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.

ON THE NEXT EXCITING EPISODE OF SECRET WORLD: THE NEXT GENERATION: Sneaking through tunnels!

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Secret World: Nobody likes Chad

Well.

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.

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.

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.