Chaos Theory: First five favorite moments in The Secret World
I've been asked many times why I love The Secret World. And I have always answered enthusiastically about my favorite parts of this unique game. But a more interesting take on the question presented itself recently: When did I love The Secret World? This query gave me pause as I thought back to the point at which my I'm-having-fun feelings turned into bona fide squeals of delight and shrieks of surprise. And I came to the conclusion that all I really needed to love The Secret World I learned in Kingsmouth.

If you think about it, that's a pretty good thing. Since Kingsmouth is the first real adventure zone after your tutorial (I'm not counting the faction cities), having experiences that grab folks' interest there is vital to producing long term-players. In a game, just as in a book or a movie, it is important to hook your intended audience early on so its members stick around to see what's going to happen next. And hook me Kingsmouth did.

The following are the first five moments that captured my heart (and mind -- this is TSW we're talking about, after all). They are by no means the be-all, end-all of the game; they are very simple, in fact. But these particular moments did help define my appreciation for the game and ensnare me enough to keep me coming back for more.

I think it is only fair to warn you right now that there are some spoilers in this piece, so if you really want everything to be a fresh surprise for you, you might want to just stop now. However, if you are looking for reasons to get into this game and you need something to entice you, please read on.

One of the very first things I remember entrancing me was the fact that some world items could be interacted with in ways that you wouldn't expect but still made perfect sense. My earliest recollection -- or at least most vivid one -- is of the computer that sits atop Sheriff Helen Bannerman's desk. You could access it, but it didn't let you do anything... at least to begin with. That would change once I got my first taste of a sabotage mission, courtesy of the sheriff herself. Called Horror Show, this mission required us to go out and gather equipment so we could install security cameras around the station to help the forces better monitor the zombie onslaught. Once we did all that, we had to test the connection. That's where the computer came in.

When testing the four cameras, we noticed that the feed we were witnessing looked live, not like some prerecorded cutscene. Wait... could those security cameras really be working as security cameras? To test this, my partner-in-crime ran out to one of the zones and did a few handstands and such. I know this because I watched him do them! That was just incredible to me that such a realistic element would be woven into a game. My immersion just skyrocketed at that point. Even better, once you initialized the system, you could continue to access it long after the mission was done. To this day (and I literally mean even today), every time I'm in Kingsmouth and I get the chance to check out those cameras, I do.

The next pivotal moment in my enjoyment of the game also involved a computer and happened during Tier 4 of the main story mission, Dawning of an Endless Night. At this point, my curiosity and penchant for exploration helped me find the clues necessary for solving the password problem even before I knew I had the problem. But that wasn't the good part. The good part was how I figured out the solution.

You see, it was at this point that my real-life love for classical music and my knowledge of said topic handed me an "I Win" button in an MMO. This was the first time that drawing on my personal knowledge and experience was key to my success as opposed to my skill in button-mashing or ability to butcher some mob. It wasn't a full-blown investigation mission (the likes of which did really blow my mind), but it was a first real taste of using brains over brawn, and I liked it! Oh, how I wanted more. And more is exactly what I got.

Unlike the previous example, this next key experience came about through a side mission, emphasizing that the best missions didn't have to be major ones. In fact, skipping side missions means you miss a lot of what makes TSW great! My enjoyment of the game intensified after happening upon a cleaner's corpse. While that in itself doesn't sound particularly pleasant, the situation presented a quest called Dirty Laundry.

While I won't give the exact details, I'll just say that once again the chance to use real-life experiences came into play. Who would have thought that leading music in church would give me the information I needed to succeed in an MMO? This ability to draw on skills and knowledge outside of the normal realm tapped by gaming was like striking gold. I know I literally squealed on this one, and I floated in a bubble of pride over how easy it was for me to figure out (a bubble that was summarily popped, especially as I tried to learn Morse Code).

Not only can players use their personal experiences to complete missions, but they have to think outside of the box. In Something Wicked, the only way to advance is to do something so completely foreign to the standard MMO mindset. The task is to get into a locked jail cell in the sheriffs office, and although the wording of a clue will point you in the right direction, the solution so far removed from conventional thinking that many people actually reported that step as bugged! I loved loved loved having to look at things from a different angle. Discovering that solution was just the beginning; I wondered -- and looked for -- how many little Easter eggs might be hidden in similar unexpected ways. (Hint: Using the same principle on a boss during the Halloween event had some awesome results!)

If the previous experiences hooked me, Into Darkness really reeled me in. Although not technically a Kingsmouth mission, this one's on my list because I received the summons to attend to this faction mission while traipsing about the zone. And it was pretty much the linchpin that secured TSW at the top of my all-time favorite games list.

I had the privilege of completing this mission for the first time on my Dragon. Although the mission is similar for all three factions, each playing its respective part, the disciples of chaos have the best one in my opinion. You know how I often talk about loving The Secret World because of its atmosphere? Well, this here mission is what defined the ambiance for me!

The first time I descended into the parking garage, I was playing late at night with my headphones on. The only light was coming from my monitor. If you've done this mission, especially on a Dragon, you know that scant light is available in the parking garage. And as I prefer the most immersive experience, I do not have names visible, so there were no big glowy red indicators of where I could safely step and where I should avoid. I had no idea where mobs were except by sound and what I could see from the random pools of light and the beam of my trusty headlamp. (By the way, just the fact that there is impenetrable darkness and an actual working light to maneuver is in itself pretty awesome.) As you can imagine, I was creeping along, slowly and cautiously. And that's when two of the coolest things happened.

The first thing was sweeping the headlamp along the wall and being surprised the message written there. After already having my nerves set on edge as I crept down to the bowels of this parking garage, that was a bit of an unexpected jolt. The message was creepy, too. But that was nothing compared to what was to come. (If you've never played Dragon, don't read this and just go play one up to that low-level faction mission now!)

While stealthily creeping back up in the hushed darkness, very much feeling the tension I could wring from the air, multiple car headlights suddenly started popping on, and I literally jumped (this is also where the shrieking came in), surprised and desperate to know what the heck was happening. I was so drawn in and immersed that I was physically affected by this development and had to face the boss that the final lights illuminated with my heart still racing and my fingers fumbling with the keys. It was AMAZING! Not even the best movies can usually set up the atmosphere so well that I am jolted like that, and I immediately craved more. There in the darkness I knew that TSW would be a place I stayed for a good long while.

Of course, those moments were just the beginning of many wonderful experiences, but they were the ones that ensured that I would continue on so those others would exist. Do you have any special moments like this? What hooked you and made you want to keep going? I'd love to hear about them! Please share in the comments below.

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.