The Secret World's Investigation Quest Design

A feature article by Angry Duck Gamer takes a look at the most notable part of The Secret World that sets it apart from all the other MMOs on the market – its investigation quests. The article analyzes four of such puzzling quests, focusing on their clever use of the Internet and a refreshing lack of quest markers. An excerpt with some minor spoilers:

The Secret World was originally launched in 2012 as a story-focused MMORPG. Instead of medieval fantasy or science fiction, the two most popular RPG scenarios, TSW wanted to be different, focusing in conspirations in a lovecraftian urban fantasy. You control a person that has recently awakened magic powers and is called by a mysterious organization (which can be the Illuminati, Templars or the Dragons, it’s up to you). You are soon called to Solomon Island, a place in Maine where a zombie outbreak has begun (yeah, so much for originality).

There are many fetch quests in The Secret World, as it is in most MMORPGs. Still, while you’ll get plenty of “kill 10 zombies” quests, there is a special kind of quest that really sets the game apart: investigation quests. While in most quests you have clear objectives and a question marker to guide you, investigation quests are generally full of riddles and exploration without markers. While some of them can be criticized for their difficulty, they reward out of the box thinking and observation. To explain what sets some of the investigative quests in Secret World apart from other games, I’ll talk about four quests in the first area of the game, Kingsmouth Town. There will be spoilers from the quests, obviously.

In the Solomon Island, you’ll find plenty of odd characters (that speak as if they’re declaring poetry. The dialogue in the game is really odd). One of those characters is a seer called Madame Roget. She is spooked because she used to be a charlatan, but since the zombie attack she is having real visions. She has a vision about you and says that “on the tip of the pyramid, your path shall be revealed”. Then, The Vision quest begins and it’s up to you to find the places that she keep seeing. The first one is easy. You have to look at the map of the area and you’ll find a place called Pyramid’s Point. Get there and she’ll call you with another vision: “Shadows, long shadows, from the old boughs of the fairy forest, the flickering lights of the foolish fire guiding your path”. If you have walked around the area a lot, you’ll know she means Wispwood, where wisps (the flickering lights) surround an old tree. In the next vision, she talks about bees and flowers. This one is really hard. The only place with bees in the area is the entrance, which leads to Agartha (the place where you came from), but it’s pretty easy not to notice the bees when you enter. The quest continues with a visit to the graveyard, where you find a statue with a sword and finally in a bridge with a memorial of dead people. This is possibly the hardest clue to find, as Roget only says “The cold, dead eyes of innocent stare at you from the gallows, their blank gaze a mirror to the past… and the future”. That’s really not very specific. At the bridge, you beat a Revenant and quest completed. This quest is really interesting because, in spite of the MMORPG’s love for quest markers, it doesn’t give you any. You have to use your map and explore your surroundings as if they were a real place to discover where to go. That encourages thinking and, in the future, it’ll make you pay more attention to your surroundings in the game, as it might lead to interesting clues.