I was finally able to drag myself away from PvP in GW2 and Planetside long enough to have a decent amount of time in The Secret World. I had a mission this time, I have been dragging my feet around for a while with doing random quests and such, soaking in the sights, and just generally screwing around but now it was time to get things done… Time to finish the story quests.
I don’t know why i had been holding off on it for so long, I think I just didn’t want it all to end and be left without some overarching story and goal guiding my actions. It was just good to have that as well while doing the normal exploration and fulfilling my role as an occult handyman but it had to start moving along some time and today was the day. Straight away with a mission of collecting and putting together body parts I was reminded of just how niche TSW is in terms of the market they were aiming for. It was never designed with casual appeal in mind, the themes and atmosphere it creates were made to engage, to provoke emotion and thought rather than just something with a mission statement of fun. For good or bad they designed the game for a mature market.
And the rest of the story line was just as interesting, even more so at parts and now that its done I am kind of glad. It answered a few questions regarding Gaia, the filth and such but it left so many more unanswered that will definitely see me coming back to read dialogue, chase lore, and holding out until the story commences in Tokyo.
I really like how in these stories your often not the savior of mankind, the manifestation of all that is good and right, no inherent rights to absolute power. Often enough in the story you are merely a catalyst spurning others whom are greater than yourself into action. It isn’t something as trite as playing the shadow of the “great” Trahearne in GW2 even though you have done most of the work… no it is far more than that.
You often get the feeling that you are apart of something far bigger than just yourself, and while there are characters more powerful then you and whom have committed greater actions your own actions are still epic achievements that have contributed to the greater cause. There is a connectivity of the characters and yourself along this journey or a larger course that makes whatever action feel rewarding in a sense. It all feels very guided at times, not so much as the story is on rails (which it inevitably is right now) but like your partly destined to make the choices you are, that fate is playing your hand for you are but an actor on a stage.
The cutscenes of the silent protagonist plays into the feeling of fate but if that was the case it would be ok in terms of character development and gameplay as it still leaves the character very action orientated. Sometimes though it is implied that you are far from being the only unique being around and that there are others, many others just like you who can, may, and will make different decisions. During your few discussion with those from the anima your free will is trumped as the thing that sets human beings apart and above others, that it is something to be greatly valued in this eternal struggle. So, in fact while you may be just one of many and just an insignificant spec to those above, your actions have meaning with changing the course of fate because your free will is such an important factor…Bah, I don’t know yet but I love thinking about it regardless.
These rich themes seem to weave throughout the story, the characters, and environment so masterfully that you often miss them just because your busy being apart of it, but when you stop and that realisation hits of the weighty tones around you can’t help but feel a little overwhelmed. There is so much to contemplate, that can and does invoke deep discussion (have a look at the lore forums sometime) and all of it is a part of the world. It isn’t just told through cutscenes or lore log book collections either but through very subtle cues from the environment that really does well to play into our own experiences, knowledge and supernatural paranoia… there is just so much there.
And that dialogue is exactly how I feel most times while playing the secret world, you never get a full picture of the characters, the world, or even whats happening at times. You never fully understand why somethings happening, for what aims and purpose, by whom or what… what you see and hear is all but a whisper of some larger undetermined pattern of people and events. Sometimes I get the feeling that while I was on this course there was so much more going, on that I would never witness…evil plots unfolding, secret wars being fought, and characters developing along there own path. With or without me the world keeps turning towards equilibrium or complete and utter destruction.
Even when you do reach the end of your own path It doesn’t wrap things up all nicely for you to go on your merry hero ways. What you have completed is just the end of one path and the beginning of another. I am still wondering what would have happened if I destroyed the gaia engine, would I have gotten the same cutscene.. would the world still be the same and would the corporal form of that seductive but terrifying voice be revealed ( I would of after all and the other cutscene is just as thrilling). The comments it makes are so intriguing that you can’t help but contemplate the possibilities. Through its words you realise you are beneath it in every way, it is greater and more powerful than you could imagine and for it to basically beg for its freedom makes you wonder what else is out there, the possibilities and mysterious of the game world and maybe our own.
The part that is truly marvelous about this evil, the filth, higher beings is that the interpretation of such is very much left up to the user. Many of these choices, especially at the beginning are left ambiguous for a reason partly because they were invoking discussion and thought but also because it is a better representation of how we act. Making decisions without knowing the background, the people or motives invokes us to rely more on our intuition, for better or worse… and I have never had an experience as thought provoking as this in terms of game stories and my own morals. The fact that the story (or maybe even the game world later on) may even revolve around peoples decisions leaves some great room for story progression and character development, not to mention some excellent RP material.
When the angel, higher power, who knows what says “Dark Days are coming” I shivered a little as it is just implies there is so much more to come, that this is just the beginning of a long crusade against forces mostly unknown. It also makes me feel much more at ease with the direction of the story in TSW as they have planned a long way ahead, and in many ways the planning reminds me of the epic fantasy sagas I have read. They are not just writing segmented issues but are involved in world building more than I thought, everything and everyone is connected to something larger and its marvelous to be a part of.