The Tide Goes Out

The Whispering Tide ends. Here’s a look back at the first major event in Secret World Legends.

The Birds of the Zero Point Pathogen leave Agartha.

The first major in-game event since the launch of Secret World Legends was The Whispering Tide. During this two-week event, the Filth invaded Agartha and we got to battle the Bird of the Zero Point Pathogen, also known colloquially as “Flappy”.

The event began on 1 August 2017 and offered daily rewards, unique outfit pieces and cosmetics, titles and a new sprint customisation. The final Flappy battle happened on 15 August in anticipation of the path to Tokyo being unlocked. Was it fun? Were the rewards good? Now that it’s all over, let’s take a look back at how it went.

A little bit of history repeating

Back in the original version of the game, The Secret World, there was a long-term build up event to the launch of Tokyo. It started in September 2013, and went on for several months.

That was The Whispering Tide – it was a one-time only event, where the Filth invaded Agartha and consisted of various stages, including solo instances of Agartha where you’d have to battle filth infected people, shades and more, while looking for Whispering Tide lore. It culminated in an epic public raid battle with the Bird of the Zero Point Pathogen, which players nicknamed “Flappy”, much to the amusement of the developers.

The shade stalker, She Who Crawls Outside, in the Agartha Defiled raid in Secret World Legends.

Story-wise, Secret World Legends is trying to replicate this original experience by running the Whispering Tide event as the precursor to opening up Tokyo. This time, it has been compressed into a two-week long event, consisting only of the public raid battle with Flappy, which occurred every hour.

It’s unclear whether or not this will be a one-time only event, or an annually repeated one. My guess, based on Funcom’s previous inclinations is that it’s one-time only and anything earned will be “exclusive” to the players who were able to participate. On one hand, I think standalone events can be quite a nice idea, if you get to participate. From the perspective of a new player who joins the game afterwards though, it can be frustrating to think that there’s some cosmetics you’ll never be able to acquire.

From the way I’ve seen the developers talk about the event, it sounds like they only intend for it to happen once ever as the preamble to Tokyo. But the way they’ve built it seems like it would quite happily fit as a yearly resurgence of Filth attacking Agartha, giving us content to do during August while people might still be on summer vacations, and filling a gap between the launch anniversary and Halloween festivities.

Whispers not loud enough

I think the advertising for the event could have been handled more effectively. They did announce that it would be happening during their end of July developer livestream on Twitch, and there was a news posting on the Secret World Legends website. There was also some social media about it. But how much of the player-base follows those channels?

I’ve seen many people claim that they hadn’t heard about it until several days after the event was already in swing. Which is a problem when there’s only a limited time to claim all of the rewards and you must log in for a minimum number of ten days to do so. I myself only received a marketing email about it on day three after the event started, but fortunately I was already participating by then.

The launch of the event also happened at the same time as the launch of Secret World Legends on Steam, so you’ll inevitably see new players that had just been created arriving and not knowing what was going on.

There was a lack of signposting in-game about what to do during the event. I’ve seen several players at all times of the day asking in Agartha general chat how they start the event or where they pick up the event mission. Or even asking what the event is about. The only indication that something is happening is a message in the game launcher, and the event login rewards screen popping up after you load into the game. Afterwards, you’re left with a custodial relic in your inventory, with a tooltip that says you need to get some kind of buff to open it.

It was up to other players to answer people with questions that they needed to go to the public raids portal at the top of the hour, wait for it to open and then fight Flappy to gain a buff. This would allow you to open your relic boxes and get the event rewards. Sure, the portal has a large swirling black ring around it, but you’d be surprised how many players did not know how to get there or even noticed it was even there. The event could possibly have used some kind of starter side quest, similar to how you started the End of Days event back in TSW; or a phone call or text message with instructions similar to how you started the Cat God Halloween event or Christmas Conspiracy event in TSW.

You get an idea of story behind The Whispering Tide by reading the lore for it. However, that was only patched into the game a week after the event began, following player concerns, because apparently the developers had forgotten that in their redesign of Agartha and the compression of the event down to just the raid instance, most of the lore didn’t exist or wasn’t accessible. How could they have missed such a crucial thing during their internal testing?

A question of balance

I managed to log into the game as soon as the event started, and participated in the first Flappy battle. That was quite something. The bird had 369 million health points, and took over 20 minutes to defeat for myself and the other people in my instance. Others weren’t so lucky, as I heard that several other instances failed to complete before it timed out and kicked people out after 30 minutes. I think that they vastly overestimated how powerful the player-base currently is and their damage output potential.

Fortunately, it seems like they were paying attention and an in-game message popped up saying that the next Flappy in an hour’s time would have vastly reduced health. I tried that one out and it had been reduced by more than half, at around 144 million health points. It took about 15 minutes to defeat, which was more reasonable.

A defeated Bird of the Zero Point Pathogen

Strangely though, it seemed like the mechanics during battle were broken. The things which were meant to be lethal attacks did no damage at all, and so players could effectively ignore all the mechanics and just stand there attacking Flappy for the whole fight until it died. It made for a pretty bland experience.

The developers said that this wasn’t intended, and a few days later fixed it with a patch. Flappy was now more of a challenge, causing the unwary player multiple deaths, much to their complaints. It also made the fight longer again, as dying a lot meant people weren’t able to attack as much. There was also an issue with people going up to fight the shade stalker getting killed by stacking filth damage which wasn’t being cleansed. You could work around it by slotting cleansing abilities or bringing a cleansing gadget.

More health tuning happened, the cleansing issue was fixed and Flappy’s health eventually settled at 55 million health points, making for around six to twelve minute encounters.

One shall be rewarded

This event featured a daily login reward scheme, similar to the one they ran during the game launch. If you logged in each day, you could claim a custodial relic box and a daily reward which could be a distillate, anima shards or ability and skill points. The tenth day reward was particularly good – an epic weapon fusion catalyst which would allow you to fuse a levelled-up epic weapon into a mythic one.

The problem with this event scheme is that only one character can claim a relic box each day. If you only have one character, then this isn’t a problem. But if you play multiple alternate characters, you won’t be able to get all of them all of the rewards from the event. I play three characters. My main character had a head-start, having most of the possible rewards from the relics already from participating in the original Whispering Tide back in TSW. On the third day of the event, I had everything possible. This enabled me to switch to one of my alts and claim a full set of rewards for that character. But that still leaves me with nothing claimable on my third character.

A lot of the way the developers have built Secret World Legends makes it hostile to having alts. Other games, such as Guild Wars 2 and The Elder Scrolls Online feature account-wide unlocks for achievements, clothing and skins, currency, bank space/inventory and account-bound gear. Secret World Legends, however, seems built on the idea that you’d only ever be playing one character, despite them selling additional character slots. Do they just not think about making the game more accommodating to players who have multiple characters, or is this intentional so they can charge a player multiple times to unlock the same cosmetics and services across their characters?

There was also a custodian vendor selling a recolour of the event’s Carapace of the Immaculate Machine outfit and a faction-coloured version of the Runic Automaton pet for Marks of Favour. You needed 150,000 Marks to buy everything, which unless you are swimming in currency, is quite expensive and you’d only really want to spend that much once on a single character.

Not being able to get everything from the event for all characters isn’t that big a deal for repeatable events. You could just try again next time the event happens. But if The Whispering Tide really is only a one-time thing, then you feel bad for anything you may miss out on.

I believe there are ways they could have made the event more friendly to players with alt characters. In The Secret World, they’ve previously used the challenge system to run events that have had account-wide unlocks. They also could have added a relic box purchase option to the event vendor so that alt characters could get them too. Hopefully, they learn some lessons for the way they handle rewards for future events.

Tokyo awaits

I liked that you could participate in multiple Flappy raids per day, and that they gave out some reasonably useful distillates for each kill. This provided a reason enough to do more than just a single Flappy fight per day just to open your custodial relic box.

I also liked that there was some flavour added to Agartha with the filth visibly infecting the usually clean public raids portal platform, and that there was a little custodian wandering around making repairs to the Tokyo jump pad.

An Agartha Tender mini custodian making repairs to the Tokyo jump pad in Secret World Legends.

The end of The Whispering Tide event featured an aftermath sequence, where the Custodian of the Cleansing Protocol would activate, walk up to the filthy portal and cleanse it of filth, while the sky would be filled with Birds of the Zero Point Pathogen escaping through the Tokyo portal while Emma Smith hummed the Sleepless Lullaby song in the background.

Back for the original Whispering Tide in The Secret World, this sequence only happened once for the people lucky enough to be there in Agartha, and I missed out on seeing it, because it was during the middle of the day when most people would be at work or asleep on the other side of the world.

This time around in Secret World Legends, they seem to have remembered how disappointed people who missed out on seeing it were, and they’ve made it repeat hourly all day long, giving people they chance to log in and see it. I’m very happy to have been there for it this time.

So, that’s it for The Whispering Tide. The next big event on the calendar looks like it will be Halloween, which is pretty much the most important event of the year for Secret World, being a horror-themed game.

Did you enjoy The Whispering Tide? Are you looking forward to the next big event? I hope that Funcom will take lessons learnt from this experience with The Whispering Tide and use them to make sure Halloween is a fun and rewarding experience.

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