The Secret World: Nursery tales (Besieged Farmlands #3)

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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 Sound of Children (action mission)

Welcome to the Nursery. This mission does NOT. Mess. Around. There are a handful of missions in this game that put you through the ringer, and this is definitely one of them. We ready? No? Well, it’s too late now.

“This place has bad memories,” the Council woman says as we step inside the secret Orochi faculty. Let me just say that if you ever had any sympathy for all of the dead Orochi all over the place, the Nursery will harden your heart against them for good.

Initially, the Nursery is a quiet but undeniably creepy place. Little playrooms full of Matron Bots, an unnerving lullaby, and plenty of scribbled “Hello I walk into empty” graffiti. Then we come to this:

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Which has to be one of the most-photographed rooms in all of The Secret World. I’ve seen it plenty of other places to know that it had an impact on players. It’s hokey, sure, but also quite unsettling. A dismembered Orochi employee is surrounded by dolls and scribbles. It’s all clearly staged — but by who? I was never clear on this. The popular theory is that one of the experiments resulted in an incorporeal entity (angry spirit?) who went nuts both here and in Hatchet Falls. Could be the same spirit we actually saw in the Orochi cave prior to Hatchet Falls.

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The lead doctor’s computer delivers some of the backstory of this place. As we’ve seen before, bright guy sells his soul to do unspeakable experiments on children, then starts messing with the Filth, then gets infected and it all goes downhill. What else did you think would happen?

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And just when you thought it was bad enough, these doors open and you step into Hell(o). It’s an Orochi slaughterhouse… and not everything back here is dead. There’s a side mission, Where the Little Ones Go, to go into each of these side rooms that feature a different experiment type. It’s pretty easy and you’re probably going to do it anyway, so easy AP.

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On the plus side of this place, I use an anima infuser to turn my flamethrower into a new auxiliary weapon. Flame on, baby!

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Lots of use of shadow and light here. Also some things moving behind the lights. It’s only marginally less scary because Council girl is there with you.

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I never, ever want to know what is in this room.

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I kill the director and read the suicide note that his assistant left behind. Yes, plenty of kids have been abducted and experimented upon, but the big prize is Emma… and she’s here somewhere. We find a secret room holding her, and Council woman betrays me (curse your sudden but inevitable betrayal!). Turns out that she’s a Big Bad, Lilith, and she’s absolutely batpoop crazy.

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This little girl-thing shuffles down into the room, and Lilith snaps its neck. Looks like a Japanese girl.

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For a lovely denouement, Lilith straps me to a table and then uses a laser to cut off my legs (!). Seriously. It’s really surreal how my character doesn’t scream, but TSW is nothing if not committed to keeping my character completely mute. Lilith picks up Emma and leaves with her, humming the lullaby.

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I Walk Into Empty (investigation mission)

Tell me if you’ve ever been here: Legs lasered off by a primeval madwoman and thrust into the dreamscape of a very troubled little girl while gods older then the universe plot your downfall. That’s like, every Tuesday in The Secret World.

As my legs regenerate (I assume), I take a holiday in Emma’s mind. Don’t know how I’m doing that, since Lilith took her away, but here we are. There are lots of flashes of Emma’s past, including scientists (?) in a cabin abusing her, Orochi conducting some sort of large-scale experiment with her blasting holes in reality, and a glimpse of the Virgula Divina project. That means “divining rod,” by the way.

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It’s not a terribly difficult investigation mission, all things considered. There’s some trial-and-error maneuvering through rooms in an Orochi facility and a hippity-hoppity jumping part, but the real tough angle of this quest is if you’re going for the teddy bear, which requires getting extra magnetic letters scattered all over the place.

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A burning house: What I can only assume is Emma’s home, or the birthplace of the creature we know as Emma. There are no survivors except for her. A fireman asks her name:

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He mis-hears, thinks she said “Emma.” But no, this child is actually the living and breathing embodiment of anima itself — the power that flows through all us bee people. Not much else is explained about her backstory here, if she was a real kid at some point, what created the anima form of Emma, what burned down the house (her?), and why half the game’s factions are out to get her and use her.

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The super-long stretchy hallway. An old classic but still effective for dream weirdness. The music gets downright gorgeous here.

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When I jump out of the dream, I’m able (somehow?) to port into Agartha right behind Lilith and Emma. The girl shakes off her captor, who has a mild matronly freakout. Emma knocks her (and me) away, at which point the Filth starts crawling toward her, chanting her name.

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She’s small. She’s powerful. And she knows so very little about what’s going on. Emma blasts the Filth back, but not entirely — the Filth has invaded Agartha for the first time. I can see this from the main hub as I look across the way. Emma appears and talks about needing the lullaby to play all the time, to keep the Dreaming Ones asleep. Otherwise it’s bye-bye for reality as we know it.

Happy ending: I get a 10.1 necklace as a reward for this whole chain, and I’m able to head back to Besieged Farmlands for normal questing!

The Secret World: Hello I walk into empty (Besieged Farmlands #3)

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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!)

When the Hatchet Falls (sabotage mission)

Yes, I know at this point that I am far off of the reservation to call this a Besieged Farmlands post, but since it’s all part of one very long mission chain, I am loathe to break it up, too. Plus, this story is downright gripping — missing kids, horrible experiments, and Orochi up to the neck.

My search for two local missing Romany children leads to a farm, a ghoul fort, and finally, to a waterfall.

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Welcome to Hatchet Falls. It’s a Soviet-era bunker that’s been repurposed by the Orochi as a holding cell… and maybe something more. Let me tell you, this place downright terrified me the first time I went into it. I think my imagination was fully revved up and expecting a lot more scares than what I got. It’s downright creepy, to be sure, but there’s nothing that’s going to bite you in there. Well, one very old and ticked-off vampire, but I don’t get to him in this playthrough.

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Just inside the door I am ambushed in a somewhat friendly way by a Council agent. This came from a TSW Issue that was all about James Bond homages, so there are lots of not-so-subtle references to movies like From Russia With Love. She’s straight out of that. For the most part, this lady leaves me alone.

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Instead of finding two scared kids here, I discover a dark tomb full of dead Orochi, bloody smears on the wall, and red emergency lights. Bringing back up the power is one of the first things I have to do.

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The sabotage elements aren’t that tricky at all this time around. I get an EMP device to disable power junctions, and there’s one part that requires me to move fast between rooms to open up a large set of doors.

But machine guns and laser grids aren’t really my biggest concerns here. The kids have been taken, but they’ve left behind some truly disturbing relics, like dolls and drawings. Also, the phrase “Hello, I walk into empty” everywhere.

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It might be hard to make out, but this wall drawing depicts the Orochi coming into the kids’ house and killing their parents in order to kidnap the little targets. As if I didn’t have a reason to look down on this organization any more.

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What happened to those kids? Did they escape and use their Carrie powers on these Orochi, or did something else aid them? There’s so much pain and fear here.

I access some files that point to a place called The Nursery (oh yes, we’re going there soon…) and the crazy Russian lady comes in and starts humming the “Hello, I walk into empty” song. Missed that the first time around too. She won’t tell me her name, but she does say that she had kids a long time ago.

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You Only Die Twice (action mission)

We’re deep into what Kristen Geary calls “Count Chocula’s armpit,” and it’s not going to get any nicer before things come to a head. The only man with high enough clearance to get me into the Nursery is an Orochi operative — Dragon — who is a little unhinged. I’m guessing that by how much he seems to have bonded with a teddy bear. Said bear was the former property of a little girl we haven’t yet met in the game but the game assumes I have, which is three kinds of confusing (the third kind is “cheese”).

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Dude. What you are doing here? Is not normal.

After a nerve-wracking run through a bunch of hulked out, juiced-up super vampires, I trigger an alert at the Nursery long-distance. This sets into motion an Orochi caravan loaded with enough C4 to put a crater in the moon. A big one. Ever wanted to see what happens to Orochi hardware before it’s a mangled mess? This mission is for you.

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In one of the best moments of the game, I’m put behind the controls of a “White Witch” combat snowmobile (just go with it). Then begins a not-too-difficult sprint across the zone to intercept the caravan several times and lay down mines to stop them. Enemy snowmobiles come out of the woodwork, and I have fun firing rockets, machine guns, and laying down mines to wrap up the Red Snow side mission.

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Your James Bond action moment comes on a high bridge, where three not-yet-dead-but-soon-will-be Orochi are firing on me, and mysterious lady shows up to hand me a parachute right before the bridge goes up in flames. As I parachute down, I’m distracted by the thought that while I had mere seconds to intercept the convoy, my character apparently had plenty of time to change outfits from head to toe.

I land right at the base of the dam — and at the doorstep of the Nursery. No turning back; it’s time to go in.

The Secret World: Won’t somebody think of the children? (Besieged Farmlands #2)

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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!)

Who Horrifies the Horrors? (action mission, also did The Howling side mission in conjunction)

Carmen tells me that the town would be so lucky as to “only” have a vampire threat. Apparently this is ground zero for all sorts of horrible beasts of legend — and the combined weight of them is threatening to overrun the town. Naturally, there are werewolves, because you can’t ever have vampires these days without werewolves somewhere.

Strangely enough, the werewolves attacking the town aren’t doing so deliberately; it’s more like they’re genuinely scared. Fleeing. Freaked the heck out. I start following their backtrail to investigate what’s going on.

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On the way out of town I see one defender who’s obviously cracked under the strain. If you talk to… her? I guess? she talks of voices in her head and giving the town over. She’s done. I’m not.

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If you’ve been hoping for some tooth-and-nail werewolf fights in TSW, here you go. Lots and lots in Transylvania, and this mission alone accounts for about 30% of the total werewolf encounters in this game. It’s a very long trip through half of the map and sixteen werewolf breeds, which I suppose is helpful in getting to know the area. And also catching fleas.

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Oh hey, the scarecrow guys are back! I’m actually really glad — they’re some of my favorite mob designs in the game. And they fit in quite well in this murky, rainy farmland.

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At the end of a trail of footprints and severed werewolf limbs, I find the lurking horror that’s been beating down the puppies. It’s some giant mutated monstrosity of a person, and while I’m winning the fight, eventually it kicks me down to the ground…

…and then a mysterious stranger shows up and flamethrowers the mutant to death. It’s so shocking to get an ending cutscene in The Secret World that I gawped, even though I had done this before.

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When the beast dies, it de-mutates back into a dead little boy. Ugh. Seriously? Seriously Funcom? You don’t pull any punches, do you?

Actually, I figure that’s why the flamethrower guy shows up, to do the actual killing so that the player can sleep tonight with a somewhat clean conscience. At least we didn’t kill a kid while playing a video game today. Small favors, I think, and my character shakes her head sadly. What changed this kid? Who did this to him?

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A Trail of Breadcrumbs (action mission)

I had totally forgotten that these quests were part of one long, ongoing chain in which the completion of one mission would instantly start the next. So I guess we’re going along for the ride!

The man who saved me is simply known as the Vampire Hunter — a burned, sour gentleman who lacks anima powers or allegiance but is also very capable. He says that all of this reeks of Orochi involvement, and the corpse nearby (of COURSE there’s an Orochi corpse nearby) seems to back that up.

I start following the titular trail of breadcrumbs, bouncing from Orochi outpost to outpost in the area. Most are just vans or tents, but all have two things in common: They were sites of gruesome experiments on the local creatures and they all backfired on the experimenters.

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The biggest complex, a hidden cave in the Shadowy Forest, even has a malevolent spirit of a lost child’s cry. And lots of blood, of course. And a recording of something called Virgula Divina and a place called the nursery. And a photo of a kid. Long story short, the Orochi are kidnapping kids with mental abilities and performing experiments on them — probably what caused the kid from the previous mission to hulk out.

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I find the girl in the photo — she’s like 40 feet away, which tells you of Orochi’s famed tracking abilities — and she and her brother mention another pair of siblings that have gone missing in the forest.

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Amid the depressing tale of missing and dead children, I get enough AP to finish my Fixer deck and snag me some Illuminati workout clothes. Go me!

The Secret World: Vampire country (Besieged Farmlands #1)

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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!)

Mainframe (story mission)

I’m out of Egypt — but not out of hot water, not yet. In trouble for not delivering on Illuminati ends, I’m given one chance to prove my worth to the organization. And that chance goes through the foul-mouthed Senator Cicero, who is apparently from Michigan. As a current resident, I don’t recall any Cicero, but who knows? Probably Wikipedia.

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Anyway, Cicero sends me on a mission to infiltrate the local Orochi office and pull out some data about the Promethius Initiative. If this sounds like one long sabotage mission… well, yup, it’s one long sabotage mission. No combat skills, but plenty of patrolling drones and guards to keep me company.

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I wish that something exciting would have happened in this mission or that I would have learned something exciting, but it really is pretty dull from start to end (especially for someone who’s seen the Orochi’s much more superior Tokyo complex).

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The good news is that my mission is a success and pleases the Illuminati. Geary says that I’m an “instigator,” which is what the company needs. As the data points to a large Orochi operation in Transylvania, that’s where I’m headed as well. Probably too late to save most of them, but thems the breaks for wearing the white-and-black.

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Transylvania: An interlude

I don’t ever think I noticed that the portal to Agartha in Besieged Farmlands was a Soviet bunker. I’m always noticing details that are new to me here.

So I want to take a moment to talk about this transition between Egypt and Transylvania. I know a lot of people way back when were renowned for saying what a relief it was to leave Blue Mountain and get to Egypt — into the sun, out of the near-eternal first zone. For me, the real relief came when I finally left City of the Sun God. A second time playing through that area hasn’t improved my impressions of it and I am just as happy as I was a few years back when I finally set foot in eastern Europe.

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I really love the Transylvania zones in The Secret World. They’re beautiful in a way that Solomon Island wasn’t, more mythical and “old world” than Egypt (even though Egypt boasts a longer heritage), and frankly, more interesting to me all around. It’s a return to civilization of sorts, with lots of cool NPCs, breathtaking sights, and a welcome creepy take on vampires. It’s like a dark fairy tale, through and through, and that draws me in.

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As with the previous areas of the game, Besieged Farmlands is cut off from the rest of the world (heck, it’s in its name). The Secret World does have to bend over backwards to keep coming up with reasons why these areas are isolated from the rest of civilization in a modern era, and that’s kind of hard to do. I think Transylvania cheats a bit by going back to Solomon Island’s well, what with blocking off tunnels with crashed vehicles fleeing an apparent apocalypse of sorts.

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A Ghoulish Feast (action mission)

On hand to greet me right out of Agartha is Carmen and her horse, whom I’m going to call Jeeves. Carmen’s a member of the Draculesti, the local good guys group that’s been fighting evil since time immemorial. Mostly fighting vampires, but other evil too. She’s a one-eyed, no-nonsense lady who informs me that the local village, Harbabureşti, has come under a relentless siege by the local ghoul population. The outskirts have been taken over and it’s starting to look grim. Thank goodness I wore my leotards today, because I’m going to get a workout!

Props to The Secret World for not merely recycling the ghoul models from Solomon Island but coming up with new ones, by the way.

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These ghouls attack with sign posts! That cracks me up.

Anyway, what I respect about this quest is that it isn’t a mindless action romp against waves of ghouls. Instead, it shows you (not tells you) how the village has been holding up with some special defenses. First in line are the trees themselves, which apparently hold some sort of power. Then there are the Greenwardens themselves, these hulking satyrs that are patrolling the streets. Finally, the locals and Draculesti are doing their part as well. And you see this all as you go through the mission to the final holdout against waves of ghouls, throwing you in league with your new villager buddies.

The Secret World: A rat in a maze (City of the Sun God #11)

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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!)

In the Dusty Dark (investigation mission)

Boy am I torn on this mission. On one hand, this is like the Indiana Jones-eque quest to end all such quests in MMOs. Crawling around the guts of an enormous evil pyramid has so much potential, and to their credit, the devs did not skimp. It is a HUGE mission that will take upwards of an hour, even if you know what you’re doing (and much more if you do not). On the other hand, it’s just wayyyy too long and has several points of frustration that still had me screaming the second time through.

At least the atmosphere is spot-on. The mission aids in this by deactivating your headlamp (you get a sarcastic “out of batteries” debuff for the duration) and forcing you to use a torch. I had quibbles with how easy it is to drop the torch if you accidentally dodge, but it’s still kind of neat. And I even like some of the rooms and little story beats, like running through hallways of poison darts, escaping a boulder (the second such event in this game), and finding ways to electrocute otherwise-invincible mummies.

Oh yeah, there are invincible mummies. Take that, Indiana Jones.

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Oh wait, you can’t. You’ve fallen into a huge pit and cracked your skull. Way to go, Jones.

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This is kind of an ongoing tradition of mine: Getting killed while trying to grab the perfect screenshot. The streaks of blood on the floor is a nice touch, although I do wonder who resets the boulder. The mummies?

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There are five (I think) big rooms requiring you to solve a physical puzzle to proceed. Any one of these rooms would be a quest in and of itself, but nope, do five in a row. I still loathe the jumping room.

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But the real capper is the labyrinth at the end. By this point you simply feel like you deserve to see the completion of the quest, but nope, here’s the longest and toughest part. Lots of puzzles to do while evading a string of InvinciMummies.

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Once again I found myself cursing under my breath as I kited a monster while trying to figure out the final puzzle. It was such strong deja vu, especially when I vowed — AGAIN — to never, ever go through this quest in the future.

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After such a long time making one’s way through ancient ruins, it’s so jarring for the final door to open up into a modern-looking room, complete with force fields and a genie in a bottle.

Cue a final fight against the Unbound and I don’t even want to write about it any more. I am DONE. I am DONE with City of the Sun God. I am DONE with this quest. Transylvania, prepare for my arrival!

The Secret World: Eating a frog (City of the Sun God #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!)

The Angry Earth (investigation mission)

There’s this quote attributed to Mark Twain that goes, “Eat a live frog every morning, and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.” An organizational practice based off of that sentiment encourages people to “eat their frogs” first and foremost every day — that is, to pick the largest and most onerous task of the day and make it the first thing you do. With that out of the way, the day doesn’t seem so bad and you don’t have this terrible thing hanging over your head and causing you to procrastinate.

Well, it’s time to eat my Egyptian frog in The Secret World, because I’ve been putting off Issue 14 for this character long enough. While it’s a newer story arc, I’ve not been keen to do it for this series because (1) I just did it a couple of months ago and (2) it was really long and kind of annoying. But it’s standing between me and finishing up City of the Sun God, so frog… into my mouth you go.

The whole story starts in Agartha, as tremors ripple out and make the Conductor quite uneasy (and boy do I want to find out what his story is one of these days). It’s nothing major… yet… but any tremor in Agartha means terrible things elsewhere.

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I head into the Scorched Desert for some more investigation (this being that sort of mission and all). Seismographs help me pinpoint a few places where the tremors are originating, although it seems like everything really points to the Ankh. An audio tape there from a Dr. Klein talks about how the world has been reset several times in various ages, with artifacts continuing on and causing more and more ripples to the pattern. Is there an endgame? Can we ever get it right? And is Earth right now nearing the end of the fourth age?

As I go down into the Ankh, I pick up The Voice of Klein (side mission), which tasks me to pick up more of his audio recordings in the solo dungeon. Klein talks about running an experiment on himself by injecting micro-doses of the Filth. Raise your hands if you think this is a good idea. Yeah. I thought so. This is how super-villains are made, man.

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See? You’re a DOCTOR. Did you think that injecting yourself with world-destroying goo was going to have a happy ending? You look like Professor Quasimodo now and you’re not getting invited to any more dinner parties.

Klein wants to know what I know about the tremors (spoiler: not much) and he’s willing to torture me to get the info. Said torture is actually torture for the player, not the character, as he puts me into a ring of death and makes me dodge various filth attacks and activate my special mysterious device at certain precise moments to avoid being insta-killed. Even though I’ve done this before, I had to play through it about four times until I stopped failing so bad at it. Klein vanishes afterward like a Scooby-Doo cliffhanger and I am encouraged to go check out the City of the Sun God for more answers.

An Interlude of Sand (investigation mission)

One interesting thing about Issue 14 is these little interlude missions, which aren’t so much missions as they are cutscenes. In the City of the Sun God, the statues are growing increasingly worried about the tremors, which apparently aren’t coming from Aten at all. Someone is digging — with explosives — and that could spell disaster.

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Digging Too Deep (action mission)

Yeah! This is more like it — action! Fighting! No more thinking!

Maybe the cultists have something to do with the tremors, but before I can investigate, a courier knocks me down and I give chase. It’s all good, as he leads me to a cultist summer camp and I spend many delightful afternoons basket weaving and canoeing. That is to say, I lay waste to them with the judgment meted out by my twin pistols.

It turns out that, yes, the cultists are kind of being jerks here, what with throwing dynamite at Filth inside of caves and seeing what happens. An overseer’s journal talks about how a voice has whispered up from one of the cracks, beckoning him.

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An Interlude of Bedtime Stories (investigation mission)

As I’m risking life and limb, Ptahmose is reading Aladdin to his children. Gee, where’s the game where I get to read stories while others go fight on my behalf? He mentions that there’s some element of truth to the story, namely in the Jinn and signet ring. He suggests I cozy up with the ever-delightful Amir, who will probably want a present before agreeing to help.

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Appeasing the Flames (action mission)

Amir, as we’ve well established in this series, is a raging jerk of a jinn — and what’s worse, he’s pretty much the only one who will talk to you or lend you a shred of aid. And even after I spend a half-hour combing the desert to assemble Solomon’s ring, he has a hissy-fit and demands that I get him a fat Atenist instead.

I don’t know what’s worse about this mission: The fight with the fire-creature that can swat you down quick if you’re not paying attention, or the escort quest from hell in which your escortee escapes several times and keeps trying to shotgun you in the back. Even at the end of all of that, all Amir does is rant and rave and suggest I go check out some jinn rituals. Fine. You are OFF my Christmas card list, pal.

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Fight For Your Rites (action mission)

I suppose one of the reasons that I am not so fond of the Issue 14 chain here is that so little about it is interesting or enjoyable. Instead, it’s a dull slog through one of the dullest zones in the world, sending you out again and again on scavenger hunts and ending in a bizarrely long investigation dungeon topped by a pretty tough boss fight. Funcom’s generally done better and better with the newer issues, but man, this one was a misstep. I think there are devs over there trying to salvage this zone and prove that it’s not a complete loss. Sunk-cost fallacy and all that.

Anyway, the tedium continues as Amir sends me off to recover four tablet pieces that have the answers I seek. I don’t care what kind of build you’re going for in TSW, you are going to want to incorporate a heavy element of AoE into it. Packs abound here, even two- and three-packs of mini-bosses, and I get a lot of use out of my four AoE skills as I go along.

The culmination of this mission leads back to Ptahmose and An Interlude of Mythos, where he shares some insight into what the Jinn call “The Unbound One.” Apparently it was the first and mightiest of all Jinn who had a wee too much freedom and power and starting causing havoc. King Solomon tricked him into a pocket dimension, which is now tucked under the Black Pyramid. The shape of this structure really lends itself to all of the layers of bad things within, I think you’d agree.

The Secret World: Stolen Song (City of the Sun God #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!)

Blood and Fire (action mission)

We are starting to make good headway on this zone, although there’s still the massive Black Pyramid expedition to go (and boy do I *not* want to do that again). Hemitneter, the loudest dissenting voice among the statues, is sick of waiting around and wants to enlist my help in taking the fight to the Atenists. Glad to help, lady!

I love the fact that she wants to actually fight instead of play by some arcane rules and stand around and talk. She gives me an amulet that allows Hemineter to manifest herself as an black-clad desert knight with one of the scariest swords ever. And while she has a top land speed that is topped by all turtle species, when she reaches the bad guys, they are sliced and diced in seconds.

We storm into yet another cult encampment (it’s a cult jamboree around these here parts) and make short work of all of the bad guys. Whether or not she’s breaking the rules, I feel good about the decision considering that we pull out several villagers that are being tortured. If nothing else, we have that going for us when we face judgment in the end.

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The mission ends with a neat capstone, as you get to destroy an entire temple/statue with a few well-placed blows. I love that it comes crashing down right in front of you. All missions should feel this satisfying.

Postcard Collector (side mission)

This is another one of those incredibly short missions that feels like a missed opportunity. You’re sent out to collect a postcard for Mouty’s collection, but that’s all it is: one. And it takes about ten seconds to get before you’re done. Not that I always want games to add on a lot of pointless backtracking, but this concept seems perfect for sending the player across the world to the different major locales to find postcards — Korea, New England, London, and so on. But no, just one and done.

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Halls of Lost Records (sabotage mission)

Nefertari, the statue who can talk to animals, is pretty concerned that the enemy is breaking into the Hall of Lost Records to steal secrets. Secrets? Bet I’ll never find out what those are, but it’s all-important to keep them safe. The animals are wussing out on the help, so I’ll be substituting in as an animal for the time being.

Pleasantly, for a sabotage mission this was pretty straight-forward and lacked any frustration. I had to go back into the Hall of Lost Records, which I kind of assumed to be a lot darker in years past (particularly from screenshots that I saw, which showed it to be pitch black). Now I don’t even think I needed a head lamp. There’s some optional additional challenge to avoid being spotted by and fighting the infected Orochi personnel about, but I’m not one for side achievements.

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The entirety of this mission concerned itself with going into separate chambers and reactivating the defensive barriers. As expected, it went from simple to… slightly less simple. As expected, no secrets were shared, but at least I can sleep tonight knowing that I put the keys to these rooms back in the hands of the ancient priest who imprisoned his children in statues for a few thousand years. He’s the trustworthy type.

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Black Sun, Red Sand (story mission)

I’m going to do something a little different for this playthrough, which is to tackle the main zone story before I’m fully finished with all of the other missions. Why not? No harm kicking a little Pharoah tushie (spoiler!).

So after I met with each of the statues and learned more about them, one of them — Hemineter — is missing the song through which she exerts her power. I like Hemy, to be honest, so I’m willing to get it back. Who stole it? The Orochi, of course. They’re like all of the bad guys from Indiana Jones movies who keep trying to steal the Ark instead of allowing it to go into a museum.

At the Orochi camp, Samael tells me that it’s up to me to fix the gigantic mess that some betrayal and order-not-following that the people here did — including messing with the statue. Aten, the dark god, rises, and I don’t have much time.

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After recovering Hemy’s song, all of the statues and I activate our song — and Stairway to Heaven erupts from my speakers. Cue end credits, best game ever.

Nah, actually the song cracks open the front door to the Black Pyramid. Put on our game face, it’s time to go unseat an ancient god.

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Surprise! Mr. Beardy isn’t nearly as dead as we assumed, what with kicking him off a train and all. That’s kind of a bummer… can’t recall if I ever saw him again in this game after this mission. And unfortunately, I don’t get a chance to kill him again.

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However, I do get to take a shot at the Egyptian heavyweight contender, the Black Pharoah. His is not a terribly hard fight, as long as you stay out of his big blast radius. At three points in the fight, you enter anima form and get to summon a statue for a particular buff or debuff.

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At the end, all of the statues have their Captain Planet moment and take out the Black Pharoah, so I guess they finally pull their weight around here.

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On the down side, a couple of Orochi jerks come up behind me and knock me out before I can take the Black Pharoah’s trident. What’s so important about that weapon, I wonder? Is it like Excalibur?

Also, I call foul on this move. We know without a shadow of a doubt that all Orochi within a hundred miles have been messily murdered. Suddenly having a band of them pop up, alive, just to take me out with a cheap move feels… deus ex machina for the enemy side.

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I have another one of my Dreaming Prison side stories. It’s nothing too exciting, just the evil voices yammering on about how weak I am and how they are totally tubular. There are a handful of confusing setpieces with various people and memories that are actually just quotes from various poems and philosophers.

At the end, I’m given another choice to join the dreamers or stand up to them. It’s not much of a choice, really. I give Flappy a backhanded slap and then wake out of the dream to an angry call from Geary. Her office. Now.

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Apparently everyone in the Illuminati is incredibly mad that I messed things up, although I think I did a good job preventing the apocalypse. I suppose it’s that Orochi took me out at the end and got the weapon and answers after all.

Geary says that the higher-ups want me terminated — and this is not an idle threat, as I turn around and there’s this scary lady pointing a gun at my chest. However, Geary sort of goes to bat for me and gives me enough breathing room to prove myself to the Illuminati. I got to say, this organization is a little too hard on its people.

Anyway, we’ll put a bookmark in this overarching story to get back to the City of the Sun God and wrap up the final bits and pieces. Big bits. Big pieces.