Chaos Theory Extra: Touring The Secret World's Issue #7

Chaos Theory Extra Touring TSW's Issue #7 with Joel Bylos
I know what you're thinking. No, really -- I am a mind reader, and I've been honing my skills. Like right now, you want to know what The Secret World's next big update, A Dream to Kill, is like. Nailed it, didn't I? Of course, that would be why you came here in the first place. And this is definitely the place to be because I've been to Issue #7 and I'm going to share my experiences with you. You could just wait until next Monday when the DLC is released to find out for yourself, but why wait if you don't have to?

My tour was guided by none other than Game Director Joel Bylos himself, so I was able to slip in some questions between my oohs and ahhs. Wondering what juicy tidbits he revealed? Then join me for a look at what you can expect next week along with a glimpse of the future. Don't worry; I will clearly label any spoilers for those who want to be shocked first-hand. (Hint: The images in the gallery below are a bit of a spoiler!)%Gallery-193222%
Where it all begins
A return to its roots
First off, let's delve into some general impressions (so as not to spoil anything for folks who want to experience it themselves). If you loved The Vanishing of Tyler Freeborn, you're in for a treat with A Dream to Kill. Some folks, including me, feel that Issue #5's story arc embodied the essence of The Secret World; it was creepy and intense, putting you on the edge of your seat and making you jump even when you were expecting something to happen! The undercurrent of suspense and horror mingled together made that mission sequence a favorite, and players have clamored for more ever since. Guess what? Funcom listened. The Tyler Freeborn-esque feel of Issue #7 was no accident. Bylos told me, "That's one of the things we definitely aimed for, especially with the ending few chapters. We saw the feedback on Tyler Freeborn and decided we could make it more like that."

Lending a handWhile The Last Train to Cairo was awesome on its own, Issue #7 returns with those creepy hair-stands-up-on-the-back-of-your-neck elements. In fact, the juxtaposition of those action sequences in the bright Egypt sun and the mysteries of Transylvania's darkened shadows only heightens the macabre atmosphere of the latest DLC. You start with the scarred, one-eyed hunter Carmen Preda and continue through dark and disturbing subject matter with twists, turns, eerie music, and a chilling plot twist revelation. How does it all end? Well, that I couldn't tell you even if I wanted to; we ended on the last step so I could still have something to experience on my own.

As with other missions throughout TSW, I'd recommend taking a friend or two along to enhance the experience. Although the story arc is solo-able, it's fun to have comrades to compare reactions with. And the snowmobile racing is just heck-a better with a larger group!

Look Ma, no spoilers!
Look! Still no real spoilers -- at least not what I would call spoilers anyways. But there are a few more tidbits that might be of interest to fans before they jump into the new content. If you are really antsy, you can skip to the end section.

Dressed to killThe first tidbit is about clothing: You get the requisite spy tux! Seriously, you can't have spy adventures without being wrapped in a monkey suit, right? I am actually not sure how you acquire it (I was a bit too busy admiring it to ask), but it is a new clothing option, as is a cocktail dress for the ladies. Now before any of you girls -- and I'm talking characters here -- get up in arms about the thought of adventuring in an evening gown, know that you, too, get a tux to wear. Sorry, guys, no cocktail dress for you.

The second tidbit is my own personal woot-woot moment, and it comes in the form of zooming in on a snowmobile. Yes, folks, the snowmobiles are mountable vehicles and not instanced or on tracks, allowing you to zoom about in the open world area, making donuts in the powder or whatever. Be forewarned, though: Some parts of the quest that gives you the temporary vehicle are timed, so you'll need to actually race to the objective first, then spin donuts after. Sadly, the snowmobile is only for the mission; however, it could be the start of more vehicles coming to the game, something I requested a few months ago. While discussing the handling of the snowmobile, Bylos said, and I do quote, "It's a little wonky, but it's our first mount." You heard it here, folks!

The third little tidbit is the disappointing one of the three: Base jumping is done only via cutscene. If you were hoping to experience the thrill of hurling yourself off a bridge and watching the ground rush up toward you before maneuvering your parachute to safety, you're out of luck. But take heart: It may very well be one of the vehicles in the future. Bylos noted, "Unfortunately we couldn't do the base jumping as an actual mechanic yet. One day, one day."

Once upon a time...
So here's the part some of you might want to avoid. This area contains definite spoilers, so if you don't want any, skip to the next one. I mean it this time. Really! Don't say you haven't been warned.

Chaos Theory Extra Touring TSW's Issue #7 with Joel Bylos
We already know that this story arc involves werewolves, the Orochi, and Emma (the girl with the teddy bear). What you'll also learn as this mission arc develops is that it involves more children -- gifted ones that the Orochi have been stealing away -- and what exactly that organization is doing to them. Trust me, it's not a pretty sight.

The nannyPlayers eventually head to The Nursery, a place where the atrocities take place and where the eerie factor explodes. The teaser trailer was just that: a tease. Listen carefully when you get inside and take a look at the details all around you to fully appreciate the ambiance. Be sure to keep your eyes peeled for some eerie apparitions, too. (You can deal with the shivers afterward, and I dare you to get that tune out of your head.) You might also want to lock up any dolls in your house afterward. On a lighthearted note, the nannies in The Nursery have some amusing lines.

Note: If you are eager to make use of the new flamethrower auxiliary weapon, you'll have to remember to infuse it with anima inside The Nursery before leaving.

After The Nursery is the last level, which is "very Tyler Freebornish," according to Bylos. "I think everyone is going to really enjoy it when it comes out," he told me. He also revealed where exactly this level was taking place, but I won't divulge any more than that I am totally looking forward to running through this myself!

Before leaving off with A Dream to Kill, I'll toss out one last little morsel: The antagonist in Tokyo makes an appearance in this issue. The who, what, and where you'll have to figure out for yourself!

Back to the future
It's safe to come back now! No more spoilers from here on out. So what's in store for The Secret World beyond Issue #7? I asked Bylos about the update schedule, predictions on the release of Tokyo, the Agartha Filth event, the random scenarios, and more.

To start, Bylos noted that the entire team is now settled, meaning it can focus on game development instead of pesky time-stealing things like immigration. He also disclosed that he is aiming for a bimonthly schedule for releasing new issues, but he makes no release date promises. "But remember there is three-week [summer] holiday in the middle of this," he cautioned.

As for the Agartha Filth event stretching out until the Tokyo release, there will be six updates. "Some of the increases are purely visual," he explained. "It will show the progress of players in Argatha. Whether they are winning the fight or losing the fight, you will see Filth will change position in Agartha."

Cruisin'
As for Issue #8's repeatable scenarios, Bylos described how the random events themselves are unique per scenario, but the scenario story doesn't have to be unique (e.g., zombies attacking the church in Kingsmouth or cultists attacking the cafe in Egypt are both survival scenarios). He also noted that there are 12 random elements planned that could play out on six different occasions in each. "But they won't always happen so you never know which ones you're going to get," he said. The elements can happen at any of the six different times throughout the scenario and can even double up. For instance, rounding up and keeping panicked survivors alive in the beginning wouldn't be the same as doing so during a weapons drop or a boss fight. There will also be nightmare versions, and success might be dependent on having the right build at your fingertips for a certain random event.

The stories go on
Players can also continue to look forward to cohesive story arcs. While talking about how players gushed over the Tyler Freeborn story, Bylos revealed that the response to that story chain was unexpected, especially since that issue was, in the devs' minds, rushed out and lacking the scope of the others (which is why that issue was so inexpensive comparatively). He revealed that until he took over as game director, the team "was shotgunning the missions out, but [he] always wanted to do more mission story chains like Tyler Freeborn." It won't be every time, however; Issue #8 is systems-based, and Tokyo is akin to Solomon island with scattered missions along with the overarching storyline.

The face of madness
Incidentally, Bylos said that the missions for that update were actually initially just as fragmented as the previous issues until he and the lead designer sat down and linked them all together over the course of a day. Then the writers tied it all together nicely. Issue #6, on the other hand, was "a tighter experience because [they] wrote that as a single story from the start." Still, he told me, "It was definitely a different genre, and I think maybe people like that genre in Tyler Freeborn a bit more."

Other interesting tidbits include little behind-the-scenes facts. For instance, the final instance in the Tyler Freeborn arc was actually the original dreaming prison intended for earlier in the game but scrapped. For issue #5, that instance was recycled and refurbished. And that wasn't the only bit of design that was shuffled around; Bylos told a story of how the amusement park from Savage Coast was actually a part of Tokyo (which, by the way, was initially one of the opening zones for the game before it was shuffled). He went off on paternity leave and was surprised by the park's new Savage Coast location upon returning to assignments to write new missions.

Creepy is as creepy does
Reflecting on the rush of Issue #5 and that surprise amusement park assignment, Bylos talked about how being under the gun is fun because it gets good results. "I do think that sort of thing gives you the chance to be really creative; you have no choice, you have to do this, so it gets the creative juices flowing."

In all, Bylos emphasized that the team's philosophy is quality over quantity. "We are committed to a quality standard we want to keep with The Secret World. I want the game to be known as a classic MMO, a game that did amazing things."

Conspiracies, paranoia, secrets, and chaos -- the breakfast of champions! Feast on a bowlful with MJ and Justin every Monday as they infiltrate 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 mj@massively.com or justin@massively.com and they'll jump on the case!

This article was originally published on Massively.