|Let's hope he doesn't have a sniper rifle... oh, wait...|
Whilst ostensibly part of the same island on which Kingsmouth sits, The Savage Coast feels very different. The fog that plagued Kingsmouth is only feint this far out, and the scenery along the coastline is magnificent, especially when seen from the top of the lighthouse. Read on for my thoughts on The Savage Coast (along with a few minor spoilers).
There are quite a few memorable locations in the zone. The Overlook Motel is creepy (and a fun homage), Innsmouth Academy is a bad, bad place (think Hogwarts as directed by David Lynch), and the Black Goat Woods are not a place to go on a relaxing country ramble. The most memorable area of the zone however has to be the Atlantic Island Park, a derelict theme-park that hides some very dark secrets.
|Welcome to the Overlook Motel|
|Atlantic Island Theme Park|
The quest Carnival of Shadows was possibly my favourite so far though. The final encounter with The Bogeyman (a freakish spectre who harvests the fears of children lost in the park) was one of the most challenging I have ever encountered as a solo player in an MMO. It was almost like a mini-raid boss, but for solo players, with a series of unusual and highly damaging attacks that have to be dodged, avoided or interrupted. I died five times and had to switch out a couple of abilities in my deck before I finally managed to defeat him.
I remember writing a while back about the level of challenge in MMOs. As part of that article I referenced a blog post from Damion Schubert (game designer for Star Wars The Old Republic) in which he said "Lighter death penalties allow the designer to make the game harder. If failure doesn’t cause the customers to quit, designers can feel free to make challenges that are more difficult, and require more teamwork to pull off".
I had hopes we would see such an approach in The Old Republic (sadly that never happened), but The Secret World really seems to have taken this approach to heart. It's so satisfying to play an MMO which is not face-roll easy all the time, that isn't afraid to kill the player multiple times, and that forces them to think and rebuild their character in order to proceed. Other MMOs use the raid game to do the same thing, but TSW is doing it in the solo game (and from relatively early on) as well.
This approach leads to a much more fun and satisfying experience, and I hope I see more encounters like this as I proceed through the game. After years of slaying mindless orcs in MMOs this was the most memorable solo encounter I've played.
|View from the rollercoaster|
The themepark also allows you to ride the rollercoaster during one quest, which leads to a fun cutscene, and you can also run along much of it's length for some fantastic views of the area.
There were other areas of the zone I found to be just as much fun however. The entire "League of Monster Slayers" questlines were great fun, following in the footsteps of a group of children who formed their own monster-hunting gang and bringing back memories of The Famous Five and The Goonies. I found the kids' scribbled notes for their treasure hunt and initiation ceremony particularly endearing.
|How to join The League of Monster Slayers|
Innsmouth Academy was an interesting location, though I found my framerate inexplicably dropped drastically whenever I was inside the building (whilst my wife's remained stable). The headmaster Hayden Montag particularly stood out for his rather amusing but sociopathic statements (plus wearing those blue nitrile gloves all the time is just damn creepy!).
Sam Krieg up at the lighthouse is another eccentric lunatic, but this time seemingly based on a very real person. Like all the characters in the game he has some cracking lines (my favourite; "You're just like every single character I've ever written - fucked from page one"). I had great fun running through his Investigation mission, Crime and Punishment, and felt especially proud of myself when I finally figured out the code to the basement.
In fact the Investigation missions continue to be a major highlight of the game and I'm still proud to say I haven't had to cheat yet. There are so many little touches that make them fun, like the video of Theodore Wicker delivering a lecture you find a hint of at the end of Hell and Bach. There's no need or reason for that video to exist - finding it doesn't give you any reward, it's not a part of the quest, and it isn't even linked directly (just a hint about a youtube video and a name). Funcom still went to the trouble of creating it however for those who cared to search for it.
There wasn't too much of the main story quest in The Savage Coast, just a couple of questlines, but it was still fun and expanded and revealed a little more of what is going on. Beaumont continues to be the main villain so far, though I still have no real idea what his plan involves. It is now apparent however that he is not all he seems (he or his ancestor was alive and active in 1877), there are hints he may have godlike powers, and he has found an ancient sword of some kind that he is going to use to do something very bad indeed. The plot thickens!
|Beaumont tells it like it is|
I've had a lot of fun exploring The Savage Coast, and I'm looking forwards to heading into the Blue Mountains (which I hear is a real step up in difficulty). I've had to alter my decks quite a bit whilst playing (I'll be posting up some more decks and builds soon).
I should just mention the amazing customer support experiences I've had with Funcom so far as well. I've dealt with them a couple of times in the past, but during one bugged out quest in The Savage Coast I needed help (I was stuck in an instance and the lever I needed to pull to proceed was not highlighting). After a quick /petition for help I got an automated message telling me Funcom aim to respond within 4 hours. Less than 20 seconds later a GM got in touch, resolved my issue and offered to teleport me anywhere I wanted to go. The response time, friendliness and effectiveness of the CS team has been exemplary so far.
Right, time to go play! Here are a few more screenshots from my time in The Savage Coast.