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  • Far Beyond My Capacity
  • Far Beyond My Capacity
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  • Far Beyond My Capacity
  • Far Beyond My Capacity
  • Far Beyond My Capacity
  • Far Beyond My Capacity
  • Far Beyond My Capacity
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  • Far Beyond My Capacity
  • Far Beyond My Capacity
  • Far Beyond My Capacity
  • Far Beyond My Capacity

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Kingsmouth Tales

3 comments
My time in the small Maine town of Kingsmouth is now at an end, as my investigations lead me deeper into the mysteries of Solomon Island and along the Savage Coast. It has been a memorable experience, and one the most fun, intriguing and creepy times I've ever had playing an MMO. There were so many stand-out moments that will remain with me for a long time.

Leaving town... for now.
Several things struck me as I investigated the strange goings-on in the ancient seaport. First of all the zone felt like a living, breathing world, inhabited by interesting characters in atmospheric locations (Edgar the mechanic and his two dogs, Tango and Cash (hee), must be one of the best quest givers I've ever come across). There are a lot of reasons for this, but I think it is mainly down to the sheer level of detail that the developers have put into their creation.

"He's got skeletors in his wardrobe."

I know who Madam Roget was having affairs with (by listening to NPC conversations). I know Deputy Andy Gardener receives weird and creepy emails (by reading his twitter feed). I know that the Lobster Trap restaurant serves the bst clam chowder in the county (courtesy of the town website). I know that Danny Dufresne filmed his maths teacher watering his flowers in his underwear and posted it on YouTube (thanks to hacking a doctor's computer). I know that Tyler Freeborn thinks he has seen things wandering in the woods (thanks to his blog), and that he interrupted a town meeting with a shotgun (thanks to reading the town newspaper). I know that the petrol station in town is owned by the mysterious Orochi-Group (it's a Sycoil station, one of their subsidiaries, as seen on their website).


None of the above information had any bearing on any of the quests I did whilst travelling through Kingsmouth. I discovered it all as I used the linked resources as part of my investigations. Along with the excellently drawn characters and brilliant zone design it all helped to slowly build up an incredibly immersive world. The little things really added up to a very satisfying whole. I found it easy to spend time exploring and searching out the little details - checking the menu outside the Old Harbor Shrimp Shack, listening to the awful metal music on Danny's stereo,  or looking at the photos on the postcards outside the Tourist Information shop for example.

"...he answered the call to the sea, with no pants, and the key to the handcuffs. I guess I was saved by his fetish."

The questing in Kingsmouth is the best and most challenging I have ever encountered in an MMO. There's a steep learning curve, but once I settled into the flow of quests (rather than trying to hoover up all the quests in a hub) things just seemed to flow naturally. I never once looked at my experience bar, and the APs (Ability Points) started to collect. Even some of the most basic quests seemed to have something to make them stand out, whether it be a story point, unusual mechanic, or simply creeping me out a little (like looking for a suicide victim).


Several quests stood out for me, mainly the sabotage or investigation missions. I've written about Danny's RC plane before, but I also enjoyed "Dead Air" (my wife and I spent an hour transcribing a morse code snippet, eventually videoing the oscilloscope graph and slowing it down). It's like no other quest I've ever played in an MMO and the sense of accomplishment was incredible. Another standout quest was "Something Wicked", a brilliant questline that requires you to think outside the box, like Alexander dealing with the Gordian Knot, that ends in one of the creepiest sequences I've ever played. I'm pleased to say that I haven't had to spoil any of the quest solutions so far (though I got real stuck on "The Kingsmouth Code" for a while). I'm sure that may change if they get much tougher!


"We don't go in first, we leave that to the red shirts."

Another quest I completed that didn't actually take place in Kingsmouth but still deserves mention is "Into the Darkness", which was the first faction quest I did for the Templars. It involved spying on an Illuminati meeting taking place in an abandoned underground car park. Shortly after the quest begins all the lights go out, and your only source of illumination is a miner's helmet with a torch on it. The following 10 minutes is genuinely unnerving, as the environment is absolutely pitch black and strange things start to attack you.

Into the darkness...
Something that has surprised me about the game is the level of wit and humour displayed, both in the NPC dialogue and in the world design itself (the price of fuel in Kingsmouth is hellish!). Fun references to the zone's inspiration abound (the streets names; Lovecraft Lane, Elm Street, Poe Cove,  etc, or shop names such as H.P. Arts and Crafts). Character dialogue often has me chuckling, and sometimes laughing out loud, the modern-world milieu allowing references to modern games, movies, books to hit home. Even the names of some quests had me chuckling ("Breakfast of Champignons" and "Draugnet" are some early favourites).

A famous name?

The main storyline has started to get interesting at this point. I have discovered that some fishermen found an unusual glowing sword in their catch, which brought the strange fog and the undead back to town, and that a mage called Beaumont, who seems to be tied into The Morninglight cult, is trying to get his hands on the sword. There is obviously something very strange about this glowing blade, and all is not as it seems I wager. I'm still unsure of The Morninglight's motives, but I am wondering if their name has more sinister connotations (it seems very close to Morningstar).

Just before I left Kingsmouth I tried the first dungeon in the game, Polaris, having got most of my equipment up to at least QL3 (Quality Level 3). It was simply brilliant, with virtually no trash mobs at all, just a fun string of boss encounters with some really fun mechanics. Being a huge Lovecraft fan the end boss was particularly fun to fight.

The crashed container ship Polaris hides some gruesome secrets

I don't fancy yours much
The final boss was like an encounter you would normally get at the end of an endgame raid in any other MMO, with all the usual mechanics you'd expect and more. Hiding behind pillars from Cthulhu's death gaze (I'm going to call him Cthulhu even if Funcom don't) whilst fighting off adds was actually nerve-wracking. It took us four attempts before we finally figured out all his attacks and managed to slay him. It was honestly one of the best dungeons I've ever played. I hope the others are of such a high quality.

That's not Cthulhu at all... right...
"It pays to see the donut, not the hole"

Whilst there have been a few bugs (an intermittent chat bug is particularly annoying), Funcom have been incredible in their responses and openness on the official forums. Their lead designer posts daily, answering questions with honesty and humour. The developer communication has been first rate.

I should also mention the game community which so far seems very mature and unaccepting of the usual idiots. Requests for spoilers and quest solutions in general chat are almost always responded to with hints rather than details, which is especially nice in a game which relies so much on investigation. Those few that I have seen drop spoilers into general chat have quickly been castigated for doing so by the community at large. This addresses one of the concerns I had after playing one of the beta weekends.

" I tried my .44... But Satan is wearing kevlar"

When I first started the zone I initially started to build up the Witch Hunter deck. I rapidly decided to change that plan however and throw some of my ability points around a little, filling out all of the Hammers, Blades, Chaos Magic and Assault Rifles lower tiers. This means that even this early into the game I have a fair bit of flexibility, with a full tanking build, a melee dps build, as well as builds that can offer some limited healing and some ranged damage.


Now that I've got that flexibility in place I'll be concentrating on building Witch Hunter followed by Warlock decks.

So, farewell Kingsmouth. I'm sure I will be back soon (especially with the new content update adding new missions to the zone). For now it's time to strike out into the wilds a little. There are mysteries that need solving...

Here are a few more screenshots of my time in Kingsmouth. Kind of like picture postcards from hell...









There has to be a Horror there right?


How to make a helicopter ride interesting...

3 comments:

  1. OK. So I need to get off my ass, stop messing about with all this 'work' business and start playing this! It seems really perfect to our kinda table top style Cthulhu sessions we used to have. Now if RL would just calm down a bit :)

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  2. I can't believe it's been nearly a month (including early access) that I've been immersed in The Secret World. We just entered Egypt, defiantly my favorite area so far. The one thing I really didn't like about Kingsmouth is how DARK it is. Not just dark like sinister, but dark like I had to squint (and eventually turn up my gamma and wash out screenshots). I like "postcards from hell", but if you haven't gone deep in Egypt yet, it only gets better! I actually found your site while looking up "morninglight cult" on Google. Glad I stopped by!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I haven't reached Egypt yet but I'm really looking forwards to it. My guildmates are telling me the game gets even better the more you progress.

      I know what you mean about Kingsmouth being "dark", all that fog can get oppresive, but I think it gives the place a fantastic atmosphere.

      Nice blog by the way! You have a new follower. :)

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