Following the werewolves' back trail leads me to a grotesque monstrosity, the Dark Woods Horror. It's a giant mutated... thing with a human head bursting out of its chest. I whale on it for a while, but then it kicks me down and prepares to make mincemeat of me. That's when the Vampire Hunter shows up, his cranky burned visage grimacing as he triggers his flamethrower and sets the Horror alight. It burns and it burns, and it burns... and it dies.
A happy ending? Not so much, as the Horror changes back into its original form: a little boy. A dead, burned little boy. Um, question for the developers? Did you guys just have me help kill a kid? Because from where I'm sitting, it looks like that.
It's an absolutely shocking way to begin this story arc, and my emotions mirror the Vampire Hunter, who verbally lashes out at me for the innocent casualties of this Secret War. Nearby, an Orochi corpse gives me an idea who might be behind all of this.
I search around and find an Orochi van with even more Orochi corpses. I think that the group probably just steals bodies from the morgue, dresses them up, and flings them across the world to save on expenses. A dossier in the van talks about experiments on a werewolf (sans anesthesia) and marvels over the creature's regeneration capabilities.
It turns out that this van is just one of many temporary outposts in the region. The Shadowy Forest is full of them, and each one is thoughtfully supplied with a gruesome aftermath of experiments and eviscerated Orochi. "JOIN THE OROCHI, SEE THE SECRET WORLD, AND THEN DIE HORRIBLY FROM IT!" their lifeless eyes advertise. One of the sites has a report that mentions kidnapping a Romani teen to bring back to the Virgula Divinia project. Yup. Just one of the creepiest parts of the game coming back to haunt me. Awesome.
Upon reaching the Romani camp, the kids there tell me that two children have gone missing in the woods. Vampires? Ghouls? Werewolves? Or something much worse with a large budget for scientific research? We shall see.
My tracking skills are rusty, but eventually I find an Orochi tablet that says that the kids escaped from custody but have microchips implanted in them for better safekeeping. The annoying beeping minigame begins -- you know the one, where you have to find something like a bat using sonar -- and leads me to a blood puddle with said microchips. But no kids. The blood trail leads me to a door in the waterfall (Hatchet Falls -- the title of the quest is a pun on this). Because Funcom loves me, I have to scavenge an Orochi eyeball and hand from more nearby dead guys. Man, those corpse catapults must've been busy this week!
Inside Hatchet Falls is a dead facility with a few surprises left. The first is a mysterious member of the Council of Venice who suggests we team up (she then disappears because Funcom loves me). An electrified door nearby requires a little footwork, leading me into the spookiest generator rooms of all time.
After I get the power online, I search the facility and find myself a nifty EMP gun. Time to short-circuit those annoying laser grids and shields! Have I mentioned how much I hate sabotage missions in this game? Naturally, everything is super-dead here, with signs of a huge firefight having taken place. One prison cell amps up the spook factor, with a doll presiding over a circle of phrases, each saying, "Hello, I walk into the empty." A dead Orochi outside has the word "Empty" scrawled in blood beside her. Later on, a series of computer logs detail the terrifying end to these people, although the writer suggests that it wasn't the two Romani teens who did this but another.
I work my way to the computer center, where the Council agent has an emotional moment concerning the kidnapped kids. Guess she was a mother at some point, although she's not now. A couple of clues send us to the Carpathian Fangs. I couldn't wait to get out of that place soon enough!
In the snowy mountains is Daniel, one of the very few alive and friendly Orochi in the game. He's all for helping Emma, so he gave me some info how to unlock the Nursery. Time to make a fuss so they'll open up the doors and come out to play!
I fight to the top of what I affectionately call "Vampire Hill" to unlock the Nursery protocols. Bad guys freak the heck out. A disturbing personal log on an Orochi computer makes me think twice about wanting to go in there, though. To make matters worse, a convoy of C4-laden trucks is trying to get to the Nursery and blow it sky-high. That won't stand. Time for... snowmobiling!
Jumping on the conveniently located snowmobile, I take off on a breakneck race through the mountains. For the game's first mount, temporary or not, it's an absolute blast. I was throwing out mines and launching rockets against Orochi enemies while trying to beat the clock on the course.
My escapades took me to the top of a dam, where the Orochi closed in. Was all lost? Nay -- the mysterious Council lady showed up in the nick of time, handed me a parachute, and blew up the bridge. One jaunty jump later, and I was at the door of the Nursery. Did I want to go in? I guess I had precious little choice.
The Nursery is every bit as creep-tastic as the Orochi compound in London and then some. It's predictably devoid of human life, although there are a few Dreamfall
and Secret World
magazines littered about. As I made my way further into the complex, Not Good Signs begin to manifest. Skittering in the background. Bloody corpses with dolls perched on their back (what is up with the dolls?). "Nanny Bots" that perpetually broadcast an unnerving lullaby. Discouraging notes left on the wall in blood.
I investigated several rooms devoted to performing specific experiments on the children. The doctors here figured that children have the best chance of surviving infusion with foreign DNA, so there are kids deliberately infected with spores, with the werewolf gene, and even with the Filth.
I don't think there's a chance for the Romani kids, but Emma is nowhere to be found. A secret trap door leads me to the basement where the girl is lying on a table. That's when the double-cross happens: The Council lady knocks me out and ties me up on a table. She gives a little bit of helpful exposition while a laser burns through my legs. Turns out she's actually Lillith, one of the two heads of the Orochi. She's gone rogue and allied herself with the Filth, and she needs Emma to bolster her position. I did not see that coming at all, I have to admit.
I do have a chance to make wrong things right, however. Emma pulls me into her head and shows me a few scenes from her past. One is quite notable: She's the only survivor of a house fire, and when the fireman asks her name, she replies, "Anima." The firefighter mishears her and tells her that Emma is a pretty name. Interesting.
After touring Emma's house, I'm taken to Argartha, where Lillith and Emma (her daughter?) have a showdown. The Filth is visibly invading through the Tokyo portal and is calling to Emma, but she isn't having any of it. She also wants her teddy bear back, but she doesn't give me so much as a thank-you. Guess it's one of those bittersweet endings. Or a small cliffhanger in the middle of a much bigger story.
Whatever the case may be, I'm eager to see where the tale takes us next. I have a debt to settle with Lillith, fair and true.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 email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org and they'll jump on the case!