The Secret World: Chrome and Earthquakes

jok1

Oh Ricky Pagan, has there ever been an MMO NPC like you? Ever?

So I’m trying to make good on my vow to catch up on The Secret World missions with my main. I took Yeti back to Tokyo for one last mission with good ol’ Ricky. He must have been a terribly fun character to write for, all Elvis and biker gang and deeply scarred psyche.

Ricky said that he and Orochi have always been on the opposite sides of everything, but now that they have a common enemy in the Filth, he’s willing to bury the hatchet and give them a hand. And by that, he means for me to be that hand. Why risk that pompadour if you could send some naive adventurer in your stead?

He did lend me his chrome hog for the mission, which turned out to be quite the merry ride through the streets of Tokyo. I wouldn’t have thought that Filth people could ride bikes, but apparently they can, so the mission was fun of fighting, fleeing, and turbo-boosted awesomeness.

I am pretty rusty on this character, so I did die a couple of times on one of the foot sections. I also kicked myself for missing the achievement — making a long jump off a ramp — that would’ve gotten me Ricky’s bike. Guess I can always go back and do it again.

jok2

Then it was off to Argartha and Egypt to tuck in on the mission series from the latest issue. The stationmaster (what’s HIS story, anyway?) showed up to point out how earthquakes rippling out of Egypt were starting to affect the world tree. Would I be a dear an investigate? Sure sure.

jok3

The investigation mission that followed was… adequate, I suppose. Nothing especially novel or tricky, just paying attention to some notes as to where to drop these earthquake locator/recorder things.

I’ll say this: One reason that I dislike City of the Sun God over the Scorched Desert is that at least the latter has clear air. CotSG has this gritty, sepia-like filter that detracts from the visuals greatly.

The mission led me into the Ankh, although this was a non-dungeon version of the instance. Nothing too hard, just tracking down a mad doctor who was injecting himself with the Filth (Pro-Tip: Do not inject yourself with the Filth).

jok4

What was of most interest to me was the doctor’s notes, in which he talked about the ages of the world. He suggested that instead of the ages following a chronological pattern, they were more or less “resets” that took the world back to a beginning state, although certain artifacts remained and caused different changes for that age. Huh.

The Secret Adventures: Soul stripping (City of the Sun God #2)

(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!)

jet

Wreckage (side mission)

Well, look at that: It’s yet another downed Orochi jet. The forces of evil have powerful anti-aircraft defenses around here somewhere, I reckon.

The “stealth” jet in question isn’t too far away, and Geary says later that the Illuminati didn’t bring it down. I don’t much care if they did, although I suspect the truth is that the Orochi pilot was probably some poor sap with about three days of training and a hasty promotion. The wreckage is being combed over by ghouls, so… ghoul killing is on the menu.

Waters of the Nile (side mission)

This incredibly short quest has you filling up a waterskin from a gaia spring, then taking it about 40 steps away to one of the statue temples. I’m still trying to comb through all of the narrative intricacies there.

famA Familiar Problem (side mission)

Be honest with me here: If you saw the above description, wouldn’t you take that as “this torso looks familiar to me! And also, how does one recognize bloody torsos anyway?”?

But this is TSW being cheeky with its wordplay. It’s not a familiar torso, it’s a familiar torso. As in, the torso of a familiar, one of those magical golem things that were running rampant all over Innsmouth Academy. So what are they doing here? Are the cultists importing or creating their own?

So I did a dumb thing here. The torso was right by this giant statue of Aten. In The Secret World, interactive objects are outlined with a yellow wire mesh, whereas destructible objects have a thin run outline. Well, the statue had a thin red outline, so I thought, why not fire at it?

Pro-Tip: Do not shoot at the Statue of Aten unless you want no less than 50 cultists to pour out of the woodwork screaming for your bloody death.

I don’t really know what I find out here, other than that, yes, there are familiars and they’re being controlled by these rods in the ground. Also, there are a few dead Orochi (of course), a case, and a “Puppet Master” that I have to kill. The mission sends me back to tell Ptahmose, but I’m never given any sort of closure. Or a familiar of my own. Pity.

unknownUnknown Soldier (side mission)

Speaking of dead Orochi, here’s a mission that literally starts by clicking on one. The omniscient mission giver says that I should get worked up about whoever killed this poor soul, but seriously, if I was to investigate every murdered Orochi, I’d be playing this game until the universe’s heat death.

Oh well. Hi-ho, hi-ho, following blood trails I go!

Actually, I’m being serious — you do have to follow the blood trail on this one. It attempts to lead me through every Atenist mob in the area, but I’m too smart for that, I keep a wide berth while spotting the next one.

The splatters lead me into a cave, which is Dead Orochi Central. Lots of ’em, plus Atenist Envenomers. I do not like the sound of that. After killing 10 of those guys, I’m directed to assassinate the giant spider lurking in the back of the cave. Guess the cultists were feeding the Orochi to it? I’m not really rooting for either side here.

She Who Likes Silence (side mission)

At the back of the spider cave is a sword, which I guess the arachnid was keeping for a rainy day. Could’ve come in handy while fighting me, I suppose. That would be something novel in an MMO: A sword-wielding spider!

Seeing as how the spider is dead, I claim the sword for myself and then — for some reason — decide to reforge it. I do this on a rock ledge hanging over a lava field, trying to ignore that shouty part of my brain that’s asking how my character knows how to forge ANYthing, nevermind without any tools on hand. Anima. Anima is the answer for anything you can’t explain in TSW.

stat

The Sad Song (action mission)

Enough dallying about with side missions — we need to cut our teeth on some of the meat of this zone! On to Moutemouia, the first of the statue-children that I’ll be running errands for. She talks about her sad song, the one that has been keeping the darkness at bay but has been faltering. How she would just let go if it wasn’t for her little brother. Guess I can help with some of the pressure of her position.

This is easier said than done. The main distress is coming from the nearby catacombs, where shrieking souls are pouring out faster than a Chinese factory making iPhones. I definitely have never run this quest before, because I would’ve remembered such an atmospheric setting. Really neat to explore the catacombs, but stopping to fight every two steps takes some of the fun out of it.

Long story short, the Atenists are torturing villagers and then stripping their souls out of them to make this spectral army. Can’t have that, so eat some hot Anima death, ya cultists.

The Secret Adventures: To hell and back (City of the Sun God #1)

(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!)

A City Born in Blood (action mission)

And so we come to the second of Egypt’s two zones, City of the Sun God. It’s also, by far, my least favorite adventure zone in the game. Oh, it’s not terrible, but it’s not that likable either. It does the job of communicating Aten as a terrible threat and making the desert sun fairly ominous, but this comes at the expense of personality and relatability. City of the Sun God isn’t a place of civilization (as is all of the other zones we visit), nor is it that populated with living NPCs. It’s certainly an interesting idea to have a squadron of talking — but completely motionless — statues as the good guys, but boy was that an uphill storytelling challenge. And one I think that Funcom didn’t quite master.

Anyway, I have a long, long way to go to get through this area, especially with all of the new issue content, so let’s start our adventures by listning to Ptahmose give himself a pity party about failing his “children” (the aforementioned statues) and how the forces of Aten are on the rise and the good guys may be outnumbered this time. At least I’m here to do something about it instead of sitting on a suitcase. Man, I miss the Dannys and Wolfs and Boones of the old zones. At least they got into it with evil.

To be fair, I’ve never given this zone a full chance. During my first playthrough, I ended up skipping most of CotSG in favor of hitting Transylvania early (I looped back long after, but didn’t complete all of the missions even then). So some of this stuff will be new to me and I’ll be experiencing it start to end this time around.

OK, so here’s a straight-forward “kill all ghouls” mission. There’s some rescuing Marya along the way, who then lead me to some shackled golems. This is where the mission gets fun: You can free the golems and follow them as they pound the crud out of more ghouls. And you can free as maaaaaany golems as you want. I think I had about seven stampeding around by the mission’s end, pwning ghouls left and right. I really wanted to keep them.

As a post-script, Geary made me laugh when she put down Ptahmose’s “sob story.” Always good for a cynical jab, that woman.

corpse

Funeral Pyre (side mission)

At the end of the previous mission, there’s a jinn ember that can be used to, y’know, light corpses on fire. Most normal people would look at that, go “huh,” and then walk away. Not my girl. No, she’s all for corpse-lighting, because The Secret World is nothing if not anxious to get you playing with corpses every chance you get. Finish this game and there’s nothing that mortician school could throw at you that you’re not already desensitized to.

Big pile o’ corpses at the end, too! Thank you, Funcom, for making me wish that my character carried around an industrial-sized drum of hand sanitizer for such moments.

claw

Dust Devils (action mission)

Stick-in-the-mud Ptahmose is super grumpy about all of the people traipsing through this supposedly secret valley. Now there are demons pouring in from the hell dimension at the invitation of the Black Pharoah. Where are the Ghostbusters when you need them?

Without a proton pack t my disposal, I’m going to have to do things the old-fashioned way — bullets and harsh glares. I use a not-so-secret passage to head over to where all of the hell breaches are happening. It’s not pretty, but in this landscape it isn’t really hurting anything either.

After kicking a few crawling demons to the ground, I leap through a rift and into the hell dimension itself. It’s like a world that’s been baked a little too long and has never seen anything green grow. Also, there’s a Jamba Juice.

I go up to all of the Jinn that are creating these stable rifts, tap them politely on their shoulders, and then ask them to stop. Well, I don’t so much do that as I run in guns blazing, tossing down elemental turrets left and right, but the attitude is much the same. With that done, I create a portal home and escape in the nick of time before I have to spend an eternity playing hide-and-seek with demonic bullies.

Also, how epic is this shot:

pose

Love it.

locusts

Bug Hunt (side mission)

Again, I’m glad that these locusts aren’t the Ak’ab, but they also aren’t that thrilling as a foe or enemy faction. Big bugs — this is so common in MMOs that one wonders what’s in all of the water.

I wish I had a great story to tell about this mission, but no, it’s just a lot of killing bugs and their hives. I did take the time to examine the locust models and admire how squirm-inducing their mouth-areas are, though.

The Secret Adventures: Tyler Freeborn (Blue Mountain #10)

ty1

(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 Search for Tyler Freeborn (action mission)

Heading into the City of the Sun God seems like a good place to take a break from the Egyptian content to clean up on one quest series I left for a better build and gear: the Tyler Freeborn chain. If I recall correctly, this was the first time that Funcom experimented with releasing an issue that mainly featured one overarching storyline — and to great acclaim, too.

To start it off, we head back to Blue Mountain. Oh dreary skies, how I missed you! And zombies! And virtually no mention of “Aten” anywhere! There’s an SD card lying on the side of the road that’s about to lead to bigger things…

The recording on the card shows Tyler, an investigative journalist of sorts, reporting from the early days of the fog. It’s an interesting perspective, although it made me wonder how long ago it was from the player’s entry to the island. There’s no definitive or even well-worked timeline for this game, which surprises me (this was the best I could find). There are a lot of questions still floating about regarding the pacing of the story and how much of an impact that the story in these four zones has had on the world at large. Considering that this is an apocalyptic tale, it makes one really wonder (especially in light of the NYC Times Square raid).

Anyway, Tyler is freaked out about the fog and determined to figure out what it is, especially since no one can seem to leave through it to safety — although plenty of people have been coming in, mostly military and Orochi. Following Tyler’s footprints, so to speak, leads me to the military camp where I find that he was arrested for trespassing. Also, Tyler has a blog. No, seriously. And at least this blog does help with the timeframe in question, as the last entry is February 22, 2010. We know that the Filth bomb in Tokyo happens sometime in late February, and that the whole of Solomon Island is still kitted out for Halloween. So has the fog been there since October? That’s a lot longer than I would’ve guessed… and the survivors don’t appear to have been hanging out for months. Weeks, perhaps, but I got the feeling more of “days.” So I guess I’m still confused. Maybe Tyler’s journal was from February earlier in the year that the whole mess went down?

Tyler was apparently apprehended by the military and taken to their safe house, which is now in the middle of Ghost Central. Probably not a great place for him. He did manage to escape, somehow, and left behind a trailer key for the nearby Wabinaki park.

When I get there and try the door, an Orochi agent — a live one! — bowls me over and starts running for it. I give chase, but he soon gets away in his sleek van while I’m still stick with my hoverboard (I wouldn’t trade it, though).

Then begins one of the coolest sequences in the game, where you have to pursue the van while an Orochi attack helicopter starts firing rockets all over the road. Just when things couldn’t get any more interesting, a massive draug shows up, knocks the van over, then flings the van into the helicopter, causing both to explode. Oh well, guess it was too much to hope that the Orochi red shirts would make it through a mission.

ty2

The Research of Tyler Freeborn (action mission)

Another camcorder interlude, this one showing Tyler filming one of the black spirit-dogs of the island and being way, way too impressed by them. More rabbit trails lead me to a cage in the middle of a construction site containing “subject three,” some poor infected Orochi sap. When I touch the cage, lights come on everywhere, Orochi (not dead!) pop out of the woodwork (literally), and guardian dogs emerge for one giant fight.

I’ll admit, this fight cleaned my clock a few times. I had to re-apply Turn the Tables to my hotbar for some extra mid-fight health, because it was going on a little too long and I couldn’t make the difference. Afterward, the remaining guardians fled and I chased them down to a cave. Big doggie inside, and after I put him down I read one of the most revealing notes in the game. It was an Orochi email stating that the mutations caused by the Mist and those caused by the Filth might be two very distinct forces instead of some sort of supernatural tag-team. Kind of makes sense when you look at the whole thing.

Need more answers! Now we have to go back to that accursed Orochi camp for them…

ty3

The Tenacity of Tyler Freeborn (sabotage mission)

…and because it’s in this camp, it’s a sabotage mission. Apart from triggering a Beastie Boys song in my head, that’s not a good association.

At the camp, an old-fashioned camcorder shows another Tyler interlude, with him showing off a Pale Man (draug) and talking about what happened when the mist came. He said that there was music luring people to the sea, that he put in his earphones and blasted music for a half-hour until most of the population was gone. Tyler also mentioned that it was quiet for a couple of days before the people returned from the mist, changed. That couldn’t have been fun.

The Orochi compound is just as annoying as it ever was, full of patrolling bots and soon-to-be-slaughtered troops. The goal here is to get and analyze some blood samples, a task that involves gassing tents and ducking inside while everyone else is gasping and fleeing.

The analysis is somewhat surprising: It says that the draug are part of an airborn strain of the Filth, one that’s not native to the island. It’s highly infectious, which is why the people can’t just up and leave — at least, not without serious protection.

I dash to the CDC camp, grab a respirator, then snag a map off a boat that shows a very shallow channel leading out to sea. Guess it’s time to infiltrate this mist and see what’s what!

ty4

The Vanishing of Tyler Freeborn (action mission)

Now that we’ve seen Tyler’s progress through studying the fog and its effect on people, there’s nothing left but to follow him inside. I have to give the man credit: He was smarter and perhaps braver than most people on this island. I mean, what would you do if you had the choice? Stay on an infected island with no hope of rescue? Or suit up and see if you could find a way out?

The mission requires that you wear a respirator — either the CDC one, or the Illuminati one (I assume), or the full hazmat suit. It’s a neat touch.

For many of us, this mission was a significant one in our Secret World journey. We had lived with the presence of that fog since the moment we stepped onto Solomon Island and always wondered what was in it. Why people couldn’t leave. And now we got to go inside and finally get those answers.

Initially the fog is… foggy. I jog along, follow these little lights that float here and there, and wonder about the myterious figures who dash in and out of the mist. But eventually my run becomes a slow walk, the screen starts going wavy, I hear my character breathing hard, and then she passes out.

When she wakes up, she’s in a nightmare landscape of floating islands. I fall down and come in front of a black-and-white house with a dash of red light around its door. Stepping inside is a red corridor (with walls that are… sort of bleeding) that goes into a long, long stairway down. Let me tell you, this is when I started freaking out the first time I had to play through this. It’s really unsettling, like a bad dream.

A voice tells me that this is the red sargasso dream. It is not, I’m gathering, a good dream.

The staircase quickly coughs me out into a Silent Hill-like version of Kingsmouth. Everything is dark, uniform, and larger-than-life. As I plod down the streets, Filth versions of the island’s survivors pop up, including Deputy Andy and his Evil Kitty Force. From there it’s a trip through a creepy version of Edgar’s junkyard, then to another Kingsmouth, then out into the sea on a sinking ship. Very disjointed and weird and unsettling, probably as it should be for a dream.

And the capper? When I come to in the “real” world, I find Tyler’s body on the beach. Guess he didn’t make it after all. Not surprising, but I feel bad for him even so. The guy tried when everyone else just holed up and waited for the end.

The Secret Adventures: Into the den of asps (Scorched Desert #13)

ghoul

(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!)

Ghoul Pool (side mission)

With all of the quest giver missions accomplished, all that remains for me to do in Scorched Desert are about a few side missions and the main storyline. Let’s knock out those side missions, shall we?

I should have grabbed this at the hotel, but anyway it’s a nice excuse to go back for a quick firefight with the ghouls. And I do mean quick — my gear/QL/skills are apparently getting up there, at least on the upper end of the Scorched Desert range, so the fights are over in a flash. Nothing like swinging a chainsaw around in a pool of ghouls and seeing five drop at a time!

Aww… aren’t those ghouls practically adorable, in an ugly sort of way?

orb

King of the Hill (side mission)

Now this… is one truly fun side quest. Tucked all the way at the top of the map, there’s a little pyramid structure that has this magical orb floating on top. The quest text cheekily describes it as a beautiful planet that you can hold in the palm of your hand, nodding to its status as a completely useless MacGuffin.

Anyway, the quest is to defend the orb from — of course — mummies. Many waves of mummies, some models more durable than others. Instead of using your standard weapons, you’re given various explosives for this task. Really, all you need are the frag grenades, but the rest of the arsenal is cool too.

It’s just wave after wave of blasting mummies with grenades, but if that’s not enough reason to get up in the morning and play a video game, I don’t know what is!

fire

Touched by Fire (side mission)

I don’t think I’ve ever done this, because if I had I would definitely remember it. It’s a bit of an out-of-the-way area that’s populated by a congregation of fire cultists — you know, the guys and gals who are currently on fire yet somehow not (a) stop drop and rolling, (b) screaming, or (c) burning up. Must be a fun cult, all things considered.

By whacking five of them at once, I was able to summon their middle manager, Ted. Oh, he has some sort of demon name, but I like to emasculate supernatural foes by giving them nicknames. I can deal with a demon named Ted. And so I have.

Black Sun, Red Sand (main story, tiers 2 through 5)

That’s it! All Scorched Desert quests are done, so time to get a move on with the main story. I “procure” an Atenist outfit from an unwilling volunteer and then head into their secret headquarters underneath al-Merayah. As a bonus, you get to keep the outfit as one of your cosmetics, although it’s not really anything I’d ever wear.

Inside the secret temple, I eavesdrop on a conversation between Mr. Hatty and Mr. Beardy (which is becoming a regular thing by now). As usual, Hatty isn’t happy with Beardy’s progress, Beardy keeps yammering on about being an awesome prophet of Aten, and I wonder why I don’t just toss a grenade in the room with them two. Being immortal means that I don’t have to worry about dying myself, right? I’m the perfect assassin.

Following Hatty, I see him try to shake down Said in an alley for not signing up to transport a second Filth bomb. Lots of grandiose, “I’m such a bad guy” speeches, but Said — bless him — isn’t having any of it. Hard to scare a mummy, I guess. Said knows that I’ve been listening in and hints that I should get a move on to stop this madman and his machinations.

After a follow-up scuffle at the Marya camp, Khalid shows up to basically charge me with fixing all that’s gone wrong with the region. He says that the Atenists are “in the grips of the dreamers” and work for forces that want to extinguish all life everywhere. He also mentions the sixty-four again (I am intrigued!) and encourages me to find those to help me. This is why I like doing the story mission after wrapping up a zone instead of during it, because you’re in a much better position to understand what’s going on and the players involved, even if it messes with the chronology a little.

Our best friends tour continues with a trip to the Oxford archaeologists, who grouse about how the Orochi’s jackboots messed up everything and unearthed stuff that should’ve stayed buried. Story of my life, pal. They also say that all of the ruins in the Scorched Desert are just the forerunners of the real thing, a city hidden away inside the mountains and concealed from Google Earth. The conversation is halted when all of us hear eerie singing — singing that’s fading. That means something, they say. But what?

I go tomb raiding again and find a tablet with some answers. According to the Oxford duo, it mentions the seven sentinels watching over the valley with their song. But now that the song is fading, the evil guy and his boss, evil guy senior, will rise to power. And that, Monty says, is a very bad thing.

That’s it, I guess. Time to stop mucking about in this relatively nice area and head into the City of the Sun God. It’s a rather dour place, with dark skies, a giant black pyramid, and singing statues that are keeping the evil at bay. A white-haired man with suitcases — Ptahmose — shows up and waxes on about his children and their 3,000-year vigil over this valley. He says that, one way or the other, their watch will be over soon… and that it is time to fight. Me? I got pistols and a chainsaw. Bring on that creaky Egyptian god already!

The Secret Adventures: You were eaten by a Grue (Scorched Desert #12)

prom

(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 Prometheus Initiative (sabotage mission)

Ladies and gents, today you’re going to meet the most elusive of the Orochi set — a live agent. There’s, like, five of them in the entire game. The dead to alive ratio is at least 120 to 1. And this agent is Lisa Hui, a stressed soldier who’s apparently been abandoned both by her bosses and by the Prometheus Initiative, some sort of project that the Orochi were sent here to defend. She suspects that it was an inside job, too. Time to go snooping around!

The camp is a mess — there are leaking tankers of Filth spewing that crud everywhere, and grotesque transformed scientists are patrolling the area. They’re super-tough, so a straight-up fight is out of the question. The job is to sneak around, avoid aggro, and shut down the pumping station’s many controls. There’s an achievement for not being spotted at all during the mission but HA HA it’s me so you know I might as well be sending up fireworks and singing showtunes wildly off key for all of the stealth that I can manage.

At the end of it all there weren’t any answers, including why the project leader kept the pumping station working even after it started Filth-showering the area.

Pass the Ammunition (side mission)

The Orochi camp has five missions, including this one. It’s a good one to pick up while you’re off doing the bigger quests, since it only asks you to keep a lookout for a few crates of ammo. I wish I had an exciting tale of bravery and near escapes, but this was more or less like my last trip to the grocery store.

Old Scotch, New Problems (side mission)

While in the Prometheus camp, I spy a box of scotch and apparently have the brilliant idea to get so drunk because the world is going to end anyway. No, actually I’m supposed to find more bottles to bring back to the Orochi as some sort of sterilizer/anesthetic. It’s a nice two-for-one mission bonus if you’re doing it with The Prometheus Initiative.

lisa

From Below (action mission)

With my brand-new chainsaw equipped and skilled, I’m itching for a straight-up fight! Lisa asks for my help with the Orochi’s last stand, and while I’m not normally that sympathetic to the Orochi, I like her spirit. Sure, I’m in!

The first part of this mission is to defend the camp, which isn’t too hard if you take the time to activate one of the gun turrets lying around. After that it’s some plowing through various camps of ex-Orochi, current-Filth-infested bad guys. I found it amusing that, in a couple of places, the mobs were tagged as yellow (non-aggro) instead of the normal red.

As I’m going through this camp, I kept hearing radio calls for Orochi personnel and Lisa Hui to report to HQ. It’s been years at this point — I don’t think any of them are coming home. Do you?

Primum Non Nocere (side mission)

In the fallen Orochi camp’s tent is a computer detailing reports of secret experiments being performed on Orochi employees. Gotta love that work environment; if you’re not being abandoned for dead, assimilated into the Filth culture, eaten by a giant locust, or ripped apart by zombies, all you have to worry about is your bosses using your DNA as a playground.

Anyway, on my way out from the last mission I was tasked with taking blood samples from four of those poor individuals. Hey, more Orochi corpses! I’m starting to feel at home here.

drone

The Little Drone That Could (side mission) & Droning On and On (side mission) & A Flight of Locusts (side mission)

I backtracked a little to give some assistance to a downed Orochi drone. Even this company’s drones are dead in this game! If you like escort missions — and who doesn’t? — this is a nice, easy payday. Both quests require you to follow around a drone that meanders all across the map, often aggroing groups of mobs and getting re-broken in the process.

Ultimately, the two drone quests lead to a downed Orochi jet that spewed out all sorts of cargo and dead bodies. After paying a visit to each of the unfortunate employees for their keycards, I unlocked the cargo — no, we never find out what it is because The Secret World is a total tease sometimes — and fended off several waves of giant locusts. Still better than Ak’abs, any day!

The best part of this chain is that I was able to knock off three missions from my checklist in less than 15 minutes. Score!

game

Immersion (investigation mission)

The Secret World should come with a disclaimer: “Investigation missions will take up hours of your life and possibly drive you insane.” Some of these missions can last incredibly long, particularly if you’re used to the zippy quests of other MMOs. Immersion is a great example — start to finish, it can easily take two or three hours, depending on how good you are.

It starts out with Lisa Hui sharing some backstory on the activities and fall of the Orochi presence in the area. Fascinating stuff although not that revealing. Do I need to be told that the Orochi got their butts kicked? That’s kind of a given.

The mission then segues into completely unexplored territory for The Secret World: A text-based adventure game. Like what you’d find from an early-1980s Infocom adventure. Seriously. And it’s not just a little thing; there are five sizable adventure segments (Game 1.0 through Game 5.0) contained in Immersion, and all of them need to be successfully completed to get codes and clues for the next stage of the journey. So the end of Game 1.0 points to the location of the 2.0 chip, which requires traversing the cities and Solomon Island as well as Egypt. As I said, it’s quite time-intensive, but the novelty of playing a text adventure game as an actual part of an MMO doesn’t quite wear off… at least, for the first time you play through this.

The end of the mission took me all of the way to Venice, which is kind of surprising considering that it starts in Egypt. There’s a connection made to Tokyo’s “John” which won’t be resolved for many, many, many more missions to come.

john

The Secret Adventures: Chasing Frankenstein (Scorched Desert #11)

(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!)

Between a Rock and a Hard Place (side mission)

I don’t think I realized before just how quest-dense Scorched Desert is in comparison to the Solomon Island zones before it. At least, it’s taking me longer to progress through it, as evidenced by this 11th chapter of our saga, but I am making headway!

To those curious of my methods for this playthrough, I am going through all of the quest givers primarily while picking up side missions as I encounter them. After all of the quest givers are done, I finish up any remaining side missions and then finally do the story quest for that zone.

So here’s a chance encounter of a mission — a crushed cultist. Guess that necessitates investigation? Actually, it’s worth looking into, because not too far away is a peculiar sight: cultists using control rods to make a giant golem bash its way through a river lock. Time to skinny up the ladders and put an end to those rods! Always fun to see golems crushing enemies’ skulls for a change.

Not By Bread Alone (side mission)

Up to the Oxford camp, which actually only has two missions, including this one. The camp’s been trashed and the archaeologists need water from the dig site. Guess I’m electing to help out in that regard! Karma Kounter +1.

I’ve actually gotten to the point where I have a very solid build with a lot of expensive abilities slotted, so other than buying auxiliary weapon skills (I’m holding out for the chainsaw, I think), I have nothing else to do with my AP than start working toward some outfits. Illuminati’s slayer looks pretty rad.

pic

The Big Terrible Picture (investigation mission)

The Oxford Group (see what I did there?) is trying to dig to the center of the mystery of what it is about this particular area drew the big bad guys and Romans all those years ago. I’m betting it’s the same as was the case of Solomon Island — a Gaia engine or buried power or both.

There are some missions in this game that left such a bad taste in my mouth from my initial run that I’ve been dreading doing them again — and this is one of them. At first, it’s not too bad. Some Caesar cipher decryptions, a little hunting around some ruins. But then you get to the part where you have to fiddle with crystals to ping-pong a beam of light down into a tomb and the mission kicks you squarely in the face.

It’s beyond annoying. If you don’t look at a guide, then good luck, because it’s going to suuuuuck. First of all, you can’t do this quest at night (you need the sunlight for the crystal beams), and if you are in the middle of this part and the sun goes down, then tough luck — you have to wait until it comes back up again. To make matters worse, there’s like 15 or so of these crystals, and they chain off of each other in weird ways. It’s frustrating, to say the least.

There is an interesting ending to the mission that almost makes it worthwhile. First of all, you discover an Egyptian coffin that has a hologram (!) coming out of it. That then leads to an incredibly rare end-of-mission cutscene (I wish all quests had these) where the archaeologists talk about re-discoveries of ancient cities and technologies far more advanced than those times suggested. This leads into The Secret World’s chronology, which dictates that the world has gone through several ages, each of which saw technology advance to a great point and then disaster basically hitting the reset switch. The best part? We’re about at the end of the third age right now in teh game.

aldini

Just a Flesh Wound (action mission)

Intermission time! Every so often one needs a break from these zones we spend oh-so-much time in. So let’s put a bookmark in Egypt for a bit and head to New York to visit the famous Dr. Aldini — possible relative of Dr. Frankenstein, plastic surgeon, and all-around lunatic. Awesome fellow. His… clinic is a pig slaughterhouse staffed by a trio of strangely beautiful nurses. He’s quite creepy and maniacal, but then again, most NPCs in this game are off their rocker.

Anyway, this mission is definitely worth doing for two great rewards: the chainsaw auxiliary weapon (my favorite!) and a coupon for a free visit to Aldini’s plastic surgery table. All you have to do to earn this is wade through one of the grossest missions of the game. It’s really the type that either leaves you queasy or laughing softly at the ridiculousness of it all.

So Dr. Aldini tasks me with obtaining some new flesh for him to work with — to presumably make me a companion or slave, although that never quite happens, thank goodness. Where to go shopping for all of this? In the zombie-infested sewers below the clinic, of course! Down there are scads of ruined, rotting nurses — presumably but not explicitly the rejects of Aldini’s experiments. The mission had me collecting limbs with all sorts of devices (ugh), ultimately settling on the chainsaw as the best option.

The zombies are no good for fresh flesh, so deeper into the sewers I find a gigantic flesh blob. This is where the Monty Pythonesque title of the mission comes in — I had to attack him for a while, and then when the blob was stunned, chainsaw off a limb. Kept doing this over and over until, like the Black Knight, the blob was sitting on the floor all limbless. Even after it was dead, one of its limbs reanimated to chase me for a while, because why not?

I didn’t use the surgery coupon — I’m happy with my face, though not my hair — but I am ecstatic to finally have the chainsaw again. Now to save up 35 SP to be able to use it!

buttons

The Animate Clay (investigation mission)

Aldini’s other quest is one of the better investigation missions in The Secret World, both as a story and as a series of interesting puzzles. It turns out that like Frankenstein’s monster, Aldini’s last creation somehow escaped the lab and has been killing. Aldini blames me for giving him “impure flesh,” but hey man, you get what you pay for. Off to track down the patchwork man — who is, apparently, quite intelligent, as he left Aldini a note. The only thing is that the monster can’t remember who he used to be. I have sympathy for him, definitely.

Clues abound in Aldini’s clinic, including an x-ray with a number etched on a bone and a computer with such notes as “subject survived seventeen days without a face!” I love that he has a rough draft of his Nobel Prize acceptance speech on the computer as well.

The creature first leads me to the sewers of NYC, which is one of my least-favorite places in the game. Keep getting turned around in there (and there’s no map). But once I find the creature’s victim, I get a phone number for P. Schulyer and Sons — an actual, functioning London phone number. You can either spend money (if you’re out of country) to call that number, or else just listen to someone else’s recording who has done so:

Contacting the elusive company requires some work. There’s an alley in London’s Darkside with a corpse in it — and some various objects. The trick here is to use those objects to make the same little tune that you hear twice in the phone call.

That done, the dead body in the alley rises and is revealed to be the P. Schulyer and Sons receptionist. A zombie receptionist. A zombie receptionist with an exposed chest cavity that has a keypad and a big red button. An account number is needed — the same number that you can find on the x-ray in Aldini’s office. Punch that in, and the zombie vomits up the activity log for the corpse-delivery service. Seriously, how brilliant — and demented — is all of this? The log book mentions some missing delivery men around Innsmouth Academy, which sounds like the creature’s work to me.

The investigation at the academy eventually leads all of the way back to NYC, where I track down the creature’s lair in a warehouse. This sets up a particularly tense confrontation, because while it’s not completely dark in this box maze, the creature itself is cloaked in shadow, only briefly giving you a glimpse of its form. I took enough screenshots to be able to look at it clearly, and indeed it’s a botched surgery wrapped in a hat and a trenchcoat. The only way to kill it for good is to lure it into a puddle of electrified water, after which it leaves a note saying that it can’t go back to the man he was and can’t become what Aldini wants, so it would rather fade away entirely. A sad note that’s only broken by Geary’s mention of the Illuminati’s resident mad scientist who created a “squid-squirrel.”