The Council of Venice finds itself in a political quagmire. As a council, they need votes in order to move forward with their plans. In the story, that’s where you’ll come in and help out one of the Council’s leaders. I won’t go any further than that in the story, as I’m sure you’ll want to witness it yourself.
You’ll earn your Tokyo certification (access to that zone when it’s launched) via the Scenarios in Venice... think of them as the X-Mansion’s training Virtual Reality simulator, and you wouldn’t be far off. And through the scenarios, you’ll also be able to gear up as you earn the required “tokens” to buy your certification to enter Tokyo. It’s not a grind either, as you’ll only need to do a handful of scenarios in groups to earn enough tokens. If you want to solo the scenarios to earn the tokens, it’ll take you more runs, but it is doable (as is duo-ing).
When you pick your scenario via the Library’s console, you’ll pick the objective: for starters there’s only Seek and Preserve, though Joel teased us with Occult Disturbance and Escape objectives. Then you’ll pick the setting: the Hotel is Egypt-based and free for everyone. The other two (including the Mansion which is what we ran) are part of the DLC, or can be bought separately if you so desire). You then pick your mode: solo, duo, or group and difficulty: normal, expert, nightmare. The harder difficulties will net you better rewards, but trust me... just completing normal in QL10 greens will likely be an accomplishment. These things will take serious teamwork on duo and group settings, and even solo players might want to bring friends (as Funcom allows the solo scenarios to be played with groups) if they’re new or under-geared.
The one we ran as a group of four (the Mansion) was incredibly tough, even with QL10 epics and developer cheats. If we didn’t have Tor there, we would have definitely died. I’m glad that there’s some more fine-tuning being done to the instances, as I’d imagine most players would be more frustrated than overjoyed with the difficulty. That said, the design is impeccable: everything is set up like a VR session, complete with visible glowing blue barriers on the outside of the map, powerups to be grabbed that’ll help you with the scenario’s challenges, and a sometimes sarcastic “Siri-esque” computerized announcer. It’s all very well done, and appropriate to the theme of these sort of repeatable tests of skill.
The Seek and Preserve objectives are just as they sound. You seek out survivors to start, and each round of the scenario is on a timer. The first thing you must do is locate every survivor, at which point they’ll each go to an area where they’ll need to be defended throughout the remainder of the scenario. These are random each time, so you won’t be able to find them in exactly the same place each time you run the instance. Additionally, there will be three waves of enemies you must defeat to survive the encounter. Each wave will be capped with a boss as well, and which sort of enemy you face will be different each time too. We faced off against slow-moving explosive zombies, chainsaw wielding scarecrows, and demonic patrons from Hell...plus their bosses each round.
Amidst all this, there will also be a variable “dynamic” event in each Scenario. For ours, the Filth slowly filled up the house... and boy did they fill it up. So during all these waves of increasingly difficult enemies, running back and forth between the house and the backyard to protect our survivors, we also had to deal with swarms of filth. Yeah... it was hard. But all said and done, we completed the thing with four survivors remaining, and earned a bronze medal, tons of loot and augments, and 6 Aureus tokens to spend on gear and augmentation kits for crafting at the Council’s vendors.
The Scenarios themselves are on an 18 hour cooldown, but only the group and duo versions share the CD, the solo cooldown is separate. So, if you own them all, you can effectively do up to 12 scenarios a day across all difficulty modes. And keep in mind you can bring a group into solo encounters, but the amount of tokens you get and the sort of loot you get will be lessened than when you do them in a proper group instance.
Overall, I’d say that the Augment system and Scenarios are just the thing veterans of TSW need to keep them progressing and on the hook as Funcom puts the finishing touches on Tokyo for Issue 9. More than that, Augments and Scenarios are the sort of feature that add a lot of replayability via the random encounters, LFG tool, and notion of further increasing your builds’ power via augments. It’s “what the doctor ordered” and Doctor Joel has been on a roll. We can’t wait to see what Tokyo holds with the Aegis system and beyond.
Bill Murphy / Bill Murphy is the Managing Editor of MMORPG.com, RTSGuru.com, and lover of all things gaming. The Morse Code mission in TSW pretty much sucked away his soul. He's been playing and writing about MMOs and geekery since 2002, and you can harass him and his views on Twitter @thebillmurphy.