It only took a few years, but I have finally collected every piece of launch lore on my main character in The Secret World.
The great thing about lore in TSW is that it’s fascinating, but totally optional. The XP you get from it is negligible, and there’s little other reward for it beyond being able to read the lore itself.
So there’s never any need to stress over lore. For most of my time with the game I’ve just collected lore here and there as I go, viewing it as a nice treat when I do stumble across it. Only if I’m particularly interested in a subject or just one or two pieces away from completing a set will I put any real effort into finding lore (sometimes consulting a guide if necessary).
The first collection I ever completed — back during my free trial before I’d even bought the game — was The Black House. I was really entranced by the story, and I set out to learn all I could about the tragic history of Carrie Killian.
I don’t find the Black House as frightening as some do, but I always find its story deeply saddening, and all the more so because it is so believable (supernatural elements aside). It has some very uncomfortable things to say about human nature.
Rumour mongering became ostracising. “Fraud” became “freak” became “devil worshipper.” “That handsome house” became “that den of evil.” A shrieking primate finally gets the courage to poke the curiosity, before running back up the tree, and soon all the talking monkeys are grabbing sticks.
Lore collecting is very low stress, and a nice way to unwind when I’m tired or in a bad mood. I welcome the challenge of TSW most of the time, but there are times when you just don’t have the energy for the game’s more strenuous aspects. Lore-hunting is a good option for such times.
I was also laid-back about lore hunting because I did not believe I would ever be able to finish my collection. Since I all but ignored dungeons, I figured the dungeon lore sections would always be incomplete.
The dungeon finder changed all that.
With dungeon groups now easy to find, I was able to finish my dungeon lore, and after years of on-and-off collecting, I had only a handful of lore entries left to collect in the greater world.
Lore collecting, as mentioned above, is mostly a low stress activity, requiring nothing more than a keen eye and lots of footwork, but there were a few pieces that presented a greater challenge.
In order to complete my lore collection, I had to finally muster my courage and complete the game’s most infamous mission: The Cost of Magic.
After hearing so many horror stories, I had given up ever even attempting this mission. But I needed that lore, so it was time to swallow my hatred for platforming and slog through it.
I was right to be scared. The Cost of Magic can rot in Hell.
Oh, the stealth sections aren’t so bad. They’re hard, but not much harder than average for these things. Nothing to write home about. The jumping puzzle, though?
Horror. Utter horror.
I despise platforming at the best of times, but in TSW, it’s a whole other level of awful. The jump physics in that game are unreliable, buggy, and downright nonsensical, obeying nothing resembling real world physics. If you’ve ever shot yourself off the side of the Black Pyramid, you know what I mean.
The Cost of Magic very nearly broke me, but on the advice of an old forum post, I tried lowering all my graphic settings to the minimum, and that made the difference. I don’t notice significant lag during normal play, but for something as precise as the jumping needed in Cost of Magic, the slightest latency will foul you up.
With lowered graphics settings, it was still frustrating, and it took a few tries, but I did manage to get the lore and complete the mission.
I also wasn’t thrilled to learn the last Draculesti lore piece I needed was part of The Castle, but I don’t think that mission is quite as bad as it’s cracked up to be, and after Cost of Magic, it seemed almost relaxing.
Those crates in the basement have scarred me for life, though.
And now my journey is complete.
And what of the echoes? What past horrors do they enunciate?
O, sweetling. Your mind moves so linearly. In the half-light, in the alien gravity of filth, echoes move backwards. You hear the future coming.
It won’t be the future for long.
A close second would be the Facility’s lore. I think a lot of sci-fi geeks like myself can identify with Halina’s childhood dreams of exploring the stars, and it’s heartbreaking how the Red Hand exploited her innocent curiosity to turn her into something terrible.
TSW’s writing is mostly excellent, but one criticism that could be leveled against is that its villains tend to be fairly one-dimensional, lacking in nuance or sympathetic motivation. Halina is the exception.
The static and crackle. Halina sent out so many calls. Long after she is gone, after this planet is dust, after your sun collapses to a gravity smear, her voice will survive as a radio wraith, exploring the universe as she always wished.
Poor Halina. Sleep now, little one. Sleep as you did when a child, and smile and dream of stars that scream.
Of course, my lore-hunting days are not over. I have a lot of the lore added post-launch, but not all of it, and more is being added all the time. The new museum feature is looking to be the biggest lore-dump the game has seen since launch.
No, I’ll have plenty more honeycombs to collect.
Be seeing you, blog readers. In the half-light.