Chaos Theory: Touring Tokyo with TSW's Joel Bylos

It's Tokyo time! That's right, an end to the wait is finally upon us. Come Wednesday, everyone who buys Issue #9 The Black Signal for The Secret World and has acquired The Council's Seal will be able to cross the threshold into Tokyo.

Like you, I've been dying to get in and check out this new zone, the first new area introduced to the horror game since launch. Thanks to a special tour with Game Director Joel Bylos and Communications Manager Tor Egil Andersen, I was able to preview the first of the three Tokyo zones so I could share that experience with you. We not only explored the city itself, but we completed one of the new -- and might I add, really spooky -- missions and utilized the new AEGIS system.

So, how is it? Let me just say, it's worth the wait! And not just for the creepy homages to the Illuminati handler, Kirsten Geary.
Gallery | 73 Photos

The Secret World Issue #9 tour

Let me start by saying that there is no way to adequately convey all that I experienced in Tokyo in the confines of this one little article. I played TSW's expansion for nearly two and a half hours and I barely scratched the surface, even though Andersen and Bylos were actively trying to show as much as they could. During that time, however, I developed a real appreciation for the beauty of the zone (Bylos noted that the longest hold up was due to the art, and you can really see the care and detail put into it.), a better practical understanding of the AEGIS system, and some serious empathy for poor Sarah. Remember her? We walked in her shoes for a brief time in the Tokyo subway during the tutorial. I also found an entirely new line of lore to collect! If you don't want any spoilers, I suggest you skip ahead to the AEGIS section below.

Your first steps into Tokyo will actually be retracing your steps from the tutorial down in the subway system. That's where you bump into Sarah again and gain a deeper understanding of her part in the story. I won't divulge too many details, but it is definitely an illuminating cutscene and elicits even more empathy for her tortured character.

(Re)Introducing SarahSpeaking of cutscenes, if you like 'em, Tokyo's got 'em! According to Bylos, this particular slice of the city has has more cinematics than any other zone in the game, partly because when combining all three Tokyo issues and their sidestories there are more missions than any other zone -- 30 to 40 compared to the 28 in Kingsmouth. And if the story and atmosphere of the quests are all on par with the one I experienced, we are all in for a Japan-sized treat! In just that one I got to experience exiled demon factions mixed with blow-up dolls, a creepy shrine to KG, freaky little girls you should never take your eyes off of, and a Harvey-esque twist.

Earlier I mentioned a new type of lore. The first time you see one, you almost have to do a double-take: It looks like a photo negative of a regular lore piece. These black collectibles with a slight purple hue are actually where the issue gets its name. You see, the golden lore is all about the Buzzing. Players have been hearing the Buzzing since the beginning. Now, there is another side to the story, that of the Black Signal. Using a drop-down menu on the lore page, players can select which voice they listen to. And trust me, the two have very different perspectives on the events happening in game.

Once you get topside after your little subway jaunt, you step into the neon glow of Kaiden and hear how this particular city was made a quarantine area. As you traipse about, you also come to the realization that the Filth has evolved here! Filth has infected not just the population (which is catapulted over massive walls into your quarantine area), but machines and electronics as well. From the nursery's nanny bots of Issue #7 fame to the radio and the television, Filth is taking over. Players can't even believe what they see and hear electronically now.

I won't spoil the quests other than to say that yes, you get to play in dark parking garages again. And yes, expect to be creeped out! Bylos also offered a hint about what players can expect when he explained that "we stole a few ideas from Portal -- some puzzle ideas."

Although there truly was too much to include, here are a few other tidbits I have to share. Sarah isn't the only character from long-ago that makes an appearance. Remember the nasty creature that in the first CGI teaser trailers that comes face-to-face with Mei Ling then climbs out the hole she blasts in her wall? Be sure to look up on the walls of the buildings throughout Tokyo. There's also a love hotel run by the Phoenicians (that becomes more important in Issue #10) and new factions that include demon clans exiled form Hell. And even though one demon clan leader has quite a KG fetish, that's not the only tie to the three primary factions. Each one has an affinity for one of the main factions. According to Bylos, the leader of the Jingu and Sonnac "used to have a thing." He continued, "She has very fond memories of Dick, as she calls him."

Even having read up on the AEGIS system, I wasn't exactly sure how it would really play out in the game. But now that I have experienced it, I can see how it will definitely add more depth to the TSW experience. In a simplified nutshell, you attach the AEGIS to your weapons. Depending on what you attach, you'll have access to certain abilities that correspond to a color. Each weapon can only use one AEGIS type at a time, so only that weapon's abilities will utilize the type of AEGIS attached.
Some mobs in Tokyo then have special shields that correspond to these colors (you can tell which color by the targeting ring or its health bar) and the matching AEGIS damage must be used to dispel the shield in order to beat the mobs. Some shields can even be recast, so damage must be exacted before that happens.

Originally, this system was developed for PvP only and involved switching out items in your bag, however, the system didn't really play out well, and has since been transformed into PvE and hotbar activation where players can switch between abilities easily. Players can easily switch out which color they can utilize even in combat using the icon over their hotbar, but there is a four second cooldown on all abilities when that happens. But if you don't happen to have the right counter for the mob's shield, you'll do no damage no matter what. Luckily, Issue #9 doesn't have as many mobs with shields as the other two Tokyo areas to help players ease into the system.
AEGIS is a horizontal progression system. At the end of your tutorial-take-two with Sarah, you'll receive all the AEGIS types to place on your weapons, but you'll get more as loot and from vendors to add to more weapons. Your AEGIS equipment gains experience as you kill mobs and loot, collecting samples of the Filth to be analyzed. So if you see white drops, don't ignore them! The Orochi will then patch updates to your AEGIS after you buy a special item from the Orochi vendor to allow for mobile patching. AEGIS can only be upgraded so far in the current issue, and that will increase in future issues. In issue #10, players will also get to make AEGIS shields on themselves.

One thing that Bylos pointed out: Although the AEGIS system is the free part of Issue #9, no other mobs in the game use the shields other than in Tokyo -- at least for now. So in order to utilize the system, you have to access Tokyo, which cannot be done unless you buy the issue.

Bylos confirmed that the dev team still plans on updates every two months, with issues being interspersed with things like sidestories packs. In fact, each issue will have its own pack of sidestories. Although the first one was solely investigation missions, Issue #9's is a mixture of action, investigation, and sabotage missions and includes a bank story, a love story, and a mission on a skyscraper rooftop. This first mission pack should be out in early July, released along with the anniversary events.

Map of Issue #9I also learned that the mall right there in Tokyo is the setting of the next scenario that will join with the three others already available. There is no estimated arrival date for that new map, however.

As noted previously, Tokyo will be spit into three zones, each one introduced with a new issue. In Issue #10 players will get to traverse the subway system under Tokyo, while the entirety of Issue #11 will take place in the Orochi Headquarters that players can see rising above the city. Issue #11 will also introduce a new lair, at which time a revamp for all lairs is planned. The third piece of Tokyo will also include a new dungeon as well as a raid. With Tokyo and its features, Bylos explained that players have more ways to progress both vertically and horizontally, and the systems allow for that to be built upon for quite a while.

With Tokyo coming soon, that means that the Whispering Tide event is actually coming to an end. Flappy will finally be defeated and the raid will be no more. But Bylos emphasized that only those who are present when it all ends will actually see what happens, and that window of opportunity for the culminating event is only about 20 minutes. He added, "You don't miss out on rewards or anything for not being there, but you miss out on seeing how it ends." With any luck, someone present in Agartha will be recording it for those who miss out! If you want to be sure you are there for the big finale, keep a close eye on the health of those tendrils on the portal.

And just a heads up -- while this raid will no longer be available once the event wraps up, you'll still see plenty of Flappy birds roosting on buildings and flying the not-so-friendly skies of Tokyo to take you to that little place where your memories of the Filth-flinging creature reside.

Conspiracies, paranoia, secrets, and chaos -- the breakfast of champions! Feast on a bowlful with MJ on Thursdays as she infiltrates 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 and she'll jump on the case!
This article was originally published on Massively.