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.

LOTRO: A sunless land

ahh1Sir, may I say that I like your style?  You have a very handsome face.

So I had to make a hard decision this week to let my Lore-master in LOTRO go — at least for the time being — and return to my Captain.  As much as I love the LM lifestyle (point pet at bad guy, go get a cookie from the kitchen, come back to loot and XP), it’s going to take me just shy of forever to get through the entirety of Rohan.  And I really, really need to get through the new Gondor content and be poised to experience Osgiliath and beyond.

Besides, I do like my Cappy, just in a different way than my LM.  To make myself feel a little better about the change, I found and bought a level 100 second age halberd from the auction hall.  With the upcoming LI changes, I could have this for a while to come, which is cool.  As a bonus, it actually looks kind of neat.  Also, I worked up a fun heal-while-I-attack build that’s strangely satisfying to play.

When I last left my Captain, I had finished up the epic book in western Gondor and was puttering around.  Now, there’s a new book and a new zone.  It begins with a sea siege of Dol Amroth by Mr. Personality up there and his merry gang of corsairs.  I find it more than a little strange that after all of my adventures so far that I’m supposed to take sea pirates threatening.  Seriously, I’ve killed zombie dragonlings, giant orcs, trolls, shrews, and great evils from beyond the realm of this world.  But corsairs!  Well, I should turn tail and run.

Actually, I did face something that put fear in my step:

ahh2WHAT THE UNHOLY SALAD DRESSING OF DENETHOR IS THAT.

I guess it’s a woman in a mourning veil, but that has to be the scariest thing I’ve seen in LOTRO to date.  And that’s including the Sam Gamgee shower scene.

Anyway, I’m sent to treat with the corsair captain, who is high on his awesomeness and isn’t threatened by my 100 levels in the least.  After our chat, he tells me to swim to shore, but I stayed on the boat because I run from no one.  Also, I wanted to see what happened when he counted to five.  What happened is that he got to two, got frustrated, and killed me almost instantly, and then I had to repeat the entire quest.  I guess that’ll teach me to go for a swim in heavy armor when a pirate tells me to.

That’s all the prologue for heading into central Gondor to warn the Gondorian fleet that the British… er, corsairs are coming.  That’s when I found that the region has been smothered in a perpetual twilight, and not the sparkly vampires and mouth-breathing love interest kind of twilight.  It’s part of the books called the Darkest Day, when Sauron tries to freak Gondor out by blotting out the sun.  I guess it works, because practically every NPC I clicked on exclaimed the same phrase: “We woke to no sun!  No light of day!”

“Hey, so where is the–”  “We woke to no sun!  No light of day!”

“I have those six orc heads you wa–”  “We woke to no sun!  No light of day!”

“Get a flashlight and SHUT UP.”

ahh3As I was doing my good deeds of the day for a town, I came across the above monstrosity roaming near some spider nests.  I saw a fellow player attacking it solo and decided to jump in to help, only later realizing that this was one of the new roving threats that came with a recent patch.

Since the other player got on her war-steed for some mounted combat, I had to do the same.  And thus began a 10-minute fight as we continually circled and attacked and I generally freaked out that my horse was going to plunge off one of the nearby cliffs.  But we did get it down, hooray, and I got some token that will go in the giant bag of tokens that I carry around.  Some day I’ll make a scrapbook with all of them.

Daybreak heartbreak

brasseIf we wanted to know what the fallout would be from SOE being bought out to become the independant Daybreak Games Company, now we know.  And I think many of us wish that we didn’t.

It’s a layoff apocalypse at Smedley’s MMO factory, with Linda Carlson and Dave Georgeson just two (admittedly high-profile) of the many let go with the company’s restructuring.

It stinks on so, so many levels, starting with the fact that Carlson and Georgeson are — or were, at least — the face of SOE for many gamers.  Smedley’s big too, sure, but he’s a little off-putting for many gamers who would rather flock to the infectious enthusiasm that the former Landmark lead and CM projected.  They loved the games and the community so much, and the community loved them right back.

I’ve been following Brasse since her days as a LOTRO fan mapping the Old Forest and loved that she adopted a dwarf persona for her time at SOE.  I always thought Georgeson was a little weird, but in a good way, and talking to him at PAX last year was a highlight of my interviews.  They both deserved so much better than this, as did everyone else let go, such as Steve Danuser.

The SOE community is so tight-knit that this isn’t just another bad day at the office — it’s absolute heartbreak and rage erupting everywhere.  I’ve been watching it wash through Twitter and our Massively OP office chat, hearing the same stunned, incredulous expressions followed by the same outpouring of anger and grief.

There’s also some genuine, perhaps justified fear that SOE as we knew it is really, truly over — and that EverQuest Next and Landmark’s future is in serious jeopardy.  The people who made this company special are now gone, and all we’re left with is talk of bringing games to Xbox One.  Personally, I wouldn’t be surprised if the future for Daybreak is mostly H1Z1, PS2, and DCUO on consoles.

And that is a horrible, terrible shame.  I’ve never been the most die-hard SOE player, but I’ve admired the passion that studio and its team put into its games, and the level of commitment for trying new things and melding sandbox and theme park elements together.  EQN was perhaps the only AAA MMO on the horizon for me, and now I can’t get much hopes up about that.

But today it’s about the people who have found themselves laid off, and as someone who just went through that with Massively, I can sympathize.  Here’s hoping they land at studios that do appreciate their talents and passion.

P.S. — Syl may have called it