Chaos Theory: Surviving a second look at The Secret World's scenarios

Thanks to a pre-launch taste test, I was really looking forward to serving myself up some more of The Secret World's new scenarios when Issue #8 finally went live. I made no secret of the fact that I enjoyed that first experience, even though our dev-led group was getting its keister kicked! But it is fair to say that a single swing though a scenario couldn't provide a balanced assessment of the new feature, especially since said scenario itself wasn't balanced. So as soon as The Venetian Agenda launched, I went back for seconds... and thirds... and so on.

Now that I've indulged in heaping helpings of scenarios over the past two weeks, have my thoughts about TSW's newest feature changed? Has my excitement diminished? Have I had my fill now and am I just looking forward to moving on to Tokyo, or am I still standing at that Council of Venice's console with my bowl held high saying, "Please, sir, I want some more"? To answer, let me show you my snazzy bowl! Then I'll share why I think the scenarios are more than worthwhile in spite of the naysayers.

As you have probably surmised, I am still quite enjoying The Secret World's scenarios, though admittedly some more than others. That's not to say that I am just breezing through the simulations as if I were on a preschool Easter egg hunt. Quite the contrary; I am struggling through each one (especially the Castle with its a less familiar layout), trying to adapt to the changing parameters and dish out enough aid that I can save more than a handful of survivors. So what keeps me coming back for more?

Although scenarios are still intense, they are what I would call I light snack. Unlike dungeons and missions, they require absolutely no guesswork when it comes to how long a scenario gameplay session will take because the timer is constant. If you have only 30 minutes to sneak in some game time, you can pop right into a solo scenario and have at it -- as long as you aren't on cooldown, of course. Understandably, it may take longer to find others to join in for the duo or group versions, but once you do, the run will go for just 25 minutes. This can be especially handy on time-starved days when I still want to get something done (or livestreams!). And you can't discount the fact that a timer adds just a little bit of adrenaline rush to the mix. Just check out the second half of this video:

Another aspect of scenarios that keeps me interested relates to why I think others are frustrated with them: the random element. One of the reasons that I no longer participate in a plethora of raids or grind dungeons for gear over and over and over and over is because I can't stand the monotony. It's the same reason I am not fond of watching movies over again or even reading my favorite books repeatedly. I simply do not like knowing what to expect. With static dungeons and instances, once the run is known, nothing varies; you go in and get the job done. With scenarios, each run is unique. True, I have gotten familiar with certain waves, but I am far from exhausting the possible combinations of events.

That leads into the next reason I keep coming back for more: the fact that scenarios are all about thinking on your feet. With the aforementioned dungeons, once the tactics are known, you can start doing those runs in your sleep (or in the case of some groupmates I've had, while you're drunk). In scenarios, you can't go into the situation with a set build and a set plan and expect success. And there's no time to sit back and thoughtfully study out what to do for any given situation; you have to assess, make a choice, and then go. Switching builds on the run within a single scenario is likely to yield better success. I am far from mastering dealing with the various waves in scenarios, but it is a challenge that I am rising to meet. And it is exactly that challenge that I am liking.

As I mentioned before, I think that some of those very things that I like about the scenarios are the things that make them a negative experience for others. I've heard the rumblings within the community that scenarios are too difficult and frustrating. In fact, this week's topic was spurred in part by a fellow Massively staffer asking me about my thoughts on scenarios and relating the not-so-positive experiences his group had thus far encountered. From both that and listening to other conversations about scenarios, I have developed a radical theory: Scenarios are not for everyone.

I am going to say right here and right now that there is no shame in not liking scenarios. How often does a single player like every single aspect of a game? We are unique and we have different tastes, and so different features will appeal to different players (or even the same players at different times). Players who do not like feeling under-the-gun and forced to make snap decisions will probably not find as much enjoyment in scenarios. Ditto with those who like consistency and knowing each step of the path. And that's OK!

However, if you are on the scenario-bashing bandwagon just because you're frustrated that you have not whizzed through the scenarios when you are used to winning, might I make an observation? You're not supposed to be able to breeze through all levels of the scenarios right from the get-go. No, really. Despite all your awesome knowledge about builds and synergies (and I say that seriously with the utmost respect!), the scenarios are meant to be a challenge. Yes, even to you uber players, and yes, even the "easiest" levels. They are meant for even the best players to have to work at, to give them a way to improve. What the heck good would it be to put tons of time and effort into a new feature that players fly through in just a week? I think we have all seen how well that really goes over. Personally, I disagree with the sentiments that scenarios missed their mark. I think they are performing their purpose splendidly.

With scenarios, The Secret World has introduced a new type of gameplay, one that needs a slightly different mentality and approach than many gamers are used to. And I find that really refreshing. The status quo of dungeons and grouping says that all you need to do is learn the trick once and then you're set; master the plan and you're guaranteed success. Scenarios do not have a precise blueprint that assures victory, and players trying to pound the square peg of old expectations into the round hole of the scenarios are going to come away frustrated.

It also doesn't hurt to remember that this newest feature is meant to be indulged in by those who have already progressed far in the game, have (hopefully) learned how to adjust builds for different situations, and have developed a number of viable builds with a variety of abilities. That's not to say that the scenarios are exclusive. They can be used by those without these qualifications, just usually only with the assistance of groupmates who do have them. So this is an endgame-level activity that is actually available before endgame, which I think is pretty nifty. No one is locked out; everyone is guaranteed the chance to participate, although no one is guaranteed success. But nothing in that suggests that everyone will like them.

As for myself, I still find scenarios an enjoyable challenge (and when I say challenge, I mean that I have a long way to go to feel competent in my ability to succeed with regularity). But that's me. I understand that not everyone will enjoy them. Everyone's individual experience is equally valid. Heck, the whole idea behind the scenarios is a unique experience, after all! On the other hand, I do think if people go into scenarios open to a the new approach and knowing that they are meant to be a serious challenge, then they might find the experience more fun.

So go ahead and try it. You might like it!

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 or and they'll jump on the case!
This article was originally published on Massively.