Chaos Theory: The wonderful world of sabotage in TSW

Chaos Theory
It's certainly no secret that I love The Secret World's investigation missions. I have mentioned it a time to two (times 20 or so) at different points in articles and livestreams alike. And that's not even counting how many times I regale my friends and family with my investigative exploits. Getting to use skills of the mind more than the fingers is not a regular occurrence in MMORPGs, but it darn well should be! It is a refreshing alternative to pew-pew all the time.

However, investigations aren't the only unique breed of missions I love in TSW. The game has a second kind that involves something other than just going out and showing off your prowess with a weapon. In fact, significant portions of these missions actually eschew the use of weapons entirely, and engaging in combat is a pretty big no-no when completing certain objectives. Welcome to sabotage missions.

TSW screenshot
Sneaky, sneaky
As you might surmise from the designation of sabotage, these missions require a bit of stealth and few clandestine maneuvers to pull off. While investigations require players to use their heads to solve puzzles, sabotage missions ask players to use their eyes and in-game spatial awareness to figure out solutions. As in the investigation missions, you can easily look up some hints to help out; however, when it comes to dodging patrols, you've got to be on your toes and paying attention to what's happening.

TSW screenshotAbout these patrols: At certain points during these missions, it is of vital importance that players avoid the mobs at all costs. Folks who prefer the charge-in-with-guns-blasting type of approach to objectives will quickly find themselves severely outgunned. No matter how strong they are, if they're caught by the sentries, players will find themselves conked over the head and hauled out of the quest area unceremoniously like a sack of potatoes.

Sometimes, successful completion of these parts is just a matter of dodging all-powerful sentries, like The Orachi Group in Blue Mountain. Other times, you can disguise yourself to blend in and walk throughout the area without being accosted, like in ATC or Black Helicopters in Kingsmouth. Even though the new story arc of Issue #6 doesn't have investigation missions, it has sabotage elements -- just try finishing the tasks in Ancient Roman times without donning the peasant gear and see how well you do!

You've been spotted
I don't want to spoil things for newer folks to The Secret World, so I'll warn you now that I'm going to share two of my memorable experiences with sabotage missions to help illustrate why I am so enamored with them. Anyone worried about spoilers can just skip ahead to the next section.

My first memorable experience with sabotage missions was when my partner-in-crime and I infiltrated the Orochi base at the Kingsmouth Airport for ATC. We found the code to gain entrance without trouble and proceeded to slip inside... only to have one of us dragged out and dumped back outside. I personally didn't experience this and did so only vicariously by listening to the choice responses uttered by my companion. I was feeling pretty good about my sentry-dodging skills, but as fate would have it, before long I, too, saw that cutscene of my prone body being dragged out.

TSW screenshot
See, while we fully understood that we needed to remain undetected by the guards (I mean, the quest flat out told us so), we didn't realize we had to. Previous MMO culture has conditioned us to believe that in order to win, everything can be beated into submission -- all you need is to be powerful enough. So we figured that if we were noticed, we'd just have to fight our way out of the predicament. Oh, how wrong we were.

Turns out, you don't even get the chance to fight; it's an insta-lose situation. When it dawned on us that fighting was not only not going to work but not even an option, we examined our surroundings a bit more carefully. Since there was no way to dodge the patrol, we found the means to blend in. Honestly, I didn't even realize I could put the outfit on when it first popped in my inventory, but it didn't take me long to equip it "just to see"!

The next memory I'll share is from a couple of zones father in the game. In Blue Mountain's Orochi Group mission (notice the trend of sneaking around the Orochi?), there was no outfit to commandeer, so it was all about being mindful of your surroundings and reacting accordingly -- without firing a shot, of course. I looked for new ways to do things, timed my movements, and reveled in completing the objective

Promoting alternative styles
Despite the initial setbacks, that first mission endeared TSW to me even more. After the initial what-the-heck moment, a rush of oh-my-gobstoppers washed over me as the realization set in that someone dared to buck the combat-is-king mantra in MMOs. True, the game already demonstrated it with the investigation missions, but this was a second manifestation. This meant it wasn't just a fluke -- it was a design choice! Here was a game that didn't cater to just the combat-mongers; TSW not only acknowledged other playstyles, it embraced and cultivated them. In The Secret World, Funcom announced its belief in the viability of alternative forms of play, something the rest of the gaming industry could sorely use.

TSW screenshotBesides just offering hope for the outlook of gaming as a whole, these missions enhanced my personal playtime in The Secret World. There is definitely a sense of risk involved in all of the sabotage missions, which heightens the gaming experience. By forcing me to really pay attention to my surroundings, these missions allowed me to immerse myself in the world a little more. They felt less like an activity I was witnessing (push buttons, see mob fall) and more like something I was an active part of. My actions -- or inaction -- really mattered to my success. These missions made gaming an experience again.

It is my hope that more games in the industry takes a page from Funcom and branch out beyond just combat. I stand with The Secret World in advocating for equality in game styles. And I look forward to delving into all the sabotage missions I haven't made it to yet beyond the Scorched Desert.

Conspiracies, paranoia, secrets, and chaos -- the breakfast of champions! Feast on a bowlful with MJ every Monday as she infiltrates The Secret World to bring you the latest word on the streets of Gaia in Chaos Theory. Heard some juicy whispers or have a few leads you want followed? Send them to and she'll jump on the case!
This article was originally published on Massively.