Chaos Theory: The Tokyo barrier
Blue Mountain: On the road through The Secret World adventures, this was the zone that would make or break many players. It's the point when you had to really start crafting your decks more carefully and applying synergies. Not all who felt the blow of this particular skill check powered through, making it a barrier to continuing on to Egypt and Transylvania as well as completing the story mission.

Well, now there's a new barrier in town: Tokyo.

As much as I had looked forward to the Issue #9 content, and as much as I am enjoying the content now that it is here, I have to admit that Tokyo is the granddaddy of barriers. Not only are there barriers to getting to the content, but there are some to enjoying it once you get there too. And any one of them might cause players to give up on Tokyo and The Secret World before experiencing the whole update. So to help folks avoid smashing into any barriers unexpectedly and leaving bruises, let me give you the scoop on what lies ahead.


The first barrier is pretty well known to all. Tokyo has a pay barrier; those who don't pony up for the DLC don't get to enter this new area, period. Now, I am fine with Funcom making money with this DLC; I want development to continue on TSW, so the studio needs to turn a profit. Plus, the expanded, advanced content is worth paying for, just like expansions in other games. So this is not a rant against paying for Tokyo -- just an acknowledgment that the barrier exists.

But the pay barrier also creates a physical barrier between players. Unlike previous issues where players all mingled together in the zones whether or not they had certain issues, The Black Signal is more like a traditional expansion that adds new lands to a game; those who don't have it can't get there. Tokyo therefore segregates the population into the haves and havenots. But isn't that true of every game's paid expansion?

This next barrier was actually completely unexpected on my part: the story mission. While it is true that the story mission naturally leads you to each successive zone throughout the game, there was nothing forcing you to do the story mission before moving on. You could bounce into the other zones and check things out regardless of what you'd accomplished beforehand. I had most of my first experiences in Egypt and beyond on my Illuminati courtesy of the Guardians of Gaia anniversary event that placed world bosses there to defeat. So I never batted an eye at the thought of just poking around a zone just to see what there was to see, even knowing that my gear was much too low to allow me to successfully complete any missions.

Add that ability to go anywhere to my natural desire to explore, and I became woefully behind on my story mission. It wasn't that I didn't want to do it; I just got sidetracked by all the other shinies and other missions I discovered in my journeys. So when Tokyo launched, I ran to the portal, only to find it locked! I was unable to get in. That was actually quite frustrating. And I am sure I am not the only player who bought the DLC and tried to zone in only to be blocked.

Even sneakier, the portal that looks like Kaidan, which everyone can port through, just takes you to another branch in Agartha, and only then do you learn that you are blocked from entering! For a few blissful seconds you are eager to step onto the streets of Tokyo only to have those hopes dashed. To go from that excitement of "Finally Tokyo!" to just being stranded on a branch is quite an emotional drop.

Obviously, this barrier can be overcome just through completion of the the story mission. If you are quite far behind, I'd recommend dedicating a couple nights to completing it and nabbing a friend or two to help you wade through the mobs in a few spots. That will definitely make it go quicker. Of course, if you go too fast, you might just gloss over one of the best parts of the game -- the story!

This next barrier also threw me off, but it's an issue only if you have tunnel vision for Tokyo itself (or your promised livestream viewers that you'd show the city!). You see, even before you can set foot into the city, you have to do an entire sequence in the story mission. Luckily, the story mission is great! Why would you want to rush past it? This is just a warning for those who have prepared themselves to see the city so they know they'll just have to wait a bit longer than expected. My advice is to enjoy this part of the story (and its ties to previous missions in Issue #7) and don't focus so much on getting to the city itself.

Important note: If you leave the final instance of Venice Sinking at anytime by logging out or crashing, you will have to start the entire thing over. Thanks to both logging and crashing, I actually had to complete the mission three times before getting the green light to carry on. At least that gave me the chance to get the lore inside!

Now those are all barriers to getting into Tokyo. These next two are about barriers to enjoying the content once you are there. Remember the reference to Blue Mountain at the beginning? Well, Tokyo is the next step on the skill-check road. Not only do you have to have an adequate build, but there is the additional layer of the AEGIS system here. Even if you thought you were hot stuff on other zones, you'll find the mobs in this city hit much harder.

Folks who have done most of their TSW adventures solo might find that they really do need a friend or two in order to really enjoy the missions and content available here. So far, the missions have not been very solo-friendly, especially for casual players, which becomes a problem when one of the previous barriers -- or the following one -- is preventing your friends from joining you.

Because Tokyo advances on things learned in Transylvania and previous issues, some players are choosing not to advance until they have finished everything else in the game. Even though they are ready gear-wise and story mission-wise and have even purchased the DLC, they don't want to step foot in the new land until they've exhausted the content in the previous zones. While I commend them for this (and even thought that way a bit myself once), it means I am sitting in Tokyo all by my lonesome waiting for friends to wrap things up. And since I am a social player by nature, that creates the final barrier for me: a fun barrier. I don't really want to play through Tokyo until my friends are there to join me.

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 mj@massively.com and she'll jump on the case!

This article was originally published on Massively.