After leaving the hot and dusty deserts of Egypt, Vinculus has now travelled to Romania, specifically Transylvania, during his adventures through The Secret World.
That means he has entered a world of eastern European folklore, Romanies battling a vampire army in the ruins of Soviet villages, villagers fighting the curse of the werewolf, and encounters with forest gods and Blajini. It's like all the best bits from the early Hammer horror films put together. This is the world of Dracula, Frankenstein and the Wolfman.
It's also the endgame as far as the PvE content goes. The three large zones that make up Transylvania are all geared for endgame progression, and even in the first zone, The Besieged Farmlands, I am already running QL10 gear and starting to collect blue equipment and hone my builds for endgame. The Ability Points come thick and fast in this zone, and I've got two new builds almost finished as a result (I promise to update my builds page soon - honest!)
The atmosphere of the Besieged Farmlands could not have been more contrasting with that of the Egyptian zones. For one it seems to rain a lot. This gives a real foggy, dank atmosphere to the world, one enhanced by the mood of the nostalgic and bitter villagers who are fighting a losing war against the darkness amongst an environment of ruined buildings and defensive barriers made from rusted cars and broken walls. It's a beautiful place, but bleak in nature.
The main storyline so far seems to be concerned with the struggles of the Drăculeşti, a band of Romanies who are descended from the bloodline of Vlad Dracula himself. In a really nice twist the Vlad Dracula of the game is a national hero, a fearless vampire hunter who was eventually betrayed by some of his tribe. The Drăculeşti hate that the name Dracula is now synonymous with vampires, the very thing he lived to fight.
"Not only did Stoker slander Vlad Dracula by portraying him as what he
hated most, the bastard romanticized the strigoi! Stoker is responsible
for Twilight! Think about that..."
There are some great characters in the area. I especially liked Vasile Varias, the doctor struggling to do his best in the face of terrible odds and haunted by the deeds of his father during the Soviet occupation. The faerie Blajini leader Petru had me chuckling at the communist speeches he was giving to his comrades; "We stand before a capitalistic vampire army, bent on sucking the people dry for their own private profit!"
The quests are once again superb. In fact I think the PvE questing experience is getting better as I get further into the game. They are also becoming much more challenging. The Girl Who Kicked the Vampire Nest is by far the hardest action quest I have done so far. After changing my build up I was almost able to solo it, but not quite, and I ended up recruiting some help in to get it done. I've also found I am having to pay much more attention to monster buffs before I attack as well - my stun attack started to backfire as some mobs starting to silence me when I used it!
The Girl Who Kicked the Vampire Nest is followed up by another memorable quest, called The Cost of Magic. This is a sabotage mission and is one of my favourite quests in the game so far. I died about 15 times during the course of it, but it was just the right side of frustrating, and each time I died it was because of my own mistakes or impatience, and I could always see what I should have done. It also had me in gales of laughter - after my seventh attempt to reach the top of a booby-trapped path I finally made it and cheered. Then promptly fell into a spiked bear pit and died again.
The Investigation missions in the Besieged Farmlands are also brilliant. One had me researching a family murder and involved me translating a lot of Romanian back into English to follow the clues. Another actually made me glad I have a degree in chemistry as it involved solving a code using the chemical symbols of the periodic table. I got to play House in another, diagnosing illnesses at a field hospital and dispensing the correct drugs. Lots of fun.
So far I think Transylvania may be my favourite area of the game. It is the most challenging by far, and has some really great quests, and the environment and atmosphere are very well done. Despite being at "end game" as far as PvE goes, there still seems to be plenty of progression due to the high rate at which Ability Points are rolling in, and I'm having fun trying out new builds.
As well as adventuring in the Besieged Farmlands I've now done a few lair raids with my cabal. These are effectively open world raids in designated areas of nightmare difficulty mobs. The mobs sometimes drop rare manuscripts which when gathered can be used to summon nightmarish creatures (some of the most difficult open world mobs in the game). It was a lot of fun and I can't wait to do more. Thanks to SCI for putting up with my n00bness!
So, Vinculus is now headed deeper into enemy territory. Next stop is the Shadowy Forest, but in the meantime here are some more screenshots of my time in The Besieged Farmlands.
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