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!

The Secret Adventures: Thought and memory (Savage Coast #9)

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

thoughtStrangers from a strange land (investigation mission)

  • Wow, I’ve been doing so many action missions that I almost forgot what investigation missions were like!
  • Red delivers an important piece of backstory. A thousand years ago, invaders from the south (the Mayans) came to the island and tried to awaken the evil that lived under the mountain. The Wabanaki fought back and almost lost if it wasn’t for Vikings coming across the sea with Excalibur. Or somesuch. Anyway, they left and took the sword with them, but apparently they also imbued powerful magic in the stones of the island.
  • Red’s map indicates that there are several of these important stones — and that they’re all in Blue Mountain. That’s right, this Savage Coast mission is actually a Blue Mountain one in disguise. Time to zone hop!
  • Make no mistake, it’s a lot of running around a zone that, for most people, will be completely new to them when they get this quest. At each rune, two ravens come down and say cryptic things, starting off with “I’m thought, he’s memory. You can have that one for free.”
  • Well, they also tell the story of the thousand-year-old war between the Vikings and the worshippers of the dark sun. I guess these are Viking spirits in bird form? TSW needs a study guide.
  • After a while, the runestones come with riddles that must be solved (or else trigger a nasty little fight). Fun riddles, Viking-themed, nothing difficult.
  • The ravens make mention of Loki being among the good guys, although he tricked them and then headed south to find out more. Geary says that he’s been spotted on the island multiple times since, although the sword is still AFK. This will be important for an upcoming test, class.
  • I never noticed before that when you’re in the Ash Forest, your screen picks up flecks of ash around the edges. Neat detail.
  • So the first time through the game, the whole storyline of the island being a battleground for this war 1,000 years prior kind of escaped me in a flood of other details.

beauDawning of an Endless Night (story mission, tiers 8-11)

  • With all of Savage Coast done (yipee!), all that’s left here is to blitz through the main storyline. Zip back to the beginning and go to a mysterious house I’ve been avoiding thus far.
  • In the basement is a door that opens on a tunnel with Beaumont standing at the other end. He magically causes a cave-in and summons a filth guardian to fight me. And I’m not doing too bad against it, either, when John Wolf appears, kills it, and patronizes me for trying to fight it. Seriously dude? I HAD IT. Go back to your front porch and leave the real work to the bee people.
  • Wolf says that Beaumont is in search of an ancient artifact that’s controlling the fog, the artifact that will control the island. He also suggests I go talk to the folks over at the Academy. Fine with me!
  • Annabel, Carter, and Montag admit that the Academy got ahold of this artifact — a weapon — but had no idea how dangerous it was. It got stolen right out from under their noses, and only a top-secret Illuminati vault under the school might have more ideas about how that happened.
  • The vault is apparently under one of the other school buildings, so I head on in and retrieve the same eight symbols that I keep finding all over the place. There’s a cleverly hidden trap door, too, that rewards the patient observer.
  • Who changes the light bulbs for these top secret underground vaults that not even the headmaster knows about?
  • Beaumont shows up again, this time wielding Excalibur. He’s more than a little annoyed with me, but knows that the bees will resurrect me, so he casts a spell to stall me instead.
  • Beau, dude, you have the absolute worst taste in clothing. I am not so much afraid of you as I am curious what Salvation Army mumu store you’ve been shopping at.
  • The vault is a suitably freaky place to be trapped — it’s filled with dessicated caretakers who love to make bizarre sounds and won’t attack unless attacked (giving me a rare opportunity for up-close screenshots). I love that TSW knows that freaking you out means sometimes not attacking but making you feel that any moment hell might rain down on you.
  • Down among the stacks I find a book that looks like the Necronomicon from Evil Dead that talks about Beamont visiting the island in 1881 looking for something in the Blue Mountain mine.
  • I escape through a hidden doorway and Kirsten Geary berates me for messing up so bad. It’s not my fault! Blame the cutscene! WHY IS EVERYONE YELLING AT ME THIS IS MY FIRST WEEK ON THE JOB.

rogueRogue Agent (action mission)

  • The Labyrinth calls me up and tells me to come home to NYC for my promotion. Considering that this is tier 1 of 6, I’m guessing it’s going to be more work and less celebration (unless tier 4 is “get punch” and tier 5 is “get jiggy with it”).
  • No sooner do I get to NYC does the Labyrinth send me to Seoul to track down a Templar agent who’s stolen something from the Dragons. Y’know, you could have just told me that over the phone earlier.
  • In Seoul, the rogue agent spots me and a merry footchase ensues deep into Agartha. It’s pretty bland and very linear, with the very occasional fight against other factions’ agents.
  • But the interesting thing is that it finally dumps me out into a completely new area that we only see for this one mission: Shambala in the Himalayan Mountains. The Labyrinth tells me that it’s a place of great and mysterious power, but the Council of Venice kicked the factions out of it for fighting over it so much.
  • I get into a scrap with three enemies at once, but by now I’m so dang good that I don’t even break a sweat. Then it’s off to hide the artifact from everyone but the Illuminati’s computer AI, who says that not even my superiors can be trusted with it.
  • And that’s it for Savage Coast! Time to hit up Blue Mountain and upgrade my gear!

The Secret Adventures: Souvenir shopping (Savage Coast #8)

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

How to get ahead in Kingsmouth (side mission)

  • So the name of this mission has me wondering: In the Savage Coast, are we still in Kingsmouth (the town)? Is the entire island also considered Kingsmouth’s territory? Because there is a bit of geographical separation as well as the fact that the first zone is called Kingsmouth.
  • Anyway, heads on stakes. Gotta put an end to whoever’s doing that.
  • The tracks I follow to the culprit (a headhunter wendigo) are pretty faint and a good example of how TSW puts quest elements out in the open that nobody notices unless they’re on that particular mission.

Army of the Deep (side mission)

  • An insanely easy mission, this one has you standing in one place while a few waves of draug come by. Intercept, kill, then on to killing the big bossy. Easy peasy lemon squeezy.

Through the looking-glass (side mission)

  • Well there’s a body on a spit in the middle of the river, and as usual, it’s my job to go check it out. I think I will qualify for the world’s most experienced coroner before I finish this game.
  • The body is booby-trapped, as “The Collector” comes to… er, collect me? He and his minions are those sackcloth guys. Nothing tough, even after stepping on a mine or two.

Red’s Tackle (side mission)

  • Another breadcrumb quest, this one tasks me with returning a tacklebox to Red. This is perfect, as I was heading there anyway!

Ami Legend (action mission)

  • I am a sucker for a good quest name pun.
  • I’ve always liked Red’s Bait & Tackle. It’s a warm, friendly place that’s right in the middle of a whole lot of trouble, yet Red doesn’t look too concerned about that. Maybe it’s the protection of the Council of Venice guys right outside, I dunno. Red and his family are the main introduction to the Wabanaki tribe, who will feature much more prominently in the next zone.
  • No, Red’s Bait & Tackle does not sell dynamite. According to the sign.
  • Anyway, Red talks about how bad things are coming for Ami (the “bait”) — and that I am the finishing line. I love how my character looks behind her when he says this: who me?
  • I head out and start killing Ak’abs. Let me tell you, if you like dealing with Ak’abs — and who doesn’t? They’re so delightful — this is the mission for you. Lots and lots of Ak’abs.
  • Eventually I end up at a dark, dank cave, where Ami joins me on a stroll through its twisted innards. I actually like having her along, since she provides some companionship and exposition (mostly flavor text, but still). Also, she fights a bit!
  • Ami says that the Ak’ab slept “for generations” below the ground, but like cicadas, they’re back.
  • I’m really not a fan of this mission. It goes on way, way too long for one thing — the cave is very long, and you have to fight your way all the way into it, guard Ami while she destroys the nest, then fight your way right back out. Plus, all of this fighting is in cramped quarters against the always-dashing Ak’abs. So glad to have finished it.

Another bug hunt (side mission)

  • In the cave that we went into in Ami Legend, there’s a dead soldier lying there. It’s up to me to collect his and his buddies’ dog tags, for my scrapbook, I assume! I like being able to do a couple of missions at the same time.
  • It’s a little disturbing to me that all of these four soldiers are in their underwear. What… is the story with that?

The Light that Blinds (side mission)

  • Why Red and company have been able to survive while surrounded by Ak’abs and draug is given some explanation in a series of wards (now in dreamcatcher form!) placed around the store.
  • I assemble my own natural ward with the help of some feathers and sinew from a deep one. The final result not only completes the mission, but gives me a one-shot item that disables Ak’abs. Perfect now that I’m done fighting them!

Crustacean curse (side mission)

  • Hey, you know what would be a great activity to do while wandering around in a draug-infested bay? Check lobster traps! Boy this game is wonky some times.

The player, not the piece (action mission)

  • Red is playing chess with Ami’s daughter Kyra and having a conversation with her about winning. It’s laden with meta references to playing TSW as a whole — with mentions of the endgame, not fighting every battle, being the player instead of the piece. At least, I want to think that it’s meta.
  • With the double AP event going on, I’m gaining enough to buy my way into the second-tier skills. I’m trying to shore up my current build (which is already terrific). I swap out Thor’s Hammer for Electrical Manifestation (due to the latter’s purge ability. Unfortunately, it’s also on a long timer, keeping it from being in every fight). I also add Critical Control to jack up my crit rating even further when I’m attacking hindered targets. Ideally I want to work up to Ice Manifestation, since its hinder works well into several of my synergies.
  • Your enjoyment of this mission will largely be dependent on whether or not you like staking up corpses. If you do, you’re in for a treat and I really do not want you to be my friend. Essentially, I work my way up the draug chain of command by burning and staking the bodies of the underlings, then killing and staking the little boss that comes after me for doing that, then the same with a bigger boss, then a much bigger boss, and then C’thulu himself. It’s messy, weird work.

sq4Breakfast of Champignons (action mission)

  • Ami indicates that the Wabanaki are at a disadvantage in this supernatural takeover because of some division that happened several years back. Still, there might be a chance to harness the island’s strength and have it fight back.
  • To do this, of course, I’m going to have to run around and collect mushrooms from all over the zone. Why? I am not sure why. Sometimes — many times — The Secret World doesn’t really explain what’s going on in a mission. It trusts that you’re smart enough to figure it out from context and clues, or it’s just jerking you around. That’s the first rule of The Secret World: It loves to jerk you around.
  • The second rule is: This game hates you. It’s OK to hate it back sometimes.
  • So I do my dutiful chores and pick mushrooms, which is made joyful by the fact that all of the mushrooms poison me, damage me, or summon every Ak’ab within the tri-state area to pay me a house call. I actually die to a mushroom, believe it or not.
  • I did bump into one sackclocth creature that had a rather chilling name: His Daughter’s Keepers. Brrrrr…
  • Mushrooms acquired, I mix up a recipe, eat it, and get high on shrooms. This somehow warns me that there’s a large pod about to give birth and that I need to destroy it within five minutes. See rule number one of The Secret World (above). I will say that the color palette change is actually kind of cool for this part.