Category Archives: the secret world

Egotism, n: Doing the New York Times crossword puzzle with a pen

(BBBC Spoiler Warning: this post contains light spoilers for the Dead Air mission of The Secret World)

There’s an excellent example of an investigation mission early in The Secret World where you need to repair a radio mast. Examining a plate reveals the mast’s model number and website of the manufacturer ( Looking up the model number on the site reveals “… provisional repairs can be carried out without recourse to specialized parts and labour. Primary components: brackets, anchors, antennas, lightning arrestors. Provisional repair materials: household adhesives, conductors and amplifiers.” It might as well say “Have you played an MMO before? Just go and click on anything that looks clickable”, but y’know, it’s a nice touch. Having taped a bunch of random bits of metal to the mast it starts working again, and strange beeps start emerging… Is it malfunctioning? Is it tuned to a radio station broadcasting the very cutting edge of monotonic electro jazz fusion funk? No, obviously it’s Morse code, I was just trying to build tension there.

At this point you have two options: you could jot down the dots and dashes, find the Morse alphabet and manually decode the message, or you could download an app, hold a smartphone up to the speakers and have it do that hard work. Or you could just Google the solution, of course, so three options. Or find a friend who knows Morse code, four options… OK, *amongst* your options are such diverse elements as: fear, surprise, ruthless efficiency and a smartphone app. I downloaded “Morse Code Reader”, cranked up the headphone volume, held the phone up, and as glowing green letters started appearing on the screen spelling out a message I thought “that’s rather nifty”.

For me the various elements were pitched about spot-on, interesting and diverting without being frustrating. Another mission, The Kingsmouth Code, was a *smidge* on the esoteric side in a couple of places; never the full head-scratching madness of adventure game logic, but at a couple of points I’d deduced some elements of a clue and needed a little nudge to put everything together (hurrah for Dulfy and some great guides that give hints as well as spoiler-tagged solutions).

Last night I was investigating one of the new missions added in the latest patch with Kris, and after some fun collaborative puzzle solving on voice chat (“A series of letters and numbers, what could it be? Co-ordinates? A numeric substitution cipher of some sort? Let’s run around randomly and see if there’s something to click on!”) we found a van, and the headlights started blinking in (presumably) Morse code. Without an app to decode the message, though, the prospect of trying to manually decode the flashing didn’t appeal at all, so it was straight off to Google for the solution. Of course not every player owns a smartphone, or would necessarily want to bother to download a Morse code app, but for me the audio version was a nifty puzzle, the visual version was some tedium to be avoided. Some players doubtless solved The Kingsmouth Code in seconds, while simultaneously doing cryptic crosswords in both The Times and The Telegraph, others probably didn’t even pause to read the in-game text before hitting Google to find out where to go and what to click next, it must be difficult to pitch things for such a wide audience.

I got into codes and ciphers early with The KnowHow Book of Spycraft, simple things like pigpen, then later the work at Bletchley Park in World War II was the perfect combination of military and technological history to fire my interest. Simon Singh’s The Code Book contained a £10,000 Cipher Challenge, I had a crack at it, and was pretty chuffed to solve some of the early ciphers with a bit of coding, like a program to calculate letter frequencies for various possible keyword lengths of a Vigenère cipher, but gave up on the later, really rather tough stages. A bit of deciphering in The Secret World could be fun, but again very difficult to pitch; Fez included a particularly challenging puzzle that’s interesting to read about, but it sounded pretty frustrating to be involved with.

There is nothing new under the sun, though; Richard Bartle wrote an interesting post looking at some puzzles from MUD1, including a link to an article on the pros and cons from 1985. There’s even a few unsolved puzzles, or at least solved puzzles where the derivation has been lost; I presume the pronunciation question is based on the heteronyms of Polish (nationality) and polish (make something shiny), but as there are other five letter heteronyms it’s the sort of pub quiz question that causes fights in the car park, even if the “block capitals” part implies case is crucial…

All our final decisions are made in a state of mind that is not going to last.

There are no respecs in The Secret World. If you place your Action Points (APs) and Skill Points (SPs) into an ability tree which you then find you don’t really like, no problem, just start spending points in a different tree. You can go back and repeat quests to earn plenty of AP and SP, and a quick dash through the PvP gauntlet in Fusang Project when you know the correct tactics will also grant you swift gains. So, no respec necessary, say the developers, just change course and carry on!

Which just goes to show how little they understand.

Those misspent points haunt me, taunt me—flaunt their redundancy. In my dreams a constellation of orange AP icons swim around my head before diving, in regimented fashion, into a black hole. A long twisting line of blue SP icons waddle along on their lower edges like parallelogram penguins, before hopping one after the other into a furnace. All this to the tune of Disney’s Pink Elephants on Parade

Look out! Look out!
Poor decisions have been made!
Here they come!
Hippety hoppety.
They’re here and there,
Poor decisions everywhere!

Waking up in a sweat in the night, screaming “I SHOULD HAVE PUT IT ALL INTO MAKING FISTING BETTER” is at best going to elicit a grumbled rolling-over from Mrs Melmoth, and more likely a sharp clout to a sensitive part of my body, followed by an interrogation the next day as to the precise meaning of such an outburst.

It must break a Hague Convention in some perverse way: to breed and cultivate a group of OCD, statistic-snorting, optimisation addicts, and then to start making games which give them the freedom to make mistakes, then correct for those mistakes, while leaving the initial errors in place. It’s like telling Monk that he can leave the tumbled pile of bricks over there, and just start building a new tower over here. Uh, not willingly, no.

Perhaps I should have re-rolled my character, back when there was still a chance I wouldn’t horribly burn-out trying to catch-up with my friends in the game again; by now it’s too late because I’ve progressed too far. However, I suppose it’s a tribute to such a system that I still have just the one character (possibly a first for me in an MMO), and having changed tack with regard to that character’s development on several occasions, I’m still playing the game without issue. I’ve been enjoying myself, even. Admittedly, there was that one time where I raged for hours about the cruelty and madness of not making a respec token available on the in-game store, but I don’t think the Post Office clerk was all that interested—their only contribution was to ask if it was a book of first or second class stamps that I wanted. And the night terrors continue, of course, but perhaps it’s all part of my rehabilitation from altitus.

Actually, I’m finding playing just the one character quite liberating, and the novelty seems to be taking hold, because I’m approaching the forthcoming release of Guild Wars 2 with a rugged determination that I’ll be playing just the one character, at least until such a time as I feel that I can do no more with them.

Of course there’s still the danger that I’ll wake up yelling about how I should have picked a Mesmer, but a decisive swat from Mrs Melmoth is sure to be a quick antidote to such concerns. Is it true that TSW has cured me of my altitus? I suppose we’ll find out a month or so after GW2’s release, but for anyone playing at home, I suspect that m’colleague is making a book on how long it will be before I re-roll, and that the longest duration he’s given odds against is in the order of microseconds.

I am a man of fixed and unbending principles, the first of which is to be flexible at all times

Unlike many MMOGs that bestow an ever-expanding range of skills, spells and abilities upon players as they frolic and cavort o’er hill and dale The Secret World is more similar to Guild Wars, restricting the player to seven active abilities, chosen from a wider pool, and seven passive abilities. Eight abilities shalt thou not equip, neither equip thou six, lest ye not yet have gained sufficient AP in the Lord’s sight to purchase seven. Nine is right out.

This system works rather well, especially for players who like a bit of deck building. Some attacks are of a particular type such as “Frenzy” or “Chain”; other abilities are more effective when used on mobs in a certain state such as being “Afflicted”. Get yourself a couple of nice Frenzy attacks, find a passive ability with an effect like “All Frenzy attacks also Afflict the target with a DoT”, then slot in an attack that does bonus damage when the target is Afflicted, ate wallah (as they say in Swindon), a nice bit of synergy. If you just want to get on and poke stuff with swords (or hit things with a plank of wood) then each faction has a number of template decks you can work towards; if you want to get yet more complex you can delve into the crazy underworld of bridging passives and the like (full details available from guides such as Yokai’s). For the moment the game is young and thrusting and urgent, the coffee is free and the love is cheap, and as far as I’ve seen the nigh-infinite possibilities of power combinations have yet to congeal into a couple of Player Authorised builds, deviation from which shall be most sternly frowned upon. It might even stay that way; at the very least it’ll give us some more data points for the good old debate around classes/skills/roles/templates/tankmages/whether to put jam or clotted cream on a scone first.

At the risk of being something of an MMO Goldilocks, though, after complaining about having too many abilities over four crammed hotbars in SWTOR, I’m feeling that the seven active abilities of TSW aren’t *quite* enough. With two or three long (30-60 second) cooldown abilities you’ve got room for, say, a couple of attacks that build resources and a couple more attacks that consume those resources. Solo combat can then get into a bit of a rut of mashing long cooldown attack(s) when available interspersed with 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 2 (or maybe 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 4 for AoEing a group). On the plus side this does mean you can devote more attention to what’s happening in the game world rather than the interface, especially useful with so many mobs in TSW having telegraphed attacks that you really want to avoid, but perhaps just a couple more ability slots would make things a bit more interesting.

The option to switch weapons, abilities and gear at any point that you’re not actually in a fight makes for great flexibility. In an instance you can go from a resilient AoE-heavy build designed to pick up adds during one fight to all-out single target damage if the next boss is all alone (you know, that boss that none of the minions really like; “yeah, Norman, sure, we’ll turn up if you start getting attacked, soon as you get to 75% health we’ll all swarm out, attack the healers, don’t you worry about it… (aside: not really, we’re all going down the pub now)”.) In theory you could do the same thing for general solo gadding about, alleviating some of the problems of repetitive combat, but having put together a set of abilities that seem to be good enough for most encounters I’ve been pretty much sticking to those. One reason for not experimenting more has been the gear management system; in theory you should be able to put together a set of weapons, gear and abilities, and save it for instant recall later; in practise it’s been rather unintuitive and flaky. Apparently yesterday’s 1.02 patch has improved it, though, so I might give it another go.

My sword I give to him that shall succeed me in my pilgrimage

Not much to report for Hat News Now Today from The Secret World so far, with a distinct lack of hats in the early part of the game, something of a theme in MMOGs. First tiers of WAR: no hats. First planets of SWTOR: millinery-free zone. Early WoW: les chapeaux? Non. There must be something about hats that precludes their sale to new adventurers. Is it the worry that overconfidence and inexperience may lead the novice to adjust their headgear to an angle of inappropriate jauntiness, such as would cut a fine dash when strolling through a peaceful capital city, but resulting in a restriction of vision that could prove fatal in an ambush situation?

Via Ysh, there’s a splendid guide to the cosmetic items available at Pangea, the clothing store in London, but there’s a distinct lack of hattery there. Quest rewards offer a couple of options, I’ve picked up the baseball cap for completing missions in Kingsmouth to go with a couple of others acquired in the pre-launch Secret War, but a baseball cap is hardly going to excite the Hat News devotee like a crocodile skull.

In lieu of hats our correspondent has been taking a look at weaponry. Selecting the Blade skill, there are some fine swords on offer:

A sword

A sword

Not a bad start, pretty functional, has a pointy end which is generally considered a Good Thing by sword aficionados.

Another sword

Another sword

Slightly more ornate, important when on the pull (UK, informal, attracting a mate), not so much when pulling (MMO, formal, attracting a monster)

Yet another sword

Yet another sword

Stab like an Egyptian with this khopesh-inspired piece from the Council of Venice emissary in Kingsmouth


An ornamental teapot, circa 1630.
Nah, just kidding, it’s a sword.

Rummaging around the wreck of the Polaris may yield this techno-katana if you’re lucky. Note the ring that allows you to clip your house keys on there, perfect for the forgetful adventurer.

Having spent a while both fighting and avoiding other players, your correspondent had earned enough tokens for a Quality Level 6 weapon from the PvP vendors in the society base. Exciting times! What sleek, deadly implement would be available? What sort of style would the new blade be? What…


… the hell is that?

“‘Scuse me, Mr PvP Weapons Vendor”
“There seems to be some mistake… I asked for a sword”
“And you gave me this plank with a couple of nails banged into it”
“Blade, QL6, one of. As requested.”
“Right. Right. Look, I see where you’re going with the style, very Aztec, got the macahuitl vibe, that’s great, I hear tribal is very in this season, obsidian is the must-have igneous rock, it’s just… I’m going to look a right twazzock lumping this thing around”
“I just give the things out, complaints are downstairs, in the basement, in the disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying ‘Beware of the Leopard’. Next!”

Fortunately there is a solution. For 30 Sequins of Solomon Island you can buy a kit from the Council of Venice that, when combined with a weapon, produces another kit (destroying the original weapon in the process). This new kit, when combined with a second weapon, applies the appearance of the first weapon to the second. Alternatively, for another 10 or 20 Sequins, you could just buy a QL5 or QL6 sword from the Council that doesn’t look so bloody stupid. At least I hope it doesn’t look so bloody stupid, I didn’t have enough Sequins left to buy one…

Any sufficiently advanced bug is indistinguishable from a feature.

There’s always talk about MMOs having a perfect launch, but it’s surprising how much goodwill players will show if the game offers a compelling enough experience. The Secret World is definitely not a disaster when it comes to bugs, but I can think of a few MMOs which were more finely honed by the time of their release and yet failed to garner the positive post-launch attention that TSW is receiving. In terms of coding snafus TSW is a squatter’s lice-infested pallet compared to the Queen’s immaculate mattress of Tera, and yet I think it’s fair to say that TSW is by far the more popular and favourably reported upon game. So all this talk of polish and perfection upon release seems to me to be so much bunkum. What players are really looking for is a game world and game experience which offers hooks which are sufficiently compelling – do this, and players will forgive you an awful lot. World of Warcraft was horrendous at launch, I mean truly unplayable twenty-second-wait-to-loot-a-corpse awful, but it was forgiven that and more, because it offered an accessible and compelling gaming experience like no other before.

I’m not saying that MMOs shouldn’t aim to be bug-free at launch (or as close as one can reasonably expect within the realm of complicated software systems), but it seems to me that TSW provides positive evidence for the case that players are more forgiving than is often portrayed, *if* they are given a reason to believe in a game. Refine the detail and the design, and players will forgive an awful of inconvenience in the implementation – at least until you’ve had a chance to fix it.

The two big issues in TSW for me at the moment are the broken chat system and a not insignificant number of bugged quests.

Chat is just broken, full stop. Period. End of. It’s over. Finished. Done with. Over with and done. Finished over and done with. Full period, end stop. From my experience, TSW’s chat system is currently the most mind-warpingly malign monster in the game.

I like to have General, Looking For Group and Mission SpoilersHints turned off, as they are the usual pit of endless quest spoilers, inane self-idolatry, pedantry, passive-aggressive arguments, abuse and drivel. The TSW chat system insists on turning them on – when I log in; when I change zone; when I dare to glance at my chat window. Of course there is an option to turn off auto-subscribing to channels, which, when used, does indeed stop these channels from being added to my chat window – along with all the channels that I do wish to see. What’s more, if I manage to get them working at all, the channels that I do want to view are then unsubscribed by the chat system at every seeming opportunity. It’s like some sinister sentience is controlling my chat window: I’ll see the tab for a private chat channel update, whereupon I glance across to read the message, only to find that the private channel had been dropped a while back, and in its place the dastard of discourse had popped up a message from Sky TV’s The Spoiler Channel (Sky 666)

“Today on The Spoiler Channel, Harry ‘Smugpants’ McPhearson takes us through the entire solution to the quest The Black House, but first-up it’s time for Blurt the Keypad Code of the Day with the Reverend Joseph ‘Obdurate’ Johnson”

Reverend Johnson: “SEVEN FIVE TWO FOUR NINE! Ha ha he he haa!”

Funcom are aware of the issue but have yet to exorcise the demons from chat, so for the time being I’ve taken to hiding my chat window off the bottom of the screen, where it haunts the edge of my vision and calls to me with a siren song which promises sensible parlance. But I know the horror which lurks therein: the Necronomiconversation.

The fairly incomplete and badly illustrated guide to PvP in The Secret World

Having spent upwards of twelve minutes in the various PvP battlegrounds of The Secret World over the past week, the KiaSA team are now masters of the ancient art of peeveepee, and ready to share their secrets with you…

There’s no general world PvP in The Secret World, which is excellent if you want to team up with friends from different societies to tackle daemonic hellspawn, less useful if you want to sneakily kick a Dragon in the nuts and feed them to zombies. To sign up for PvP either hit “P”, select “PvP from the menu or click the little crossed swords under the mini-map. You’re then presented with a map with three destinations: Fusang Projects, Stonehenge and El Dorado. Select one of these and hit “Join”, you’ll be placed in a queue, and when there’s an available space you can join the battle. Above the “Join” button you’re given a choice of three possible uniforms that broadly correspond to the traditional roles: High Powered Weaponry for DPS, Reinforced Armour for tanks and Integrated Anima Conduits for healing. The uniforms slightly adjust your stats (e.g. High Powered Weaponry boosts damage by 5% but reduces healing by 5%), and also give a visual cue as to what sort of opponent you might be facing, though with the flexibility of builds in The Secret World they could also be bluffs; someone in a healing uniform might really be an undercover tank focused on self-heals… Uniform chosen, it’s time to fight!

Blowing a Fusang

The Fusang Project is ingeniously concealed under the PvP section, but is actually a completely different type of warzone, a Player Avoids Player area. When you first enter the zone you should see a terminal with three available missions: Capture a Facility, Capture an Anima Well and Kill 10 Players. Under no circumstances pick up the latter mission, it’s a trap, take only the first two. Then, open the map, look for a mass of players from your society (also know as “the zerg”), and run towards them. If you see an enemy player on the way, ignore them completely; if they attack you, stand immobile, thank them profusely as they’ve probably saved you some running, wait to die, then check the map for the closest respawn point (Anima Well) to as many of your society as possible. Select this well from the dropdown list, respawn there, and join the zerg.

All being well you should be heading for an enemy-held Facility. There are four of them on the map: East, West, South and Centre. Each is guarded by an automated turret and forcefield outside the main gates, and a big old Guardian Type Monster thing inside. When you arrive at the Facility everyone should stand near the turret and mash random keys until it’s dead, then run inside and mash random keys until the Guardian is dead, then someone clicks on a thing, you claim the facility, and get stacks of XP and PvP tokens from the mission. If you forgot to pick up the mission beforehand, you’ve got time if you’re quick to pick it up from the facility itself after the guardian dies. If you’re lucky the turret might already be down by the time you arrive at the Facility, if you’re *really* lucky you pitch up just as it’s captured, and you get your XP for nothing and the tokens for free.

After phoning in the mission completion run outside, and hopefully at least a few people will be heading for an enemy-held Anima Well; tag along with them, stand near the well while it’s captured (or click on it, if nobody else seems to be), phone in the second mission for more XP and tokens, then leave the zone with all speed. You can return once the timer on the two missions has expired, if you like.

If your society is so dominant that it holds all four facilities, or so unpopular that there’s only three of you in the zone, leave at once. You may be tempted to try and “fight” some “players”, but that would be silly. The Fusang Project is a cunning allegory, demonstrating that if we all just work together and seize the means of production from faceless entities we’ll be showered with rewards, but if we turn upon each other and fight then everything just bogs down in pointless slaughter, and nobody gets cake and medals.

Stonehenge! Where the demons dwell

If you actually want to fight players, Stonehenge is the destination for you. The Stonehenge battlefield in The Secret World is an implementation of the summer solstice at the actual site. The Dragons represent a bunch of new-age hippies, anarchists and similar types trying to get to the stones for some sort of festival that probably involves joss sticks and falafel. The Templars are law and order, representing the police who want to stop them, and dish out a beating to some crusties while they’re at it. The Illuminati are the press, ostensibly there to observe but really trying to engineer a fight for some good pictures, and as they simultaneously represent both The Daily Mail and The Guardian, they’re equally hated by both the other groups.

Your side scores points in Stonehenge by having the most (live) players within the big circle in the middle of the map, so what you really want to be aiming for in this battlefield is:
1) Standing in the circle
2) Killing enemy players

What you should *not* be doing is:
1) Standing outside the circle
2) Being killed by enemy players

As this is pretty complex stuff, here’s a diagram to help out. Look up your standing-in-the-circle-ness on the X-axis, and your killing-or-being-killed-ness on the Y-axis, and check the resultant advice in that quadrant:

Stonehenge Battlefield Guide

El Dorado, Mysterious City of Gold

Unfortunately I can’t tell you anything about the El Dorado battlefield for two reasons. Firstly it seems less popular than the others, so the queue for it is much longer. Secondly, upon joining the queue I’d fire up YouTube on the in-game browser and spend the next hour singing along with the theme tune to Mysterious Cities of Gold, thus missing the “Join” window if it ever did turn up. Aaaaahhhh, ah ah ahh ahhhhhh, searching for the cities of goooooollldd…

Intuition is the clear conception of the whole at once.

The Secret World is a deeply splendid game which brings with it some intriguing game-play elements, but it also remains a little bit buggy in places, as is the Funcom way. Certain quests are particularly susceptible to bugging-out, quite often when more than one player is trying to activate a step or solve a problem at the same time.

Investigation quests are one of the more interesting elements of the game, requiring players to use lateral thinking and powers of deduction to solve a chain of clues and riddles in order to resolve a mystery. Some of the answers to this particular type of quest are really quite obscure, and often require a significant leap of intuition on the part of the player.

But the really fun part comes when, after hours of increasingly more ludicrous attempts at solving the problem, with one’s character hanging upside down from a street lamp by one leg, with underpants on its head, candles in its ears, and its naked body covered in marmalade, one gives up in frustration and looks up the solution online, only to find that the quest is bugged and that the correct solution was, indeed, to simply put the key in the lock.

It is the folly of too many to mistake the echo of a London coffee-house for the voice of the kingdom

Player characters in MMOGs don’t tend to be a very chatty bunch. Not the *players*; fascinating socio-political debates in /general, the growing prevalence of voice chat, you can’t shut those buggers up. Their characters, though, tend to let their actions speak for them, giving eloquent speeches like “KILL RAT KILL RAT KILL RAT KILL RAT KILL RAT KILL RAT KILL RAT KILL RAT KILL RAT KILL RAT”, with an occasional bit of interpretive dance (or as close as you can get with an /emote) chucked in. Even textual dialogue choices are mostly limited to “Yes, I would love to perform a menial task for meagre reward” or “I would love to perform a menial task for meagre reward, but have no room in my quest log at the moment.”

Recent games are featuring much chattier player characters; in Guild Wars 2 your character has fully voiced conversations, and of course there’s the Guinness World Record holding Star Wars: The Old Republic, but it’s a double-edged sword. On the one hand some players find it odd if ‘you’ are mute, especially when everyone else in the world is yakking away nineteen to the dozen, on the other hand if you don’t like the voice, or think it inappropriate for your character, it can be a real immersion-breaker.

In The Secret World Funcom have either ignored the issue entirely, or tackled it head-on, I’m not quite sure. There are many cutscenes as your character is recruited into a society, briefed on missions, given general information on what’s happening in the world, with extremely voluble NPCs, and throughout them all you say… nothing. Hardly unprecedented, but it’s a touch odd, especially given the amount of talking other people are doing. Sometimes, like when you’re recruited, it’s quite obvious the NPC is talking directly to you, other times it’s almost like they’re extemporising away and you just happen to be in the area… one scene seemed to be two other characters talking to each other while I stood somewhere in the vicinity (almost out of camera shot), but I still ended up being assigned a mission out of it. The game even lampshades your inaction, having NPCs offer a handshake, and commenting when you continue standing entirely immobile with no indication you’re even aware of their presence. Outside cutscenes you can quiz some NPCs about a range of subjects and receive a spoken response, with no in-game indication of how you managed to elicit it; my current theory is that you have a big pad of paper, and scrawl “YOURSELF” or “ZOMBIES” on it, then wave it at the NPC until they start talking.

It’s quite peculiar and has been mentioned in many of the posts and reviews of The Secret World that I’ve seen, but somehow it sort of works. Perhaps because the world in general in TSW is quite peculiar, in a good way. The whole business starts with an origin story inspired by Burl Ives (“I know an old Templar who swallowed a fly, I don’t know why she swallowed a fly, perhaps she’ll die? Or perhaps she’ll gain magical powers that enable healing through the medium of an assault rifle. It’s pretty much 50-50.”), and builds from there. I think a lot of the appeal of the game has been leaping head-first into the off-kilter version of our world without any prior knowledge, much like your character, and gradually piecing together what’s happening from talking to NPCs, examining lore items and other snippets you happen across, and in that context your character’s silence is an inspired Brechtian alienation device. Or maybe they just ran out of time and money for recording dialogue.

Tell me to what you pay attention and I will tell you who you are.

I wonder if Funcom should start a timer running when the end-user license agreement pops up on the patcher for The Secret World. I’d like to know the average time a player spends reading it.

I managed “End-user Agreement. PLEASE READ CAREF—” before the natural instincts of my index finger, honed over years of MMO quest accepting, and moving faster than the speed of thought, slammed itself knuckle-first from the top rope onto my mouse button while screaming “WHATEVER!”. I think that’s a new record of endurance for me.

The nice thing about accepting quests in The Secret World is that the nature of the game encourages you to stay a while and listen. Clues and hints, as well as atmospheric snippets of lore, are contained in the dialogue, and although the pertinent quest text is always included in the player’s journal, there are often still very useful titbits to be had by listening to the whole story from the NPC quest-giver. Not to mention the fact that the stories are simply compelling.

For me, the difference between The Secret World and Star Wars: The Old Republic is that the conversations in TSW seem bigger somehow. Most quests (outside of the main story) in SWTOR seemed no more than idle incidental background to excuse getting the player to kill ten womprats, whereas every quest dialogue in TSW seems to be part of a greater whole—part of a connected universe. Yes, even the ones getting you to go and kill ten zombrats. Ragnar Tørnquist has always been a great storyteller; whether you enjoyed The Longest Journey series as a game or not, it’s hard to deny that an epic tale is told within. I think a lot of Tørnquist’s talent shines through in the overarching story of TSW, which is revealed as much through the amalgamate of minor tales divulged with every quest, as it is through the main story quest; something which makes this small world feel more authentic than an entire galaxy of quests, far, far away.

The Secret World once again puts the lore in explore—one of the aspects of play which I’ve been missing in MMOs for quite some time.