TSW
One of the bright spots of my month is when that game director letter from Joel Bylos rolls across my feed. It's like new magazine day, back when magazines were a thing instead of an ancient relic of the '90s, and I push everything aside just to slowly pick through the letter and find out what's coming to The Secret World.

Bylos' November letter had a lot to say, most of it good but a little disappointing. Yes, Tokyo and Issue 9 are being pushed to "early 2014" (I bet February) to get it up to snuff. It's one of those announcements that has the loyal saying things like, "Good for them! Quality over a rush job, I always say!" but then they go home and cry a little in secret. I'll admit that it's a bit of a bummer, especially with my overall disappointment with Issue 8. I guess it'll give me a little more time to grind out oreos and augments, and perhaps work on my long-neglected Illuminati alt.

With the bad out of the way, let's dissect and analyze what the future has in store for TSW. What's that? A Christmas devil! Oh my, things are about to get interesting. Well, interestinger.

The dark side of Christmas

So while we're not going to be seeing Issue 9 this year, that doesn't mean December will be a wasteland of new content. Bylos let slip that a brand-new holiday event featuring Krampus is coming, as is a re-run of the End of Days event.

Back up there. Krampus? Who's that?

Why, he's the Christmas devil, kinda! Don't you sing songs about him every December? I know that my cabal and I are going to have to come up with some sort of funeral dirge to do him justice.

Actually, Krampus is an ancient mythological figure who's the polar opposite of lovable ol' Saint Nicholas. While Nick brings presents to good little boys and girls, Krampus gets the job of punishing the bad ones with whipping and whisking them off to the fiery pits of hell. That's why you obey Elf on the Shelf, people -- he doesn't just report to Santa!

Krampus is a perfect figure to add to The Secret World: He's a darker take on the traditionally upbeat holiday season, he's got the whole devilish look going for him, his story runs through many cultures and languages, and he's a great excuse for folks to dress up like beasts and madmen for an evening that isn't Halloween. Because Krampus sprung up from Europe, I'm guessing that he'll be making an appearance in Transylvania, blending in well with all of the other ancient weirdos. I'm really looking forward to seeing Funcom's take on this legend.

You can actually get a little preview of "Krampusnacht" with December's item of the month (seen above, taken from this forum thread). It's a scary-looking goat-thing mask that really goes well with dismay and high heels.

New scenario difficulty level!

Well, I'm all smiles that Funcom either listened to me or others like me (or just got sick of people complaining about it), but the studio has decided to add a new difficulty level to make scenarios accessible to the casual soloer. The novice difficulty is tuned to be easier than solo, which is good news for folks like me who started to get turned off by going into scenarios alone.

"We discussed internally and we felt that the best solution for being more inclusive is not to alienate people who enjoy the challenge level of the scenarios by toning them down," Bylos said, "but to create a new tier of scenarios. Everybody wins with more scenarios available!"

I agree. Bylos spends a good chunk of his letter defending the scenario and augment system, trying to clarify these systems and how they factor into the game. As a friend put it, it's just about fine-tuning your character with a long-term progression track, no different than, say, RIFT's planar attunement system. Something to give us small, gradual increases of power as well as something to spend otherwise-wasted AP on.

AEGIS? What's that?

Some day I'm going to write a column on what I think is both right and wrong with The Secret World's approach to combat (long rant short: combat should be downplayed, not jostle for the spotlight with the game's intellectual elements). Right now, however, I'm going to warily watch Funcom add another block on top of this complicated combat tower with the upcoming AEGIS system.

Joel Bylos spilled a few details about what AEGIS is and how we'll be encountering it. Essentially, AEGIS deals with a new batch of defensive shields that filth creatures have and how we bust through those defenses. Funcom's apparently trying to get our heads in the combat game and make us pay attention to what we're fighting instead of just spamming a rotation, and the devs have planned a progression of AEGIS developments over three issues to do this.

It's not as if combat in this game is simple, especially against certain enemy types or encounters, but this system will take it to the next level of defenses and counter-defenses. I am intrigued that we'll be able to develop and use our own AEGIS shields in the future, although I'm just hoping that this whole system won't be so annoying and unintuitive that it renders Tokyo a headache to navigate.

So it's a challenge, and the TSW community certainly does love its challenges as Funcom loves slapping black Venom-inspired goo everywhere. C'mon, we were all thinking of the Spider-man connection; I'm just the one who's brave enough to say it.

Membership deals

I thought I'd mention the new round of membership deals because they're worth discussing. Personally, I don't feel that membership really gives you a good value; you get an XP booster, some Funcom points, an item of the month, veteran points, and an item store discount. It's nice, but none of it screams "must have!" for a buy-to-play game like this. I like to sub up if I know there's an issue coming out and I figure that I might as well get some goodies along with the points to buy the issue.

That said, the membership deals are pretty attractive. They're kind of a "buy X months, get X months for free" deal with a few extras tacked on. If you're the subbing type, then I'd say jump on this to get those extra free months. It's up to you.

Also, the fate of the world. That's up to you too.

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.