Chaos Theory: Controversy swirls around The Secret World's new Mystery Boxes

Although neither the most recent recent patch notes nor the January Game Director letter mentions it, something happened in The Secret World recently that might, if you believe the cries of some, portend the beginning of the end for the horror-filled game. What powerful behemoth will be responsible for slaying TSW and grinding it into the ground? No, not the Økokrim; this time, it's the mighty Mystery box.

Players logging in since January 30th have been met with a launchpad announcement heralding the introduction of the new Mystery Box to the item store. And while some players are up in arms about the significance of this addition, I'm going to tell you why it's no big deal.

So what is a Mystery Box? It's an item players can buy via the in-game store, and it contains a random assortment of goods. There are two versions of this box, each with its own set of possible rewards; one costs160 Funcom Points and the other 480 (10% and 20% less for subscribed and lifetime members, respectively). Both boxes guarantee one common item and either an additional common item or a rare one, but the more expensive Deep Mystery Box adds one more guaranteed common and either an additional epic or rare item. The loot tables are as follows:

Common (Mystery Box and Deep Mystery box)
  • 1 Common signet
  • 3 Black Bullion
  • 10 Black Marks of Venice
  • 5 Pure Anima Max Health potions
  • 300,000 PAX
  • 10 Credits of Ca' d'Oro
  • 1 Uncommon augment

Rare (Mystery Box and Deep Mystery box)
  • 1 Rare signet
  • 9 Black Bullion
  • 30 Black Marks of Venice
  • 1,000,000 PAX
  • 1 Rare Augment
  • 1 AP Injection (50 cc)
  • 1 Timed AP boost (3 days)
Epic (Deep Mystery Box only)
  • 1 Epic signet
  • 1 Full set of delivering ritual fragments
  • 1 Epic augment
  • 1 AP Injection (110cc)
  • 1 Timed AP boost (1 week)
So the purchase of boxes could net a player nothing but some signets (that fall off mobs like candy) and some in-game currencies, or it could offer a some AP and an epic signet. It's a total gamble what you get.

As soon as these boxes were noticed, some players started shouting ZOMG lockboxes and accusing Funcom of going back on its word to never add such to TSW. Cries of pay-to-win permeated the main thread discussing the issue, while shouts of game-breaking and the beginning of the end were flung about like a monkey-pitched poo. Some even insinuated that devs were being extra shifty trying to sneak this change in on players -- others just outright made the accusation.

With those statements, I respectfully disagree.

For one, the change wasn't stealth-bombed into the game. No one accidentally stumbled across this hidden deathtrap buried deep where no one would find it; the announcement was splashed across the launchpad! Just because it wasn't put on the forums in neon lights doesn't mean players weren't informed. In fact, I'd say that those who actually play are the ones who were informed, as opposed to those who don't and just lurk on the site. If players don't read the launchpad, that's not the devs' fault. Additionally, the boxes are featured front and center on the main page of the item store and on the new items tab. Not especially hidden, eh? And since the idea is to sell those boxes, it wouldn't even make any sense to hide them, now would it?

My second refutation to these huffings and puffings is the fact that these Mystery Boxes are not, in fact, the dreaded lockboxes. When I think of lockboxes, I think of chests that are dropped as loot during gameplay that players are denied unless they purchase keys from the store. These boxes are not loot drops (although almost everything in them is), and no one is denied anything by avoiding them. Instead, I see these boxes as a bit of gambling fun like the ones offered in EverQuest II.

But even in EQII you can purchase those boxes just through gameplay using the Dungeon Maker tokens. Subscribers and lifetime members don't have to spend anything additional either; they already have a monthly allowance of 1200 Bonus Points. And trust me, some of us have actually lost some points because we haven't used them in the six-month allotted time. These boxes are a way to get that gambling rush and use up some of those bonus points that are just sitting around.

What about "pay-to-win" and "game breaking"? I read over the list, and you know what I saw? Tons of filler stuff you can get easily in-game in short order along with an occasional rare useful item. The AP boosts and injections? Most long-time players have more AP than they know what to do with; these rewards actually help the newer players. Besides, just a few runs through an event nets me more AP than those injectors. I personally bought one of each box. Guess what amazing game-breaking items I acquired? Five Pure Anima Max Health pots, two healing augments (that still need 115 AP each to activate), 10 Black bullion, and 50 AP. As with any gambling, chances of getting the good stuff is not extremely high. If anything, I'd call these boxes more gamble-a-lot-and-maybe-after-paying-tons-you-can-win-a-little!

I understand there are always concerns about pay-to-win ruining a favorite game; I even harbor those same fears. I love TSW and I want to see it succeed and to enjoy my time in it. But this isn't a case of that. Honestly, I think some people just saw the word "box" and freaked without even looking into what it actually was (on the Internet, who woulda thunk?!).

I don't believe that adding these Mystery Boxes is some nefarious plot to undermine the sanctity of The Secret World and fleece everyone of cash. As far as I know, Mystery Boxes are not a gateway to bigger and better/worse things, and until I see otherwise I am not going to jump on the lynch-Funcom bandwagon. In my opinion these boxes are really a bit of harmless fun and a new Bonus Points sink for those who need/want it. And I am not the only one holding that opinion, either; there are plenty more who spoke up in that aforementioned thread refuting the doomsayers with many of these same points.

Is anyone going to harm or diminish my gameplay by winning any of this stuff? No. Will it possibly enhance the experience of some other players? Sure. Heck, maybe someone will give the game a little bit longer if he had a few more AP to choose a couple different skills because his current setup isn't working. And to me, that's a good thing. I'm fine with the Mystery Boxes and think others should just enjoy them for what they are: a new form of gambling meant to entertain more than anything. Now, my thoughts about gambling are a whole different matter...

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!Harmless
This article was originally published on Massively.