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Chaos Theory: New Sidestories show The Secret World's innovative side

MJ Guthrie

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When I talked about 10 of the most compelling missions in The Secret World last time, I purposefully left out the new Sidestories mission packs. One reason is that I've already spoken a bit about Further Analysis; the other is that the third and latest pack was slated to arrive soon and I intended to talk about all of them together. As it turns out, it actually released the same day that Chaos Theory did! Since then, I've had the chance to dive in and experience some of those missions. As usual, I was not disappointed. Besides providing the expected interesting new characters and great stories, The Last Pagan highlighted something else: TSW continues to be innovative!

When you first experience TSW missions, you are treated to much more than just the standard kill-10-rats and delivery fare that is so common -- and so tiresome -- in many MMOs. *Yawn* Been there, done that a thousand times, right? That doesn't mean those types of missions don't exist in any form in here; there is more than a smattering of "kill this" and "deliver that" missions scattered throughout the game. However, these missions tend to have a welcome and clever twist. More than that though is the fact that The Secret World has an abundance of variety in both how the missions evolve and how they are completed. How many games require you to be dead or call on you to plunk out a melody on ancient pipes to advance a quest? How many have sabotage or investigation missions, period? And let's not overlook the memorable characters and the quality writing of the stories themselves.

So long before any of the Sidestories packs, The Secret World was at the head of the class in terms of mission quality. That's why it definitely doesn't surprise me that the Sidestories have good and enjoyable quests. What did surprise me is that the devs have continued to come up with new ways to quest! The innovation involved keeps TSW feeling fresh and the idea of future updates that much more tantalizing.

Need some examples? Here are a couple of my favorite missions, ones that by all rights could have made the previous list. One is from Further Analysis and one is from The Last Pagan. Warning: There might be some mild spoilers involved, so read at your own risk.

As much as I loved The Animate Clay, the award for most innovative mission this pack goes to Immersion. Why? Because this investigation mission actually runs you through a text-based game while you are in the graphical game. As an avatar, you hold a tablet and have to type in all the instructions for what actions you do. You run through that entire game without taking a step in the game. Then at the end, you have to retrace your tablet game adventures in the real world (relatively speaking). In fact, it wasn't until after I read the next part of the mission that I came to realize that is exactly how players were intended to do it. I, being the find-my-own-way-to-do-things person that I am, followed along on the path in the secret real world that was laid out by the text game and completed each objective as I went. Whoops!

To be honest, I regret a bit having done the mission the way I did. I wish I could experience it again for the first time and do just the text version and then do the live one; although my way allowed me to know when I made a wrong turn or a mistake in the text game immediately just by checking out my surroundings, I cheated myself out of being totally immersed in the text game and then feeling that tension of remembering the path and instructions as I lived it. I did at least get that rush of "Whoa, what's happening in the game is happening here!"

Although Sidestories: Love & Loathing came out second, the next most notable mission involving innovation comes in the newly released pack, The Last Pagan. It was by awesome coincidence that it was also my introduction to this pack. This first new mission, which greets you when you enter Tokyo at the Agartha portal, is aptly named The Pagans. And it's a hoot!

What's so different about this mission? Never mind the Elvis impersonating that the NPC Ricky Pagan does (which is in itself highly entertaining), you get to utilize all-new and very amusing mechanics involving music. Your task is to find Ricky's missing comrades. The requisite tool for this search? A giant boombox you get to strut down the street with, tunes cranked up! Seriously, you have to play specific tracks on this special mix tape to both lure out and even pacify the lost Pagans. Be warned, however, that stopping to gawk at the mobs getting down to the Rockabilly music may result in delayed combat reactions and even death. And trying to take screenshots is definitely dangerous!

I have to hand it to the Sidestories: As mush as I tout the awesomeness of the investigation missions, these packs remind me to appreciate how great the regular ones are as well. Thanks to these new packs, I have more favorite characters that I want to learn about and interact with. If you haven't had the chance to experience the two newest packs because you don't have Issue #9 The Black Signal, now is the time to get it -- it's currently 50% off in the item store!

The fact that we get these Sidestories update packs filled with various new missions is great. The fact that Funcom is delivering new content at a faster rate is awesome. And the fact that I can anticipate getting something totally new to experience in them makes me giddy with excitement for the next pack. I seriously can't wait to see what the devs come up with next! The one thing I would ask is that some more Sidestories come out that do not involve Tokyo so that folks who haven't gotten there yet can enjoy new missions as well. There are plenty of NPCs in the base game I still want to hang out with and learn about!

Which quest method or mechanic is your favorite? Let us know in the comments below!

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!

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