Secret World’s Faction Ranking: To Gate or Not to Gate

Secret World, car park, Into Darkness

Come at me, bro.

At the beginning of August, Funcom re-released some content that had been in The Secret World for Secret World Legends but with a new mechanic. The missions, as they were in The Secret World, were given to the players as off-shoots of the original story, missions to show that the player was making progress within the rank of their faction. What made them unique is that they were a few of a handful of missions that differed depending on which faction you played. This made them an anomaly in the game as only the between-zone missions also did that, with the lion’s share of missions having faction-flavor text only to differentiate them.

Instead of releasing them as one time faction-flavor, they were released in Secret World Legends as repeatable variable-difficulty end-game missions as a way of bolstering the end-game options for players, especially solo players like myself. Awesome. They came with a caveat, though, in that in order to even begin the missions, you had to first hit gear-rating milestones, essentially gating the content. This decision has been met with mixed reactions by the Secret World community, to say the least.

Secret World, Tokyo, Orochi Tower, Fungus

This screenshot has nothing to do with the blog post, I just *love* how great the lighting and atmosphere looks.

The first mission, Into Darkness, has the player delve into a NYC car park and needs an Item Power (IP) of 250 to play. The second, Venetian Missile Crisis, has the player once more wielding the missile launcher and needs an IP of 325. The third, Rogue Agent, I assume involves chasing somebody down. I wouldn’t know as it needs an IP of 450, and my character is still in the early 400 IP range.

And this right here appears to be the main beef that players are having. That 450 IP gate. Most players I have talked to have no problem with the 250 IP gate, as one would generally hit that level during the Tokyo zone. Even the 325 IP gate isn’t so bad as one would hit that in late Tokyo or during the South Africa zone. But 450 IP? There just isn’t the content to support that yet without grinding missions, dungeons, or scenarios. Content that not every player enjoys grinding, let alone even playing.

Secret World, Gatekeeper

Hey there, GK. Ready to rumble?

Now I’m not saying that I feel that the content should be made easier to be more accessible. Quite to the contrary, I really enjoy a good challenge. The new Venetian Missile Crisis, since I was playing it at level took quite a bit of watching pulls, puzzle-like clearing, and a few deaths. It reminded me of playing the original Secret World, where in order to take on certain mobs you had to change up your build, specialize it, and use abilities and tricks that were outside your standard build. They were a puzzle in and of themselves.

That was one of the main themes of The Secret World, though, was the puzzles. Investigation missions were researching and detail puzzles, Sabotage missions were attentive and timing puzzles, and Action missions build and dodging puzzles. As long as you completed previous missions or accomplishments, you were able to proceed, no matter your gear. You beat all the dungeons, you opened up Elite dungeons. You beat all the Elite dungeons, you opened up fighting the Gatekeeper.

Remember the Gatekeeper? The Gatekeeper was the pure test to show that you were ready for Nightmare level dungeons. You beat the Gatekeeper, it showed you were good enough to join the end-game, whether your gear was up to snuff or not. For a lot of players, he was a wall. The Gatekeeper fight was *hard*. You could fight it as a tank, dps, or healer, and the fight changed to suit your role, but each part was still hard.

Secret World, Last Train to Cairo

I threw myself against Last Train to Cairo time and time again to try to beat it, and I don’t consider that a bad thing.

I guess that’s where my main disconnect with the new faction content in Secret World Legends lies. How would I even know if the final 450 IP gate mission is hard to beat or not? I’m not allowed to play it yet. I have to grind dungeons, which I don’t enjoy, or scenarios, which have improved since The Secret World but they’re still not my cup of tea, or just replay the same missions over and over and over again (and if the choice is replay the same content in one game or play new content in another, guess which I choose?).

It’s not like the gate is accomplishment based like The Secret World was, it’s purely gearscore number based. Heck, The Secret World let you play content well above your level all the time! I remember throwing myself time and again against the Last Train to Cairo mission, and I just couldn’t survive the fire section, but I was playing it at the same time I was making my way through the Egypt zone, and it was supposed to be post-Transylvania content.

I could still try it, though! It wasn’t gated just because my gear wasn’t up to par or hit some target yet. Same with the Gatekeeper. Your gear, in any game, is only a fraction of your character. Your own playing skill is the human element that goes along with the numerical gear/levels to round out your character. This is why we love our characters, they’re not just two dimensional, they include a large part of us as well. If we don’t have the gear yet, our own skill can compensate.

Secret World, Hell dungeon

I mean, running dungeons is a lot more fun when you know those around you, but I’m still not the biggest fan of them.

So, I haven’t played the 450 IP Rogue Agent mission yet, and I’m not going to grind to get there. It’s not like I’m going to give up on the game entirely, though, I’ll finally play it when there’s enough Secret World Legends content to support it, which hopefully will be when the next Congo zone is released. This may even be designed this way on purpose. I’m still disappointed, though, that I’m not even allowed to *attempt* the mission as it shows a shift in philosophy from The Secret World, a philosophy that is sadly taking the Player out of the Player Character equation.

 

// Ocho

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Information Satiation

Have you ever seen the cut-scene in Secret World for the Illuminati introduction to the Tokyo zone? No? Well, take a minute or two and give it a watch. I’ll wait.

I mean, amazing, right? What’s going on here is that the figurehead of the Illuminati faction, Kirsten Geary (voiced by Kari Wahlgren), is informing the player of their need to head to Kaidan, Tokyo, the fictional location of the ‘filth bomb’ explosion that sets in motion the reaction of Gaia and events portrayed in Secret World, by way of Venice. So Venice first, then Tokyo, which is a pretty big plot location. But did you catch that part in the middle there?

This is the age of information. Stealth is not about hiding; it’s about inundating.

We leak the truth. Then we leak whole zettabytes of other junk. Opposing data, Similar data. Nonsense data. Ad nauseam. Mesmerism by cat memes. Hypnotised. Apathy for the win.

The human brain has only so much bandwidth. Critical thought can actually O.D. on input. Bury the ultimate secret of the universe in the shallow grave of the 5th page of a Google search and no one would ever find it. Cover-ups are so passé.

This was penned by the incomparable Joshua Alan Doetsch and in a word it’s just… Brilliant. Did you catch these thick layers of meaning that solidly attach this to the real world? What makes the fiction we consume so compelling is how much we relate to it. If we can’t relate to it, we can’t make a connection to it, and it passes right through us. But, this? Who *can’t* relate to this?

Give or take a year or two...

Okay, so according to my calculations I should be totally caught up by… 2023.

It just may be that I’m starting to feel the effects of age, but I’m constantly finding it harder and harder to keep up with all of social media. Remember in the early days of Facebook when you could scroll back to the last post you viewed and then catch up quickly with every single thing your friends posted? And I mean every single post? I won’t lie, I’m part of a few Discord channels, as Discord is the new hotness, and I can’t keep up with any of them. I’ve tried. But that’s a LOT of text, most fleeting, and, to quote the above, my brain has only so much bandwidth.

Same goes for Twitter, same for the current version of Facebook, same with Feedly, and the same goes for Discord. There’s just too much. In trying to be as well informed as humanly possible, we hit a staggering wall of data. I remember when I first started getting involved with blogging and keeping up with a whole bunch of blogs and news sites are what helped to keep me informed, but I gave up on reading novels in order to do it. It was the same amount of text and ideas as full-blown novels, but one by multiple authors and multiple topics. I’ve since learned to balance, but still.

After a point we just become satiated. You ever hear or type the same word so much that after a while it stops being a word and just becomes garbled? The world these days just feels… garbled. People are lost, clinging onto what they *hope* is the right information. There is so much out there. From my mother wanting me to read up on hydrolyzed proteins, me trying to figure out what this rash could be from, or the constant stream of world news detailing the horrific events in our current anthropocene extinction epoch. Watching cat videos or seeing pics of bunnies frolicking with a deer end up being truly therapeutic.

“But Ocho,” you may ask. “Aren’t you just adding to the bandwidth?” I am. I totally am. That’s what blogging is all about, after all, adding your individual notes to the constant stream of background noise.

“But… why? Why keep adding to it?” Simply put: Fighting Back. The simple act of creation is sometimes enough to control the tide of information. To coalesce our thoughts and to stake a claim on a thought, to delineate what we know from what we don’t know, and to make a stand for truth.

After all, it’s ‘apathy for the win’, and we can’t just let apathy win without a fight.

 

// Ocho