As we know, there are several major players in the Secret War: the three playable factions of the Templars, the Dragon, and the Illuminati; the sinister corporate Orochi Group; and the UN-like Council of Venice. But there's another faction that isn't completely invisible from view yet also doesn't go to great lengths to make itself known. These are the Phoenicians, the black sheep of the bunch.
I was only peripherally aware of the Phoenicians through my first play-through of TSW, but now that I'm going back through it again, I find myself trying to piece together these stories and secrets. I was fascinated with the concept of a fourth (unplayable) faction that didn't quite fit in the mold as the rest of the bunch. Today I want to share what I've learned.
The first thing to understand about the Phoenicians is that they aren't some massive player in the Secret War, but they aren't piddling, either. In the UN of the world, they're the Italy or Greece to the Illuminati's USA or the Templar's England. The second thing to understand about them is that they aren't as ideological as the other factions, but are instead a mercenary group that sells their services to the highest bidder. The third thing to understand about them is that they really like the color purple, so much so that they're informally known as the "Purple People."
The 13 pieces of lore that you can find regarding this group are scattered across all of the zones, starting in Kingsmouth and ending in the Carpathian Fangs. However, like the Phoenicians themselves, the lore isn't really out in the open and is quite easy to miss.
The first mission (at least that I recall) where you encounter the Phoenicians is "Taking the Purple." You get this sabotage mission in the Savage Coast by talking to John Wolf, who makes a few cryptic references to this fourth faction and the ocean.
As you investigate a string of corpses leading from the amusement park, you'll come upon a house where a handful of purple-clad soldiers are guarding the entrance. Honestly, I didn't even think that they were anything unusual the first few times I encountered them, what with all of the other craziness going on on Solomon Island. But these are the Phoenicians, and they are apparently setting up surveillance on the park for an unknown client.
It's enough to pique one's interest, I suppose, but in the scheme of the zone's events, it's easy to forget this factional blip on a radar that includes a doorway to hell, a haunted amusement park, and an academy where the class projects are trying to kill everyone.
You'll bump into the Phoenicians here and there as the game goes on, most notably in the underground parking garage mission (oh, you know the one) and the rocket launcher quest. Basically, anytime you see mercenaries wearing purple, that's a good giveaway that the fourth faction is in play.
Funcom said that it had a good reason for keeping the Phoenicians low-key early on in the game: "The Phoenicians will grow in importance as the game (and story) goes on. There are good reasons for not allowing players to join them -- but that doesn't mean you won't be able to interact with them. Or get to know them better. Intimately."
The Phoenicians interest me because while they are a bona fide part of the Council of Venice, they did... something... in the past that royally ticked everyone off and resulted in their being banned from participation in the Secret War battlegrounds.
But where do they come from? What's their lineage?
Historically, the Phoenicians were a naval power that rose to prominence in the Mediterranean in the first millenium BC due to their trading acumen. Their city-states ranged from southern Spain to Northern Africa to Syria, controlling several major trade routes including those to Britain. As all of their cities were on the Mediterranean coast, the Phoenicians put a lot of stock in their ships and became well-known for those as well as the color purple (since they had a monopoly on purple dye at the time). They also helped to give us the birth of the modern alphabet.
However, the Phoenicians were conquered by Persia and later Greece, giving them an abrupt exit from the world stage. Except, of course, that The Secret World posits that something from this culture survived all of these years.
Ian Tibet Gladstone in London claims that the current Phoenicians used to be Templars that split off from the herd to go their own way. He said that this division happened due to a messy love triangle long, long ago between two brothers and a woman from Salome, a tale that is backed up by one of the Buzzing's lore entries for the faction. The woman sowed distrust between the brothers, and they each went their own way and formed their own faction.
According to the Buzzing, the Phoenicians initially allied themselves with the Illuminati to spite the Templars, but eventually that relationship soured and the Phoenicians went to the Far East and tried to stay out of the limelight. "The Purple People retreat back to the sea," the Buzzing said, "and there they stay, a perpetual fleet of mercenaries and treasure hunters, shrouded in the mists of mystery."
Back when The Secret World was about to go into beta, the Council of Venice had a "systems malfunction" that broke the website's countdown timer and revealed a few clues about some turmoil that was going on behind the scenes in the game. Among this was a trio of emails to and from the Phoenicians connecting them to this event.
This isn't the first time that the Phoenicians had issues with the Council, as they were reportedly thrown off it in the 1930s just prior to the Council's own dissolution.
Currently the Phoenicians are headquartered in New Carthage, a floating city of ships that is constantly moving its location. They use the image of a purple galley with a lion's head on the sail as their logo. It's strongly implied that this group is biding its time, waiting for the perfect opportunity to swoop in, claim the big prize, and jump to first place. The Phoenicians are undoubtedly sore at being kept away from the big kid's table, but they are willing to wait.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com and they'll jump on the case!