TSW: Bittersweet Farewell

Whatever the actual end date turns out to be, it is now clear that The Secret World’s days are numbered. I have decided to say goodbye to the game while I still can, conducting a final tour of some of my favourite parts of the game and finding thematically appropriate ways to retire my many characters.

The Blue Mountain zone in The Secret WorldAnd taking an unhealthy number of screenshots.

This may seem a little premature, given that the servers are still intended to stay up for the immediate future at least, but there’s no point in continuing to invest in a dead game, and frankly at this point I don’t entirely trust Funcom not to just shut the servers off without warning.

Red fades to black:

The order in which I retired characters was dictated more by whim than any particular logic. For whatever reason, I began with my “main alt,” Dorothy the Templar.

I started by repeating issue seven, A Dream to Kill, which I think remains the best thing TSW ever did. In fact, I’d even go so far as to say it may well be the high water mark for video games as an art form.

And the passage of time has done nothing to dull its brilliance. It remains an absolutely masterful experience — surreal, haunting, chilling, and awe-inspiring.

Of course, I’ve had Sleepless Lullaby stuck in my head ever since.

It was also a good reminder of just how badass Carmen Preda is. I realize there’s no end of competition, but she really doesn’t get enough mentions on people’s lists of best TSW characters.

Carmen Preda in The Secret WorldBefore the end of the game was announced, I had been pushing Dorothy towards completing her ability wheel and earning her Panoptic Core, my second on the account. With the aid of an AP booster, issue seven was enough to earn the last few abilities and unlock the Core. Totally pointless to do now, of course, but for some reason to gives me comfort to have finished the project.

As my darkest and most twisted character, it seemed only right her fate be the most bleak. In the end, she shared the fate of Tyler Freeborn, wandering out into the ocean around Solomon Island, to be swallowed by the fog and the waves. To join the Red Sargassum Dream.

No debauchery like end of the world debauchery:

On my Illuminati, I began by repeating one of the missions at Innsmouth Academy. No tour of The Secret World’s best moments would be complete without Innsmouth, and it’s an Illuminati stronghold, so it seemed an appropriate fit.

I also paid a brief visit to New York and talked to Geary briefly, if only to hear her admit defeat to the Dragon one last time.

After that, it was time to retire the character. His end proved far more raucous than Dorothy’s. He went to the Horned God in London, drank the entire menu, and ultimately passed out shirtless on the dance floor.

The flame burns out:

The Kumiho Hotel in The Secret WorldSaying goodbye to Kamala was one of the more difficult parts of all this. By the time I created her, I’d already played the game so much it was hard to get the motivation to actually level her, so she wound up eternally neglected. But her backstory and personality had always been very vivid in my mind, and I loved her look and her outfits. For a character I spent hardly any time playing, she managed to be quite dear to me.

I wanted to introduce her to Ricky Pagan before the end, as I’d always thought they’d be a good pair, but you can’t get to Tokyo without completing the whole story, and she’s nowhere near that. It didn’t seem worth the effort.

In the end, she simply returned home to Seoul, to the hotel where it all started.

It’s funny how even after so long you can still notice new details. I never realized you can see the Kumiho girl in one of the windows. You can even click on her. Turns out her name is Hana.

I brought Kamala to the room — you know the one — and sent her to sleep for the last time.

Ragnarok:

Like Kamala, my “Elf” character, Freydis, is a sad case of wasted potential. I created her just a few months before news of TSW’s end was announced. She’d barely even made it to Kingsmouth.

Traian in The Secret WorldI wanted her to end her days among the snow, and thankfully, that was more doable than a meeting with Ricky Pagan.

It was of course a bit of a challenging journey to reach the Carpathian Fangs as a character who isn’t even ready for the Savage Coast, but it wasn’t as difficult as I feared. There were a few hairy moments involving fleeing from vampires whilst spamming Blood Shield for all I was worth, but she managed to avoid any deaths over the journey.

Actually, she may have gone her entire short life without dying, come to think of it. Feels almost like an oversight in a game like this.

I did make a few stops along the way, mostly involving more screenshot opportunities. I did pause at the Owl and the Eagle to talk to Cern a bit. He’s one of the few true peers Freydis could find.

Her journey ended among the snows of the Carpathians, but before it did, I picked up one of Traian’s missions. She’s too low level to complete it, of course, but I wanted to see the cutscene.

Like Carmen, Traian is a character who doesn’t get enough praise. Who wouldn’t love a sage elder werewolf who sounds like Sean Connery?

Ouroboros:

My main using his Agartha Conduit in The Secret WorldI saved my main for last and used him to tour a few more of TSW’s best moments. I did the Tyler Freeborn arc again, and despite the game’s flagging population, I managed to get a group for The Facility, which remains my favourite of the game’s dungeons.

Also, having been denied the opportunity on Kamala, I headed to Tokyo to do Ricky Pagan’s first mission one more time.

In a game drowning in fantastic characters, I think Ricky might just deserve to be remembered as the best. He manages to be so silly and so entertaining, and yet also so deep and so real. Nowhere else is the sophistication of TSW’s writing on better display.

And when it was all done, like Kamala, my first and most-played character in The Secret World went back to the beginning, and I logged off for perhaps the last time within the Dojang.

* * *

I won’t say that this is definitely the last time I’ll play TSW. I haven’t uninstalled it, and I won’t rule out ducking in again if the mood strikes me or I’m given a good reason.

But I don’t have any firm plans to. There’s no point in continuing to upgrade my gear or hunt down lore. For now, it seems best to have made a clean break.

The Shadowy Forest zone in The Secret WorldObviously there was a lot of sadness around this farewell tour, but I also had a surprising amount of fun. It was really nice to revisit the game’s best moments, and I was reminded of all the little things that made me love TSW so much.

I was particularly struck by how even after nearly five years and being spoiled by Andromeda, this is still an incredibly good-looking game. They hit a very good formula with the art style where things are mostly realistic, but there’s just enough stylization to give it some flavour, to make it a little better than real.

I would definitely recommend doing something like this to anyone who’s upset about TSW’s fate. It’s very cathartic.

Perhaps I’m being fatalistic, but part of me is also starting to wonder if this isn’t for the best. Realistically, what are the odds TSW’s story was ever going to get a proper conclusion, or that said conclusion could ever satisfy the monstrously high expectations we’ve built up over the years?

As it is, content droughts aside, TSW leaves the world with an almost flawless track record. For several years it provided us with amazing experiences and set a new standard (at least in my mind) for what video games can achieve as an art form. We have been gifted with no shortage of great memories that will endure long after the servers go dark, from Nassir to Montag, Maine to the Dreaming Prison, rockabilly to Sleepless Lullaby.

My Templar uses her ultimate ability in The Secret WorldThe Secret World may have died young, but it left a beautiful corpse.

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7 thoughts on “TSW: Bittersweet Farewell

  1. I was getting a bit nostalgic reading about how you were doing all of this, but… I uninstalled TSW several months ago after it’s sat pretty much completely unplayed by me for over a year and I could use the 40+ GB of disk space it was using. And nothing about the announcement of the end has made me feel like downloading it again and logging in for one last hurrah like you’ve done here either, so….

    TBH, I kinda felt like I was taking my last hurrah in the game by reading this post, so thanks very much for that!

  2. Your Elf character looks fantastic! I didn’t know you could make a face like that in TSW. I’m almost tempted to do so in the sequel, but I’m rather attached to my current character.

    I really enjoyed reading your farewell journal entry. These stories are what this game is all about.

    You’ll be back to write more. 🙂

    • My current policy on Legends is that I may give it a try if and when they can prove they’re able to consistently add significant new story content. Until that happens, it’s dead to me. I just can’t get over the loss of my characters.

      • For me the problem is not so much the loss of my characters. Not even the loss of my main character. I mean yes, there’s a lot of time invested, he has high level gear. But i understand that part, they change the whole system, they need to have new characters. A transfer of progress would be close to impossible to do reasonably.

        I also don’t mind reticule combat per se. I’ve played and enjoyed games with that style of combat, even before the name was created. (E.g. Neocron, post-NGE SWG and Face of Mankind). I also still once a while log into DCU, just because of its combat. (Then leave again after one evening, as new content is gear-locked and it would requires me weeks of grinding to be able to access the next tier of content. ) And i recently started in ESO and enjoy it a lot.

        The real problem is, all the games i just mentioned, combat was fun. But without breaking some NDA i can say that when checking out videos of DCU or ESO on Youtube, that combat is fun. When watching the lifestreams for SWL on the other hand… not really interesting.

        So in my book that’s the biggest hurdle they have to take: they rework all the combat so make it more interesting and fun, so they should now find a way to also make it fun.

      • A 1-1 conversion of progress probably isn’t possible, but that doesn’t mean they need to erase everything. They could let us keep character appearances (even if they’re updating character models, this should still be possible), they could let us keep our lore and achievements, they could guarantee we can keep all cosmetics. They could probably even set veterans to QL10 (or whatever the new equivalent is). Gods know every other MMO under the sun lets you make instant max level characters now.

        There’s no excuse for making everyone start over from scratch.

      • Cosmetics and thus a good part of appearance will be transfered. At least everything from the item store, bags and (as far as i understood) events and the likes.

        For gear, levels and the likes: i understand why people would like it, but for me personally it’s not that important. (And that’s from somebody who did all dungeons, all raids, etc… damn, we even completed the first part of the manufactury on the very evening it was released. No guide available yet and the info from the second group we knew who was in there was faulty… 😀 ) So yes, my characters gear level is “above average”. My leeching, healing, healtanking, damage and block based tanking set were as good as they could be and my resist based tanking set was approachig completion. But loosing all of that doesn’t bother me that much, if what we get would be a good and enjoyable game, which gets out of the problem of being not lucrative enough to justify the creation of new content.

        That being said, there is one thing i really with there was a way to take it along. My friends list.

        I know that a 1:1 conversion wouldn’t be possible, due to the characters being created anew. But on account basis, it wouldn’t be that hard to create. Whenever an account of the new game would get linked to an old account, a triggered script should add this account to the friends list of all accounts which are already linked and were friends to the newly linked account. This way everybody who’d link his new account to the old one would automatically be friended to everybody else who already did this.

        As a bonus, the new friends list could have a small comment field, which just contains the names of characters which were on the old linked account of that person. Even that should be very limited effort to do. (I don’t know which DB they use for their character data… but even 15 years ago, when i was administrator for a database at work, all of what i described could have been done in basically two SQL-statements. So if their character DB is not an utter mess, this is something which should be rather easy to do and would go such a long way for me… )

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