Return to The Secret World

There are always a few games I have on my back burner, which I don’t play, but update in regular intervals. If I ever feel like playing them again, I won’t have to spend a whole evening updating, and miss the window of opportunity to get back into the game.

TSW is one of those games. I was really looking forward to it when it got released, and got a lot of playtime out of it for two months or so. Then I went on vacation for three weeks, and I never got back into the game.

However, earlier this year, the Tokyo expansion was finally released. If you read this blog regularly, you know that I have an affection for Japan in general, and Tokyo in specific. The first introductory mission of TSW, which gave you something of a sneak preview into Tokyo, made me smile and hope for a quick release of the area which was already announced at launch. Alas, it took longer than expected (and probably longer than Funcom had planned; I bet they had plans for faster releases that relied on higher player and revenue numbers). But when it finally arrived, I knew I’d return to the game sooner or later, to have a look at Funcom’s twisted version of the city.

Of course, one does not simply walk into Tokyo. Getting into there requires at least a decent amount of end-game gear (if not necessarily of the highest quality), and finishing the story line.

Last time, I had left my character, Anselm “Tabascun” Arenberg, in the Besieged Farmlands, the first Transylvania zone. As I logged in, I remembered one of the reasons that had soured the game for me. Or two, actually. First, the Besieged Farmlands didn’t appeal to me in atmosphere. After Egypt, which I really liked, with some interesting characters such as Ptahmose and Saïd, and my favorite scenery (desert!), the game sent you to a dingy, run-down Romanian village. Second, there was a huge increase in difficulty between The City of the Sun God (the last zone of Egypt) and the Besieged Farmlands. Last time, that combination of high difficulty and unappealing scenery drove me away. However, this time I decided to give the game another chance, and bit the bullet. The good thing is that missions in Transylvania give you a lot of XP, so you only have to slog through a few missions before you can afford additional skills better suited to the area. Combined with level-appropriate drops, I soon managed to survive. Well, most of the time. TSW is probably the least forgiving game I (ir)regularly play. One mispull at the wrong time can send you the graveyard unless you massively outgear the challenge.

Soon, I was back on track and could concentrate on the things that I love about the game. Everything is weird and slightly off in The Secret World. It is the MMO closest to a David Lynch movie. And I love David Lynch movies. In fact, sometimes you wonder whether you aren’t actually playing inside a David Lynch movie:

Just missing a slice of damn fine cherry pie.

Just missing a slice of damn fine cherry pie.

Of course, there are also grown-up men having a seemingly inappropriate attachment to teddy bears:


But it’s all good, because it’s a special bear. Well, at least it talks. But only to that guy. Which we’ll just believe, because Secret World. And because otherwise, we’d have to deal with a clinically insane guy with a weapon. Of which there are enough in TSW already.

As long as it doesn't eat your face...

As long as it doesn’t eat your face…

Add to that clinically insane girls, or at least very-aggressive-if-need-be girls, and you end up in nasty situations. Like when you enter a nursery, and you see that:

Cleanup on aisle 3! Bring bleach.

Cleanup on aisle 3! Bring bleach.

Of course, it wasn’t your run-of-the-mill nursery: this one had laboratories for human genetic and paranormal experiments, and some of the children grew both powerful and aggressive… and developed their own sense of symmetry.

Looks like a happy childhood alright.

Looks like a happy childhood alright.

In short, TSW delivers what I was looking for: creepy and atmospheric scenery and missions. We’ll have to see about long-term viability, though. Most missions are great the first time around, but the shock effects and surprises obviously only work once. And Funcom definitely won’t be able to provide content as fast as I can consume it. Plus, before Tokyo they set an ugly gate: to get your “certification”, you have to collect tokens that you can only get in scenarios. Those work like LotRO’s skirmishes, and I hate those: run a procedurally-generated mission in an instanced area with random enemy waves, over and over again. We’ll see how that goes.

I really like the game, but if I want to stay with it, I’ll probably have to find a cabal to do stuff with on a regular basis. Grouping for those scenarios might also take the sting out of them. We’ll see. If all else fails, I can always return to the game later when Funcom has released more content packs.

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