Wall of text and The Secret World spoilers ahead! Turn back! Beware! BEWARE!
Please continue reading if you are unafraid of either of these things. You have been warned.
The Steam Summer Sale has prompted me to have a “what the hell, it might be interesting” attitude towards a bunch of games. As a result, I’ve bought several games on sale, including The Secret World MMO.
I had been intrigued when the beta for this game was first announced, but I had never actually gotten around to trying it because I was distracted by other games. Now here it was, 50% off and no subscription required. Too tempting not to give a shot.
I was somewhat stunned to see Steam downloading 18GB for TSW, and then rolled my eyes when the launcher then downloaded another couple GBs of patches. Whatever, it’s an MMO. Large file sizes are to be expected. I was hoping to have more time to play but once all of the downloads had finished, I only had about 1/2 hour to play around before bedtime. I decided to test it out anyways.
First I had to create a character. After watching the videos for each faction, I chose the Dragon. The Illuminati are essentially bad guys who wanted ALL THE POWER, and the Templars are lawful to the point of fascism. The Dragon seems interesting, all about chaos and subtly calculating and manipulating details to make an outcome in their favor. I do like about how each faction is neither good nor evil, but complex systems that all cross the moral line at some point. I greatly simplified what each of them are like, but that’s basically how I saw them.
Annnnnnyways, it was then time for the actual character creation. It was good to see that there’s some choice, although there seemed to be an inordinate amount of makeup styles. The idea of makeup on an adventurer has always puzzled me. These are people who are going to be fighting and running around, covered in sweat and dirt and gore and lord knows what else. I mean, if their mascara smudges or a nail breaks, do they pause in the middle of battle to fix it? If they get bits of intestine in their hair, do they let out a little girlish screech and frantically comb it out with their fingers while their enemy bleeds out on the ground? Also, they added a dozen makeup choices but no option to select a body type other than perfectly portioned? All you can really do is adjust their height. No one is even close to overweight in The Secret World I guess.
I shrugged off the strange creation choices and ended up with a blue-eyed woman with short and spiky blue hair, freckles, and no makeup. She is of course sensibly dressed in a black hoodie, blue jeans, and running shoes. If she’s going to be fighting bad guys, she should be dressed for it. Plus I have no idea if I can change her clothes later. Oh, and I gave her black-framed glasses, mostly because I had never had an RPG character with glasses before. I like that they added that option and didn’t just assume everyone has 20/20 vision. (Says the girl who’s had glasses since she was 7.) On a whim, I went with a Ukrainian name and tada! Avrora Drakon is born.
Here comes a series of cut scenes that begin my confusion. The first one takes place a week ago and begins with a firefly(?) buzzing through Avrora’s window at night and shows off her neat and stylish apartment. It eventually makes it way to my character, who is sleeping with no sheets or blankets on. Really, who sleeps like that? I guess maybe it’s a hot night (hence the windows being left open) but if she can afford nice furniture, would it be a stretch to think she would have air conditioning, or at least a fan? Either way, the bug ends up flying into her mouth and she swallows it in her sleep. Ewww.
Then she has a dream where she’s wearing her clothes but not her glasses (although truthfully I can’t recall ever dreaming about wearing glasses, but they’re pretty much glued to my face in all of my waking hours). It’s raining and there’s floating rocks and people are whispering cryptic messages. Then a blond woman in white and a dark-haired man in black appear and say more ambiguous phrases about listening to voices. I get it, it’s the angel and devil on her shoulders trying to tell her to be wary or heed the voices. And they can’t be plain-spoken because well…it’s a dream. No one has ever had a dream that’s just like real-life before. Then the angel and the devil both spew out swarms of light and dark fireflies that she has to swallow. Double ewww. I think the angel/devil is just messing with her now.
Avrora wakes up feeling like she’s choking on something (maybe the actual firefly that she swallowed?) but then she’s okay and so she reaches for her robe. Suddenly, she shoots blue fire energy at the robe without meaning to! She stares at it in surprise and confusion until she manages to snuff it, and the robe is undamaged. All right, cool, now she has special powers! If only swallowing bugs meant that IRL. Wait no, that would still be gross.
The next cinematic shows my character huddled in a corner, looking like she’s going to be sick. Then umm…how to describe the next scene. Have you ever eaten bad tacos and you’ve gotten really sick? I’m talking some seriously bad tacos here. Well, Avrora feels so crappy that she stands up (probably to go looking for a toilet) but doesn’t make it too far because she ends up projectile vomiting blue energy towards the ceiling, and it shoots out her other end as well. It gets so bad that her furniture thrown around and smashed as a result. After it’s done, she just slumps back down and looks worn out. I get that it’s suppose to show how the powers she now possesses are growing in strength so quickly that she can’t control them. I think we’re suppose to feel awe and jealous…but man, I just wanted to pat her on the shoulder sympathetically and say, “Yeah, we’ve all been there. You’ll feel better once it’s all out of you. Here’s a bucket.”
Another cut and it’s a couple days later, showing the apartment as having been completely trashed, but Avrora is feeling better. She now has the blue taco energy under control! She makes it into balls and tosses it back and forth a bit. Good, she’s no longer feeling like vomiting blue fire and she now has control of her new powers. Time to wreck some shit!
Yet another cinematic and someone is knocking at the door. She sloooooowly opens it and it’s some creepy Asian guy with his mouth sewn shut. He steps inside and instead of blasting him with taco energy or I don’t know…swinging at him with a bat, she stands there while he reaches out and shoots an itty bitty bolt of energy at her forehead. Honestly, it looks like he shuffled his feet as he came into the room and got her with static electricity while giggling. I’m just about to laugh at this puny display compared to my room-wrecking energy blast…when Avrora passes out cold on the floor. More men come in to carry her unconscious ass off. I’ve known her for about 10 minutes and she’s already gotten herself kidnapped. /sigh
Finally, the last cinematic. A van with a butterfly on the driver door (hurr hurr, the Butterfly Effect) pulls up, Avrora is pushed out the door, and then the van screeches away. She turns around to discover…that she’s in a dead-end alley. That van had to had driven through not just solid walls but entire houses to get there. Without being noticed either. This intrigues me. Obviously someone has enough power to not only go through walls but to allow an entire vehicle to do so. Think about what you could do with that. Bank vaults could be entered and cleared out within a matter of minutes, regardless of how many feet of steel make up the walls. Prisons couldn’t hold you. You could go anywhere you wanted and no one could stop you. Now that is power. I bet though that we never find out how they did that, nor is it used for any sort of advantage later. They just do it to impress the newbies.
So I finally have control of my character and the quest log says I’m suppose to follow some butterflies. Screw that, I’m going exploring! Oh, the screen goes greyscale and static-y if I go off the beaten path. And there’s not much to see besides houses I can’t go into and objects I can’t pick up. There’s not even any people around. I…I guess I’ll go follow the butterflies. /dejected
Avrora ends up at some hotel and there’s another damn cut scene where she sits down next to some guy who shuffles around papers and rambles about chaos theory. I kind of understand what he’s saying. The Dragon figure that chaos is not actually chaos, but order that only needs to be analyzed in incredible detail to determine the outcome. And they have gathered enough information that they can start manipulating things subtly so that the outcome they want will probably happen. So in other words, they are SUPER dedicated statisticians. But he says it in such an obtuse fashion (and let’s not forget that I’m not even sure why we’re here or what the heck is going on) that I’m just growing more and more perplexed. Hell, I’m following freaking butterflies around and why am I even talking to this guy? My character sitting there with her mouth slightly open and a dumbfounded expression on her face isn’t helping matters. I’m beginning to think she’s not the sharpest tool in the shed. He then mentions that sooner or later, everyone goes upstairs. The cutscene ends and I have control back. But not really because the only place to go is up the stairs, isn’t it?
So Avrora follows the butterflies up the stairs (maybe she’s high right now) and right before she steps into a room, a guy steps in her way. He’s covered in pretty awesome tattoos and has a dragon-looking claw for a hand…but the badass image is kind of ruined by the fact that it looks like he’s wearing a diaper. I know that’s not really what it is but I just can’t take him seriously anymore. So I giggle with absolute immaturity.
A sultry woman in a red dress soon shoos him off and Avrora is left alone with her as things get pretty steamy. I don’t have any problems with some sexual teasing in games but this woman is laying it on pretty thick. It’s an M-rated game so fair enough. She’s talking about doing stuff for the Dragon and not knowing why it needs to be done while making out with Avrora…and then yep, the woman is going down on her (not shown on the screen but heavily implied). I honestly don’t think there’s anything wrong with anything LGBT, but I get a little pissed that I don’t seem to have a choice as to whether this happens to my character or not. I can understand the gaining of uncontrollable powers, and the being kidnapped (sort of), but I don’t remember choosing this somewhere along the way. I created this character, shouldn’t I have a little bit of control over her? Walking up those stairs (a choice that seems to have been forced upon me) means that Avrora is now part of some hot lesbian action whether she likes it or not?
Anyways, this somehow leads to being thrown into a dream, which is really someone else’s memories of a disaster in Tokyo. My character is now playing the role of someone named Sarah (meta-RPG?) and there are two women and a hot guy with an Australian accent (I think. Any accent from the UK or Australia is good in my books). Well hello there handsome. Unfortunately I cannot talk to hot Aussie guy but instead have to talk to one of the women who directs me to a gun. I guess this is my “power” in this dream? Oh well.
Then some Filth monsters who were apparently once people leap out of the ducts at us. Do you remember on Looney Tunes when Wile E. Coyote would end up shooting himself in the face with a gun or cannon, and his face would become a black smudge with his hair spiking back wildly? That’s exactly what these people looked like. So they fling themselves wildly at our group and I start mashing the two abilities I got from picking up the gun. I’m surprised that despite the fact that my teammates are in my direct line of fire, they are not blown away every time I squeeze the trigger. Ah, so this is my real power. The ability to not fill my teammates with lead while trying to kill the bad guys.
So we fight our way through them, and then there’s more of them, and one of the women yells about not letting any of their Filth get on me, and that I shouldn’t even breathe. Seriously, lady? Not only am I using a shot gun at point blank range, but any monster that’s not within melee range of me is spewing black stuff at me. Not only am I certainly covered in Filth, but also pieces of brain, bone bits, and several gallons of blood. I think I even saw someone’s gall bladder stuck to my pant leg. Give me a hazmat suit and then we can talk about preventing contamination.
Eventually we get to a wrecked subway train and suddenly the other three declare that they must scout in another direction and leave me. There’s hordes of Filth monsters down here and you guys are just going to bail? Not even one of you could stay with me so we’re split up evenly? (I’d vote for hot Aussie guy to stay with me but we all know what happens to “couples” in horror movies.)
I then have to fight my way through a BIG Filth guy (who reminds me of a Tank in Left 4 Dead) and upon entering a wrecked train, some random guy flies through a closed door with incredible force. Something else immediately charges so I follow my instinct that it must be the thing that attacked him and start firing away. Oh, it’s actually a man in a hippie outfit who’s talking to me, not attacking me, and wants me to heal the first dude. He’s just lucky that my power is all about not hitting good guys with bullets or we’d be scrapping him off the wall. So he gives me a healing power and I use it. The injured guy gets better and all is now well with the world.
We then join back up with the group of three bastards to left me to die just a few minutes before and they’re as cheery as ever. (Assholes.) After the quick reunion, it’s back to fighting more waves of Filth monsters, big and normal-sized. It’s become apparent to me that it’s impossible to die in this dream/memory, which is great because that would have really ruined the mood. Not to mention that I would have been dead several times over. So I’m back to spamming my abilities while trying to keep some distance from the monsters. Only they want to walk right up to me and gnaw on my head so I’m running around and shooting random things while this trail of monsters chases after me. I think I heard the Benny Hill theme playing in the background.
Both my teammates and I come to the conclusion that these waves of monsters are never going to end, so they encourage me to push through them and keep going. I’d like to believe that this is either their way of making it up to me for abandoning me before…or they’re stepping up their game of getting me killed. I’m leaning more towards the latter. Except for Hot Aussie Guy, we totally had a connection there when he brushed that lung off my shoulder. Either way, I charge through and get to the other side of the monsters, only for the ceiling to collapse and cut me off from all of them. I’m alone in the ruined subway…again.
It was at this point that I decided it was time to call it a night. My overall impression of the game so far is that I have no idea what’s going on plot-wise and I can’t say too much about the gameplay since I have a feeling that this beginning part is very linear to ensure newbies don’t get lost. Lord knows I feel lost as it is. I have higher hopes for the rest of the game, and it looks like it could be very interesting. But man, the first 30 minutes could really be summed up simply as WTF?
If you’ve played TSW for longer and have a better impression, please tell me about it in the comments.