Secret World Legends: The Swarm wants you

I’m getting into a pretty good stride with Secret World Legends progression in Tokyo. I know it doesn’t sound like a lot, but I make sure to log in every day to do at least one mission (if not two or three, depending on how quick they go). I definitely feel that I’m on track to finish up the whole zone by the end of December, and that’s a-ok with me. Not having to fiddle with AEGIS has made this whole place about 50% less annoying, although there still is a noticeable increase in difficulty in the types of quests and mob attacks. At least it’s pretty cool to explore.

This picture never fails to crack me up while still making me wonder what the what is going on with this demon’s obsession with the foul-mouthed Illuminati boss.

Anyway, last week we had a nice quality-of-life patch that honestly did improve the quality of life around SWL. I’m starting to feel better and better about the switch over to this new game, especially now that we’ve seen Funcom pick up the pace of support and development once again.

There was a lot of nice extras in the patch, although the primary feature was the new anima allocation system. This was nothing short of a major gear overhaul, taking the individual roles of different gear pieces away and giving control of their ratio to the players. On the fly, we can now adjust the healing, DPS, and tanking power of our gear — and for no cost to adjust. That is absolutely fantastic and relieves a lot of stress in collecting exactly the right type of gear. Now we just have to concentrate on pips and quality levels, as well as signets and glyphs.

I tinkered around with this, deciding on a 20/20/60 ratio of heal/tank/dps. I know it’s on the low side for damage, but I like to survive things, and after testing it out a bit, I’m killing fast enough to be acceptable.

I don’t think I ever noticed these creatures crawling all over the towers before. Guess I never looked up!

I had totally forgotten about the Hive quest. Yes, it’s another chain of text adventures, but those are kind of brilliant for this game and incredibly creepy to boot, so I don’t mind a redux. And the whole concept of the Swarm — a mysterious collection of bee-powered individuals who didn’t choose a faction and were imprisoned indefinitely in the Hive until they broke out — fascinates me. They’re downright unnerving and yet sympathetic. For the record, I didn’t turn the info for the quest into the Templars. I think I’ve decided that if I’m ever given a choice to break with my faction and go with the Swarm, I’ll do it. We bees have to stick together — that’s how the honey is made.

I sure hope we get more Hive/Swarm stories in season two! It’s definitely one of the more interesting loose ends that the story writers have set up.


Secret World Legends: Bye-bye, AEGIS, don’t let the door hit you on the way out!

Now that I’m back in Tokyo in Secret World Legends, it’s like I never left. Of course, the first time around I was experiencing the zone piecemeal as the devs slowly brought it online, whereas now I have the whole package waiting for a nonstop experience.

There’s certainly a whole lot to do, and I’m going to return to doing both main and secondary missions (I had abandoned side missions for a while in Transylvania there for the purpose of advancement). A good starting point is Gozen’s diner, so I waded back into the Tokyo pool with all of the enthusiasm I could muster.

Gozer… er, Gozen’s introductory quests are fine for what they are. She’s not my favorite NPC of the city, although her relationship with Richard is interesting. Would love to hear more of that backstory.

Definitely the best part of returning to Tokyo, other than feeling *less* behind than I was before, is that AEGIS isn’t being shoved down my throat. In fact, so far I haven’t seen it at all. Mobs are just mobs again without those annoying shields, and combat feels a lot like how it did in previous zones. That’s a GOOD thing, by the way. AEGIS was poison to this game, and I’ll never relent in saying so.

Probably the best quest that I (re)did was the one where I’m chasing an Oni spy in and out of the Hell dimension. Secret World’s Hell is a really fascinating place, kind of an overlay of the real world only more fiery, industrial, and demon-filled. Although the current state of Earth doesn’t put it far behind in the demon department.

I’ve also enjoyed returning to a more urban environment. The modernity of it lies in stark contrast to the “old world” setting in Transylvania and the desert landscape of Egypt. Sleek skyscrapers and modern trappings offer more of a stark contrast to the Filth everywhere and the constructed walls that attempted to keep the apocalypse at bay.

Oh hey, I’m totally sure this billboard has NOTHING to do with where we are heading after Tokyo. Foreshadowing? Nah. Couldn’t be. Not a chance.

While we’re on the subject of the Congo, how do I feel about it as (probably) the next zone? I guess OK. I mean, I’m happy to get *any* new Secret World content at this point, but my feelings on jungle zones are pretty well-known here. Could be visually interesting, could also be a nightmare to navigate. As long as there are a lot of great stories, I’m in.

Is he… compensating for something? Kurt’s another Tokyo NPC that doesn’t exactly get my imagination revving, but at least his missions are straight-forward as can be.

Tokyo’s more complex investigation missions are pretty hit and miss, in my opinion. Some, like Wetwork, are devilishly clever, but the Love and Origami quest that I just did feels half-baked and in need of another pass. I think it’s a great idea to have the player actually do real origami as part of the quest, but it’s not explained or handled very well in execution.

Secret World: Something is rotten in Venice

There’s both a temptation and an opportunity when it comes to rerunning old missions in Secret World Legends. The temptation is to speed through it, since I’ve done it before, just to get it over with and take one step closer to new content. The opportunity is to explore what I might have missed the first time around, to take more screenshots, to soak in the lore with the greater understanding that I now have with the game.

The interlude quests between Transylvania and Tokyo seem to drag on and on. I know that when they were first introduced, it was part of the build up to this new zone, but now it feels like one heckuva speed bump to endure. Characters keep telling me “go to Tokyo!” and then “but first do this!” which is all sorts of frustrating.

At least this is the last time, the last in-between mission. Rooting out some corruption in Venice and uncovering a connection between Venice, Tokyo, and the Phoenicians is a pretty key plot point, especially since the Purple People haven’t really had a starring role in the game so far. Anytime they do show up, they’re jerks through and through, though.

I was somewhat dreading this mission, because I have less than fond memories of slogging through it the first time around. Happily, it was much better this time — either because the mission was made easier, the combat is faster, or I just remember how to do it from the first time around. Probably all of the above. I only died once and got through it in about 20 minutes, so life is good.

And Agartha is bad. It’s distressing to see the Filth come into this place, because it’s pretty much the only real “home” that us Secret Worlders have. It’s sanctuary, a good place, a pure place. And now the Filth has its tendrils into it and it’s not leaving.

If the interlude quests tried my patience, then all was forgiven when I got sucked into the subway and joined forces with Sarah (otherwise known as Sara From The Tutorial). She’s gone nearly insane from the voices taking over her head and having looked into some void, but she pulls it together enough to help me get out of the subway.

This mission is fantastic, by the way. It’s action, through and through, but the setting is so eerie and tense. It’s pretty much navigating the hive of Fiilth where the bomb went off, sending this infection everywhere in this part of the city, and it’s not a place to linger. I wouldn’t call this quest scary, per se, but seeing things emerge out of the darkness, having the Filth creatures banging on the subway car… it all screams “GET OUT AS FAST AS YOU CAN!”

And so I do. But Sarah stays behind.

Hello, Tokyo, my old friend. Let’s dance.

Secret World Legends: Interlude

With Transylvania done and done, I should have been ready to move on to Tokyo… but there were a few distractions along the way. First up? The new Jack ‘O Lantern raids, which I ran a few times on the hour to unlock those pumpkin boxes. Got a few nice cosmetics, but seeing as how I’m really happy with my current outfit, I’m not as motivated to chase clothing right now.

Side note: That “Happy Halloween” sign is the same one used in Funcom’s Hide and Shriek. Just a small observation.

I also ran the Meowling quest for Halloween, more out of principle than any real personal interest. I miss the other seasonal missions, and I guess I felt that I needed to at least do this to keep the holiday alive. At least I was reminded what a gorgeous place Stonehenge is first thing in the morning (or last thing in the evening?).

Was also reminded what a hideous beast the Cat God is. Not that I like cats very much even on their nice days, but still…

Probably the most disquieting part of this storyline is this line by the Madam after she read Andy’s future. Is it referring to his love life… or something far worse? Don’t hurt Andy, Funcom! There will be riots in the street!

I also went over to the Council of Venice for the connective mission. At least now, with the rework, we don’t have to grind scenarios or pay through our nose for a pass. Just one relatively easy fight and then we’re moving on!

Secret World Legends: Transylvania turn-in

Forget the dead man in the middle of the room; I get more creeped out when I think of these poor brainwashed, superpowered children carefully arranging all of these dolls and scratching the lyrics to their mind-controlling lullaby all over the place. I can’t even get my kids to pick up their own room half the time, and yet these kids took all this time to set up the creepiest tableau possible in the midst of a prison break? I find it a little far fetched.

Also, I am of the opinion that this above room is far more terrifying. Don’t know why, exactly, but it does freak me out. Perhaps it’s the security camera in the corner up there…

Anyway, this past week I finally wrapped up Transylvania. It wasn’t too tough, just took me a while to get through the last dozen quests that used to make up the “endgame” of pre-Tokyo The Secret World back in the day. And yes, we’re using the phrase “back in the day” now with TSW.

As with before, I enjoyed the conclusion, and I do agree that the rearrangement of the Hatchet Falls/Nursery questline was best put after the whole vampire showdown. It’s a good segue into Venice and Tokyo beyond, and every time I hear that firefighter ask Emma her name and she says “Anima,” I get chills.

I’m taking a half-hearted stab at doing The Meowling mission for the Halloween event, but it really is half-hearted because (a) it was always the least-most interesting Halloween mission TSW ever made, and (b) for whatever reason, the developers didn’t include all of the more recent Halloween missions this year. And that bites. I was really looking forward to Spooky Stories, the Broadcast, etc. But no, we just get the Cat God and one semi-reworked Jack fight. That feels kind of lame to me. Thus, I’m trying to blow through this quickly to move on to Tokyo and try to stay on pace for catching up before the end of the year.

Secret World: The Morninglight burns

Yeah you keep on talking to that teddy bear, you Orochi loon. Meanwhile, I’m going to actually be doing something productive.

So — and keep in mind it’s been a while for me since I’ve been in this part of Transylvania — but I don’t remember Carpathian Fangs being rather light on its content offerings. It definitely has fewer quest givers and overall missions than the previous two zones, although this might be due to the story going faster and being more guided at this point. It’s all good; it’s a pretty enough place, but I don’t feel a need to linger.

I’ve been blowing through quest after quest, again right now focusing on main missions rather than side ones. I think once I get to Tokyo I might do side missions if I run out of other things to do, but time’s a-ticking and I shouldn’t dally.

For the life of me, both times I’ve seen this cutscene, the vampire queen Mara here looks like some pop star on the way to a performance. Fangs and teeth, so very pale, and so very angry.

Of course, this zone is notable for being the place where we really start encountering and interacting with Emma. She’s a curious mixture of helpless girl, prophet, and superhero-in-disguise. There’s a lot of pain and loneliness and confusion in her too, which I guess fosters a sense of protection on the part of the player. Heaven knows that we’ve had our share of books and movies where a strong character has to watch over a kid. Maybe Logan will take her under his adamantium wing.

The insertion of a few Morninglight beats feels a tad out of place, but then, the whole Morninglight story doesn’t ever flow well until you get to Tokyo. It just pops up here and there, awkward and confusing.

I will tell you one thing. Out of all of the mysteries and secrets that Secret World has raised so far, the actual identity and look of Morninglight leader Philip Marquad is at the top of my list. He’s absolutely shrouded in secrecy and I think that there’s a huge reveal waiting for us.

This was an unexpected surprise. As a grand master, I get a free cache key every day, which to this date hasn’t really netted me anything much more than some currency, potions, and the occasional purple weapons upgrade bag. But this past week? I got both boots and a jacket from the cyberpunk set.

And that called for a new outfit! I have to say that I am totally head over heels for this jacket, so I mix-and-matched with some of my Gaia gear to make it all work. I am thrilled with the end result and might have to stick with this from now on.

I might have skipped over Cost of Magic, but I actually tackled The Castle the other night. And you know what? It wasn’t so bad this time. Maybe it got tweaked a little bit in the translation, but I only got caught once at the beginning and had no problem with navigating the rest of it — and even fighting the boss at the end. Capping that quest felt like a small victory in and of itself.

Octavian, you’re my Secret World hero

It’s time to both finish up Secret World’s Shadowy Forest and meet back up with Octavian. Despite only being a small part of the story in this zone, he still manages to make up a large footprint. He’s the “eagle,” one of three key figures destined to stand against the vampiress Mara and her boss Lilith. But he ain’t doing so hot…

There are many reasons to admire Octavian, but let’s start with his character model. MAN, I love this model. It drives me so crazy that Secret World doesn’t let you craft characters that look like this — heavyset, old, bearded, scarred — because if I could make this type of guy, I would play him to the end of days. That right there is my ideal male avatar. But it is sadly not to be.

I do think that Funcom stumbled a little bit with Octavian, mostly because the story abruptly throws him into the proceedings and then yanks him out of it almost as quickly. He would have been a great guy to get to know over the course of this entire zone, but no, his whole character arc here has to be squished into two cutscenes. You don’t even do any missions for him, for Pete’s sake!

Still, it’s not a waste. We meet Octavian lying on his couch like a psyche patient, snapping for us to go away. He’s a Roman centurian who was blessed/cursed with immortality by Lilith and has now lived for 2,000 years. As a 70-year-old man who limps around the place. He’s haunted by his failures, by the perceived uselessness of fighting and struggling. He just wants it to be all over.

So how do you get him to change his mind?

Why, that’s simple, my dears. You literally bait his sort-of girlfriend so that wolves try to eat her, prompting him to shake off his apathy and realize that there is something worth fighting for. And if there is one something, then perhaps there are a lot of somethings.

I want it on the record that this whole baiting segment is a complete jerk move and I kind of resent the devs making me do it without any other option. Geez, Secret World, take a cue from modern adventure games and allow us different solutions for the same problem! You don’t have to call in the wolves every time something isn’t going your way, just saying.

Always liked this moment. It’s soft and tender, a contrast between young and old, beautiful and aged, optimistic and defeatist. The decision to frame the hands in this shot shows — not tells — us of their relationship. That it’s something more than casual friendship but not necessarily romantic love. There’s a bond here, a deep one, and it’s what ultimately drives Octavian to doing the right thing. Not for me or what I stand for, he says, but for her.

And that’s it for Shadowy Forest! On to the final stretch of Transylvania, the Carpathian Fangs. I took a few moments to look at the map and marvel once again at the sheer detail that the artists put into these maps. Have you ever noticed that each region has its own map style? And each dungeon as well? It’s the only MMO I know that does this.

One thing I’m doing with this playthrough is giving my character a new outfit every time she enters a new zone. So it’s out with the hotpants and leather jacket, and in with something a little more appropriate for the snowy weather! Nothing original, but it looks warmer and cozy.