Choose My Adventure Illuminati takes the lead
It is a tale told by an Illuminati member, full of sound and fury, signifying... something?

The stage was set. An air of conspiracy permeated the theater as trappings of The Secret World hung from the balustrade and peeked from the corners to taunt the audience. Discerning eyes could spot a triangle here, a cross there. A soft buzzing could be heard, an undercurrent of sound. But something was missing. The show couldn't go on without... aha! The star!

The final task before starting this Choose My Adventure production was the selection of just who will bask in the spotlight. As director, you took on this task. Would it be a martial artist from the Orient or a proper English knight? Would the stage ring out with the sound of shots or metal upon metal? After much deliberation, you finally found the one. With her hair aflame, a sword in her hand, and a rifle within reach, the young Illuminata was perfect for the lead role.

Now, it's opening night. A hush falls. The curtain rises. All eyes turn to the stage as you start to wonder, "What on earth did I get myself into?!"

The Secreet World screenshot
Creation in a New York minute

It's finally time to get down to business! I was excited to see The Secret World selected for this round of Choose My Adventure. It was difficult to stay out of the game while waiting for you all to select the next steps. But I found some patience.

Luckily, unlike the previous attempt, character creation time in TSW was actually manageable, allowing me to get in and play. It didn't take me weeks, days, or even hours! In fact, I was able to zip through in under 20 minutes! Miraculous, I know. Part of that was your help choosing a hair color. But more importantly, it was because The Secret World doesn't have so many customization options that your brain melts. And when it comes to me, that might just be a good thing.

Characters in TSW have a stock body build, so there is no adjusting height, weight, or musculature. So what is available? Players have two customization sets: one for hair and make-up, the other for facial traits. Each customization, with the exception of colors, has a numeric value. This becomes important as you explore all the different variations.

Choose My Adventure Illuminati takes the lead
In hair and makeup, you can choose between 19 hair styles and 13 hair colors. Eyebrows have eight styles, and the color can be chosen independently or matched to hair color. Men actually have fewer eyebrow shapes to choose from, but they do have 12 styles of facial hair exclusive to them. Women have a choice between 17 types of make-up including freckles and face tattoos, whereas men have only 13. (I guess they aren't as fond of lipstick!)

The Secret World screenshotIn facial traits, folks can mix-and-match between eight faces, and seven each of noses, eyes, lips, and jaws. There are 13 skin colors and 12 eye colors. One point to note is that one pair of lips -- say, number 3 -- looks totally different on one face base than on another. So if you want a true look at all of the different possibilities, you have to go through every one of them. If you find one you like, you might want to have a pencil handy so you can jot down the corresponding number; it makes it much easier to go back and find the combination you like. If you forget to note which feature corresponded to which number (like I did), you might end up with a string of digits resembling a foreign phone number.

Before you can enter the game, you also have to choose your beginning clothes. Here is one of my favorite aspects of TSW: You can literally wear whatever you like! There is no sacrificing your look for something with better stats because all of clothing is just for appearance. Stats are gained from accessories, allowing characters to don whatever suits their fancy. The first choices aren't extravagant, but there is a decent variety for sultry, skimpy, frumpy, casual, or business-like. Each style is also available in different colors. I recommend that you get the glasses and a coat even if you don't want them on your character to start, because you can always turn them off once in-game and that saves you from having to buy them later.

A rose by any other name

Another unique aspect of TSW that I would like to touch on is naming. Just like its real-world counterpart, your character can have a first and last name that matches the names of whole bunch of other folks. But trying to locate the right Richard Johnson among all of them to send a private message to would be impossible. To give players unique identities, Funcom implemented nicknames. Besides their first and last names, players choose a completely original moniker, and that is the one used by the system to distinguish between all players.

And yes, you guessed it -- I got stuck on names! Since the names are unique across every server, every weird variation of the name I wanted that I tried was already taken. Bah!

The Secret World screenshot
You don't say

Finally, after I got our look squared away, it was time to dive into the game. I admit, I was both excited and a bit leery to play Illuminati. It's not that I don't trust you; you have yet to misdirect me. My trepidation stemmed from something else. See, part of the reason I'd never considered playing an Illuminati character was the language my close friends warned me about. And I can't say as they were wrong. Right from the get-go, it was apparent that the Illuminati storyline has the foulest language.

I'll be honest -- I am not a fan of overly colorful language. Personally, I think it takes more savvy to express yourself without using expletives. I also dislike the stereotype that everyone (especially New Yorkers) swears up a storm. However, I fully understand that some folks may find this aspect the refreshing breeze of a more mature-themed game even as I am rooted in the not-so-comfortable crowd. I won't judge other players either way, but I'll admit I cringe every time a certain word shoots out. Either way, at least you've been warned.

That said, will I let this deter me from experiencing this faction? Of course not! This is where you told me to go, and I am following that direction. Besides, one of the best things about Choose My Adventure is stretching myself in ways I wouldn't necessarily choose for myself.

The Secret World screenshotHitting the streets

Once I started out in the world, I expected good voice-acting and immersive dialogue. But I have to admit that the laundromat was the first time I actually leaned away from my computer just to put some distance between me and the speaker! As one who has roleplayed and played D&D, I can assure you that the squirrely little ball of paranoia is not representative of the genres!

Once I escaped that laundromat, it was time to find us a lair and get our Illuminati on! That was simple enough; only a neon sign could have been more obvious. But I soon came to realize that there was plenty that wasn't obvious to me. For those of you who were concerned that I'd be too familiar with the game, listen to this: It was only during the first Choose My Adventure Live that I actually came to realize that all of the AP gained from testing a weapon in the training ground is erased as soon as another weapon is chosen! So all that time I would go through every single weapon thinking I was building up some AP was useless. Well, it did amuse me to use all of the weapons, but I digress.

And that's not all. I also learned that when the trainer tells you that you can come back any time, he actually means it! In fact, after selecting my assault rifle and heading out the door, I turned right back around, stepped in, and grabbed my sword from one of the crates! I am already curious what other things I have totally missed in The Secret World by playing my way that I will discover by playing your way.

Intermission

Well there you have it -- the conclusion of Act I of our little Illuminati production! Granted, we couldn't get very far this time around because you'd just barely chosen my faction and weapons, but now there is nothing holding us back from tearing through content like a bat out of h-e-double hockey sticks. I plan in delving in deeply. I will learn things about this game I never knew and become versed in different aspects as I focus where you direct me. So let's get to the next round of directions.

First off, I really need to know where to spend those AP and SP points I will be accumulating. Should I focus on only one weapon at a time or build up both equally? And does that include both AP and SP or just one or the other?
CMA: Where to spend Ability and Skill Points?
Dump all your points in the Assault Rifle.95 (17.2%)
Build up Blade only.111 (20.1%)
Split the points 50/50.345 (62.6%)

Which aspect of each weapon shall I focus on? All weapons have two distinct branches with different abilities.
CMA: Skill focus for Rifle
Support269 (49.3%)
Healing277 (50.7%)
CMA: Skill focus for Blade
Survivability149 (27.2%)
Damage399 (72.8%)

I need your direction to continue on into the next act, so be sure to voice your opinions. This time, I am ending the polls on Saturday night, so be sure to make your selections by 11:59 p.m. EDT on the 22nd. Then join me during the week as I further the Illuminati agenda. And don't forget to keep an eye on MV Guide for the next showing of CMA Live on Massively TV!
CMA: Let's accessorize! What first?
Head Talisman.72 (13.3%)
Major Talisman.60 (11.1%)
Minor Talisman.13 (2.4%)
Just spend depending ion the type of accessories you get.396 (73.2%)

Strap yourself in for the ride of (six weeks of) your life! Where are you going? Well, that's entirely up to you, the Massively readers, to decide -- the where, the what, and the how are all directed by you. The who is MJ Guthrie! For the duration of Choose My Adventure, her virtual life is in your hands! Join MJ in-game, on-site, and live on Massively TV to be a part of the adventure and watch the story unfold.

This article was originally published on Massively.