Last night I took the opportunity to play one of The Secret World’s investigation missions. For anyone not familiar with these, think of them as puzzles, requiring a fair bit of detective work on the part of the players, aided by our Google overlords. I wanted to give a decent account of the flavour of these sort of missions, and demonstrate just what makes The Secret World so different from other MMOs when it is at its best.
I began my mission by visiting Kingsmouth’s local preacher, a man by the name of Henry Hawthorne, and an amateur Illuminati enthusiast. He had already informed me in a previous mission that he was practically an honorary member due to his persistent postings on certain forums where he is considered “a valued poster”. He spoke of potentially hidden Illuminati tunnels beneath the town itself. Armed with no more information than my quest journal which said “Henry Hawthorne says you can hear the hollowed out tunnels when walking down Main Street. Track down these echoes of the Illuminati.”
So the first thing I did was check my map of Kingsmouth for Main Street, and began running up and down it, and figuring that the use of the word echoes must be significant, I crank up the volume. Sure enough, sound waves appeared under my characters feet, right outside the entrance to town hall. I noticed I could now remove a loose paving slab in order to reveal a hidden trap door.
Examining the trapdoor reveals a keyhole, and a message.
As you can see, above the keyhole are inscribed the words “Clavus Aurea”. So, this being The Secret World, the first thing I do is crack open the in-game web browser and search for Clavus Aurea. This is a Latin phrase, and translates to “Golden Key”.
Here perhaps I got a little lucky. I remembered seeing a giant key to the city type deal in the mayors office, and went to investigate.
Sure enough the big key opened up the trapdoor, and I went inside feeling intrepid.
This is the sight that greeted me upon entering. A gloomy, musty set of tunnels. It certainly wasn’t as auspicious as I might’ve imagined secret Illuminati tunnels to be, that’s for sure. After a little precarious adventuring (ok, walking left and then right), I discovered a book laying face down on the floor. Aha! A clue! The book stated:
“A Man who seeks Enlightenment shall set himself in Motion
He shall show Appreciation for the Exertions of his fellows, And make as a church going does before Holy Symbols
He shall show Great Disdain for the Trappings of Old Empire, And avert his Gaze from schemes Coiled and Chaotic”
Hmmm, that seems like it might be important. This was the first thing I wrote in my notebook, thinking that the capitalised letters may be meaningful. But for now I had a new problem. There were two sides to the tunnel system, and at each end were four plaques with symbols upon them.
Above each was an engraving. On one side the words “Oculus, rara avis” were written, and on the other “of Khufu, of the Grand Lodge”. A quick Google found that rara avis translated from Latin to the words “eye (or a round hole), a rare bird”. Khufu it appears was a pharaoh , and “The Grand Lodge” refers to a Masonic gathering place. So, after a quick bit of thinking, it seemed clear that for the oculus clue I should select the birds talon like shape, and the eye shape within the small triangle. Suddenly, a door opened.
Inside was what appeared to be a crypt. Indeed, there was a sarcophagus, which open opening revealed a note, and a pyramid shaped item. I realised that this is what must I must need to open the other door with the “Khufu” clue. The note revealed the possibility of a grisly truth, it was labelled as a confession, and spoke to having the remains of one Solomon Priest moved. Solomon Priest is some sort of legendary figure in the founding of Solomon Island, and Kingsmouth itself, but at this point in the game I know little about him. Unfortunately, it appeared that this was only part one of a confession, and the note promised that the other half could be found with the remains of Solomon Priest, for those able to brave the southern corridor.
Now equipped with the pyramid symbol, I boldly headed for the southern tunnels, placed the symbol in the its place, and gained entrance. It was rather more appealing than the rest of this labyrinth, with ornate furnishings, paintings and books, and on the floor, a note.
Now things are getting interesting. Psalm 41 part 8 starts with the word “Abyssus” which means “abyss” in English (I know, seemed unlikely right?), surely analogous to the dark. Then I notice that on the floor is a grid pattern of letters. Stepping on the wrong letter at the wrong time triggers a gas attack that kills you very quickly. Luckily, abyssus worked, and another set of doors opened.
What greeted me next was some sort of musical puzzle. It’s impossible to see from this picture, but each of those organ pipes has a note written on it, and each of the levers has a musical symbol on it. Again, a note is supplied.
Dolandi, so Mr Internet tells me, was a 16th century composer, who wrote many songs for the lute. His most famous song appears to be called “Flow My Tears”. Another note was placed underneath the organ.
So clearly, it falls to me to find the missing bar of music. Finding the sheet music for Flow My Tears is easy enough, but I have to be able to translate the sheet music into notes, and pull the corresponding lever to choose pitch. I found this chart very helpful, and then drew it out in my notebook.
After very slowly and ineptly pulling levers and jamming away on the organ, finally another door opens before me. This time I’m greeted by four statues. One of a knight on his knees, an athlete with a discus, a snake, and some sort of angel and devil or demon. The sight of the athlete immediately brings to my mind a piece of the first clue found in the tunnel, the notebook “He shall show Appreciation for the Exertions of his fellows”. I begin to read and reread the entire passage from the notebook, and notice the opening line “A Man who seeks Enlightenment shall set himself in motion”. Suddenly it occurred to me, maybe I should try some emotes. So I stand in front of the statue of the athlete and /clap.
It works! Candles next to the statue alight. I try other emotes for the different statues. “Makes as a Church Going Man does before holy symbols” equals /pray before the angel and or demon thing, “Great disdain for the Trappings of old Empire” equals /spit before the knight, and “avert his Gaze from schemes Coiled and chaotic” equals /covereyes before the serpent. Success!
I have finally done it. After filling three pages of a notebook, and spending an hour doing research, I have located the hidden tomb of Solomon Priest. The second half of the confession is found.
Those tricksy Illuminati. Murder most foul indeed. So Solomon Priest was murdered by his underling who assumed his position. However, doing so left him empty, as the legendary name of Solomon Priest lived on.
I realise that this is quite a long post, but I just wanted to provide a sample of what I love about The Secret World. In fact its the only thing I really love about The Secret World. Feeling cerebral doesn’t happen too often in MMOs, and I really appreciate the intermingling of real and fictional history together to form a compelling mystery. It scratches a particular itch. In the wrong wrapper, the investigation missions could be a bitter toffee, but such is the quality of the writing on offer, I can’t help but be swept up in the investigative spirit of things.