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The Secret World Column: The Ups and Downs of Investigation

By Victor Barreiro Jr. on January 23, 2013

I have a confession to make. I have a love-hate relationship with Investigation Missions in The Secret World. While Investigation Missions play well in an atmospheric setting like TSW, they can be very daunting for someone new to the alternate Earth presented in the game. At the very least, they can be either most frustrating or easiest endeavors in the game based on how you play. I’ve decided to write today’s column to talk about that. Today’s TSW column is a primer for how investigation missions work. It will also discuss what I feel are essential strengths and weaknesses of Investigation Missions within TSW.

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Playing Detective

The Secret World has special missions denoted by a green icon with a picture of a computer on it.. In these investigation missions, you basically play detective, trying to piece together mysteries in the world you’re in. There’s less fighting and more thinking involved.

For example, one of the very first Investigation missions players will undertake will be to answer the Kingsmouth Code. To do this, you watch the cutscene to understand the basic premise and story behind the mission chain, then you have to figure out how to complete the tasks set upon you using ever more obscure clues.

What starts of as a prompt to check out a sewer lid will eventually require you to look for references to the Bible, among other things. It can get that complicated.  The Secret World has an in-game browser, and using the browser will help you solve puzzles, primarily either by looking for the solution to the clue or, in what’s become more commonplace in search results, by researching the mission walkthrough entirely.

What Works

There are a couple of things that I like about investigation missions. The first is that it works well with The Secret World’s atmosphere. This is weird, but the main vibe I get is very “Scooby-Doo and the Mystery Machine” in nature, primarily because it’s an absurdist mystery that maintains some semblance of personal engagement.

You get the feeling that the puzzles are absurd, and the solutions to them make sense yet have no seemingly logical connection, but then when you have all the clues and solutions and story is revealed, it’s very exciting because unlike Scooby-Doo, the more answers you have, the more questions you end up with.

The next thing I enjoy about this is that it teaches me obscure facts, and I enjoy reading up on obscure bits of trivia. This research-based questing can be seen as a negative, but for me, the fact that I’m doing research for a quest and still enjoying myself makes me think all is right in the world. I’m learning stuff, and it feels great!

Hit or Miss

Investigation Missions aren’t perfect, however. While they are perhaps the second-most daring thing to come from TSW aside from its setting, it is arguably the most hit-or-miss part of the game. Your perception of investigation missions will depend on your mindset as a gamer.

For one thing, serious detectives in the field may stumble across the solution to the whole mission chain and be tempted to get through it that way, which sometimes waters down the story-based payoff.

On the other hand, those looking for a good story or fun reward payouts will probably see the walkthrough section of many sites often just for help with these missions.

Some scholarly types might enjoy doing research and learning new things. At the same time, it can be frustrating if you just want to turn your brain off for an evening and get some playtime in.

Entirely Optional

What is remarkable about Investigation Missions, however, is that playing through the content and using the walkthroughs are entirely optional. The investigation missions can also be paused while you engage in other mission types. The folks at Funcom seem to make these missions hard enough to warrant being challenging to mental acrobats, but at the same time Funcom doesn’t force you to engage in the struggle. They could have, for instance, asked people nicely to not post spoilers or walkthroughs, but instead, a meta-community has sprung up to offer assistance to people without spoiling puzzles, and I find myself delighted with that thought.

As someone who loves TSW for the story, this is a good thing. I welcome more investigation missions, and I hope people playing will try to complete at least one investigation without resorting to a walkthrough, just for that rush of exultation.

You can follow Victor Barreiro Jr. on Twitter at @iamstillwater.


Victor Barreiro Jr. / Victor Barreiro Jr. maintains the the Landmark/Everquest Next and Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn columns for MMORPG.com. He also writes for news website Rappler as a technology reporter. You can also find him on Twitter at @vbarreirojr.

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