TSW: Halloween 2014

It’s the most wonderful time of the year — if you’re a fan of The Secret World. The long-awaited third Halloween event is at least upon us. This event stumbled a bit getting out of the gate, but as is usually the case with TSW, it’s worth it once you get into the actual content.

My Dragon atop Jack-O-Lantern's tree during The Secret World's Halloween eventBetter late than never:

Unfortunately, there was a bit of a damper thrown on this year’s festivities before they had even begun. The start of the event was heavily delayed, and it didn’t end up launching until the day before Halloween.

So we now have a Halloween event that takes place almost entirely after Halloween, and that just doesn’t feel right. It’s like that period of several years where The Simpsons kept doing their Treehouse of Horror episodes in the middle of November.

I’m used to delays at this point.  I’ve spent a lifetime as a Blizzard fan, and I’m used to pretty much everything in TSW coming out at least a week or two (and sometimes much more) after when it was supposed to. For the most part, I don’t let it get to me. It is, of course, frustrating, but I know the devs are doing their best, and it’s usually worth the wait.

But a holiday being delayed this much just strains my patience past its limit. You can’t put back the real world holiday, so delaying the in-game holiday just gets messy. A Halloween event that mostly takes place in November is no more acceptable than a Christmas event in January would be.

Aside from which, since Halloween is so important and iconic for TSW, I really thought this was the one thing we could count on. For a while there, it seemed like things were finally improving and Funcom was starting to put out new releases at a healthy clip again, but if they can’t be on time with something this publicized and important, that reflects very poorly on the game, and it makes me once again worry for TSW’s future.

My Dragon investigating a graveyard during the new Broadcast Halloween event in TSWAt least they didn’t cancel holidays outright like a certain other MMO I could name…

The Broadcast:

As is now tradition in the Secret World, this year brought back the events of the last two years, but also included an all-new one: The Broadcast.

It’s just one mission, but it’s a very good one. The player is contacted by paranoid conspiracy theorist Dave Screed, who has learned of a twisted plot involving number stations and mysterious radio broadcasts in graveyards all around the world.

What follows is the kind of surreal, twisted mind-frackery we’ve come to expect from TSW.

It all culminates with a chilling journey into a haunted Soviet bunker, and no, that’s not as scary as it sounds.

It’s worse.

My Dragon confronts the Presenter during The Secret World's new Halloween event, The BroadcastEach Halloween event seems to be better than the last. Though short, the Broadcast was a truly excellent mission, and the ideas it raises are both chilling and awe-inspiring.

Like Tyler Freeborn’s story from last year’s event, it touches on some of the more bizarre yet intriguing ideas within TSW’s lore: the concept of information as a force and an intelligence unto itself. It echoes concepts already touched on by the Buzzing, the Black Signal, and the Facility. The end result is a story that works brilliantly on its own, but also feels a logical part of the Secret World’s greater mythos.

It also featured some pretty cool old audio dramas from around the 40s and 50s, and my understanding is that if you complete one of the holiday achievements, you get an in-game item to listen to them again whenever you want. That’s the sort of clever and awesome thing you only see in TSW.

Glorious loot!

It is perhaps a sign that I have become a hopeless MMO design geek that the thing I find most interesting about this year’s Halloween event is not the content, but the way the rewards are set-up.

All of the new rewards for this year’s Halloween — and holy crap there are a lot of them: make-up, clothes, pets — are random drops from bags earned through the new content, but they can all be traded, and you can buy more bags through cash shop should you desire.

My Dragon demonstrates his new /dance_thriller emote in The Secret WorldWhat this means is that there’s basically no risk of being screwed over by RNGesus. You can swap items you don’t want for things you do. You can buy stuff at the auction house. If you’re one of the rare people who doesn’t care about cosmetics, you can sell them all for massive profits.

It’s a fantastic system that needs to be industry standard for MMO events right the Hell now.

Something else that’s very clever is you can buy another type of bag from the cash shop that gives you loot just like the others, but also grants loot to up to twenty players around you. Hit enough people with your loot-splosion, and you get an achievement that unlocks the new /dance_thriller emote for your character.

This is, again, a brilliant idea. This is encouraging socialization in an MMO the right way.

So often, attempts to get players socializing are akin to the developers holding people’s heads together and demanding, “Now kiss! KIIIISSSSS!” But here’s something that rewards generosity and encourages players to get together in a fun way.

The one downside is that the plethora of new items makes me hate flares more than ever.FLAAAAAAAAAARES!!!!!!

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