I’ve been distracted with so many different games lately that The Secret World has fallen by the wayside a bit. But this has not been through any fault of the game itself, and with a slight reprieve in my all-consuming mission to play ALL OF TEH GAMES, I’ve had a welcome reunion with my favourite MMO.
This happened to come just as issue #13 was due for release, and I’ve also had the opportunity to further explore the last major story issue and some of the other improvements in recent months.
Issue #13: Trail of Shadows
Issue #13 was a pleasant surprise. It’s billed as the final major update for Tokyo, but since I had assumed Reaping the Whirlwind was the end of the Tokyo story, this is a welcome bonus.
That said, issue #13 did turn out to be a bit of a disappointment. In fact, it may have replaced issue #6 as my least favourite issue to date. It’s not awful by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s nothing special.
There isn’t much in the way of an over-arching plot, and it’s just not all that fun. The first several missions were fairly tedious — though part of that is my fault for trying to do an investigation mission before any guides were up — and as much I love Ricky Pagan, his standalone mission was, again, kind of generic and just not that memorable.
That said, the final mission of the issue was very cool. Exactly the kind of inventiveness that we all love about TSW.
Sorry if I’m being a bit vague about it all, but the issue is still new, and I don’t want to spoil too much.
It did make me a bit wistful for other roads the game might have taken, though.
I love the story-telling in TSW, but one thing that always bothered me is how faceless and voiceless the player character is. We’re surrounded by such colourful characters with so much rich development, but we ourselves are empty non-entities.
I would have liked something a bit closer to Bioware’s style, where the main character is fully voiced and you can make some choices about your character. I don’t need to be able to direct the story or have as much choice as I might in, say, Mass Effect, but even if all our choices were ultimately meaningless flavour that didn’t affect the game’s plots, it would have been nice to have some backstory or personality given to the player.
This is finally realized a bit in issue thirteen, but I can’t help but wish something like this had come much earlier, and that the choices were irreversible.
Don’t get me wrong. I still loved the mission. My pining for what could have been doesn’t detract from the experience. I just wonder what might have been. Obviously it’s too late to change things now.
But even as issue #13 disappoints, I’ve gained a new appreciation for the last major story issue, Reaping the Whirlwind.
They all to the dark tower came:
It’s safe to say the reception for issue #11 was a bit lukewarm. I found it a bit uneven myself. As a result, I’d only done it once up until about a week ago, when I decided to return to Orochi Tower.
I discovered that you’re able to easily pick and chose which mission you want to repeat, which means you can do The Eight-Headed Serpent, which has you exploring the randomized floors of the tower, without bothering with the initial assault or the overly long finale with Lilith and the Mitsubachi.
I set out to explore every single floor of the tower, and I found it an extremely enjoyable experience.
The mission is fairly quick to complete, and the variety of different floors keeps it fresh and interesting. It’s exactly the kind of high quality solo experience that makes me love TSW so much: all the excitement, challenge, and high production values of an MMO dungeon without the need for a group and its associated drama.
The various floors overflow with Easter eggs, lore, and odd little mini-stories. I was particularly surprised by how much humour there is to be found, though perhaps I shouldn’t be considering how much of a walking joke the Orochi are. Regardless, it’s a thoroughly entertaining ride.
Going in, I expected Sycoil and Vali to be the most interesting subsidiaries to explore, based on their appearances earlier in the game, but while they had their moments, I actually found Zagan and Faust Capital’s floors to be on the whole the most enjoyable. Faust Beta and Omega are among the more creative floors, and in Zagan’s case, I just have to stand in awe of the bizarre, twisted things TSW’s writers can come up with.
I’ll also give a shout-out to Anansi Beta and its life-size Pac-Man game for once again being wildly original. This is not something you’ll see in any other MMO, that’s for sure.
On the downside, I found Plethron and Manticore to be overall the least enjoyable. Manticore Beta, in particular, is probably the most annoying floor, combining all the worst aspects of sabotage missions with none of their usual virtues. That said, there is one bit in Manticore Alpha is very amusing.
“Seriously, how did you get funding for this?”
Running Orochi Tower also turns out to be fairly rewarding. You can net yourself three biohazard containers and a decent chunk of black bullion without too much effort, and I’ve discovered that it counts as all three mission types* for the purposes of daily challenges, so if you get a challenge to do any mission in Kaidan, it’s an easy way to knock that out.
*(I haven’t tested to see if it qualifies as an action mission, but seeing as it has more action than anything else and definitely counts as both sabotage and investigation, I’d be shocked if it didn’t.)
Speaking of challenges:
The last few weeks have also been my first opportunity to really delve into the new challenge system. Now, I knew off the bat I’d enjoy this. It’s exactly the kind of reward system I like in an MMO — do whatever you want and get rewards — and I’ve wanted something like this in TSW for a long time.
Hell, you could argue it was my idea. I spent over a year advocating for a system almost exactly like this on the official forums.
It just feels good to be able to easily access good rewards just doing whatever you were going to do anyway, and the steady stream of currency and XP can get very addictive, very quickly. It can even start pushing you to do things you would never normally do.
I’ve been running dungeons again, despite swearing off them until the dungeon finder is implemented, and even more shockingly, I actually participated in some PvP recently — a Stonehenge match.
Even more shocking, it actually wasn’t that bad of an experience. The last round of changes to the PvP buffs had a much bigger impact than I realized. I gained over ten thousand health, and for the first time in a TSW PvP match, I spent more time alive than dead. I was actually able to meaningfully contribute to my team. We still lost, but compared to the miserable experience I’ve found TSW PvP to be in the past, it’s a night and day difference.
And losing didn’t sting that much, because I still completed my challenge. Sweet, sweet bullion!
The Secret World has always provided fantastic story-telling and ambiance. I’ve said it’s the best single-player RPG on the market. But it’s always lagged as an MMO, with its group-focused and repeatable content being severely limited in scale and burdened by all kinds of blunders and poor system designs.
Now, that’s turning around. TSW will always be about story and solo-friendly content first, and that’s as it should be, but they’re doing a great job of bringing the rest of the game up to snuff without majorly jeobardizing its existing strengths.
It’s been three years since I joined The Secret World, and the game is still finding new ways to impress me.