Having a good time in The Secret World with the plethora of innovative quests that don’t mind leaving the player stumped or running around in circles perfectly poised on the knife edge between frustration and conviction that the answer is here, somewhere, if only I could figure it out…
So what are these innovations that move TSW’s quests beyond the simple kill-X-whatevers, defeat-alls, click glowie objects, Fed-ex parcels back and forth and escort quests we see in every MMO out there?
All the above still exist in TSW, by the way. It’s just mixed with a good helping of the stuff below, which makes the story and quest path more interesting. So far, I’ve encountered:
(Minor spoilers follow. That is, you may find out that such-and-such type of quest exists, and I may allude to some methods of solution, but no direct answers or walkthroughs. If you want to be completely in the dark before playing the game yourself, then stop reading now.)
1) Pay attention to the scenery (I mean, the world)
It’s such a small thing, but what a world of difference it makes. Quests casually refer to places or things that are near another place and leave you to figure out where to go and where it is.
If you recognize the address of where some shop is, or some other notable landmark in town, you can head directly there feeling good that you know where things are in this world, rather than spend all your time following arrows and waypoints from the minimap radar.
TSW generally follows the LOTRO style of waypointing, where the waypoint chucks you at the ballpark area so that you’re not completely hung out to dry, and then leaves you to go and search the area however you like. More than once, I’ve had to do the casual version of a grid search across the entire highlighted area because the item I’m looking for is not terribly obvious.
Fortunately, they are kind enough to highlight important items in yellow if you get close to it, so that it does not devolve into a frustrating pixel hunt. (If you were masochistic enough, you have the option of turning it off. I wouldn’t dream of it.)
This style of quest encourages you to observe your surroundings more closely and generally pay attention to the world as a world, rather than pretty but unimportant scenic props.
In investigation quests, TSW doesn’t hold your hand at all. The easy-mode waypoints go dark. Hopefully you were paying attention on the earlier kinds of quests.
One memorable quest had me running in and out and around the Kingsmouth Church for a good half hour or so, ready to tear my hair out and taking it out on any nearby zombies that got in my way. I was supposed to find out what song was going to be sung on a particular Sunday, and it was baffling me good and proper. I kept talking to the pastor there, wondering if he had any clues in his dialogue. I kept looking for hymn books lying around on some convenient table. Nothing, nada, zilch.
I was just about ready to start Googling for hints, when by chance, my camera angle shifted and I really -looked- at what was on my screen.
What I exclaimed was not fit to be said in that church.
In retrospect, it was obvious, and it fit. Which is the best kind of adventure game puzzle solution.
2) Follow the Trail of…
Blood (a perennial favorite,) dirt, even metal traps.
Again, it’s a simple thing, but it feels good. It’s like you get to play really simple CSI and follow the red blood splatters until you get somewhere.
For some quests, the trail in question is phased in. For other quests, the trail has always been there, embedded into the scenery you keep running past without a second glance.
(This ain’t completely new. I’ve seen Runescape do it specifically for certain quests/skills that require tracking animal tracks. For all I know, there are other MMOs who do stuff like this for footprints or whatever. But we need to see more of it, because it’s something else to do besides just follow the waypoint dotted track that has no real existence in the world. )
A very neat touch and more advanced spin on this type of quest is the Siren’s Song in the main story quest. Trigger an item, and your view changes, including a waypoint path that you have to follow. Except this waypoint path represents the song you are hearing being sung. The audio also sends atmospheric chills up your spine, in a good way.
3) Find the Safe Path (or ANY path at all)
Sort of a variant on the jumping puzzle, just less vertical and with a touch more lateral thinking. Bunch of scary red lasers, or piles of green radioactive goo or electrocuted water in your way. How are you going to get from here to there?
The same question and challenge also applies to awfully high items that you can’t reach, or things that sit around taunting you with a fence/barrier blocking your way
Kind of a more sophisticated version of the thing you do in City of Heroes when you get to the waypoint and can’t find the mission door because it’s either above or under you.
Obscure wordplay. ‘Nuff said. Pretty fun, but I am a wordy kind of person.
LOTRO also dabbles with these.
5) Triangulate to a Location
Seriously, wow. I was NOT expecting any other MMO than A Tale in the Desert to make me even attempt triangulation (lemme tell you about frog catching in ATITD some other time.)
You get a radar thingummy. It pings more frequently and beeps louder as you get warmer and closer to the desired location. Figure it out.
Fortunately, the location was nearby and I didn’t have to do any coordinate calculations unlike *ahem* a certain other sandy MMO, which was good, cos I hate math.
6) Solve Morse Code
I confess, this one defeated me. I am naturally as far from an auditory learner as you can get. Anything that requires me to pay attention to sounds, memorize them and their rhythms, and replicate them is going to kick my ass.
I gamely tried to pause the visualization and go frame by frame to decode it, but the poor UI controls in the game frustrated me to no end. Nor did looking up a Youtube recording of it help, even though I could rewind and fast forward. I got as far as three letters, garbled up by an extra imaginary dot where there should be nothing, threw up my hands and started Googling for help.
I even tried downloading an automatic Morse Code decoder as suggested by a forums-goer, but was stumped by all the technical audio references and terms in the program, and also discovered my seldom-used mic was definitely not working.
(I was, however, quite impressed as to the ingenuity of the other puzzle solvers. This sort of program use harkens back to my MUD days, where some of us would indulge in ‘cyborging’ – my term for the use of such programs to help a human solve these kinds of quests at a much faster rate than manually puzzling it out. I still know where to go for anagram and cryptogram solvers, fer instance.)
So I eventually cheated via Google-fu and found some kind person who had spilled the answer to this puzzle online.
I don’t feel a speck of guilt for doing this though. It’s up to each player to choose the difficulty level they desire. This is still an MMO, and the ‘multiplayer’ component has to play a part somewhere.
Sure, maybe we’ll get to a point where an expansion is released and no one knows the answer to some new mysterious investigation quest or ARG that just launched. Then I’ll be glad to pool my mental power with that of everyone’s in trying to puzzle it out together.
Ultimately, we are living in the age of an interconnected global mind by courtesy of the internet. It would be foolish not to harness its power.
P.S. For anyone who still has not encountered this amusing Zahada riddle website yet, feel free to enjoy doing stuff similar to (or slightly harder than) what The Secret World is asking of its players right now. You may thank me for wasting a week of your time later.
(Our workplace lost about that much productivity time when we found it and attempted solving it together.)