt that the insta-death rebar spikes were a tad unfair.

Oh, and there were a couple of giant spiders. Actually worked against them, since I excel in a narrow environment where the enemy has no room to escape.

The tunnel leads into Marquard’s basement, which turns out to be some sort of horror torture chamber with cells stocked with both humans (mostly Secret Worlders, including one “unknown faction”) and beasts. There’s also a dollhouse and dolls for no good reason. I suspect someone at Funcom keeps slipping these in as Easter eggs.

Notes on the computer mention “living fossils” — dinos? — found deep in the Congo.

I’ll tell you, I was all bees and needles coming up into the mansion proper. I mean, I was finally at the very heart of the Morninglight empire… who knew what I would find? Turns out, a very nice living room with a giant robot standing inexplicably in the middle.

I will say that I felt cheated that I wasn’t allowed to explore the rest of the mansion or really get that much more in the way of story lore here. In short, this is all a delaying tactic.

Marquard isn’t there — but his family is. And let me say that this lady is one of the freakier things that I’ve encountered in the game. The way she talks and the camera keeps pulling up to her, I was actually scooting back in my seat.

The family is the toughest fight. The two kids will kill you instantly if they get too close, so I had to keep them both in sight while attacking her. After a while, they join together to become… THE NUCLEAR FAMILY!

Now this just feels like a farce. Like Funcom had an interesting notion but couldn’t really follow through in a way that would put you in awe of the thing. Instead, it’s a goofy purple dude strutting around the place.

At the end of this fight, Berihun (fedora dude) steals my bee powers for about two seconds before Che shows up and gives them right back. Cue another boss fight which, of course, I win.

Che hands me the phone — and it’s John. Thought that he was dead for some reason? But he’s helping Che to help me, and he tells me that Marquard has indeed gone where every fan of this game has been guessing for ages now: the Congo.

In a pleasant surprise, the Templars actually show up in force to take over the mansion (after I’ve defeated the boss, of course) and Richard pardons me. I still don’t have the option to quit, but he can take that pardon and swallow it along with his posh British accent. I’m in this for the honey now.

Posted in The Secret World

Secret World: Dropping all pretense of subtlety

The wacky fun continues in the New Dawn compound as my handler shows up to chew me out for going off the grid on my own quest. Because heaven FORBID I do anything without the Templars holding my hand. The second I turn 18, I am so out of this house!

Now that I had gotten almost all the way to the mansion and come all the way back, now it’s time to return. But that’s not going to be easy. It’s time to drop all subtlety and do a full-on assault.

Looks like reality is dropping the pretense of having it together, because the Dreamer’s reality (or whatever the red sun and floating rocks are supposed to represent) are showing up a lot more now.

At least it gives me the opportunity to strike a pose against an awesome backdrop.

All right, Morninglight. Let’s do this.

This mission is a whole lot of fighting and action with several sub-bosses. Eyeless Joe Cannibal here returns for a creepy fight. He’s got a bit of a gut. Think he needs to go off Atkins.

And just when I think we’re already in the thick of the action, the game throws mortars and rocket launchers at me. WHY NOT. Seems totally fair, since there’s only one of me and a few hundred of them. Thanks, Templars, for sending me some backup!

At least I can turn the enemy’s armory around on it. Sorry, Marquad, I think your front gate is going to need some renovation.

Remember how The Secret World used to let you use auxiliary weapons? Secret World Legends hasn’t really brought that back, but at least in this quest I’m able to use a rocket launcher pretty much nonstop to wipe out packs of Bloodied mobs. I won’t lie, it’s pretty fun.

Nothing like fighting giant filth dinosaurs and genetically overcharged super-soldiers on the edge of reality itself. So very glad that bee flew into my mouth all those weeks back. Otherwise, I’d probably be at the farmer’s market and then going out to brunch with some friends.

If the main approach to the mansion doesn’t work — how about a secret entrance? Scooby Doo would totally approve.


Posted in The Secret World

Secret World: Nobody likes Chad


That escalated quickly.

On the second night in the Morninglight compound, I took the rope that Che oh-so-helpfully lowered to let me gain access to the Favoured section. Right away, everything went awry — sirens blaring, giant hulking guys running at me with machine guns, I got a paper cut.

This place didn’t look quite like the other two sections in that it wasn’t lived-in, but rather it was made up of four giant warehouses. Out of them poured the Bloodied, these hulked-out soldiers who really reminded me of the Soviet Red Hand soldiers from Transylvania.

This mission cracked open some of the big parts of what’s going on here, especially that we landed back on the familiar Secret World territory of weaponizing science, body modification, and unethical experiments. I got a kick out of the models of the Bloodied, just way over the top to the points where their pecs probably needed a sports bra for support.

Turns out that the Morninglight was making these guys and the other two creatures I’d been encountering… for some reason. The Bloodied were made from three eye-less guys who were being kept for their blood. Since all of these three tried to kill me, I didn’t feel too bad for them.

So this is a video game horror staple that I actually hate: When devs go waaaaayyy overboard on the gore to the point where it’s downright comical how much there is. It’s just gore for the sake of gore, not frightening, not repelling, just background scenery that’s actually ludicrous when you think about it. I mean, this warehouse right here? I spent about five minutes trying to guess how many people had to die to fill those corpse piles. Maybe a couple of thousand? At least a thousand. There’s no way that the Morninglight could generate this many dead bodies without arousing a lot of suspicion both within and without the organization.

I mean, the reason here is that the Bloodied only eat human flesh, because of course they do. But I guess in this universe nobody’s thought of freezers and plastic wrap.

And I don’t think I’ve ever been beaten with a club made of human legs tied together. I’m kind of a little worried about whichever Funcom dev was in charge of this building.

Seriously, take away the gore piles. Nix the leg club. The guy without eyes is weird and creepy enough as it is, and you could just insinuate the rest. That would have worked way better here.

This action mission was pretty much a long, long string of boss fights. Nothing impossible to overcome, and I only died once when I didn’t realize that the One-Shot Probes had been activated.

There is this kind of funny running joke in the computers about how a guy named Chad got killed and was fed to these people, which was fine because nobody liked Chad. Everyone hated that guy.

Finally, at the end, I get to open up the gates to Marquard’s mansion… and that’s when everything gets REALLY weird.

His mansion is floating in that weird space tableau that we keep seeing in the game, the one in which the Dreamers exist. Probably not going to be able to walk up there any time soon.

And why not, a giant gore T-Rex starts attacking me while this announcement voice — who hasn’t always been the pillar of mental stability in this zone — starts going absolutely crazy. It’s here that the Filth is mentioned for the first time since I’ve arrived.

Giant dino down, and Richard Sonnac finally is able to call my phone. He’s not very happy with me at all, because I guess I’m still in the doghouse with the Templars. Honestly, they can stuff it. I’ve been doing nothing short of saving the world and putting myself through hell, and this organization can’t have the decency to have my back. Quitting to join the Hive sounds better and better every day. Man, I hope we get to do that.

In the meanwhile, I’m asked to go back to the Agartha portal and sit on a cheap plastic chair until my handler comes over. Commence a lot of eyerolling.

Posted in The Secret World

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.

Posted in The Secret World

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?

Posted in The Secret World

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.

Posted in The Secret World

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.