The Secret World: Choose your own adventure

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Now that my new computer is up and running, I have no excuse not to play the newest mission from The Secret World’s Issue 15, Choose Your Own. Sure, it was disappointing that an entire issue was basically repackaging of previous sidestories plus only one investigation mission, but then again, it’s one more mission than we had before. So let’s get to it!

Our tale opens on a ravaged Tokyo, where my character walks up to a pachinko parlor and notices an old-fashioned floppy disc sticking out from behind a monitor. Said monitor blinks on and a woman with a wasp mask introduces herself as “The Swarm,” an Anonymous-like collective that has been watching me. It challenges me to a game in exchange for some information.

“We know what your masters have done. We know what the Hive is,” The Swarm says in a computerized voice. I am intrigued.

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Oh hey, they literally meant a game, like a computer game. The floppy has another classic-type text adventure game on it with the appealing title of “Sloshing in the Dark.” Like the other mission in TSW that had an adventure game in it, you have to beat this mission to proceed. And as the name of this quest implies, you’ll be making a LOT of choices.

The story is actually really well done. You wake up in a hotel room and have to scramble to get out of there as an unseen force is chasing you. Jumping from a window, you discover that this is the bed and breakfast in Kingsmouth, taking us to familiar grounds. Yet it’s also a place on the verge of a Lovecraftian apocalypse, with a horrible force pressing in on the world, cultists hopping like frogs everywhere, and kids trying to murder you with scissors. The ending — which isn’t so much happy as it is an end — has you retaining your sanity even as the world boils to an end.

Time to find the next uplifting disc of this series! I’m guessing that you use the story from the game as clues for the next location.

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Back to Kingsmouth, always back to Kingsmouth in this game. I get a little shiver of deja vu running past Wendy and Jack’s B&B, thinking about the game.

The next game is found at the Lobster Trap, and I pop it in the sheriff’s computer for a late-night text adventure session. I have to say that these games are really well-done writing, short stories from start to end that will brutally finish if you don’t make the right choice.

This one deals with a failed thespian who is given a book, a forbidden play, that consumes him and causes a whole lot of weird stuff to happen around him. It’s downright creepy, especially in its ending… and I have to go perform that very same play as a character. Thanks, Secret World, for making sure I won’t sleep tonight.

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It’s not too bad, actually. Once I got the stage set up, I do a bow and apparently that’s my entire “performance.” At least it prompted the Swarm Wasps to come out for a moment up on the balcony.

Another interesting (but not quite scary) story, this one about the Baba Yaga who stole away your brother. Reminds me of Quest for Glory, especially the part about her chicken house.

London eventually leads me to Translyvania, where I find a dark room with a single light shining down on a blindfold. Sure thing, I’ll trust my life to these insane wasps while the undead are prowling around outside!

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Life goes from great to even better, as I wake up in an abandoned mental asylum. At least, I very much hope it’s abandoned. There aren’t any enemy mobs at all in this mission, but the atmosphere and sound effects do a great job convincing you that at any moment, hands could reach out of the dark and pull you into a sticky embrace.

A phone rings. I pick up and the Swarm tells me to play one last game. A short one, but perhaps the most important one. It’s about escaping the very same asylum that I’m in, so I follow those directions and end up gassed in the face for my efforts.

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As I fall unconscious, I see a pack of the Swarm coming out of the shadows. Hope they don’t rifle through my gear.

I wake up in Seoul with the floppy disk that talks about the Swarm, and the collective sends me a text:

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Now this… this is fascinating. The theme of choice has been running strong this entire mission, leading up to one final actual choice: to turn in the evidence about the Swarm to the Templars or keep it to myself. After coming into this knowledge, I don’t think right turning them in, so I kept it. I love that this mission actually gives me one of the very rare choices in TSW.

I also hope that this quest and the Swarm have ramifications on the game going forward. It’s a great concept, that bee-kissed people who didn’t go with a faction are jailed by the secret world for their independent streak — and how that “swarm” is fighting back. If they’re recruiting, I am so in. A fourth faction that’s unlockable as you play on? How cool would that be?

The Secret World: DJ Jinn

I returned to The Secret World’s Black Pyramid to finish up the tremors quest chain (at least, I *think* this is the last part). After the hellishly long labyrinth, we’ve come to the prison holding the Unbound — one incredibly ticked-off and super-powerful genie who kind of wants to destroy the world.

What’s standing between it and the place you call home? Just me, my shotgun, and infinite reloads.

So yeah, this is another one of TSW’s infamous solo boss fights. You’d think that an MMO would reserve the really hard boss fights for just dungeons, but nah, not in this game. I went into the fight not really worried, since I assumed I was overgeared for it — and promptly got my butt handed to me in about 22 seconds.

But I started to do what you do in TSW, which is to observe and learn and adapt. The first fight, I didn’t realize that there was a second platform to flee to when the ground started burning. I lasted a bit longer then. The third fight, I had swapped in a healing elite passive to help me regenerate health during this marathon-long fight sequence. The fourth fight, I started to recognize the patterns of the Unbound’s elemental attacks and started surviving much better.

Toward the end I got panicked that I might lose after spending so long getting that far, so I triggered my wings for that extra push across the finish line. Win, Syp!

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Following all of that — I just saved your planet, you can thank me now — I repaired the broken prison, leaving the djinn to wallow in solitary confinement for the next thousand years.

As usual, I leave a Secret World quest a little confused as to the full story. So were the cultists triggering the earthquakes to break the prison? If not, who broke that pillar? Was it the Unbound, working from inside? Careless janitor?

The Secret World: In the Dusty Dark

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Creeeeeak went the dusty doors, sliding open to reveal a fresh new hell for me to explore — or a very ancient one, if you’re being literal.

This I pushed onward in my exploration of Issue 14’s story arc as I went down in the dusty dark. The doors here lead underneath the Black Pyramid, where the prison of the mighty Jinn — the Unbound — awaits. I didn’t know if I should have been pleased or disturbed to see torches flickering even without a caretaker going around to maintain them. Maybe it’s the mummy’s job?

In the Dusty Dark is an investigation mission, when meant that I had to strap in for a full afternoon of puzzle-solving — and this time in the eerie corridors and rooms below the surface of the desert. And let me tell you, this mission is no pushover. It’s room after room of increasingly difficult challenges, including walking across a pit on twisty — and invisible! — path and spending way too much time zipping across a room trying to activate jump platforms. Some of the rooms felt far more fair than others, and any one of them could have been a mission in their own right.

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And then there was the time when a giant boulder came smashing out of the ceiling to flatten me as I whipped the camera around to take this screenshot. I guess Funcom loved this Indiana Jones move so much the first time around that it wanted to bring it back for an encore.

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I know I’m glossing over a lot of the progression through this mission, so trust me when I say that it’s quite long and that by the time you get to this room and see a labyrinth awaiting your footsteps, you simply wish that there was a Funcom employee in your eyesight so that you could stare daggers at them.

Shifting walls? Unstoppable mummies? Poison daggers of death? All this an more awaits you, my friends!

Actually, the labyrinth wasn’t nearly as bad as the jumping platforms, in my opinion. And at least there was this at the end:

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The walls cracking open to reveal a brightly lit room — the prison of the Unbound. Good thing I’m charging in there!

I had a heart-stopping moment of terror at the end of this mission, because the game totally bugged on me. The screen went black and I couldn’t access my UI other than to log out. Eventually I had to do just that, imagining that I would need to do this entire cursed mission all over again. Fortunately, it just sent me ahead to the next mission, although I fear I missed a cutscene.

The Secret World: Very first impressions of the Museum of the Occult

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A mid-issue patch dropped for The Secret World yesterday, bringing some skill changes (mostly with elites) and the new Museum of the Occult.

The museum is TSW’s sort-of answer to player housing. It is a private instance (which friends can visit) that allows for some customization, although it’s here that we have to depart from the assumption that this is housing in the traditional sense. What it is is a glorified trophy room, a huge grind, and a path to a few nice abilities (such as combat pets!).

This isn’t to say the museum is an instant disappointment — it’s just important to check expectations when you come to it, I think.

Last night I logged in, eager to set my museum up. I recall the facade of the museum from one of the game’s missions, the one that has you looking up a YouTube video on a lecture, I think.

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Inside the lobby is this quite-impressive statue of… myself. I’m not quite sure to make of this. Hubris? The museum making ME its primary display on cult oddities? A weird fantasy about hanging out with a giant version of myself?

To the right there is the Curator, a stuffy fellow who follows you around in this quiet place, constantly freaking you out with his presence. He also sells unlocks for the various wings and the pedestals for the rooms.

As I said, the museum is definitely set up to be a huuuuge grind and AP/PAX/black bullion sink. Probably great for endgamers who have nothing left to do with their currency. I can’t even start to fathom how long it’ll take to completely flesh out the place.

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Here’s the layout: 12 rooms, each of which have to be unlocked. In each room are several pedestals on which you can place statues of various beasties from your travels, from the rare to the incredibly common. I unlocked room 4 first, the local legends one.

Other than getting the rooms opened and the statues unlocked and posing them, there doesn’t seem to be any way to customize this place. You certainly can’t change the music, the walls, or put any sort of furniture around. I mean, it’s better than NOTHING and it is very TSW, but I would quickly trade it all for a small apartment that allows for more customization.

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I mean, how much are you really going to hang out in a museum? There’s no quick teleport here (yet), so it takes a little bit of travel to head to London and go to it. And when you’re there, what’s there to do? Not that dang much.

I checked out the requirements to unlock statues for each of these platforms. As you might expect, it’s kind of ridiculous. There are threee or four types of requirements for each, including kills and lore drops. I guess the lore drops are new, because I did not have any of them. When I looked into it, what I found said that they’re rare drops from those specific mobs. So for my revenants pedestal, for example, I needed two drops. Where do I grind revenants, for pete’s sake?

I know there are guides being made and I can probably hang back a little until pioneers pave a better path ahead of me. Honestly, if it wasn’t for the promise of rather expensive combat pets and a few other niceties from the gift shop, I probably wouldn’t bother with this as it is.

The Secret World: Three terrible wishes

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While chasing down the secret of the omnipresent earth tremors by looking into how the Atenists are binding the Jinn, I get to make three wishes. Of course, this being The Secret World and all, those wishes almost immediately backfire.

My first wish is to be popular. The game rewards this wish by mobbing me with Aten cultists clamoring for my autograph, by which I mean “hitting me across my noggin with sledgehammers and machetes.”

Here’s a pro-tip: When you come up to groups like this, don’t attack the leader first. That’s a good way to call the entire bunch to your location. Instead, learn from my fatal mistake and swing around to the back, pick off smaller bunches, and work your way to the boss.

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My second wish was for a loyal best friend. The genies summoned a terrible dirt golem that proceeded to give me such bear hugs that my head became sort of a really gross Pez dispenser for my guts.

The search for the secret of the Jinn sent me scurrying all over the City of the Sun God. I dug for fragments of a particular tablet while fending off all sorts of nasty beasties.

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My third wish was to wish for a thousand more wishes, naturally. Yet when I realized that all of these wishes were poisoned against me by sour-faced Jinn who have some sort of eternal grudge against us “monkeys,” I might as well have wished to have a colony of fire ants to settle into my nostrils.

The full tablet completed, I ran back to Ptahmose. He was, as always, helping to save the world by sitting his butt on some luggage and looking glum.

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The tablet spoke of the “Unbound” — the very first Jinn, created from all of the elements, not just one. So he’s not only incredibly powerful but suuuuuuper ticked off and uncontrollable. So much so that other forces trapped him in a pocket dimension so that he wouldn’t escape and cause a global cataclysm.

Hey, we can only suffer that World of Warcraft expansion once in our lives, thank you very much.

The tremors? That’s someone or something trying to breach the Unbound’s prison and set him free. Going to have to put a stop to that, I think.

The Secret World: Going on a genie hunt

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Has it really been almost a month since I last played The Secret World? It’s been crazy, yo. Time to get back in and continue to make my way through a few of the more recent quests (read: “missions released months ago but Syp is a pokey puppy”). Had to actually look up what I was doing before because the story has escaped my age-addled mind.

Okay. Gotcha. Here we go: We’re still investigating the source of all of these supernatural earth tremors, and Ptahmose — ever-helpful chap that he is — says perhaps I should tap the local Jinn for some answers. Since they’re “in touch with the earth” and all.

If I don’t get to rub any lamps and get three wishes from this mission, I am going to be put out.

My Jinn excursion begins with a beatdown of a local tough. I’ll tell you, it’s so nice to go back to the earlier zones with a solid build and quality equipment. Fighting is almost — almost — fun. The Jinn drops a page with a vague inscription that basically tells me to go on a scavenger hunt to piece together four ring pieces and save Middle-earth forever.

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It all leads me to this guy, Mr. Charming Fire-Breather. He actually surprised me, because in the middle of the fight I guess I stood in the wrong place and he one-shotted me for 2100 damage. Oof. Some days I wish The Secret World was like most MMOs in that you end up stacking up an elephant’s worth of hit points instead of flatlining around the 2-5k range.

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Ain’t that a pretty ring? Time to go propose marriage to the only friendly Jinn in town, Amir!

Amir is actually incensed I went through all of the trouble to get him the ring of power, freezing me in place and then fireballing me as punishment. Geez, with friends like this, who needs the Filth? So to appease him, I ditch this hard-earned ring and go find him an Atenist to burn to death.

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This guy ends up being more trouble than he’s worth. You know how we complain about regular escort missions, where you have to follow and protect a suicidal NPC? A variant on that is when you have to escort a prisoner who keeps trying to escape, usually with the help of some outside friends. The trip back to Amir was fraught with peril and two — TWO — instances of when the prisoner would “cheap shot” me and run away. The first time, I could understand. But why was I not given the option to club him unconscious after that and drag him back?

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Amir is only slightly more pleased with the prisoner than the ring. I guess it’s enough, because he then goes into this epic-long whiny rant about how the Jinn have it so hard, being made servants of monkeys and Filth creatures. Sifting through the whine, I learn that the forced Jinn rituals have something to do with the tremors. To crack the case, I’m going to need to learn more about these rituals.

Guest post: Telling the Untold Stories of The Secret World

shhToday’s guest post is brought to you by reader Dots, who says she’s a writer if not a blogger!

Let me just start by saying I love The Secret World. I spend an appalling amount of time there. I have three end-game toons – one from each faction – a cross-faction Cabal, membership in another another Cabal, and a lifetime membership for the game. I play pretty much every day of the week. I love The Secret World for so many reasons – the atmosphere, the people, the game itself, but most of all, the story. Despite being 2+ years old, it’s well known for the quality of the missions available.

So, what do you do when you run out of missions to run (or you’ve run them so many times you can play them in your dreams?) You write your own, of course.

The Secret World is definitely not unique in having a set of mods written by fan-boy and fan-girl players, but it is the first in my experience to allow enough content creation capabilities that a mod like Untold Stories of the Secret World (US) can exist. SuperJenius wrote US in late 2014 to allow players to take those capabilities into their own hands. And for a would-be game content designer like myself immersed in my favorite MMORPG storyline, it is like Halloween and Christmas wrapped up with a bow. It’s also a boon to players who would simply like a chance to experience more stories within the Secret World between DLCs or want to experience US Lore, which features stories, fan art, cinematic panoramas, and more right in the game areas.

The mod is available on Curse.com and currently there are nearly a dozen or so quests available for players to enjoy, and more being written every day. The types of stories and content vary by author, but suffice it to say there are some enjoyable and creative stories to experience.

US allows the author to write a quest using XML, leveraging the game’s cinematics, subtitles, animations, and even character looks. You can add music and content via the in-game browser as well to tell your story and interact with NPCs, rare spawns, and more. As a mission author, you can chose to only allow a set group of friends to play your mission locally by sharing out the XML file, or by sending SuperJenius a request, you can get your mission published right inside the mod. Solon has even written a web-based XML editor especially for mission authors so creating your particular vision of The Secret World couldn’t be easier.

More information is available here. I’ve been having the time of my life writing my TSW Magnum Opus – a gigantic multi-part story mission. And, playing through Funcom’s newest DLC, it was eye opening to realize that I could have created more or less the same thing using the capabilities within US. If you haven’t checked out Untold Stories of the Secret World yet, give it a try today!