Trophy Room – The Secret World’s scenario missions

I’m not much of an achiever when playing video games. Being the first, the best or any other superlative you might think of – I pretty much don’t care. Two different personality tests for gamers I did a while back came to the same conclusion, so I guess I can’t be too far off base in saying that.

However, it’s not like I’ve never set goals for myself during all those years playing hundreds of games. Of course I have.

Not all goals are created equal though, certainly not in regard to difficulty. When I played the Uncharted series, for example, my only objective was to play each title all the way through to the end of the story, which isn’t much of an actual challenge if you’re comfortable with that kind of game. Hardly an achiever’s wet dream.

A couple of steps up the ladder would be clearing a SWTOR raid for the first time. Much more difficult on a personal level, but even more importantly a team effort instead of an individual achievement. I feel that I’m generally more inclined to tackle harder challenges when working with others, probably because having people around who rely on me makes me push myself further when I would most likely just quit otherwise.

And then there are the very few special ones. Goals that I consider very hard to achieve – even next to impossible at first – and that I’ll have to work towards all on my own. Maybe there’s not even a tasty carrot dangling at the end of that particular stick. But for some weird reason I still want to get there, even if the only reward will be to know that I did it.

This is about one of those cases, a trophy I’d like to proudly display on my mantlepiece, if you will.

A bit over a year after The Secret World went live Funcom released the game’s eighth DLC, The Venetian Agenda. Its main gameplay-feature was the introduction of so-called scenario missions, basically a holodeck simulation of search and rescue operations in three different locations. To incentivize doing them a new form of progression was also introduced, with the required loot only dropping in scenarios.

You can tackle these missions either solo, as a duo or a full group, with rewards and difficulty scaling accordingly. The goal is always to protect a group of civilians from TSW’s usual range of monsters. If you manage to save them all you earn Platinum ranking and thus the most rewards.

Hang in there, fellas, cavalry’s here!

Unfortunately the game didn’t do a good job at easing players into the whole thing when it came out. We had to learn the hard way that tried and trusted character builds and tactics don’t work in scenarios at all, and many, myself included, became quite frustrated pretty quickly. Of course it was heaven on earth for the hardcore theory crafters, but us ordinary mortals got our asses handed to us time and again.

You see, in contrast to any other type of content in TSW your biggest enemy in scenario missions is time. The monsters spawn in waves, and the spawn timer doesn’t care whether you’ve defeated the previous batch or not, they just keep on coming. This means that your damage output has to be top notch, and you also need to have memorized all the spawn points as well as the routes from each of those to the survivor camps (of which there are at least two in each mission), so you can intercept the enemies before they even get there. Oh, you also have to stay alive of course, and some baddies hit like trucks on higher difficulties. Bottom line is, you need to tank, deal lots of damage and heal yourself, all at the same time while also being constantly on the move.

Get your filthy mitts off me, you ugly…whatever it is you are!

If this sounds stressful that’s because it is. However, TSW is a game that always managed to make me feel like anything’s doable, no matter how impossible it might seem at first, and that I just need to find a way that’s suited for the task and also works for me as a player.

So back to the drawing board I went. As usual I consulted the Builds & Decks section of the forums for some ideas first and worked from there. I tried different combinations of weapons and abilities. I learned the maps, spawn points and routes. Figured out how and where best to fight the various bosses. Got a feel for spawn timers and general flow of each map (except for The Castle…man, screw that dump!).

The pride and accomplishment (there they are again) I felt when I managed to get a Platinum rating on Normal difficulty for the first time was priceless. What’s more, once I got the hang of it and started to have success I also began to find doing these missions a whole lot of fun! So much so that I still pop in every now and then, just because I like doing them.

Did you miss me? Did you miss me? …miss me?

Anyway, next up was Elite difficulty, which wasn’t that much of a step up from Normal…and then came Nightmare. Oh boy, what a…well…nightmare.

It’s not that I couldn’t beat it at all, mind you, but a couple of survivors always managed to die – making the term “survivor” ironic, which is exactly what the scenario AI smugly tells you whenever it happens. Yeah, thanks for that, b*tch! No matter how hard I tried, I just wasn’t able to save them all, the main reason being that I was still killing things a tad too slowly.

The breakthrough came when I stumbled upon yet another guide, one that suggested using a weapon type I would never even have considered for this purpose – Elementalism. What’s special about it is that, among other things, it lets you place manifestations on the ground which then deal either single target or AoE-damage on their own for a while. I don’t think they were ever used much in other forms of content, but for scenarios they’re absolutely perfect as you can place them in the enemies’ path right where you intend to fight them just before they arrive, freeing you up to then exclusively use your main hand and effectively deal almost double the damage.

Lightning never strikes twice? You just wait!

It still took more than a few tries to get the hang of it and also a helping hand from the game’s RNG (get certain environmental hazards combined with the wrong monster types and you’re screwed no matter what), but after many almosts and if onlys I finally did it:

It’s been over five years and I’m still hella proud of this!

I didn’t “beat” the third map however, because, as I said, I decided pretty early on to ignore that one. I just really hate its whole layout, and one of the possible final bosses is already a massive pain in the ass on Elite difficulty, so much so that I’m certain getting it on Nightmare would screw up an otherwise perfect run right on the home stretch. So, no. Just no.

What? I said that I’m not an achiever right from the start, didn’t I?