Saturday, August 11, 2012

Nothing Is What It Seems: TSW

***Spoiler Alert*** If you haven't done the Franklin Mansion missions and/or Virgula Divina and you think you might some day, this is probably a good post to skip...

In some MMOs, most MMOs, running into a character or a mob that looks familiar from an earlier zone can usually be explained by simple economy. Frugal use of assets results in yesterday's boss standing in for today's minion. 3D modelling costs money.

In The Secret World deja vu takes on a whole new patina of meaning. Visual echoes resound. Soft drink Bingo's fingers grasp the world. The fishmonger in London's Haitian Market sells Cobb & Chambers seafood fresh from Solomon Island in the self-same boxes that marked the trail you followed for a mission in Kingsmouth. (And I'd be wary about eating those regardless of how many Rs there are in the  month).

It's no more than you'd expect of late-period global capitalism, but what are we to make of finding Dr Bannerman's firework photograph, the one that gave us the clue to the password for his computer in his Kingsmouth office, on the wall of the exceptionally spooky playroom in the Orochi's abandoned London facility? A facility dedicated to some extremely dubious medical experimentation on children.

And in the same shattered frame, no less. But wait, there's more. Deeper into the Orochi facility, on the desk next to the computer you have to hack, there's another photo. A doberman in front of Jack and Wendy's Kingsmouth B&B. In a game based around conspiracy theories you can't but think it Means Something. What, I have no idea. Yet.

The Franklin Mansion timeslip is a different thing entirely. Reality tends to fracture around that monument to American gothic at the best of times and these aren't those. I was doing the new Funeral Crasher mission, which requires you to be dead when I was disturbed to see something that looked like the dwarf from Don't Look Now (oops - another spoiler - sorry!) running around the garden in a crouch. Trying to get a better look at it I didn't pay much attention to the young woman standing in the lee of the Franklin family crypt, and after that I was busy getting ghosts to sing and forgot all about her. Just some player gone afk, probably.

In the monotone halfworld our animas inhabit it's hard to make out the details but if you study the picture below you can see both the motionless girl and the running figure.

A few days later I returned to the Franklin house to finish off the missions I missed first time round. The Haunting takes you back over several desperate incidents in the mansion's blood-spattered past and is quite stunningly impressive, in conception and appearance if not in gameplay, which mostly consists of shooting things then shooting them some more.

In one incident it's winter and snow covers the house and garden. I foolishly said in an earlier blog that there's no weather in The Secret World. This is nonsense. Weather abounds and is often brilliantly done. The winter scenes here are quite magical. A small boy is outside somewhere playing in the snow and you have to find him. Bad things happen but the real surprise for me was the realization that the boy I was chasing in the past was the dwarfish figure running through the ghost world of the present. Still running, I should say.

Topping that, it turns out the young woman in the dayglo mini-dress loitering by the crypt is no idling player after all.  She's the revenant of one of Manson Family wannabe Billy Lee's victims. Three and a half decades dead and still waiting for someone to save her.

I know I haven't explained this as clearly as I might've and like all stories that rely on previous experience something is lost in the telling. I guess you had to be there. I'm very glad I was. This is texture I'm not used to and it's spoiling me. I want more.


  1. Seems to me like some Orochi folks nabbed themselves some souvenirs from Kingsmouth. So much for 'non-interference'. Rather disrespectful of them, imho. =P

    1. (I only played the free weekend so the Orochi representatives I saw were the ones claiming they were just observers -- though I'm not surprised if they were not telling the truth).

  2. I wouldn't trust 'em as far as I could kick 'em. Worse than the Illuminati and the Dragon combined they are!


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