The Secret World: Three terrible wishes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Secret World: Going on a genie hunt

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Guest post: Telling the Untold Stories of The Secret World

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Secret World: Digging too deep

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With yet another investigation mission out this week, I feel the quests stacking up in my to-do list for Yeti while I want to get back to doing the Secret Adventures series. One thing at a time, one step at a time. Can’t let the enormity of the task shy me away from it.

We start today’s adventures by returning to the City of the Sun God after finding out some about the tremors coming from the Ankh. The statues are rightly freaking out about all of it, lost without a plan, and feeling downright vulnerable. The little boy statue falls over but I catch it in time. Syp, professional statue grabber, at your service.

When clever investigation comes to naught, what’s left is the back alley way of being a detective: beating up enough bad guys until you punch your way to the truth. Or, in this case, cultists. It’s certainly been a while since I’ve played Yeti this much, and my shotgun maneuvering is somewhat rusty. I looked over my build and found it really solid, although I did swap in a passive healing talent for some extra survival. I also found a new hammer closer I’ve never used before that uses my strike synergy, and ever since using it fights have gone a lot more smoothly.

The fights aren’t particularly hard here, not for a QL10.X character, but there are a couple of mobs that give particular trouble. There are cultists who throw grenades that take off a surprising chunk of health, and even worse, there are suicide bombers that fling themselves at you. I had to stay nimble during these encounters, no mean feat when my computer keeps stuttering this bad.

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Turns out that the cultists are doing some dynamite excavation in the nearby caves — which also happen to be populated by ghouls. It was heartening to see these mobs tear at each other for once.

I got a small laugh out of the fact that I was asked to “dispose” of some explosives here, something that I had to do by shooting a shotgun repeatedly into crates of dynamite. That… is probably not a smart idea. And even after all of that, there are no answers. The cultists were digging for something, which probably has to do with the tremors, but we still don’t know what.

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Back to one of the statue-children, where the dad is reading the story of Aladdin to them. I had forgotten that Issue 14 was Arabian Nights-themed (most TSW issues have a theme to them, which is yet another creative aspect of this game).

The game does a neat interlude here, where the story is told against wonderfully illustrated screens. I was told that Aladdin’s ring has some basis in reality, as one of the rings of Solomon that could command jinn and allow the user to talk to animals. Better than Frodo’s ring, I say!

The Secret World: Chrome and Earthquakes

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Oh Ricky Pagan, has there ever been an MMO NPC like you? Ever?

So I’m trying to make good on my vow to catch up on The Secret World missions with my main. I took Yeti back to Tokyo for one last mission with good ol’ Ricky. He must have been a terribly fun character to write for, all Elvis and biker gang and deeply scarred psyche.

Ricky said that he and Orochi have always been on the opposite sides of everything, but now that they have a common enemy in the Filth, he’s willing to bury the hatchet and give them a hand. And by that, he means for me to be that hand. Why risk that pompadour if you could send some naive adventurer in your stead?

He did lend me his chrome hog for the mission, which turned out to be quite the merry ride through the streets of Tokyo. I wouldn’t have thought that Filth people could ride bikes, but apparently they can, so the mission was fun of fighting, fleeing, and turbo-boosted awesomeness.

I am pretty rusty on this character, so I did die a couple of times on one of the foot sections. I also kicked myself for missing the achievement — making a long jump off a ramp — that would’ve gotten me Ricky’s bike. Guess I can always go back and do it again.

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Then it was off to Argartha and Egypt to tuck in on the mission series from the latest issue. The stationmaster (what’s HIS story, anyway?) showed up to point out how earthquakes rippling out of Egypt were starting to affect the world tree. Would I be a dear an investigate? Sure sure.

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The investigation mission that followed was… adequate, I suppose. Nothing especially novel or tricky, just paying attention to some notes as to where to drop these earthquake locator/recorder things.

I’ll say this: One reason that I dislike City of the Sun God over the Scorched Desert is that at least the latter has clear air. CotSG has this gritty, sepia-like filter that detracts from the visuals greatly.

The mission led me into the Ankh, although this was a non-dungeon version of the instance. Nothing too hard, just tracking down a mad doctor who was injecting himself with the Filth (Pro-Tip: Do not inject yourself with the Filth).

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What was of most interest to me was the doctor’s notes, in which he talked about the ages of the world. He suggested that instead of the ages following a chronological pattern, they were more or less “resets” that took the world back to a beginning state, although certain artifacts remained and caused different changes for that age. Huh.

The Secret Adventures: Soul stripping (City of the Sun God #2)

(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!)

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Wreckage (side mission)

Well, look at that: It’s yet another downed Orochi jet. The forces of evil have powerful anti-aircraft defenses around here somewhere, I reckon.

The “stealth” jet in question isn’t too far away, and Geary says later that the Illuminati didn’t bring it down. I don’t much care if they did, although I suspect the truth is that the Orochi pilot was probably some poor sap with about three days of training and a hasty promotion. The wreckage is being combed over by ghouls, so… ghoul killing is on the menu.

Waters of the Nile (side mission)

This incredibly short quest has you filling up a waterskin from a gaia spring, then taking it about 40 steps away to one of the statue temples. I’m still trying to comb through all of the narrative intricacies there.

famA Familiar Problem (side mission)

Be honest with me here: If you saw the above description, wouldn’t you take that as “this torso looks familiar to me! And also, how does one recognize bloody torsos anyway?”?

But this is TSW being cheeky with its wordplay. It’s not a familiar torso, it’s a familiar torso. As in, the torso of a familiar, one of those magical golem things that were running rampant all over Innsmouth Academy. So what are they doing here? Are the cultists importing or creating their own?

So I did a dumb thing here. The torso was right by this giant statue of Aten. In The Secret World, interactive objects are outlined with a yellow wire mesh, whereas destructible objects have a thin run outline. Well, the statue had a thin red outline, so I thought, why not fire at it?

Pro-Tip: Do not shoot at the Statue of Aten unless you want no less than 50 cultists to pour out of the woodwork screaming for your bloody death.

I don’t really know what I find out here, other than that, yes, there are familiars and they’re being controlled by these rods in the ground. Also, there are a few dead Orochi (of course), a case, and a “Puppet Master” that I have to kill. The mission sends me back to tell Ptahmose, but I’m never given any sort of closure. Or a familiar of my own. Pity.

unknownUnknown Soldier (side mission)

Speaking of dead Orochi, here’s a mission that literally starts by clicking on one. The omniscient mission giver says that I should get worked up about whoever killed this poor soul, but seriously, if I was to investigate every murdered Orochi, I’d be playing this game until the universe’s heat death.

Oh well. Hi-ho, hi-ho, following blood trails I go!

Actually, I’m being serious — you do have to follow the blood trail on this one. It attempts to lead me through every Atenist mob in the area, but I’m too smart for that, I keep a wide berth while spotting the next one.

The splatters lead me into a cave, which is Dead Orochi Central. Lots of ’em, plus Atenist Envenomers. I do not like the sound of that. After killing 10 of those guys, I’m directed to assassinate the giant spider lurking in the back of the cave. Guess the cultists were feeding the Orochi to it? I’m not really rooting for either side here.

She Who Likes Silence (side mission)

At the back of the spider cave is a sword, which I guess the arachnid was keeping for a rainy day. Could’ve come in handy while fighting me, I suppose. That would be something novel in an MMO: A sword-wielding spider!

Seeing as how the spider is dead, I claim the sword for myself and then — for some reason — decide to reforge it. I do this on a rock ledge hanging over a lava field, trying to ignore that shouty part of my brain that’s asking how my character knows how to forge ANYthing, nevermind without any tools on hand. Anima. Anima is the answer for anything you can’t explain in TSW.

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The Sad Song (action mission)

Enough dallying about with side missions — we need to cut our teeth on some of the meat of this zone! On to Moutemouia, the first of the statue-children that I’ll be running errands for. She talks about her sad song, the one that has been keeping the darkness at bay but has been faltering. How she would just let go if it wasn’t for her little brother. Guess I can help with some of the pressure of her position.

This is easier said than done. The main distress is coming from the nearby catacombs, where shrieking souls are pouring out faster than a Chinese factory making iPhones. I definitely have never run this quest before, because I would’ve remembered such an atmospheric setting. Really neat to explore the catacombs, but stopping to fight every two steps takes some of the fun out of it.

Long story short, the Atenists are torturing villagers and then stripping their souls out of them to make this spectral army. Can’t have that, so eat some hot Anima death, ya cultists.

The Secret Adventures: To hell and back (City of the Sun God #1)

(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!)

A City Born in Blood (action mission)

And so we come to the second of Egypt’s two zones, City of the Sun God. It’s also, by far, my least favorite adventure zone in the game. Oh, it’s not terrible, but it’s not that likable either. It does the job of communicating Aten as a terrible threat and making the desert sun fairly ominous, but this comes at the expense of personality and relatability. City of the Sun God isn’t a place of civilization (as is all of the other zones we visit), nor is it that populated with living NPCs. It’s certainly an interesting idea to have a squadron of talking — but completely motionless — statues as the good guys, but boy was that an uphill storytelling challenge. And one I think that Funcom didn’t quite master.

Anyway, I have a long, long way to go to get through this area, especially with all of the new issue content, so let’s start our adventures by listning to Ptahmose give himself a pity party about failing his “children” (the aforementioned statues) and how the forces of Aten are on the rise and the good guys may be outnumbered this time. At least I’m here to do something about it instead of sitting on a suitcase. Man, I miss the Dannys and Wolfs and Boones of the old zones. At least they got into it with evil.

To be fair, I’ve never given this zone a full chance. During my first playthrough, I ended up skipping most of CotSG in favor of hitting Transylvania early (I looped back long after, but didn’t complete all of the missions even then). So some of this stuff will be new to me and I’ll be experiencing it start to end this time around.

OK, so here’s a straight-forward “kill all ghouls” mission. There’s some rescuing Marya along the way, who then lead me to some shackled golems. This is where the mission gets fun: You can free the golems and follow them as they pound the crud out of more ghouls. And you can free as maaaaaany golems as you want. I think I had about seven stampeding around by the mission’s end, pwning ghouls left and right. I really wanted to keep them.

As a post-script, Geary made me laugh when she put down Ptahmose’s “sob story.” Always good for a cynical jab, that woman.

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Funeral Pyre (side mission)

At the end of the previous mission, there’s a jinn ember that can be used to, y’know, light corpses on fire. Most normal people would look at that, go “huh,” and then walk away. Not my girl. No, she’s all for corpse-lighting, because The Secret World is nothing if not anxious to get you playing with corpses every chance you get. Finish this game and there’s nothing that mortician school could throw at you that you’re not already desensitized to.

Big pile o’ corpses at the end, too! Thank you, Funcom, for making me wish that my character carried around an industrial-sized drum of hand sanitizer for such moments.

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Dust Devils (action mission)

Stick-in-the-mud Ptahmose is super grumpy about all of the people traipsing through this supposedly secret valley. Now there are demons pouring in from the hell dimension at the invitation of the Black Pharoah. Where are the Ghostbusters when you need them?

Without a proton pack t my disposal, I’m going to have to do things the old-fashioned way — bullets and harsh glares. I use a not-so-secret passage to head over to where all of the hell breaches are happening. It’s not pretty, but in this landscape it isn’t really hurting anything either.

After kicking a few crawling demons to the ground, I leap through a rift and into the hell dimension itself. It’s like a world that’s been baked a little too long and has never seen anything green grow. Also, there’s a Jamba Juice.

I go up to all of the Jinn that are creating these stable rifts, tap them politely on their shoulders, and then ask them to stop. Well, I don’t so much do that as I run in guns blazing, tossing down elemental turrets left and right, but the attitude is much the same. With that done, I create a portal home and escape in the nick of time before I have to spend an eternity playing hide-and-seek with demonic bullies.

Also, how epic is this shot:

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Love it.

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Bug Hunt (side mission)

Again, I’m glad that these locusts aren’t the Ak’ab, but they also aren’t that thrilling as a foe or enemy faction. Big bugs — this is so common in MMOs that one wonders what’s in all of the water.

I wish I had a great story to tell about this mission, but no, it’s just a lot of killing bugs and their hives. I did take the time to examine the locust models and admire how squirm-inducing their mouth-areas are, though.