Do you think a little thing like being in another country and having dismal internet could keep me from touring The Secret World’s Issue #12 with Lead Designer Romain Amiel and Communications Manager Tor Egil Andersen? Of course not! Where there’s a will, there’s a way, and trust me — I had the will. So even though the connection was far from ideal, I was able to poke through the new dungeon and raid, summon a world boss, and look at the new quality-of-life features to get a taste of what’s in store with today’s To the Dark Tower Below update. I also asked about TSW’s future and how the team is faring amid Funcom’s public search for investors. Read on!
It’s business as usual
For folks worried that the announcement that Funcom is looking for a buyer/investors spells doom for their favorite game, the devs say don’t — the bells are not yet poised to ring in that sad song. Yes, the studio is seeking funding, but things are not as dire as that may seem. The studio’s CEO recently spoke up and proclaimed that the games will continue. That is well and good, but I wanted to hear it from those who were actually involved with TSW. Amiel and Andersen mirrored those sentiments, reiterating that The Secret World is a profitable game (as, they noted, is Age of Conan). And they also agreed it would be crazy to stop games still producing profit.
Still, how has this situation affected the team’s morale? Amiel stated that there is no change in development or in plans. “We’re not letting it affect us,” he said. “We’re still working on what we’re supposed to do.” Basically, the team is continuing with daily work with no change. Amiel has every confidence that players will see expected future issues.
With that out of the way, let’s delve into the down below! As with any tour, time constraints and having devs in god mode to move things along skew a dungeon run just a wee bit. Also, I wasn’t on my own character, so a really in-depth experience will have wait until I can log into Issue #12 live. Until then, these first impressions will have to tide us over. Warning: There will be spoilers ahead, especially relating to tactics within the dungeon!
The main adventure (the dungeon) starts in the Orochi Tower lobby in Kaidan. Though all three faction representatives are still hanging out there, it’s the Dragon’s Daimin Kiyota that players get another cutscene with. His job? To send you down to the Orochi basement to see what you can see.
Here it should be noted that while the Manufactory, the raids, and the other upcoming dungeon are Issue #12’s paid content — meaning you must purchase the issue to access them — players actually do not need to own any of the previous Tokyo issues; Issue #12 is a standalone DLC specifically for the dungeon and raid-loving crowd. The only other access requirement is to be eligible to enter elite dungeons. Like all other elite dungeons, The Manufactory has an Agartha entrance. This gives those who cannot walk into Tokyo directly full access to the dungeon.
Once inside, players will see a very modern, sci-fi environ. Now here is where some might feel TSW dropped the ball. I know there are folks who believe that Tokyo has departed from the spooky heart of the game , but I disagree. The atmosphere doesn’t have to be ancient, primitive, misted over, or rural to invoke spookiness. It’s not all dark alleyways and creaking doors. Sure, spookiness is there in spades in dark forests inhabited by stuff of legends, but it’s not relegated to only that. It doesn’t have to be just Halloweenish to be creepy and nerve-wrecking. Spooky is the feeling that something is watching you, poised to jump out for some nefarious purpose. It’s that suspense that builds up until you just know something is going to happen. The whole thing about Tokyo is that people can be monsters, too — and I don’t mean literally as with the Filth-infected. The horror is in learning to what lengths the Orochi have gone to in their quest for power and world domination.
With this in mind, The Manufactory has an eeriness even amid the brighter lights. For one, it is pretty empty. There are minimal trash mobs (Amiel noted that what is there is to add flavor or hide secrets, and added “there might be incentives for people to fight them” such as special drops). That emptiness adds to the ominous feel as you walk through the sterile, cavernous rooms listening intently for sounds other than the echo of your own footsteps. And you just know something is there because the place is the current playground of John, who happens to be pretty peeved at you for your (in his eyes) betrayal and wants to make you pay.
For the tour, the team blasted through what trash mobs couldn’t be avoided and jumped non the various mini-bosses and bosses. At least one boss has a brand-new mechanic at play. I’ll be discussing tactics of the fight more in-depth next time, but for now I’ll say that they were very AEGIS intensive.
The return of Flappy
We popped into play with Flappy again, the menacing bird from The Whispering Tide event. Anyone who participated in that fight then knows what to expect in this one now — except for the fact that it is 10-man now instead of 40 and much harder. In fact, Amiel said it is the hardest raid in game.
I am pretty excited for some of the QoL improvements such as the social window. As the name suggests, it is much more than a group finder now; it’s a full-on social billboard. So now it supports people playing whatever way they want, be it through RP, PvP, missions, or dungeons. The oldest entry will also show on the top and will be removed when it expires so players will always know what activities are active and the list doesn’t get clogged up with events that ended.
While the social window got a good overhaul this time, it isn’t the only UI feature that is being worked on. Amiel revealed that the options menu is being reorganized and quipped that “soon it will make sense how you find things.”
The challenge of challenges
There has been some concern expressed over the upcoming daily and weekly challenges that reward players for stuff they do regardless of how they play. Amiel wanted to emphasize that this new system gives everyone a chance to progress, which the team feels is important, the difference is in the speed at which they can. Hardcore players (which Amiel defined as playing daily for many hours each week) will earn Marks of the Pantheon much faster enabling them to upgrade their gear quickly, whereas casual players (he defined as playing once a week for only a couple hours) will progress six times slower. For instance, there is a possible 400 MoPs available each week, but just one mission a day would yield only 40. With the new system, a casual can actually transition to a hardcore by acquiring gear, allowing him or her to get a foot in the door to starting dungeons and such.
Daily challenges will be random and can range from difficult to easy. There will be one random mission, one random scenario, one random PvP task, and one random dungeon to complete. The weekly ones, however, will always be the same. The first time you complete a challenge, you get bonus PAX, and if you do 25 — such as all weeklies and 5 dailies — you get a deep mystery box (the same one as from the cash shop).
I’m looking forward to seeing how RNG treats me on these challenges. I am sure to be one who climbs the progress ladder more slowly than others, but the fact I can progress doing things I prefer is definitely a bonus. Now, I will just have to remember to spend enough marks to avoid the cap!