To spoil or not to spoil; that is the question. When it comes to The Secret World, that’s a very serious question indeed! As much as I really, really hate spoilers, how could I ever decline a sneak-peek tour of much-anticipated Issue #11 with Funcom Lead Designer Romain Amiel and Communications Manager Tor Egil Andersen? The answer is, I couldn’t. After all, the secrets of the Orochi are finally at our fingertips! The chance to delve deeper into my favorite story earlier than expected is so worth the risk of a spoiler or two. And you get to reap the benefits of the experience as I share all the tantalizing tidbits with you just as the update officially launches and you can break into the Orochi Tower yourself.
Now before we go any further, you need to be aware that there are spoilers ahead. I’ll give you fair warning before anything major so you have the chance to skip that info, but the responsibility is on your shoulders. But even if you read this Chaos Theory in its entirety, there will be plenty still to discover on your own. As Amiel said, Reaping the Whirlwind has a lot of reveals, and there are some major things I simply won’t divulge at all (but I know you’ll love!). On top of that, the devs were gracious enough to end the tour before the conclusion, leaving the finale to me to discover it at my own pace.
Ever since Kingsmouth, players have been bumping into this other organization, the Orochi. While not a player faction, the Orochi are definitely big players in the story; various missions throughout the zones add snippets of the story that players begin to piece together. But it isn’t until the Orochi Headquarters in Kaidan that you can really learn what’s going on on a larger scale. If you don’t want to learn any of it, definitely stop reading now and skip down to the collectors section at the end.
Still here? Last chance… OK, here we go.
After getting a very blatant all-clear signal, players will break into the tower via the tunnels. Of course, there are plenty of security measures to bypass, but astute observations will provide enough hints to get you safely through each obstacle. (Without giving too much away, let me just say that someone light on his feet will be able to safely dance by at one point.) Soon, you’ll reach the building proper, and then the fun really begins. A bonus hint: Although players can do all aspects of the tower solo, taking along some friends will be quite helpful.
The tower itself is composed of 21 distinct floors, with three each dedicated to most of of the eight Oriochi corporations of Vali, Syncoil, Zagan, QBL, Plethron, Anansi Technologies, Faust Capital, and Manticore (three only have two floors right now). Fun fact: Amiel noted that each business is in fact based on a real-world counterpart. Each business has its own story to tell, and each floor has its own atmosphere, objective, and gameplay. Some floors are just riddles, while other floors are combat-centered. One floor is — I kid you not — a VR PacMan game you get to play! Amiel did emphasize that the floors do follow a general pattern: The first floor is the combat floor, with some unskippable encounters; the second floor is anything goes, many with a sabotage twist and most with weirder stories; and the third floor always has a big boss. After completing the third floor, players move on to the board room (where a big surprise awaits) and then to the penthouse (where an even bigger surprise or three await). The penthouse in particular is where players might want friends along as it is pretty difficult solo. It will also test your use of the Aegis.
Here’s how the tower mission works: Players will choose which business they want to explore first and enter its elevator in the lobby. Then, after completing that first floor’s objective, they’ll receive a keycard for the second floor. Here’s the kicker: The keycard is of a random business! The same thing happens after completing the second floor. That means that each time the 18-hour cooldown timer resets, players can get a different experience on different floors. For those who do want to return to the tower often, here’s some good news: Once you finish the story you can click on tower to get in, bypassing the subway entrance.
What’s the point of redoing the mission once you’ve reached the boardroom and moved on in the storyline? Story! Because the mission itself had to be completable no matter which floors players ended up on, the story of the Orochi organization is told environmentally. Players will have to look around and read what they find to learn what happened. Amiel also revealed that there are plenty of Easter eggs throughout the various floors for players to discover. (Spoiler!! One such Easter egg is a special betting pool that will contain actual players’ names.) Additionally, at some point secret floors will be added clandestinely, so players won’t know when they might find themselves in new one to play through. Not to mention the third floor always ends with a boss, and who doesn’t want boss loot? On top of all that, there are a slew of achievements in this issue for players to earn, not the least of which includes completing all floors. Revisiting the tower might also have to do with playing an alt, as each faction has a different ending.
Why the randomness? Some floors are shorter than others, and the team didn’t want to see players skip through all the rich story and atmosphere just to too follow the best grind path. And let me assure you, it’s worth the stroll through each and every floor! I have only seen three myself, and I am dying to see the rest! What if you have really bad RNG and never get to see certain floors? Amiel shared that there is a special skeleton key, a card scrambler, that players can get that will allow them to choose a business instead of being stuck with the random one. This card scrambler is one-time use only but can be traded or sold on the auction house.
As for RNG, it should also be noted that the lore is the same on each level of floors. That means if you can’t find a way to get the lore from one particular corp’s floor, you can get it on another.
You have been warned, so read this section at your own risk! I’m very serious; skip down to the next section if you don’t want to know these juicy morsels.
One of the cool things I discovered in this issue was coming face-to-face with what happens to those bee-blessed who do not choose to join any of the three player factions. They become Orochi recruits! On one floor you get to face NPCs who have all the same characteristics and powers of player characters. All of them. Called Mitsubachi (bee in Japanese), these mobs have indefinite respawns just like you, and you’ll be able to recognize their abilities. So the question becomes how to deal with them? I’ll leave it at that, but I will tell you that if you don’t deal with any of them, there is actually an achievement involved. Too cryptic? Ask me personally if you really must know! It is here you are also introduced to the portable anima well, something Amiel hopes to find a way to let the players investigate more and even use.
The next big reveal is that yes, your choices in the dreaming sequence did really matter. While there might be even more consequences later (it all ties into the actual end of the game), the one that manifests itself this time around is the ultimate power that you’ll be granted. Which power a player gets depends on the choices: Those who chose to reject the gift each time earn gold, while those who accepted each time get black. What about players who had a mix of responses? They’ll have electric blue. This ultimate ability will charge itself with each regular ability you use. When it is full, which takes usually 10 to 15 minutes, it does enough damage (30K regular, 6K Aegis) that it will kill any non-boss single target in game immediately as well as heal the caster to full health. Note: This ability does not work in PvP, and once a mob is hit by it once, it has a short-term immunity to it so groups can’t chain attack with their ultimate powers.
Here’s a safe topic! For every Tokyo issue there has been a collectors edition with special goodies for players to, well, collect. And Issue #11 is no different. Players who opt for this more expensive version will receive three main gifts. The first is an Orochi trench coat. The second is an epic injector, which is basically an unlimited potion that grants one of three random stats (penetration rating, crit rating, or crit damage rating) and can be applied every 30 minutes. The third is an adorable pet modeled after the giant crab-like nanny bots. I was able to resist the previous two collector editions, but this little pet has won me over!
Looking into the future
With TSW being such a niche game anyways, fans are a bit more leery of changes that might threaten the game. Amiel assured players that there is no need to worry, even with the recent staff departures. He said, “Even with [them] leaving, no one should see a drop in quality of the game. We’ve planned out to Issue #24.”
Speaking of issues, Issue #12 is wholly group-oriented. It focuses on what is beneath the Orochi tower. Although it does have a little bit of story and ties up a few loose ends of previous issues, its main reason for being is the dungeons. Amiel said the team is going to be watching closely to how well this issue is received, as the Tokyo raid and future endgame type content offerings will be affected by how well this one goes over with players.
Amiel also shared that there are some other free content updates in the works that will hopefully hit the game before Issue #12, but he couldn’t make promises, so those will remain under wraps for now. What about more Sidestories? They might not be worth it. Amiel told me there has been an overall lack of interest from players, and the Sidestories are just as much work as an issue to produce. He acknowledged that it might have been a mistake to call them Sidestories, as players who are focused on the main story feel they aren’t vital and therefore dismiss them.
As for auxiliary weapons, when the next one is introduced is actually up in the air. This next weapon’s mission is a very ambitious, but Amiel isn’t sure that players would be happy waiting two months for a single quest, so the team is looking at more things to round out the offering. The weapon might just be moved to another issue and location of the world if that works better.
And now that the Tokyo portion is nearly through, where is the story headed next? Amiel and Andersen both told me that all the locations that are mentioned in Kaidan will appear and that some players might be able to figure out the next step from the final cutscene. So where do you think TSW will go next? I for one can’t wait to see, but until then I will be enjoying Issue #11 since it’s live for members today! Non-subbers will see the issue on Saturday the 9th.