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

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Reaching the Summit

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It's time to say farewell to Solomon Island, for the time being at least. Vinculus has finished up in The Blue Mountain, the final zone on the Island, and will soon be heading to much sunnier climes in Egypt.

The first thing I noticed about The Blue Mountain was that there was a step up in the difficulty of combat. Mobs were packed closer together, meaning I had to be more aware of my surroundings, they made more use of self-buffs and debuffs on my character, and the time-to-kill increased. I had to completely rethink my build and shifted from the tanking build that had seen me through Kingsmouth and The Savage Coast to a survival dps/self-healing hybrid build.

Welcome!
 One of the great features of the skill system and crafting system in TSW is that I was able to make myself a new QL5 fist weapon and start putting AP and SP into a new build pretty much straight away. Within a couple of hours I had a workable build that I continued to refine as I travelled through the zone.

There are a few minor spoilers ahead. Any major spoilers are in hidden sections.

The zone's story was mainly based around the struggles of the local Wabanaki native American tribe. I loved learning all about their family struggles as the younger generation tried to embrace the tourist trade whilst the elders warned the about angering the spirits of the land. The zone also saw the first real military government intervention in the crisis, the arrival of the CDC to try and contain the Filth outbreak, and the mysterious Orochi corporation setting up camp to investigate the Filth for their own nefarious ends.

On top of all that there were interesting tales about an old local asylum, a haunted mansion with a dark past, the building of a new casino on sacred Wabanaki land, and the history of the local quarry and mine. I loved that all of these different stories were tied into the main story quest in some way as well, being referenced from it and to it, which really helped to paint a picture of a island society. The world building was again excellent, and by that I don't just mean the physical environment, but all the little touches that bring a virtual place to life.

I can't imagine this asylum being conducive to anyone's mental health

There were some fun and interesting quests in the zone, though a few too many "kill X mobs" type quests for my liking, especially after the first two zones. Perhaps I'm becoming spoiled by TSW's generally excellent PvE quests! In any case I hope that Egypt doesn't continue the trend. Having said that there were still many memorable quest moments.

The Franklin Mansion was one particularly memorable quest location. It's typical of the many interesting places dotted around the TSW zones that have a huge amount of interesting background lore that can be uncovered and pieced together if you feel the urge (I normally do!). I  love how the game doesn't force feed you background infodumps, but that you have to search out lore, documents, NPC conversations and the like to paint the whole picture.

One of my favourite quests in the mansion was The Haunting, which involved travelling back in time via a magical mirror, visiting the mansion in 1904, 1918 and again in 1966, each time helping the ghosts of murdered innocents to achieve rest. There were lots of nice touches in the differences between the various versions of the mansion, from the decor to the snow on the ground in one case. I also noticed that several of Eleanor Franklin's cats were seemingly still alive and well in 1904, making them over 100 years old. Just another of TSW's many mysteries, though I now understand a little better why she said they cause her more trouble than the ghosts!

The game is still full of the dark wit that characterised earlier zones. The quest in which I had to repair a giant scrapyard robot-golem which then helped me to stomp on some Filth-infected locals was amusingly called Detritus Prime, and the various NPCs often showed a (sometimes unwitting) humour (Marianne Chen, the CDC agent whose entire squad has been killed is a particular favourite).


The Investigation missions in The Blue Mountain had me solving more morse code (this time from the blinking lights of a van) and learning about mathematical sequences. I now know what Emirps are, and I'd never even heard of them before.

The first part of the main storyline reaches it's conclusion in The Blue Mountain, answering some questions, but opening up even more mysteries. Again, I love how the game doesn't spell everything out for you, rather dropping hints and clues as to what is going on and letting the player put the pieces together. It makes the game feel even more like the pen 'n' paper Call of Cthulhu games I used to play with my tabletop group.

Anyway, I think I've figured out who Beaumont really is, even though it's never specified.

I'm finding the main story absolutely fascinating, even though I still have no idea what is really going on. The following is all my speculation. I could be way off!

All of the above is my own speculation, putting together what I've learned during my time on Solomon Island. Almost none of it is specified in the game. It's another way TSW separates itself from other MMOs, requiring effort and thought on the part of the player. It could be that all my speculation is completely wrong, but I'm looking forwards to finding out.

Saying farewell to the Wabanaki
At the end of the storyline on Solomon Island I was offered an important choice. I could accept a "gift" or refuse it (I won't go into spoilers here). I decided to refuse it. I don't know yet what the consequences of the choice are, but there are rumours that Funcom will make permanent changes to the game world based on what the majority of players chose to do. That would certainly be an interesting way of putting power into the hands of the players!

So, it's time to leave Solomon Island and it's dark, foggy, zombie-infested streets for sunnier, warmer and more ancient lands - Egypt. Funcom have said that if Solomon Island was influenced by H.P. Lovecraft and Stephen King then Egypt is influenced by Indiana Jones and H. Rider Haggard. Sounds good to me!

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