The Secret World: Give me a bike to ride and an achievement to steer her by

Some juicy info on the future of The Secret World on the official forums today as we begin our undoubtedly long, long wait for the next adventure zone. If we can’t progress the story, then giving us other objectives is a good second, I suppose. Here are my thoughts on the revelations, all of which will be coming to the game *next week.* I am so stoked.

Penthouse mini-dungeon

I don’t run dungeons as much as I used to, and even if I did, the Orochi boss fight wasn’t a thrill-a-second experience that I’d want to be doing it on an even harder mode. Thanks but pass.

Sprint customization

Up until now, The Secret World has not had mounts (apart from a single snowmobiling mission), but that looks to change soon. Funcom’s actually going to be giving us a choice of staying on foot with added visual flair or using a mount overlay (although all of the speed boosts will remain the same). Then there will be show-off mounts and two more ranks of speed boosts (up to 150%).

I am *all* for getting around these zones more quickly and in style, so this is definitely a big addition to the game. We haven’t heard about any specific vehicles, other than the motorcycle and what is hinted at being a Back to the Future II-style hoverboard (yay hoverboard!), but that’s a good start at least. The devs promise that vehicles will be just as responsive as running (in terms of turning and strafing, I presume), so they really are just an overlay.

Whenever this arrives, Funcom will be selling a $20 pack that comes with a new mission to get a motorcycle from Moose, a nitro boost, and sprint VI. Sure, I’ll pony up for that. I’d love for it to be account-wise like the mission packs, please.

Anyway, this is just terrific stuff.

Achievement vendor

The surprise of the announcement (at least to me), there will be a special vendor who will offer rewards based on the number of achievement points. Up until now, I’ve ignored achievements because apart from a select few tied to specific rewards, they were mostly empty numbers. Now those numbers have a purpose, so I might have to go back through the game and start collecting them (depending on how good these rewards are, of course).

The Secret Adventures: Bad, bad dreams (Blue Mountain #3)

(You can follow my complete playthrough of The Secret World on Bio Break’s projects page! WARNING: Spoilers and stories ahead!)

Homeland Insecurity (action mission)

  • I normally have nothing but good things to say about TSW’s voice acting and direction, but Sarge is a really big misstep for the game. Whoever is doing his voice is putting in so little effort and is so very mismatched with his looks that I am not surprised I forgot him from my first runthrough.
  • Anyway, Sarge wants to go fight the bad guys, Karen wants to hang back and observe, and me? Well, I’m all for kicking butt and chewing bubblegum. And I’m all out of buttgum.
  • I like how I actually meet up with alive (!) soldiers to help them defend a spot against the draug. Man, it’s been a few weeks since I last played TSW, I am *rusty*.
  • I always forget how much I love Ash Forest in Blue Mountain. Extremely well-done for a spooky semi-wooded area. It’s just foggy and ashy enough to be atmospheric.
  • At the second defend point, I’m able to repair and activate a sentry gun to help out with the ghosts. I have just enough time to wonder what kind of computer recognition software can distinguish between people and spirits. Maybe it fires at anyone not touching the ground?
  • With the recent nerf to monster damage/health, I get the added benefit of feeling humiliated when I die. More so now. No, I didn’t die. Why do you ask?
  • I sincerely dislike anytime a mission makes me use binoculars/telescope. That mechanic is always so finnicky.
  • The mission ends with some good old-fashioned revenge — killing a draug witch who is resurrecting delta team members to throw at me.

They died so that others may live (side mission)

  • Some of the loose ammo and weapons near the remains of delta team is best appropriated to the Wakinabi, since at least they seem to have a fighting chance out here. The new port system makes this quest a cinch to finish.

Last will and testament (side mission)

  • TSW is all about sunshine, positive feelings, and happy endings. Case in point, this bloody note on a truck informing me that a guy’s family has been turned into zombies and he needs someone to kill them all! Truly, I was born for this task.
  • It’s not too bad, although the five-member family are all stronger-than-normal zombies, especially if you get three of them in one pull as I did.

we1Dreamcatcher (action mission)

  • Man, it has not been a good session for gripping NPC performances. Over at the Wabanaki trailer park, Old Joseph starts babbling on and on about dreamcatchers, bad dreams caused by the quarry, ancient traditions, and… it’s just a monologue loop that lost me after the first minute or so. Grampa, just point me at what needs to die. Apparently that’s all I’m good for.
  • Fortunately, this quest is a godsend for players who have been begging developers to make more missions where they are tasked with frantically clicking on fast-whirling targets in the vain hope of making them attackable targets. Oh, the sheer bliss of doing this. Reminds me why I got up this morning.
  • Anyway, I kill a lot of bad dreams after flagging them down with a dreamcatcher. And YES, I know how that sounds, but this is Solomon Island and I’ve already well passed the point of my weirdness threshold.
  • Bringing the dreamcatcher back to Old Joseph, I’m treated to one of TSW’s rare mid-mission cutscenes. The geezer says that the filth is also infesting the spirit world and/or the past, because why not, and I should undergo a ritual to jump over there and ferret that junk out.
  • Now I’m off to do the MMO Scavenger Hunt. You know the drill: Run around a dangerous area where everything wants to kill you while you try to find ridiculous items like feathers and menus and tea cozys. And you must do so while trying very hard not to realize that you could just walk away from all of this and no one would be the wiser.
  • I love how I have this giant, hulking dog at my side who refuses to lift so much as a paw to help me out in these life-or-death struggles. “You got this,” his posture seems to say. “Let me know if they drop any bones.”
  • Another cutscene. Old Joseph tells me to inhale the smoke from the fire of all of the weird stuff I gathered. TSW is a public service nightmare, let me tell you.
  • The smoke helps me to see a portal to the afterlife, which is definitely where I want to be vacationing after this trip to Maine. Inside is a rather long slog through a filth-infested area (which is itself on top of a rather long mission — 8 tiers in all!). The goal is to track down a Beast of Corruption and kill it. Three times.
  • That’s as much of a hoot as you might expect. Hope that killing it brought some dream relief to the dead people.

Hide-and-Seek (side mission)

  • The Wabinaki are holding out in their village-slash-tourist center, but they’re running low on supplies. Up to me to raid the now-infested casino for more.
  • The name of this mission is quite apt. The casino is a lair area, which means that every mob there can practically one-shot me. So I had to duck and weave between mobs, staying out of aggro range, all while trying to find the supplies. Didn’t help that some mobs path around — and that it’s deadly silent except for their footsteps.

we2Off the Menu (action mission)

  • So this here’s Frank and Joe, drunk, cantakerous brothers who talk a big talk… and then go back to sitting around while I clean up the real threat.
  • They’re agitated about the wendigos, which they say used to be part of their tribe until they started eating skin (and other organs) and changed somehow.
  • I’m not to kill all of the wendigos, just four specific ones, each with their own lair and method of calling out. For one of them, I have to cut myself and use my blood as bait. This game is so charming.

we3Scardey-cat (side mission)

  • Near the last wendigo is a sign that one of the Franklin Mansion cats got lost in the bog. If it wasn’t part of my quest to do all of the missions, I’d skip this one — I do not care for cats, especially dumb ones that got themselves trapped in the midst of a filth pool.
  • Once I find the cat, I am given three minutes to run back to the mansion to deliver it. No sweat.

we4Dawning of an Endless Night (story mission)

  • Unfortunately, getting near the mansion triggers the next tier of the story mission, which I was hoping to hold off on doing until the rest of the zone was clear. Oh well, it’s just a cutscene.
  • I meet Eleanor Franklin, a tough broad who is quite matter-of-fact about living in this haunted house with ghosts and the restless spirit of her dead husband Ed.
  • Eleanor lays out the tragic backstory of the area (although not all of the specifics). About Ed and the incident at the mine with the Indians that resulted in a death. About his subsequent descent into madness. About his writings and suicide. She could never find those writings, though…
  • I didn’t catch Eleanor’s reference to the Dreaming Ones in my previous run. It’s kind of spooky in retrospect.

The Secret World: Up the Dark Tower

f1After a break of several days to catch my breath, my climb up the Orochi tower in The Secret World resumed last night. I teamed up with Massively OP’s MJ and one of our readers to see if we couldn’t get all the way to the end of it and see the grand finale.

Obviously, there will be big spoilers here. Not all of the spoilers, but some.

So next up on our randomized floor visits were a couple of Faust areas. After going through a batch of these, I have to admit that the concept of selecting a handful of a pool of floors for each tower crawl is kind of brilliant. Each floor is interesting in and of itself, with its own theme and environmental story, and I definitely want to go back soon and see even more of them.

This particular floor was really odd. No mobs to fight, just rooms full of office workers. And, yeah, the occasionally dead person with veins bulging out. We couldn’t find an explanation, but there were three of these corpses among the throngs of workers.

f2I *loved* this media floor. Lots of TV sets — which were great for screenshot opportunities — as well as silly traps that would trigger a laugh track when you fell for them.

The boss on this floor was “The Host” who was apparently making his own demented reality TV show starring everyone else on the floor.

f3Our journey up the tower hit a major bug when I got locked out of an elevator and the other two got locked in. Fortunately, a dev watching our livestream came in to port our team to safety. I highly recommend having a developer along for TSW missions.

f4One interesting reveal as we got nearer to the penthouse is that the Orochi have their own anima-infused troops who could respawn indefinitely if you didn’t trap them in their anima pads. I like how they got nicknames like player characters do, which is something we haven’t seen in any other mob in the game.

The guy — Samael? — taunting us over this said that this had to do with all of the dead Orochi troops everywhere, but that didn’t really explain anything, and I think it was just covering for incompetance anyway.

f5Up in the penthouse, the weirdness dial jacked all the way up to 11. The rabbit killer made a return — and ended up being three of them, not just one. Neat… but that didn’t explain anything about them. Clones? Maybe I missed something. I’m going to have to do a bit of research later on to see what the players pieced together.

f6The penthouse was the staging ground for two things: Lilith’s blathering monologues and a heck of a lot of fights. It would have been a lot more frustrating without a group.

I’m kind of torn on the use of Lilith as the big exposition machine here. For starters, her lip synching and facial gestures were really off and quite distracting. And while she sort of explained a lot of the overarching plot, it was by no means a full reveal. Guess she and the Morninglight had a falling out, but I’m not going to cry over that.

Still, some answers were better than none, and I’m really glad we’ll be moving forward. One detail I liked is that she said that Flappy was the Dreaming One’s idea of a bird, which explains why filth creations are all messed up. Those guys don’t have a set of kids picture books.

I got a whole crapton of pictures from this final confrontation, including the above shot (which I also made into a Bio Break header).

f7The ending got a lot more interesting when John showed up to distract Lilith long enough for the angelic calvary to arrive. Angels. Sure. Why not, this is TSW after all.

Lilith is quickly outmatched and is bound by the angel’s power. Having lost a couple of legs to her, I do not feel a lot of sympathy.

f8As part of the season finale, one of the hyped features of Issue 11 is that our choices that we’ve made would pay off, somehow. Now, TSW is not SWTOR — we’ve only had three points in the game where we made a decision, all of which had to do with the Dreaming Ones. With them or against them. I went with once and against twice.

Apparently what happens at the end here is that we’re given an ultimate ability — some giant AOE attack that also gives us neat glowing angel wings — but that ability is different based on your choices. All those who railed against the Dreaming Ones get golden wings, those like me who were mixed got blue, and those who went with them got black wings.

All in all, I am highly impressed with the Orochi Tower and can’t wait to return for more. It feels like a satisfying ending of sorts, but it’s also whetted my appetite for the next stage of our journey in this game.

The Secret World: End Game

You know that special, tingling feeling you get in the base of your spine when you get really excited about something that’s about to happen? Something that you’ve been looking forward to for a long time, that’s been a while in the making?

I got that feeling when I saw this:

or1The Orochi Tower, unlocked. Answers. Resolution. A storyline two-and-a-half years unfolding.

End game.

Feels really weird to be going in here alone after having done much of the rest of the story with a regular group, but we’ve all scattered to the wind (for now), so I’m one of the last to see make it across this particular finish line.

or2With the entity known as John more or less on my side (since I’m Lilith’s enemy, and the enemy of my enemy is my bizarre ally), he unlocks the tower to not just me but every faction in Tokyo still standing. The demons, Yakuza, good samurai, and lil’ ol’ me run in and face off against Orochi’s myriad defense systems.

The opening tunnel mission comes off as a final exam for several of the story missions in Kaidan. There’s a demon portal, security bot fights, even moonwalking across pressure plates. It’s not particularly difficult or exciting, but all of that changes when I finally make it into the lobby.

or3Inbeda, Daimon, and Gozen are all posturing and waving swords around and somesuch. Strangely enough, it’s the loony Daimon who becomes the temporary peacemaker, urging for calm while the real assault on Orochi begins. They all stand down, but it turns out that I’m the one who’s going to be doing the heavy lifting.

In a just world, after all I’ve gone through, I’d be given an express pass to the penthouse and all of the answers. But this is The Secret World, a game that hates us and delights in being cruel. So I’m going to have to claw my way up to the top, floor by floor.

or4Heh. I actually can’t wait to see.

or5The first step is to get a beta key, which means plowing through a floor crawling with Orochi security bots. And, oddly enough, random scientists milling around and not acting like a shotgun-wielding madwoman shooting up the halls is anything to be deeply concerned about.

So… lots of fights. You want to hear something else that’s strange? All of the robots have demonic shields, not cybernetic. Why? What’s that about?

pr6I guess this is the corporate weirdness that Daimon was hinting at. Dead guy and pleasure unit prototype. My first thought is, who would want all of that pinchy metal near anyone’s soft bits?

or7Between this room and the Love Hotel, I feel that TSW is having a good laugh at some of the notorious kinky elements of Japanese culture.

Anyway, got the beta key. Felt like a good place to take a short nap and resume my assault on the morrow.

 

The Secret Adventures: Sasquatches are nature’s quitters (Blue Mountain #2)

(You can follow my complete playthrough of The Secret World on Bio Break’s projects page! WARNING: Spoilers and stories ahead!)

cartreeWar of the Totems (action mission)

  • The lack of both dialogue and general helpfulness of the Sasquatch chief puts him in my short list of most unlikable NPC quest givers in the game… and yet I have two missions to go. Be strong, Syp. Eat that frog. Get ‘er done.
  • Another reason I have developed a strong aversion to bigfoot friendship is that their quests busy me with YET MORE AK’ABS. Every time I fight these annoying insects in low murky light, I envision several scenarios in which the developers brainstormed to make the most annoying enemy in all of the MMOs.
  • And yet ANOTHER reason why this mission is dumb is that there’s absolutely no context given before, during, or after the mission. It’s seriously click on the mission accept, shown the way to ak’abs, and told to start killing. I gather from the title that the sasquatches are offended that there are ak’ab totems, but… no context. No explanation. SO DUMB.
  • It’s a rather boring mission full of insect killing, with the sole highlight of me being moderately amused when I saw a car — with its headlights on — wrapped up in a tree cocoon. What are the logistics behind that? Did the car take a weird offramp somewhere? Are the ak’abs pledging a frat? Do the ak’abs expect to eat the car?

Know Thy Enemy (side mission)

  • There’s an abandoned CDC tablet by the ak’abs, and because a third of this game could be summarized as “cleaning up other people’s messes,” I start cleaning up the CDC’s mess. Which means more killing ak’abs. It’s a rather nondescript mission.
  • Random thought: What astounds me when I think about it is not how insane a variety of bad guy groups there are on this island, but that they aren’t at each other’s throats. Maybe they all got together for a secret pact meeting beforehand.
  • I would have like to have seen the minutes from that meeting.

hangingScavengers (action mission)

  • Now the sasquatches want weapons and armor, but not the kind loading down my backpack. No, the Goonies kind fashioned from random scraps. Pity, I would have enjoyed seeing a sasquatch running around with a kevlar vest and a machine gun.
  • So… if they want to be warriors so much, why aren’t they out fighting the mobs for the gear? This ain’t no training wheels army, son!
  • I’m given this drum to summon a scavenger sasquatch that retrieves the metal needed, which is all well and good until we get to the factory. Then the sasquatch runs away in fear and refuses to answer the drum any more. This is because — say it with me, class — sasquatches are nature’s quitters.
  • The abandoned factory where this mission takes place is another lightly used locale that’s a bit claustrophobic and even creepy. One of the buildings has several hanged corpses dangling over a rather nasty revenant.
  • I made a mistake of rounding a corner too fast and plowed into about 25 mobs in this tiny little space. Zombies 1, Syp 0.
  • While I’m dead, I notice that there’s a volcano-like plume of smoke coming out of the ground somewhere near the mine. Huh, never noticed that before.
  • At least the mission allows me to take out my pent-up frustration on an infected sasquatch. I guess that’s the only treatment this game even dares to suggest for the filth: elimination with extreme prejudice.

scoutThe Scout (side mission)

  • Near the exit for the Scavenger mission (the layout of which does feel like an actual theme park ride) is an undead army scout. To the devs’ credit, they give this zombie a unique look, which is that extra attention to detail that TSW often contributes.
  • As I said before, this is another “clean up someone else’s mess” — in this case, finishing up a recon patrol. Run to an area, kill three guys, rinse and repeat.
  • What’s nice here is that the last step of the mission asks me to report back to Sarge to complete, which is great because that’s where I wanted to go anywhere. It’s the circle of filth!

The Secret Adventures: Singing the blues mountains (Blue Mountain #1)

(You can follow my complete playthrough of The Secret World on Bio Break’s projects page! WARNING: Spoilers and stories ahead!)

Crash (side mission)

  • Before embarking on Blue Mountain’s quests, I did a couple of character upgrades. I purchased the next level of sprint boost (yay, 75% faster!) and ran ahead to buy QL6 weapons from the CoV dealer.
  • Blue Mountain used to be a very divisive zone that represented a massive increase in difficulty. Even with the recent changes that help to smooth the difficulty curve, I’m sure that BM will remain the least-liked Solomon Island zone. It might just be that fatigue from being on this gloomy island sets in right about here too. I think that’s unfortunate, as there are several great spots and missions, particularly those dealing with Franklin Mansion.
  • Anyway, one of the first things you see when you come into the area is a crashed bus and a dead bus driver. If you juke around the bus you’ll see dead corpses all over the bridge. Many a player found themselves wandering down that bridge only to find all of the corpses rise up and dogpile on top of them. It’s a really cool feature.
  • Near the bus is a crashed truck, and the mission asks me to follow the blood trail to see what happened to the driver. This never, ever ends well.
  • The smart person will go down and around the bridge instead of through the zombies, but no one ever accused me of being smart!
  • Actually, the driver is — gasp — alive and recouperating at the small military camp nearby. A tip of my hat to the unexpected ending here.

Hunted (side mission)

  • Also near the bus are some arrows made out of rocks and paper plates. Following them does not net me survivors, but a bunch of too-clever-for-their-own-good Wendigos that are trapping people. Blam blam, you’re dead. Next!

sasqEnemy of My Enemy (action mission)

  • The Homeland Security coordinator, Karen, is a fast-talking, high-ego leader. I don’t really remember her from my previous run-through, but she’s amusing me here. Anyway, she basically says “stay out of our way” while the Sarge behind her is making mention of “dirty apes” that are helping the cause somehow. Hm.
  • Naturally, this means that there are — why not — sasquatches on the island and they’re actually good guys. They might not be big on the whole talking department, but they’re smart and have a crude level of civilization. The chief points me at a cave full of Ak’abs, and I sigh and head in because I obviously hate my life.
  • Inside the dark, hard-to-see cave are not only Ak’abs, but captive sasquatches. Ah, guess the chief is too lazy and/or drunk to go on a rescue mission himself, so why not send the petite fleshling that you outweigh by a scale of four?
  • And then the prisoners? After rescuing them, they thank me by sticking by my side and helping me lay down the smack on the… nah, I’m just kidding. They run away because sasquatches are nature’s quitters.  QUITTERS.

The Benevolent Conspiracies (action mission)

  • Sarge and Karen at the military camp have to different approaches to the struggle — Sarge is all about waging a conventional war against select targets, while Karen heavily implies that she’s prepared to nuke Solomon Island to stop the invasion. But instead of listening to her, I overhear that Sarge wants us to take out some ak’ab queens. Oh joy. Please. Let me come.
  • Small note: The bus crash survivor in the camp looks totally different — outfit and model — than the woman I saw when I ran the mission before.  Weird.
  • I head over to the abandoned asylum (of COURSE this island has an abandoned asylum. That’s the last square I needed for my horror movie cliche bingo card!) and pick up the gear from the now-deceased special ops team. At least they took out some ak’abs with them.
  • I’ve always thought that Blue Mountain’s abandoned asylum was one of the biggest wastes of the game. Not only is it, y’know, an abandoned asylum that’s ripe for potential stories and yet never utilized past this one mission, the mission that it does get is another annoying bug hunt.
  • Kill kill kill. Ak’abs, why you hate me so?

Room 502 (side mission)

  • At the top of the asylumn is a park bench with a sheet of burning — yet unburnt-up — paper talking about a subject with pyrokinetic abilities from 1904.
  • At Kraken’s Point, I beat up a hyper ghost to get yet another page, this one talking about cutting off the boy’s leg to see if it would burn apart from him (it did not). This is cheery stuff.
  • This fairly involved side mission reveals past experiments between Oliver Smith and various “talented” boys. In a really neat twist, the final stage has me joining up with the ghost I’ve been fighting (which was the boy) against the ghost of the psychiatrist.
  • Kirsten Geary lets me know that while Smith was definitely sadistic, he got results… and the Illuminati most definitely backed him. My team, everyone!