Following in the reveal footsteps of the second half of Issue #12, the details of The Secret World’s Issue #13 Trail of Shadows came by way of the official dev livestream, The Streaming Ones. And that’s not a bad thing. I have long loved my dev tours through the newest content — even though it always meant a spoiler or three. That’s because the devs’ enthusiasm for the game just can’t come through in a text announcement as it does in person. With the recent trend of livestream reveals, everyone has the chance to experience that — dare I say, infectious — excitement.
We’ve already had a few teases about the upcoming content; today, the devs dished out even more details. So here’s the run down on Issue #13’s story, features, cover art, and collectors edition goodies as well as the upcoming PvP updates. On top of that, we got a peek at the new Christmas event rewards. Oh, and Lead Designer Romain Amiel also threw out a few tidbits about Issue #14!
Some folks were a bit more dismissive of Issue #13 when it was thought to be exclusively a PvP-content update. Once devs noted that there was new story, however, plenty of ears perked right up. You can’t blame players, not with how much everyone (including me) looks forward to the stories in TSW! What’s the story about? Well, no one would give us that spoiler, but we did learn a little bit. Trial of Shadows will have a total of five new missions in Kaidan, four of which that will be a connected storyline. In the middle of that line is an investigation mission, but Amiel promised that it wasn’t too difficult, especially since there is a follow-up mission after that players will need to get to. (Don’t worry puzzle-lovers: He later told me that he wants to do more investigations later; they just work better as stand-alone missions.)
The only hints we got of the nature of the actual story is the snippet of a cutscene that includes the brother-sister duo of Harumi and Yuichi (who will start you on the mission chain), and Amiel’s declaration that he wanted to go back to the roots of TSW, the horror and original themes of the game. The result: It is a dark issue “that gets darker and darker.” Personally, I am really looking forward to the return to darkness… or shadows, as the case may be. And a personal recommendation: If you missed the stream, you really need to watch that clip — it starts at 10:06, or you can watch it below.
Amiel also revealed that the fifth mission will involve Ricky Pagan, a player favorite. By doing his new mission, players have the chance to earn an achievement that gives them a copy of Ricky’s bike for a sprint. You can also get more Ricky swag if you get the collectors edition. The CE version of Trial of Shadows has Ricky’s outfit and his boombox, along with Harumi and Yuichi’s headset and oven mitt.
Partaking in improved PvP
As noted before, the PvP updates are coming alongside Issue #13 without being a part of it. And while many folks are eagerly anticipating the new Shambala minigame, the changes to El Dorado and Stonehenge that will be released to players before the end of the year are pretty exciting. To start with, the starting points for each team will be randomized, so no one faction will regularly have an advantage over the others just by virtue of the starting point. On top of that, players will now have the ability to change what role they have selected for the match after it begins; players can swap roles in the spawn area mid-game to adjust for the variables of both team and enemy group make-up and performance. Who hasn’t wished their team had more healers or more DPS at some point after assessing the situation?
There’s another change coming to El Dorado that will turn things on their head a bit. Currently, if teams capture and stack the relics, they get buffs that make the surrounding allies much more difficult to beat. Once the update is live, the opposite will be true. Instead of making the team less vulnerable, stacking relics so that their fields overlap will make the holders more vulnerable. Placing one relic will have no effect, but every one after that will stack another debuff. This really changes the dynamic of tactics: Will teams spread relics out and defend multiple positions to avoid the stacking debuff, or will they power through and keep them close together even though it makes them weaker? Players will also get debuffs the longer they hold onto a relic before placing it.
Everyone wants to hear more about the new Shambala instance, and devs complied. Shambala will be different in a few ways. For one, it will be a last-man standing game that starts off as two 10-man teams. Because the area isn’t faction-based, the initial teams will not be faction-based. That means you get the chance to actually PvP your own faction! It also means there will be no waiting for the necessary number of a certain faction to queue up — as soon as the slots are filled by anyone the match can start. Additionally, there is no such thing as a premade; players must queue solo. The game is also very scenario-like, and can actually be queued for from the Council of Venice or form the PvP interface. And finally, in Shambala players will get to wear whatever they want!
The game itself plays out on a modified Shambala map, with additional environmental touches to allow for the breaking of line-of-sight as well as hazard areas. However, as the match continues, a barrier in the form of a storm closes in on the map, constricting its size around the combatants.
New rewards for PvP includes 33 new signets and 9-10 new gadgets. Some of the new signets will even function outside of PvP, meaning that PvEers might very well start venturing into this new territory in order to get those impressive pieces of equipment.
As for Fusang, the devs noted that it is not working as intended, but the team won’t be looking at it until after Shambala is finished. There are also plans to update the fight clubs.
Another anticipated feature of Issue #13 is the group finder. Amiel noted that this one has been rough to work on, but it has been refined and can be tested on the test server now. The gist of it is that players can choose which dungeon they want to play or let the randomizer do it for them. Those who utilize the randomizer will get a special bonus reward at the end of completing the dungeon. In both cases, players have to select which roles — tank, DPS, or healer — that they would be willing to do, and once the group is put together, the player has to agree to which role s/he was given in order to enter. The selected roles are also posted directly on the group window, so people can’t insist they were promised the role of healer instead of tank.
In addition, players will have the option to vote to kick out players. This can help get rid of those who want to just leech off the party and go AFK through the whole thing. However, to prevent abuse, there are two safeguards in place: Players cannot be kicked during a boss fight, nor can they be kicked when a loot roll is in progress.
Another feature is the notification that a group member is new to the dungeon. This gives the other members a heads-up that explaining the tactics of the encounters would probably be in the group’s best interest. And for those groups who complete the dungeon with a new player, a special bonus reward awaits.
Not sure if you want to use the group finder? Consider this: Premade groups of any size can utilize this tool. There are also achievements for using it. The group finder will also bring in replacements if you lose a member for any reason, something that can be hard to do the old-fashioned, shout-in-chat way.
Christmas is coming
It is true that there will not be any new missions for this holiday. Part of that is because devs expect players to be spending time on the new issue’s missions instead, just as all their focus has been on getting that issue complete. However, there will be new reward bags for the year. The bags include a chance at a snowboard hoverboard as well new outfits and pets. If you ever wanted a little Hel or Krampus following you around, now is your chance!
Speaking of Christmas, the gifting feature will be available in time for the holiday. A couple of things players might want to take note of is that only Funcom Points can be sued for gifting (no Bonus Points) and that membership discounts do not apply to gifting.
And totally unrelated to the holiday: Also coming with the new issue is a new sprint animation, the ninja run. Check it out in the clip below.
Timing is everything
So when is all this coming to pass? Amiel said that the Issue #13 missions and the El Dorado and Stonehenge updates will launch before the end of the year, and the Christmas event will follow soon after that. When Issue #13 hits, all those who contributed to ExtraLife will find their reward bags in the claim section of the item store. After the first of the year, Shambala and the dungeon finder will come out. That’s also when a new mount, the scooter, will make its appearance.
Once all that has wrapped up, the team will dive straight into working on Issue #14. As promised, the issue will not be Tokyo-based. Amiel wouldn’t give away too much, but he did say that now that season one of TSW’s story has concluded, he’s really focusing on going back to the pure horror setting. Issue #14 is a chance to revisit older locations and flesh out other stories, much like the Tyler Freeborn story of Issue #5. More Tyler-esque stories? I am so there!