Issue 10 in Screenshots

It’s no secret that reaching Tokyo slowed down my progression in The Secret World. The city itself wasn’t as compelling to explore as other zones have been and the constant loom of death threatening my character at every corner had me running past everything rather than closely observing it. Issue 10 has been a marked improvement, both with regard to the story elements at play and the environments. What I like about this area in Kaidan is the color palette used. Unlike the city which is mostly grey steel and concrete, this area incorporates stunning greens, pinks, reds, and oranges while still feeling melancholic. It’s all the colors of innocence lost, a fallen Eden, and I like the conflicting emotions it evokes.

I’m going to try and avoid giving away too many spoilers, but I will be sharing a series of screenshots depicting my journey through (almost) all of Issue 10 with some commentary. If you haven’t played through it and would like to experience it yourself first, you may want to skip this post. Otherwise here’s a peek at what the story and setting of Issue 10 has to offer.

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I love the way this screenshot captures the lush grass, pink blossoms, and traditional architecture against the backdrop of a more urbanized Tokyo. Looming above them both is a toxic, yellow-grey sky and the four-winged dragon beasts that I’ve seen pass over the city from time to time. I don’t know what they are, but I’m sure I’ll find out eventually.

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Here’s Jung, a young boy who is all alone at the Kindergarten in the Orochi housing compound. He’s one of the kids with special powers that the Orochi are so keen to recruit. Jung is eerie in that he is child-like and sad yet possessing a power so great it would give anyone a god complex. While I’m unsure of all the details, he confirmed my suspicions about Fear Nothing, the Morning Light, and the Orochi.

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Funcom likes to send player characters through these facilities that were once intended for children or teens but now are full of death and monsters. They are one of the more unsettling environments in The Secret World, second only to “The Parking Garage That Shall Not Be Named.”

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I thought this would be like that movie Cocoon so I jumped in the water and ran around. It did not end well for me.

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It turns out the bunny killer is a girl, so my theory that the ubiquitous John and the bunny are one and the same no longer holds water. She’s probably someone else from the Fear Nothing facility but unfortunately I’ve played this mission over such a long span of time that I can no longer recall the names of any girls that may have been foreshadowed as the killer. I vaguely remember a non-Japanese member of the club playing a prominent role in the storyline but I can’t remember what happened to her, she may already be dead.

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Unless it turns out to be Daredevil under that mask, I don’t see how anyone can be such a deadly assassin with no peripheral vision. And who makes bunny masks with a  permanent scowl? I did like this brief moment between my character and the bunny killer though. She seems to be either daring me to stop the assassinations she has planned, or is simply letting me know she has a schedule to maintain. Either way, I really like this character Funcom has created. I’m hoping I get to face her in combat wearing my Chad the Chipmunk mask.

Back in TSW, Finishing Issue #9

Tokyo has been tiresome almost since the moment I stepped foot in the zone. There’s something about the metropolitan atmosphere that kind of killed my enthusiasm for The Secret World and I haven’t been able to establish any momentum in the game since stepping foot in the city, despite having set the goal of completing Issues 9-11 in March. All the grey-blue tones, the depressing atmosphere of a dead city, and the exhausting threat of filth creatures and their AEGIS shields all combine to make Tokyo one of my least favorite areas in TSW.

That isn’t to say I haven’t enjoyed moments here and there; the Fear Nothing building was an excellent story chain albeit a little too similar to the Orochi’s facility in Transylvania. And I just met Harumi and her brother, two colorful characters I really liked and I’m glad Issue 13 will have me interacting with them a little more. Nevertheless, right now I see Tokyo as a zone to get through rather than one to enjoy like I did with all the others. I wish there had been a bit more variety, with perhaps an overarching story in Japan, not just Tokyo, that would have included rural areas and people affected by the filth bomb but not as directly as everyone in Tokyo.

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I would love to see an entire zone set in Japan full of rural roads and colorful trees like the ones in this screenshot.

 

There be spoilers ahead… ye’ve been warned.

Because my progress has been going slowly, I’m having a hard time keeping all of the story elements together, having played through the missions over a longer period of time than usual. What I remember though is that I will be searching for the White Rabbit now (the start of Issue 10), an individual who has been killing people on a list of assassination targets before the hired demon assassins have been able to do the job themselves. This White Rabbit is probably related to the Fear Nothing group, likely one of the few members to escape the mass suicide committed by the cult. But whose behind Fear Nothing? Are they related to the Orochi and their experiments on children? And who is John?

One thing The Secret World does really well is telling stories without filling in every last little detail. Some of these questions I have may be answered over the next few Issues but others may remain vague and uncertain. Rarely are loose ends neatly tied together in this game and I think that’s intentional. It nurtures the air of mystery and conspiracy that makes The Secret World such a unique MMO and it allows for speculation by the players which may not be conclusive, but it is a lot of fun to think about. If there’s one thing that might draw me back in to Tokyo, it will be the story.

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This is what happens when you don’t bring coffee and donuts to a 7am business meeting.

 

However since I’m not as excited about this zone as a whole so far, my plan is to spend 2-3 nights a week playing through two main or part of a story mission and however many side missions I come across. This way I can make progress slowly even if I’m not as eager to play as I once was. To be clear, it’s not the game I don’t enjoy— I still love the combat and suspenseful horror of the stories being told, it’s the environment that just doesn’t work for me.

I may also queue for a dungeon or for PvP each time I play as well but for the most part I want to make progress through Tokyo without getting burned out on The Secret World. Because I’m slowing down a bit, I’m not as concerned about upgrading my gear even though it will happen passively regardless so on my list of goals, I will make some progress but it is unlikely to be completed this month. Doing things this way ought to get me through the Tokyo issues I have left in a couple of months and then I can check out the new Issue that Funcom just released.

For those of you who have played through Tokyo, what did you think of the zone? Where would you rank the environment among the others in TSW? What about the story?

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I must admit, sometimes even the muted greys and blues of Tokyo can be beautiful.

Tokyo and Progress in The Secret World

A lot changed in The Secret World once I made my way past Transylvania, past Issues 6-8, and into Tokyo. Progression up until that point felt very linear; I used skill points to equip better talismans and weapons and then I used my action points to improve my deck building potential. Talismans and weapons were dropped by mobs frequently enough that I was able to keep gear relevant to the content I was doing most of the time. It broadened quite a bit after Transylvania though when I began collecting custom QL10 gear but now that I’ve reached Tokyo I feel like I’m drowning in a list of things I need to upgrade.

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This is where the game really separates the newly arrived from the veterans. I assumed that Tokyo and Issues 9-13 would be similar to the previous issues but instead, along with upgrading my custom gear for nightmare dungeons I also have AEGIS controllers to upgrade that use the same currency. I wasn’t expecting this and so now I’m torn between improving my controllers so that combat in Tokyo gets a little easier (and I’m assuming it’s required to have upgraded AEGIS gear for Tokyo dungeons) and continuing to upgrade my talismans and weapons at least to QL 10.4. And I haven’t even touched the augment system yet.

Compare my situation to that of a veteran, who would have likely entered Tokyo with gear already upgraded much further than my own. In Tokyo they would have still needed to upgrade the AEGIS controllers but it would be the only thing they needed to upgrade. I’m not complaining, nor do I think the answer is some kind of catch up mechanic, it’s just something I’ve thought about once I realized AEGIS was more than just a combat mechanic but a whole new upgrade treadmill. If you were playing the game before Issue 9 was released you’ll have a much different experience stepping into Tokyo than if you started the game for the first time sometime after the introduction of Tokyo. When these systems were introduced, they were designed to be experienced one at a time over a long period of time but as a new player they stack up rather quickly.

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When I first reached Tokyo I was under the impression I would get through Issues 9-13 as quickly as I went through 6-8 and would easily be ready for Issue 14 like everyone else when it released. Now I’m thinking Tokyo will be a much slower experience (not a bad thing, mind you) and it may be much longer before I feel “caught up” to the current content. I’m finding the missions themselves to be a little more challenging as well, so much so in fact that I had to recruit some help to get through the first tier of an action mission given by the demon Inbeda. The main storyline has also included quests that are both long and often quite challenging. I will never enter a TSW parking lot again.

Basically I’ve had to reset my expectations for how long Tokyo will take to complete and how long it will be before I am able to play through new content upon its release. I don’t think I’ll be ready by Issue 14 but I’m hoping by the time we start hearing about 15 I’ll have completed Tokyo, finished upgrading my gear, and be well on my way to being (relatively) caught up with the longtime veterans. That is of course nothing to complain about, all it means is that there’s even more content available in this game than I had originally thought.