Article by Rowland Gwynne
Strap yourselves in folks, The Secret World is heading back to its tale-telling roots with Issue 13:The Trail of Shadows. Once again playing to their greatest strength, Funcom have crafted an intriguing and down-right creepy story for us to explore. Lead designer Romain “Tilty” Ameil and community manager Andy “Odonoptera” Benditt showed me a few highlights of the new missions and a gave me a sneak peek at some of the new Christmas event goodies. If you’ve been a good little bee this year, you might just be able to experience them for yourselves by the end of the week.
The Spoiler-Free Nuts and Bolts
Trail of Shadows contains five new main missions, four action and one investigation, and a couple of side missions. The majority of the issue is a four-mission chain which has you running and climbing all over downtown Kaidan and breaking into two new instances. The fifth mission is a fun stand-alone romp around the streets of Tokyo.
Trail of Shadows is accessible to everyone who has completed the story mission Back to the Beginning, and opened up the Tokyo play field. Purchase of Issues 9-10 is not necessary, and the combat encounters are balanced for relatively low AEGIS and conventional gear levels. If you’ve been able to handle combat in the southern parts of Kaidan, you’ll be able to handle the new content.
The collector’s edition comes with Ricky Pagan’s pants and jacket (for both male and female characters) and his boom box, Harumi’s green headset and Yuichi’s fancy headgear. Guaranteed to protect you from the vampiric space squids.
While there is no new custom talisman reward for completing the issue, you’ll be able to acquire the in-game issue t-shirt, unlock a new sprint through and achievement, and find a secret pet. The missions also reward you with filth canisters, as expected from Tokyo content.
Alright, with that run down, we’ve reached the end of the spoiler-free content. Read ahead at your own discretion.
Rock and Ride
Romain wanted to start the tour with a bang, and told us fan-favourite Ricky Pagan needed a hand with something. That hand involved him lending us his bike, his pistol and his boom box, and sending us out onto the streets to check on some remaining Orochi soldiers valiantly defending against the filth. If you enjoyed the snowmobile chases in Issue 7, you’ll love this mission. Zooming around the streets, fighting off filthy bikers, avoiding land mines and jumping off ledges was a whole lot of fun. As you progress, you’ll upgrade the bike, adding new weaponry and abilities. I was amazed at how well the bike handled, compared with the clunky Frankenchopper. This mission was just plain fun, and provided a relief from some of the darker themes of the Issue.
If you get attached to Pagan’s bike, there is an achievement which will unlock it as a custom sprint skin for you. Romain said including the bike as an achievement rather than in the collector’s edition was his Christmas present to everyone.
The main part of the issue starts in Yuichi’s apartment, were Harumi is up to no good. Or at least, up to something she doesn’t want to tell you about. She’s been playing a new, super realistic mech game on her computer. A mech game that involved killing filthy humans that look awfully similar to the ones we fight ourselves. It’s almost as if she’s managed to hack an actual Orochi mech. No way that could possibly end well, right?
In a slightly worrying moment during the opening cutscene, she casually mentions she chats with John from time to time. It’s easy to forget Rum is still young and optimistic about everything, and wants to try and find the best in people/beings-which-live-in-the-black-frequency whenever she can. She’s pretty much the opposite of an MMO player.
She sends us out to tamper with some satellite transmitters scattered on rooftops around the city. This mission plays out like a sabotage mission, with you having to sneak past guards and obstacles to reach the right places. Thankfully the obstacles are varied, it’s not the same cyborgs every time. Plus, the view from the top of the Love Hotel is rather gorgeous.
After some time of falling off the top of tall buildings, you’ll spot something unusual in the distance. In what I’m sure will be a surprise for the people who somehow managed to purchase the issue without looking at the artwork, you’ll eventually chase down and meet Security Five. A friendly pink SMILER bot.
Harumi has indeed taken control of a mech, and needs your help learning more about how the cyborgs are created. We know from the Orochi Tower that the cyborgs are a combination of organic and mechanical parts. Trying to remain in character as Security Five, Harumi has us investigate a nearby hospital.
Where do Cyborgs come from?
When two Orochi scientists love each other very much, they do something unspeakable in a lab. It’s your job to trawl through the inevitable wreckage and attempt to piece together exactly what happened, and what went wrong. Wet Work appeared to be one of the most difficult investigation missions we’ve seen in a while, with a number of puzzles designed to appear overwhelming until you take out a note pad and write it all down.
Much like the Fear Nothing Foundation, the hospital starts out slowly, easing you in to a bright and cheerful, if mostly empty, hallways, offices and rooms. Other than a couple of sentry cyborgs, the place is deserted. Maybe everyone managed to escape when the bomb went off? As we’ve come to expect, various notes and computer terminals are scattered around the building giving us a glimpse of life before everything turned to filth. A few of these are key to solving the puzzles, while others are only there to serve as flavour.
The first challenge is to find a way for Security Five to come along with us, as the mech is too big to fit into the elevator. After solving a couple of codes Harumi is able to transfer the SMILER’s consciousness into one of the small sphere drones, allowing her to follow us, as well as unlocking some nifty powers. She can now stun other cyborgs and highlight useful items for us. We continue into the next part of the building, eventually making our way down into the morgue.
The morgue is exactly what you’d expect from an Orochi run hospital, and then some. I’m not going to spoil this section for you, but things twitch. They twitch I tell you! If you manage to keep your wits about you, there is one last puzzle to solve down here, and a step closer to learning exactly what the cyborgs are, and how they function. Also as expected, something goes wrong and you’re forced to flee, with only a mention of The Shadow, a Jungian psychological archetype, to point you in the next direction.
Living Jung and Free
Who do we know that might know something about Jungian archetypes? Maybe a four year old named after Jung himself? From one of the most difficult investigations to one of the easiest. A quick trip back to the preschool and Jung invites us into the Collective Unconscious. We were chasing something called the Shadow, and now we’re going to confront our own personal Shadow.
When we first met Jung back in Issue 10, previous creative director Joel Bylos mentioned he had plans for a mission involving Jung that would explore our past, a chance to determine who we were before we swallowed a bee. Who did we leave behind when we transformed? Did we have parents?Were we loners?What about a romantic partner?
Jung opens a portal for us, and we step into the mission Bylos had described. We enter into a dream version of the pre-school and surrounding streets, where Jung questions our past, and talks us through our choices.Each decision I made gave me a slight buff, leading me to assume it was all leading up to a boss fight. Sadly, the tour was brought to an end before the final fight could be spoiled.
The mission is repeatable, so your choices only affect the current playthough, and you can chose different options the next time around. It has no game play effects outside of the mission, so you don’t have to worry about any long-term consequences.
While there is no new Christmas mission this year, the previous three events will be returning, along with a new party bag. Players can earn two of the bags by running the Nifleheim and Magic Flute missions each day of the event. Bags bought through the store will contain the usual two random items and one of the new Lucky Coins, which should help mitigate the RNG a little. As for what’s in them this year: a lovely red coat, antlers, a snowboard and a few new pets. If you’ve ever wanted to have a Norse deity follow you around, you’ll get your wish!
For those wondering, Shambala and the new PvP signets will be freely accessible for everyone. Funcom are aiming for an early January release for the new mini-game.
This could be the last we’ll see of Kaidan for a while. Romain said they wanted to revisit some of the older play areas to tie up some loose ends, before starting the second chapter of the main story. This means there is a good chance the next issue or two won’t feature AEGIS. It also means we’ll get to see more self-contained stories and mission chains like we had with the wonderful Tyler Freeborn, Last Train to Cairo, and A Dream to Kill. Hopefully Trail of Shadows will prove to be as enjoyable as those three. We’re about to find out.