We duo’ed an investigation mission in our latest session of The Secret World. Overall the puzzle-oriented investigation missions are our favourite aspect to this game, they’re comparatively rare compared to action (i.e. combat) missions but they stand out as memorable and engaging in a way that combat isn’t always.
This post if full of spoilers for a specific mission so don’t read it if you’re not well into the second Transylvania zone in the game. I didn’t take many screenshots unfortunately so I’ll have to rely on written descriptions…So the specific mission we played was Obstructive Persons in the Shadowy Forest zone of Transylvania. Normally we would try our best to do an investigation mission without looking up any clues or spoilers. This however was one of those missions that really seems to have misjudged the difficulty curve of the puzzle.
After the strong intro video we had a terse instruction to “Search the area” around the NPC mission giver. After some wandering around we found a ghoul and the corpse of the suspect Morninglight agent spying on the mission giver easily enough. Missions that get the player to visually explore his/her character’s surroundings are usually a plus as it’s good for immersion to be looking for clues, especially when the map doesn’t spoil it by marking very obviously a place or area to search in.
From there the mission did go downhill pretty quickly in terms of our understanding of the clues and hence our enjoyment. We were tasked with closing the agent’s file on the NPC somehow. I’d checked out the website hint in the visual clue and failed to register with a system error. Hacking the website didn’t seem a likely solution as it seemed too random a chance of guessing a URL suffix.
After some discussion we headed back to London to access the only Morninglight computer we could think off – from our first steps in the game when we meet some Morninglight evangelists by the starting spawn point (N.B we play Templars so our starting city is London, your mileage may vary). We got some progression from just going there, so we were on the right track or so we thought. We couldn’t get anything but the normal personality test out of the computer though and after a lot of attempts we started looking at this wiki guide for clues.
It’s at this point that my frustration levels rose pretty quickly. Likely it’s partly my own experience of previous investigation missions and expecting patterns to be repeated. Trying names or words linked to the mission clues didn’t get us anywhere. It turned out the next step was to use a hexidecimal conversion of the error code (plus some other maths) from the website to get further. That alone was a massive leap of lateral thinking in my book. That you then use the calculated number to guide your answers on the personality test is either fiendish genius or a step too far into plain random.
Worse still the next major step is to locate another NPC, you get his last known whereabouts (London) and a physical description. Great I thought! Back to visually hunting, I can do that! So we ran around every nook and corner of London for what seemed like ages, looking closely at all the NPCs to see if one met the description. We presumed (wrongly) that someone in hiding would not be identified with his real name. In the end we gave up as it was getting late and decided to just get the next hints. It turns out he’s in Transylvania, but not even in the zone where you get the mission, no, he’s back near the start of the last zone.
There is a clue in London but then we were looking for a person with a specific description not an object. It also requires you to remember the names of another NPC referred to in the clue. I wouldn’t have remembered that NPC as it had been months since we’d done her quests.
A simple change here and there in the mission step hints (e.g. “search London for clues to the next target’s whereabouts”) would have made all the difference. Sometimes I think the game’s content needs some more polishing for it to truly shine.