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The Secret World Column: Investigate This

By Shannon Doyle on June 24, 2014

I recently had the most meta experience of my entire gaming life. There I was, relaxing after the insanity of E3 and ready to settle into The Secret World’s Tokyo. Then I learned, you need to earn access to get there. It makes sense, they don’t want any noob to just wander in. So I started doing a bit of research. I had two options. The first and possibly most popular was to do scenarios. They aren’t really my thing though, so I opted for the second way. It was to complete one of the missions that was in the Sidestories: Further Analysis pack. It was an investigation mission which started in Egypt but ended up taking me all over the world.

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And this is where the meta comes in. I was at one point sitting at my computer playing my character Penny who was standing in Red’s Bait and Tackle playing a text game on a tablet about being in Seoul where she has to play something similar to Guitar Hero to gain entry into the internet café. So I was in fact playing a game, within a game, within a game. Mind. Blown. I have never in my life experienced something like this. The closest thing I ever got wasn’t a construct of the game I was playing but instead a player run experience. A few friends of mine decided to roll up new characters in City of Heroes, but with a twist. They weren’t being played by us. They were being played by our characters. So I had to play my character how another one of my characters would have played her. Ahhh, roleplayers.

This got me thinking about investigation missions. They are in my humble opinion the absolute highlight of The Secret World. They make you think outside the box, inside the box, and even about the box itself. One of the earliest was Dead Air, it took place at the Kingsmouth airport. This one I completed with three of my friends and we all had different approaches to it. There was a message, in Morse code. Now, I don’t know about anyone else but my Morse code is a bit rusty. So I started searching for ways to translate it. Without even speaking to each other except in character another broke out a piece of paper and pen to start scribbling the dots and dashes down while another broke out his phone and installed an app. All of this happened in real life mind you, not just in the game. But being roleplayers we did do it in character too. We all had a great laugh because it was the stuffy old Templar who thought to use technology, not the two Dragons and Illuminati. It was that moment, if I hadn’t been already that I was completely sold on The Secret World.

Investigation missions have been in the news a bit recently as discussion on whether or not they should be replayable has come up. There seem to be two major opposing thoughts on this. The first says that you should be able to play them again. Everything else in the game can be played over and over, so why exclude them. It gives a less complete experience for those who go back and play through all the content again. This is, amazingly something that people do. And then there are those on the other side who are against it. They argue that it is vital to the experience that you only do them once. Consider the Morse code scene I just described. The surprise is gone. We know now that Morse code is coming so we will be prepared. Some people, not me, might even be able to remember what was being said without having to translate it again. At that point you’re just going through the motions. It basically becomes a grindfest.

I am on the fence about the idea of repeating investigation missions. I have been considering going back to the start in Kingsmouth with Penny and playing it all again. If I did that I know I would miss the investigation missions. And thankfully I have poor enough memory that I couldn’t just skip the investigation part and have the answers. On the other hand The Secret World is all about the environment and something as simple as knowing the right website to visit without having to think about it does lessen, not ruin, but lessen the experience. I shouldn’t know wandering into Kingsmouth that I need an app to translate Morse code. But the temptation would be there, the knowledge would be there. And that for me is too much. So while I would love to be able to play investigation missions again, I don’t want to be able to play them again. And this has me stuck in the middle.

Now that I’ve done some Sidestory: Further Analysis missions I regret not doing them sooner. And in fact I still have some left to do. I was stretching them out, making them last in between doing other things. I see now that I want to devour them all. And share that experience with you. But! This isn’t the time for that. Now Tokyo is out, there are new investigation missions to uncover, Filth to be grossed out by, and mad men to meet. There is always a mad man. If you came hoping to read about Tokyo you can check out Christina’s hands on experience with Tokyo and learn a bit about what the future holds for The Secret World. Meanwhile I’m going to continue to wonder why I got a tattoo in my game within a game while I play Tokyo. Seriously though, why did I do that?

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