The Secret World: Super-sized windmill (Besieged Farmlands #10)

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(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!)

Lycantrophy (side mission)

I think I’ve mentioned already how unimpressed I am at The Secret World’s stock werewolf models as I am impressed at the vampire ones. It just seems like the team could’ve been a little more creative with the doggies, but as they are, they could fit in well with many other MMO versions of the lycanthropes. I guess I’m being picky.

This mission, which comes from a hunting poster on a tunnel wall, is merely a breadcrumb mission to funnel players into the Shadowy Forest. I’m not quite there yet, but I’ll duck in to turn in a few werewolf ears. I collect a LOT of body parts in this game. I think I’m the stuff of nightmares that children fear.

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Revenge Served Hot (action mission)

I’ve always found the windmill in this zone to be one of TSW’s more striking visual landmarks. It’s this giant, oversized, ramshackle windmill that sticks up from the landscape like some demented haunted farm feature. And yet it’s the refuge of two visitors under siege — two friends who are mourning the loss of both a brother and a boyfriend (same person) while fending off werewolf attacks.

But the question is, why were the three of them here in Transylvania in the first place? The girlfriend says that they were here to take in the local sights and be all touristy, but I’m not buying it. There’s more going on here than she knows.

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Yeah, this place screams, “Come inside! We’re friendly and have cake to share!”

Following the backtrail of the dead man, a new and fuller story emerges. He had come into the possession of an artifact and was coming to Romania to sell it… only the werewolves attacked, dragged him into a Filth-infested den, and bad things happened after that. The buyer sent in a team to get it (Purples?), but they all got infected, and we learn an important lesson in Letting Things Go.

The bulk of this mission takes place inside of a werewolf den that’s crawling (walking?) with very, very tough mobs. They con straight-up black to me, and while I could manage one or two at a time, it was a close thing every encounter. In the end, I take out a dozen or so wolves — and the artifact, with Geary said was a good move.

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Herbal Essence (side mission)

Deep inside that horrible werewolf den is a very dead Blajini, who was out looking for some mushrooms. I mean, if you’re going to die for something, mushrooms are as noble as it gets, right? No regrets in your life, little dude?

I finish up his shopping list, getting the ‘shrooms and some lily pads to boot, and then bring back these herbs to Cucuvea, which we’ve yet to meet in this series. But we shall, and hopefully then this shopping list — which already claimed the life of one innocent — will show its purpose.

The Girls Who Cried Wolf (action mission)

This mission has perhaps one of my all-time favorite opening cutscenes of any Secret World mission. As I’m talking to the first girl about how magical the windmill is and how vicious pretty girls in distress can be, the other French girl is wailing away in the background against an onslaught of werewolves.

I mean, it’s downright comical how calm and tranquil the foreground conversation is while she’s serving up a gore-splattered horror fest back there. Chainsaws, decapitations, fountains of blood, etc. At least she’s working out her anger issues about the death of her brother.

At first I thought that this mission was merely another “go here and kill a crapton of werewolves” bit, albeit somewhat easier than the previous one. However, it soon took an unexpected turn, as I encounter a lot of (naturally dead) Orochi in the area. Why didn’t I start a counter back at the beginning of this whole series to count how many dead Orochi are in this game? That would’ve been awesome. Anyway, lots of dead Orochi who apparently removed some ward stones from the windmill — which is, as you might think, much more than a bizarre giant monument.

Turns out that this structure has been built on top of an anima well, made to be some sort of sanctuary by a “Dutchman” for the good fae and nice people of the forest. Since the removal of the wards, the werewolves have started to encroach and an evil spirit lurks in the windmill’s cave, but restoring the wards and shooting evil in the face a few hundred times put a quick stop to that.

Hopefully, this means the French girls are safe for now. Never get much resolution with most NPCs in this game, alas.

TSW: The relaunch heard ’round Agartha

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I’m still reeling a bit from the big news that Funcom is going to “relaunch” The Secret World over the first part of this year (starting in late March). Part of the difficulty of getting my head around this is that the only news we have of this is from Funcom’s financial report and not, say, a lengthy producer’s letter (which definitely NEEDS to be posted in the next day or so at this point). So we have the broad outline but not the specifics or any other details.

From the bullet points listed above, it mainly seems aimed at bringing in new players and those who have been turned off from the game (particularly from its combat system). The business model will switch from buy-to-play to what sounds like free-to-play, which is full of question marks. It’s not as though TSW was that expensive to start with, but ditching the DLC model for straight-up F2P definitely will make it accessible for all. It’s not as if TSW has put out a lot of content over the past year, and so it hasn’t had a lot of new content to sell.

I’m… tentatively excited about all of this, if only that TSW is going to get some nice promotion and is being given some much-needed attention from Funcom. Better combat? I’m on board for that. The business model change worries me, because that sort of thing can be done right or very, very wrong, and if it’s the latter, the game’s reputation will go into the crapper. At least Funcom anticipates that these changes will boost revenue, and that has the potential to ensure TSW’s continued development and existence, which I’m all in favor for.

There’s a lot more that I want to know here, with the biggest being “WHAT ABOUT NEW CONTENT?!?!?!?” Seriously, Funcom, it’s been just about forever since we had new missions, and we’ve been strutting around Tokyo for two years now. It’s time to move on, and I want to hear the devs say that there’s not only going to be new missions but also a faster delivery of mission content.

My imagination is revving up about how combat could be improved, but ditching the builder/finisher system for starters would be terrific. Better animations? Improved sound? Yeah, those too. Oh, and let’s use this opportunity to kill AEGIS and pretend that it was never invented, OK?

Argh. Need more info! But still glad to see TSW getting a vote of confidence from Funcom (unlike Anarchy Online and Age of Conan, which have been effectively back burnered from here on out).

The Secret World: Just the worst quest ever, that’s all (Besieged Farmlands #9)

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(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 Girl Who Kicked the Vampire’s Nest (action mission)

There’s a good reason why, when you hear Secret World players discussing their favorite NPCs and missions, that Transylvania’s Zaha never comes up. It doesn’t help that she’s pretty dull, characterization-wise, but it really doesn’t help that both of her missions are frustrating and deal with the local vampire headquarters. We’ll have to do the less-annoying one first, which is an action mission to assault the camp’s strengths and weaknesses and put the vamps out of business, at least temporarily.

For all of Zaha’s talk of being this kick-butt vampire fighter, she sure does a lot of standing there with binoculars while I’m the one going in and saving the day single-handedly. I’ve heard this mission mentioned as one of the game’s worst, but I’d have to disagree. It’s not particularly hard, just very long and very repetitive. The vamp has a packed mob density, so being able to walk carefully and take out groups quickly is essential. Fortunately, I can do both.

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I have… no idea why the vampires build stuff that looks like it’s set dressing for Silent Hill, but they do and it’s very weird. Like rusty industrial with few handrails.

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I kill wave after wave of mobs, disable trucks, destroy supplies, eliminate blood supplies, and target their leaders. One tent shows me that these vamps have serious firepower at the ready — more than enough to conquer the region, if they have the discipline and know-how to drive these vehicles.

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What is interesting about this mission to me, at least, is how it paints a wordless picture of vampire society and organization. The use of Soviet tech, lots of industrial machines and metal, and brutal practicality is a far cry from the gothic vampires that we often get. There is no romanticizing any of this, no “gee I hope I get bit and gain vampire powers.” It’s vampires as nightmares, which is proper.

On my way out of the leader’s tent, I steal a supposedly important box containing a Blood Sample (side mission) to give to the Vampire Hunter. He thanks me, gives me a hug, and we go to Krispy Kreme to celebrate the beginning of our lifelong friendship.

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Bearing Gifts (side mission)

What do you get the girl who has everything and loves to criticize how non-stealthy you’re being? An ornate dagger that’s been plunged into the back of a warden of the forest, apparently. Here you go, Zaha. Feel free to stab me with it.

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The Cost of Magic (sabotage mission)

Here’s a fun game to play: Find a friend who is a Secret World player, simply say “Cost of Magic” to him or her, and then watch their response. And oh yes, there will be a response. Recoil, hissing, rolled eyes, grunts, PTSD flashbacks, the works. In an MMO where there are a lot of very challenging, very difficult missions, The Cost of Magic is one of the most notoriously hard quests to complete — and most assuredly very frustrating as well. I doubt it’s the hardest the game has to offer, but it’s definitely in the top five. Top three, even.

So what’s the deal with this quest? Well, if you’ve played the game you need no explanation here, and if you haven’t, you might think that we are whining a bit here. Let me reassure you, it’s worthy of its reputation.

Let’s highlight the main reasons why Cost of Magic is so hard and hated:

  1. It’s a sabotage (i.e. sneaking) mission, so combat is useless
  2. It’s very punishing, with ways that keep setting you all the way back to the beginning of each stage
  3. It’s quite long, with four sections that are each their own monumental challenge
  4. It’s far more platform-y than you get in most MMOs or even in most of the rest of this game
  5. It sucks.

Zaha wants me to gather ingredients for a magic ritual, but said ingredients are in the worst places possible. The first stage (my most hated one) involves going up on these illogical walkways in the sky where there are landmines, vampires that use a skill to push you right off the edge, and giant mobs that one- or two-hit you to death. I’ve never been able to master this part properly, relying mostly on luck and a lot of corpse runs to finally get to the ladder reaching the top.

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Proof! But before you get to this point? You will fall and die and fall and die and fall and start to construct voodoo dolls of Funcom developers and die and fall and die. I’ve seen some players say that this part is pretty easy once you get the pattern down right, but I’m not quite there after playing this only two times and I’m not eager to keep practicing after this.

Stage two has you trying to nab a heart from the middle of a poison swamp with patroling ghouls. There’s a back way in, and I was actually able to dart in, get the heart, and port out without a problem. Easiest step yet.

Stage three is… well, you know how there are always those deranged devs that love jumping portions?

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JUMPING STAGE!!!!1!

Yeah so you have to make your way up to the top of this rock by leaping onto floating magical disks that curve around. They’re timed and disappear after a while, plus you can only make these jumps at a full sprint, so you don’t have as much control as you would merely running. I won’t embarrass myself by telling you how many times I fell here.

20.

OK?

I fell 20 times. I do not do well on platforming bits.

The fourth stage is an obstacle course of sorts with land mines, punji pits, grenade trip wires, and invincible one-shotting patrolling golems. That I only died three times on this seems like a minor miracle.

But I did it. Took me about an hour this time around, much faster than last time, but I did it. And now that I’ve faced this horror twice in my life, never again. Do you hear me game? NEVER AGAIN.

The Secret World: Sowing sorrow (Besieged Farmlands #8)

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(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!)

Spy vs. Spy (side mission)

When I was up on top of the observatory in the mission previous, I snagged the side quest there (because I am not going to fight/dodge my way up to that place again if I can help it). I find out that the vamps there are spying on a local Romany girl, who I find is spying on the vampires right back. I do her a solid by disabling the three very close and very obvious security cameras that are being used by the vamps to watch her. You can thank me later by giving me more tasks to do, ma’am.

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Test Run (action mission)

The Vampire Hunter is an interesting character indeed that stands apart from many of the other NPCs in the game. For starters, he’s got no name, at least one given, and his extensive burns point to a rather gruesome backstore. For another, even though he’s not bee-blessed, he still fights in the secret war, mostly against the vamps, although he has to stick to the weaker ones.

He says that all of the vamps in Europe have been called to Transylvania, flocking to the “queen bee” (there are apparently very few vampires in North America), and he’s trying to figure out better ways to fight him. He recruits me to test out some sort of debuffing serum on them, so away I go!

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It’s a run back up the Observatory driveway through progressively difficult vamps, although none are really all that hard (and less so with the serum). I’m quite enjoying the pistols/elemental mix, as I soften them up with the flamethrower and a ground AoE field, do a one-two punch of powerful spells, then casually shoot down the remainders.

I feel a bit bad for the bigger vampires, the ones cursed to carry around those wrecking balls. That’s got to be a literal drag, even with extra muscles courtesy of the Red Hand. So you think that the Vampire Hunter will give me a gold star for my efforts? …nah, probably not.

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Ripples (action mission)

One of my pet peeves of this game is that because your character never talks (which is only occasionally mentioned and never explained), you end up taking a lot of crap and wild accusations from NPCs without being able to defend yourself. The Vampire Hunter especially bugs me, since it’s obvious that he has a huge chip on his shoulder about the immortal Secret Worlders (the “first class royalty”) and is shifting a lot of blame from some unmentioned past incidences onto me. He sends me off to face some of the issues that are plaguing both of our worlds and tells me to take care of it or he’ll hunt me down. Splendid.

I mean, I understand a bit where he’s coming from. He seeks and operates in this secret world without having the full power to really confront it, and he’s angry at all of the collateral damage and wants to take it out on someone. But the thing is? I’m trying to help. That’s all I’m ever trying to do.

Anyway, I truly don’t remember this mission from my previous playthrough of the game, and let me tell you, it was a shocker. If we were to make a list of the top five most gory and graphic quests in the game, this would earn a spot, easy. The nearby farm has been the target for some nasty work by revenants, and I have to go in after the massacre and clean house (both figuratively and literally).

And boy is it a massacre in every way imaginable. Dead bodies strewn about, headless, naked corpses staked up, bodies stuffed in haystacks, even a guy gutted and holding his own intestines. Seriously, some dev at Funcom was working through some dark issues with this mission.

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I honestly admit that I was scared to enter this barn. I mean, would you? Nine of those hell-scarecrows just waiting there, plus a couple of bodies hanging from the rafters for added affect. I inched my way inside to see what would happen, fully anticipating a pile-on ambush. It wasn’t that bad, but I was glad to be done with that place.

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The ravens are everywhere, so you know that revenant fights are incoming. There are three of them: one of plague, one of fire, and one of sorrow. Let me tell you, this game has made me deeply distrust any raven I see in the real world.

I felt bad for all of the farmhands and the family who got killed, but it wasn’t my fault, and it wasn’t the fault of my faction. Like it or not, Mr. Vampire Hunter, I’m doing the best I can, and I can at least make sure these revenants don’t prey on anyone else.

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Scarecrow for Dummies (side mission)

One last thing to do at this hell farm, and that’s to make a pet scarecrow murder machine of my very own! Because there are notes from some anonymous magus nearby, and if that’s not a sign, what is?

Up above you can see the ingredient list for Scarecrow Syp. Hay — that just makes sense. A head — sure, pointless without it. Giant chainsaw — tons of these littered about. And a horse heart. A horse. Heart. Always wondered was was powering these animated scarecrows, and now I know: magic and dead horse hearts. Wish I didn’t have that knowledge.

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Chalk this up to another one of The Secret World’s strange little repeated mission types, in which you assemble/summon/befriend some sort of super-fighter and then only get to have it hang around you until the mission is over. Alas, I would’ve loved to have this guy come with me. He’s so personable! But no, I have to take him over to the windmill and drop him off as a security detail for some reason.

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Along the way I got a fright from seeing this absolutely massive “ursine horror” drag itself across the road. It’s all chewed up and its back legs don’t work and it’s leaking ectoplasm, but it’s still a really terrifying beast. He is not having as good of a day as I am, I think.

The Secret World: Take me to church (Besieged Farmlands #7)

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(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!)

Foul Banquet (action mission)

Outside the village, past the vampire projects, is a little church (I’m going to say Greek Orthodox and feel free to correct me here) that somehow remains untouched by the carnage going on all around it. Inside are two figures, a priest and a vampire, who sit talking and might well be friends or at least fond acquaintances.

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You’re in God’s house, son. Pay some respect.

The priest tells me how the local ghoul population has started to dig up and feast upon the corpses, which (1) yuck and (2) must be stopped because see #1. For some reason, this mission is flagged as “nightmare” level for me, which I haven’t seen at all in this zone so far. Usually that’s linked to how strong your gear is in comparison, so maybe some of my gear is pretty weak. Oh well, I’m doing it anyway.

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The ghouls are pretty tough, I’ll give you that, but I still am able to take them out without dying once. It’s a slog through a combination graveyard and junkyard, interesting for the scenery if not the fights. As I’m killing the ghouls, I stumble upon some old reel-to-reel tapes and start collecting them up.

The more I find, the more excited I get. What could be on them? My curiosity rises to a fever pitch as I start to repair a machine on which to play them. There’s a heart-stopping moment when I’m caught up in the repairs and a boss suddenly attacks me from behind — kudos, TSW — but in the end I’m able to play them and…

…it’s the same disappointing photo of the Soviet supersoldier we saw in that Dr. Varias mission. No new info, nothing. What a letdown!

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In Cold blood (action mission)

The vampire in the church, Hasdatean, is an interesting character, even if he only has one mission. He was a Romanian general from the 1800s that got turned into a vampire yet didn’t join the current marauding horde stampeding all over Transylvania. He considers these vamps savages and brutes without honor, and it’s apparent that he’s come to some sort of truce with the local human populace over this — country before species and all that.

Anyway, he goes on about how hard and painful it is for a vampire to come back from a good old-fashioned staking and suggests that I give it a try. If you’ve ever wanted to play cat-and-mouse with ancient historical vampires, now’s your chance.

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The mission is less an action-packed romp than it is an extended trek all over the map to track down the three vamps in various locations (observatory, siege camp, werewolf camp for some reason) and fight them. Each flies away, leading me to their secret base: a run-down mill.

The final battle with all three had me stumped for a half minute there, because I wasn’t quite paying attention and couldn’t seem to finish them off. Then I remembered, oh yeah, staking. I used the stakes in my bag and poof, down they went. Enjoy the painful reanimation, boys!

The Secret World: Daddy issues (Besieged Farmlands #6)

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(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!)

Red Handed (investigation mission)

Poor Dr. Varias is tasked with being pretty much the sole medical support staff of this besieged village, and to make matters worse, he’s working in a tent outside of a barn. Why they couldn’t bring the injured into that huge tavern/inn across the road, I do not know. Maybe it’s a bravado thing. Why be comfortable when you can lie exposed to the elements, 10 feet away from rampaging ghouls?

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Turns out that Varias is equally interested in the genetic research that his dad did as he is with his current patients. After doing a bit of field medicine, I go off on a scavenger hunt, decoding clues from a scientific nerdy bent (hey, when you have to use the periodic table to decrypt a code, then yes, you’ve crossed some sort of line). In the end, I find the laptop with Varias Senior’s research — he was part of the Soviet Red Hand project that features strongly in this zone. Supersoldiers, why not?

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Red Hands Aren’t Idle Hands and The Briefcase (side missions)

There’s a sort of mini-story arc in this zone about Dr. Varias, so let’s keep chugging with that, shall we? Varias Sr. has left behind a couple of briefcases of information that can be found in the zone (which is an easy task, since they’re both side mission icons on the map). Inside, brief journal entries about the old supersoldier program and Varias’ involvement with them.

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It’s not exactly the creepiest that I’ve read in this game, but it’s interesting enough to press forward. Geary said that Varias was the “Rasputin” of the old Soviet R&D regime, but he disappeared decades ago.

Bringing both of these documents to Varias Jr. is rewarded with a final mission unlock to get to the heart of these daddy issues.

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Sins of the Father (sabotage mission)

Want to know why Dr. Varias came to this tiny little burg? Now we find out. He spills his entire backstory: how his father collaborated with the Soviets after the occupation on the Red Hand project, how the family name became disgraced, and how Varias Jr. eventually came seeking information on what experiments Varias Sr. did. It all leads to the observatory, where documents and a sealed door await. He needs the answers for redemption, and I need the answers for my curiosity.

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Good news everybody! For today’s field trip, we’re going to be going into a long-abandoned (yet still inexplicably occupied) Red Hand bunker. It’s one of those missions where everything is dark and there are things lurking in the dark that can practically one-shot you if you make a misstep. Lots of dainty tip-toeing around hulked-out siegebreakers, flipping switches to turn on reactors, and — my favorite — leaping over laser grids and avoiding security cameras attached to sentry guns.

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I think this mission (and the whole storyline, to be honest) is one of the weaker ones in The Secret World. For all it nails with atmosphere, it doesn’t deliver much at all narratively. The whole secret? Varias was helping the Reds build a super-soldier. That’s not even a revelation — we already know that this sort of thing was going on. But now we know it MORE.

As an aside, I like the chummy group photo of the scientists and Bane behind them there. It’s the world’s weirdest selfie.

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At least it was a refreshing change to stop sneaking around at the end and take out this guy. He looks imposing but he went down like a sack of bananas. I really do wish we had an epilogue with Varias Jr. about all of this, but I’ll assume that knowing his dad created these monstrosities is not going to give him much peace for his future.