The Secret World: Tokyo Summer
Tokyo in The Secret World is one of those things that we spent so long waiting for it almost seemed more myth than reality. It might not be quite in the same category as Half-Life 3, but it’s still something that seemed so far for so long you kind of started to wonder if it was actually real.
But the wait is over. Tokyo — the first part of it, anyway — is live.
I was there as it launched. It opened with the brief but spectacular conclusion of the Whispering Tide event, featuring hordes of Filth dragons fleeing Agartha and returning back through the Tokyo portal, followed by Emma Smith appearing to blast away the last of the Filth.
Whispering Tide was something of a mixed bag, but the ending made it all feel worthwhile in the end. After all that grinding and battling, the Filth retreated. There was a tremendous sense of satisfaction to standing on the branches of the World Tree, watching the Zero Point Pathogen flee, and know that I — and others like me — caused this to happen. We stood firm and sent the Filth back to whatever blackened dimension it slithered out of.
Though it was on to Tokyo proper — following a brief detour in Venice.
One is that there isn’t a whole lot of content in Tokyo right now. I wasn’t expecting miracles, considering that TSW has always placed quality before quantity and that there will still be many more missions pack to flesh out Tokyo. But even so, it wound up being a much, much shorter experience than I expected.
To be fair, it’s still the biggest patch to date, and it didn’t cost any more than usual, so it’s hard to complain too much. But after so much anticipation, it’s hard not to feel a little underwhelmed.
The other issue comes from AEGIS, the new horizontal progression system in Tokyo. All enemies in Tokyo have shields that render them invulnerable, and players must acquire a new set of gear and swap between the appropriate controller devices to counter them.
Now, I like the general idea of AEGIS. It allows them to keep ramping up progression and challenge without resorting trivializing past content or completely crippling lower-geared players.
But there are some aspects of its implementation that aren’t so fun. For one thing, I’m not a fan of the four second global cooldown on all abilities from changing controllers. Feels like it should only apply to the abilities of the weapon you’re changing, not everything.
AEGIS has also turned out to be a pretty massive grind. After completing every mission in Tokyo once and then repeating a few, I’ve still only filled five of the twelve AEGIS gear slots. Let’s not even get into how much work it requires to upgrade the gear; I can’t even find the gear to begin with.
My current AEGIS equipment is enough to allow me to fight effectively (though a certain degree of blood, sweat, and tears are involved). But it’s not very fun to be staring at all these empty slots on my character sheet, and when I think about the mountain I’ll have to climb to attain even the most basic improvements, I can’t help but groan.
This is all exasperated by the current lack of readily repeatable content in Tokyo at the moment. I never thought I’d say this, but my kingdom for some “kill ten rats” daily quests.
Those hiccups aside, though, Tokyo is everything I’ve come to expect from TSW: frustrating, terrifying, and brilliant.
As always, the story-telling is impeccable, and every single character has more personality than some games’ entire casts. I’m particularly fond of Daimon Kiyota. I’d pay extra just to have him in every single cutscene from here on in.
Daimon is a great example of why I think the Dragon will save us all. Because no one else is crazy enough to. No sane person could go against the power of the Dreamers and think they could win. But Daimon? It’s all a joke to him. He’ll win not despite the fact it’s impossible, but because it’s impossible.
The mission design remains brilliantly creative at every turn, as well. Right of Way was one of the most clever challenges to date.
Now you’re thinking with portals!
I’ll also go on record as saying that I think The Pachinko Model is the most disturbing mission in the game to date, and that is saying a lot. I did not expect them to top the Nursery any time soon.
Mild to moderate spoilers ahead.
The most brilliant thing about The Pachinko Model was the letters and diary entries from the kids. You start to get to know them and feel for them. As the mission went on, I kept hoping against hope that somehow Sabrina had escaped, that she’d get a happy ending despite it all. And I knew that wasn’t going to happen, but I just kept hoping anyway because I didn’t want to believe such a bright and joyful young life could meet such a horrible end.
It’s also a demonstration of how so much of the horror genre misses the mark, in my view. Seems to me most horror is based entirely on buckets of gore and grotesque monsters leaping out of the shadows. And those work, but they’re cheap. They’re the path of least resistance.
By comparison, The Pachinko Model features not a drop of blood and few, if any, “jump” moments. There are no cheap scares, and the environments are bright and downright cheerful.
But yet it’s bone-chillingly terrifying. And that, to me, speaks of much more skill on the part of the creators than cheap thrills with bug-eyed monsters in dark rooms.
In other news…
While not directly related to Tokyo, another piece of good news is that the second outfit from the “get your art in the game” contest, Ballistic Veil, has finally made it to the item store.
Defiance: A second chance
On the same day Tokyo launched, the MMO half of Defiance went free to play. Tokyo was far more important to me, so I played through it first, but since it doesn’t have a lot of replay value, I decided checking out Defiance wouldn’t be a bad idea.
I don’t think I’m going to take back any of my complaints I had when I first played the game, and I’m not going to claim it’s spectacular, but I am enjoying myself more this time around.
Skipping all the side missions is making a big difference. The story missions are much better, and since this game isn’t religious about its vertical progression, I don’t seem to be holding back my progression by skipping the side missions. I’m getting plenty of loot and XP just from the main storyline, the episode missions, dungeons, and Arkfalls.
Something Defiance does that’s clever is that it focuses on a very narrow cast of characters for its story content. Instead of an endless spree of throwaway NPCs, you’ve got a core group of characters that you get to know over time, all of whom are pretty colourful and likable.
This keeps me invested in the story, even if the plot itself isn’t anything to write home about. I’ve grown fond of Cass’s foul-mouthed spunk, Cooper’s badassery, and even Von Bach’s fumbling douche-baggery.
It probably shouldn’t matter as much as it does, seeing as race has absolutely no impact on gameplay, but playing a Castithan this time around is also making a big difference. I care about my character now, and I’m already working on some awesome backstory for her.
With all the effort I put into my character’s personas, I suppose I should probably give real role-playing a try sometime…
I’ll also say that Trion is one of those companies that really gets free to play. I couldn’t tell you what the restrictions on free players are in Defiance because I haven’t noticed any yet. I’ve got the entire game at my fingertips, with nothing holding me back. The cash shop is there if you want to buy something, but never once have I felt even remotely obligated to do so.
Defiance is rough around the edges and fairly shallow, but I’m starting to see that it has its charm, as well. If nothing else, it’s a good game for the head space I’ve been in lately. It’s a very low-stress game, just challenging enough to keep you from falling asleep at your keyboard. Just play through at your own pace, explore, and chuckle at Cass’s antics.
I don’t see Defiance as a long term commitment. I’ll probably just play through the main story once and then move on to something else. But for now, I’m having fun, even if it hasn’t exactly blown me away.
I’ve got a new article up over at WhatMMO, and it’s about books that should be adapted as MMOs.
If we ever get a Shadows of the Apt MMO, I’m making a Mantis-kinden Weaponmaster as my main, and then probably a Spider manipuloi as an alt.