The Secret World makes me happy with 1.11

Last night I patched TSW up to 1.11 to check out the “enhanced player experience” — quality of life improvements, in other words. There’s a LOT of angry debate on the forums over this patch (dumbing down for the filthy casuals, etc.), but I have to say that my early impressions are quite positive.

For starters, how about that new map? Not only can you now just click on an anima well to port there (a la Guild Wars 2’s waypoints), but the map has a ton more icons for side missions and whatnot. I am LOVING this. It’ll make zone completion so much easier.

Combat *seems* to be a bit easier, although that’s hard to say right now as I’m tinkering with a new build and trying to get a balance of AoE vs. single-target skills going on. The landscape seems less packed with mobs, so there’s more room to maneuver in fights.

I also checked out the new clothing vendors in London’s Darkside, which supposedly will change their wares on a daily basis. Bought myself a neat new blouse to celebrate.

But the best thing is seeing former and new players who were intimidated and/or turned off by the steep combat difficulty and tedious time-to-kill eagerly come back for the story. Combat isn’t TSW’s strong suit, the story and world is. More people need to experience that, and 1.11 will hopefully give them that chance.

So yes, I’m working on my play-every-mission project again, so expect a new post on that front soon!

The Secret World, why you so big?

gamesizeOK, this has been bugging me for a while now: Why is The Secret World’s client so dang big?

Look at that up there — it’s nearly twice the size of SWTOR and the rest of my current roster. I mean, LOTRO? That’s five expansions, right there, and still under 20 gig. SWTOR has (or had) the world record for biggest voice recording project in a video game, and still it clocks in at well under 30 gigs. But TSW is a Godzilla of a client, stomping around at 44.5 gigs.

What’s the deal? There’s a lot of voice acting, sure, but nowhere near as much as SWTOR (or GW2, for that matter). Maybe it’s that SWTOR uses a lot of automated cutscene tricks whereas each one of TSW’s is hand-directed.

Is it just a much more detailed world? Because the world size is still fairly small, even four major zones (and a few minor ones) later.

Any idea? I’m just always somewhat aghast at this beast of a client size sitting on my hard drive.

TSW: Sightseeing through Savage Coast

lo1Last night I was part of a Secret World livestream with Massively OP’s MJ, and instead of running quests we decided to take viewers on a tour of some of the weird spots of Savage Coast. So while we were doing that, I was screenshotting all sorts of little details and interesting pictures which I want to share with you today!

Here I am with my new Valentine’s Day cosmetics. Aren’t those sunglasses awesome?

lo2You can run up the rollercoaster in the amusement park and get some pretty great vista screenshots.

lo3The ferris wheel plus the weird grainy filter in the park makes for cool shots. Very nightmare-like.

lo4This mob wasn’t aggroing us, so we got a rare close-up look at a mob. We spent time marveling over the detail that went into him, including the see-through abdomen with the spine intact.

lo5The lighting at different times of day make for stark and interesting shadows.

lo6I really loved how this picture turned out, with the warning sign in the foreground.

lo7We spent a lot of time running around the Academy looking for weird details, and MJ got very into trying to read and translate the graffiti that’s around. There’s actually a lot of it, and all of it is different from each other.

lo8Nothing super-special about this one, other than I really liked the lighting and the setup.

lo9One of the classrooms has a slideshow of the Egyptian zone’s oasis. Also, there’s cool lighting going on — if anything is between the projector and the screen (such as that loot icon) it will throw a shadow up.

lo10Weird notes on the evacuation plan in the academy. In case of fire (1) run out (2) with your hands up high. Um, why?

lo11All of the classrooms have interesting topics, such as parapsychology and arcane geometry and summoning theory.

lo12I haven’t been up in the Academy attic since that one quest a long, long time ago. It’s still delightfully eerie.

lo13This is just proof that I finally made the jump up to the very top of the League of Monster Slayers’ treehouse to see the bike gun. I’m guessing it shoots cans of cola?

The Secret World: Alone vs. Together

alone1I’ve been thinking a lot about The Secret World lately, despite not having played it for over a week since I finished up Issue 10. Maybe I should pick back up my project of playing through the game and detailing all of the quests; I think I’m still in Savage Coast somewhere.

Anyway, I’ve pontificated enough in the past about how brutally difficult The Secret World can be, which leads one to the conclusion that it’s simply better to play with a duo or in a group. Not that every quest will allow groups to progress together (there are some forced solo instances), but for the most part you’d think that it’s a game that was designed for groups rather than the single individual.

alone2And I wouldn’t fight you on that if you insisted. In the past, some of the best times that I’ve had in TSW are with a regular group. It’s a rip-roaring time to experience the same story together, to figure out clues as a group, and to plow through fights so quickly that you forget what slogfests they can be solo. It’s like watching a great movie with friends, only that you all have parts to play as well.

But having done a significant part of the game by myself, I can’t deny that some aspects of TSW work a lot better when you’re alone. The scares and atmosphere hits you a lot harder when you’re on your own, especially because you’re not being distracted by what your group is saying. There’s a deeper satisfaction, I think, to solving quests on your own instead of piggy-backing on the efforts of your teammates. And going solo means that you don’t have to worry about keeping up with your friends, giving you freedom to really soak in the details and be a tourist to your heart’s content.

TSW has a lot of small details that deserve noticing.

I’m glad that TSW is making most of the game a lot more solo friendly in the next update, although I would also like to see a much better LFG option so that peeps can always have that option of teaming up. Just about every stranger I’ve grouped up with in TSW has been friendly and fairly patient, and I owe my success to more than a couple of quests to the knowledge and skill of another player.

So maybe I don’t have to choose one or the other. Alone is good, but so is together. Having the choice means that the game adapts to what I want to do that night instead of forcing me to play according to what the game demands.

More tales from The Secret World’s cutscenes

I’m continuing my mission to go back through TSW’s terrific story cinematics and post some of my favorite screenshots:

v1Move over Twilight — THIS is how The Secret World does vampires.  And you should be very, very afraid.

v2That could really be the motto of this entire game.

v3The Vampire Hunter is quite antagonistic to the player character, not because of anything they’ve done, but because of their association to the secret world.  This is one of the notable heroic characters who is not anima-powered but is waging a war against the forces of darkness even so.  I don’t blame him for his bitterness.

v4If only you knew who this kid was.  Really, if only we knew at this point.

v5Sometimes — often times — not everything is explained.  We only get bits of a story and are left to fill in the rest with our imaginations.  That can be even more effective.

TSW: Welcome to my nightmare

love1All of the roads and the struggles in Tokyo have led to this: the Dream Palace.  As I go in, my head is buzzing with questions.  Who is the Rabbit Killer?  Why is Orochi a jerk?  Who set off the filth bomb?  How can things be set right?  Is that lady back in Kingsmouth still killing zombies beside her gigantic bonfire?  And, most importantly, who is John?

I think we’re about to find out.  Lots of spoilers, obviously.

In the lobby of the hotel is Kaoru, a transgender receptionist who’s working for the Phoenecians (“You did not come here because our beds are soft but because our sails are purple.”)  She mentions the Morninglight, but more importantly, John.  A key is passed to me.  Go upstairs and find out who he is.

Going up the stairs I find a piece of black lore that warns me that there’s no reason to go to the AV room — and that it would hurt me if I did.  Awesome.

The AV room is creepy as all get out.  As I investigate different pieces of equipment, electronics keep shorting out and an angry voice calls me “Chuck” and warns me off again.  Filfth floods the room, I fall asleep, and the voice — John, I assume — tells me that I’m going to take on the dreams of those who have fallen asleep here.

love2I am OH SO GLAD I’m playing this at night after my family’s gone asleep.  The Secret World still makes me so jumpy.

The dreamscape takes me to outside of the Fear Nothing building, where a young man whose face I can’t see (but has the “John” name tag on) talks about being afraid when he went in but anxious to be chosen.

love3Inside the building, John takes me on a horrible tour of his time with Fear Nothing.  How he loved Bingo cola.  How he was in love with one of the instructors.  How Che flew in to mold him like a “clay dinosaur.”  I get a closer look at John’s face, and it’s a raw, red thing.

The mission thus far hasn’t been hard, mostly like walking around in an interactive cutscene.  John and Che go out on the town and get into a brawl at the diner, get completely drunk, then have a dance-off with Ricky Pagan (which I, hilariously, have to do as well).  If you didn’t think Che was a slimy jerk before, then this mission will convince you.

love4Well after that bit of fun, I saw John meeting with THE Philip Marquard, the leader of the Morninglight.  This was a huge moment, since up to this point we’ve only heard about him… and even here, all we see are his hands.

love5Then John goes to his apartment, scared about the bomb, and I have to fight giant Lilith busts shooting laser beams and accursed skulls at me.  Just another day at TSW office, really.

love6Next up in our nightmare tour is a visit to the pre-bomb Tokyo subway.  Everyone’s frozen in place, creating a strange maze of human bodies to navigate.  Eventually I get into the subway car and see John from a distance… closing in, it happens.  He starts seeing Lilith everywhere and detonates the filth bomb, becoming part of it.  Or at least able to see through filth creatures’ eyes.

Then John looks into me, into my past — a week ago, although that’s laughable considering how much time has gone by.  But we’re back at the beginning of the game, except that this time everything’s slightly different.  A black filth bee flies into my mouth instead of a good bee.  The TV reports on the military eating the victims of Tokyo.

love7As seen from my adventures, um, last week.

John takes over the TV in my apartment to fast-forward through my adventures in TSW to date, which is one of those “dang this game is so cool” moments.  Seeing old friends and NPCs like Carter and Danny again, wow.  John asks me if I want to know which ones of these are going to die.

The next portion of the mission is John fast-fowarding until he sees a boss he likes, and then he makes me fight them.  One for each of the AEGIS types — Beaumont, the Black Pharoah, the vampire queen.  Total trip down memory lane.  Beaumont was a little tricky, but it got easier from there.

love8After that, my memories show John that I’ve met Lilith, back when she was lasering off my leg and telling me of all of her names.  John is obviously, sincerely terrified of her, but he’s actually impressed that I’m brave enough to stand up to her.  And so, with that realization, he turns from an enemy to an ally and vows to unlock the Orochi tower so I can go get her.

But that ain’t going to happen until Issue 11.  This is as far as I go… for now.

love9While there are a lot of questions left to be answered, I’m pretty darn satisfied with the big pieces of the puzzle that were delivered with this mission (and I’m 99% sure that Kaoru is the Rabbit Killer, because who else would be?).  The story of John and how he came to Fear Nothing, was manipulated to become the filth bomb deliverer, and his intense fear of Lilith (although I’m still not quite sure why he’s so scared of her) was engrossing to watch.  I felt pretty bad for him afterward.

TSW: Safe house

bb1In our previous episode of The Secret World’s Issue 10 storyline, I busted right through the belly of a Morninglight clubhouse to uncover all sorts of disturbing facts as well as have a brief encounter with the Rabbit Killer.  Now, I’m hot on his/her tracks, scooting across Tokyo to check out a series of safe houses containing Morninglight execs.

Well, they aren’t that safe, let me tell you.  One has a lady pinned against a door frame, while another almost gets me killed when the Rabbit Killer cuts a shipping container (with Morninglight guy inside) to fall on my head.  Well, let’s see what this third safe house contains — poisonous porcupines and spectral snakes, no doubt!

Well, it’s a shade of a sabotage mission, which means lot of insta-death traps — tripwires, cameras, turrets, and the like.  Also, dead bodies lying amid a field of candles.  But that’s your typical experience in Japan.

My favorite discovery was an entire hallway full of moving laser fences, because of course this is something that I deserve at this point in my secret world career.  Repeat after me: I’m here to heeeeelp!

bb2I head down to the basement to destroy a generator that’s powering one of the laser grids, which is a really dumb move because doing that triggers poison gas.  I then try to rush out of the hall, only to run right into a camera, trigger a turret, get shot, stumble backwards, and step on a mine.  I’m like some freaking cartoon.

I figured that equipping my trusty CDC respirator from Blue Mountain would help me get through the gas — as it has in other parts of the game — but here it’s no dice.  Have to make a fast dash through the hall, hope that you don’t hit mines, and get to the next staircase.

Continuing on with my cartoon theme, opening up a door triggers a shotgun blast to my chest.  Why I don’t retire in the Bahamas instead of putting up with this nonsense, I do not know.  At least the apartment is interesting, what with that filth monstrosity in the corner, a 2013 calendar (so the in-game world is forever stuck in 2013 then?), and a GIANT SHRINE that takes up a good portion of this small pad.

Next up on this fun factory tour, an elevator ride!  First I have an extremely claustrophobic fight with a massive Cordyceps in the elevator, and then the whole shebang crashes down on me.  At least it brings me to another generator to blast and one step closer to — I only assume from the traps — Wiley E. Coyote.

Suffice to say, the mission continues on in this vein for a while.  Trap trap trap, Syp dies, runs all of the way back, questions why devs think that this is fun, trap trap trap.  But it’s all worth it when I come upon a camera feed and discover…

bb3…THE RABBIT KILLER IS IN THE BUILDING!

Okay, that was not so exciting as to warrant the use of all caps.  I apologize.

Well, the bunny means that this next Morninglight coward is already dead, which also means that I’ve spent over an hour stealthing my way to a corpse.  I try not to think of how that might reflect on my life.

bb4There’s only one safehouse left, and it’s here that the mission kicks into full story mode with a cutscene (and thankfully no puzzles).  A pock-scarred woman goes on a depressed monologue about how she used to handle the kids, looking for a potential in the Morninglight, and eventually finding John.  John, she informs me, is waiting between the silences.  He’s also bringing a super-awesome day and a message, which I can only assume involves balloons, cake, streamers, and the apocalypse.

bb5The woman hands me a card for a reservation for the Dream Palace, saying that this is where it all began.  The card has a shockingly familiar name on it — Che.  As in, that Morninglight dork from Kingsmouth Che.

I head out of the apartment right as the Rabbit Killer drops in.  I like how there’s a nice moment between the Killer and my character — we nod at each other in understanding and go our own ways: Me to the palace, and the Killer to shoot the lady.

bb6