Updated Fri, May 25, 2012 by Sardu
As noted early on in our preview of The Savage Coast last week, the overall difficulty between major zones in The Secret World tends to ramp up fairly steadily, but it can also be hard to know when to take the proverbial Nestea Plunge into the next map. Before we dive headfirst into our preview of The Blue Mountain, let’s take a brief look at a few key components that will help you determine if you’re prepared enough for the challenges that await you in the third and final New England zone.
Knowing when to advance into new zones can be just as challenging for new players in The Secret World as the content itself. This is partly due to the game’s advancement being based wholly on skill and ability unlocks rather than a traditional leveling system. Due to the sheer complexity of how points are unlocked and spent, we won’t go into all the minute details here, but there are some things you can use somewhat as guideposts for advancement between areas.
(If you're interested in learning more about the inner workings of the ability wheel, be sure to check out our recent guide!)
The easiest indicator is going to be the Quality Level (QL) of your weapons and talismans. The more skill points you spend in a given weapon or talisman type, the higher the QL for that item you’ll be able to equip. As you scamper around The Savage Coast, for example, you’ll eventually begin seeing QL5 items drop. This is roughly the average QL you’ll want to aim for before advancing into The Blue Mountain.
Another advancement factor to pay attention to here is that TSW’s core storyline arch for each region will often wrap up on a map before your character is good and ready to progress to the next zone. This is absolutely the case with Savage Coast, and I initially made the mistake of hitting Blue Mountain far too soon and was eaten alive – literally – within the first minute of stepping into the zone.
While it may be tempting to make the jump into BM early, I’d caution you not to. Instead, there is a final stop you’ll want to make towards the tail end of your time in the Savage Coast; Red’s Bait and Tackle. There are a few missions you can pick up here, and will quickly let you know if your character is ready to progress any further.
In particular, you’ll want to pick up a mission from Red called “Ami Legend” that takes you deeper into the more challenging gameplay areas of Savage Coast, eventually culminating in a breadcrumb leading you to venture into Blue Mountain. The NPCs here also help lay some of the storyline foundations for what you’ll encounter throughout the next zone and will also factor into the main storyline, so they’re well worth taking the time to familiarize yourself with.
When you first arrive in Blue Mountain you’ll be faced with what’s known in MMO speak as a “gear check” of sorts. The road before you is covered with the corpses from what appears to be a recent bus crash. You’ll want to use caution before proceeding across the bridge at this point – if you’ve been playing TSW with your eyes open at all up to this point, you should know that the dead on Solomon Island have a habit of getting up and shambling around, Romero style.
If you can survive your first encounters crossing this bridge, you should be able to handle the first missions in Blue Mountain. If not, you may want to consider doubling back to Savage Coast to pick up any missions you may have skipped over, or you always have the option to repeat any of your favorites provided that the daily timer has reset on them.
In fact, you’ll probably want to repeat at least a few as you progress at this stage, as you’ll find the third and final vendor selling upgrades in trade for the Sequins of Solomon you’ve been collecting from running quests. In exchange for 200 Sequins you’ll be able to exit Blue Mountain with a shiny new blue weapon that will probably be a hefty upgrade from any you receive as loot, depending on whether or not you run any of Solomon Island’s excellent dungeons where the loot will be far superior to what you’ll find otherwise.
It’s hard to really talk about specific gameplay areas in Blue Mountain without running the risk of providing too many spoilers. So instead I at least wanted to touch on some of the key aspects of the zone that stood out for me on the two characters I’ve taken through the map so far.
As with the rest of the New England zones, Blue Mountain is visually stunning, and once again has a very distinct tone overall that helps separate it from the two previous maps. Things take a turn for the spiritual here, and while you’ll still encounter plenty of zombies and creature types seen in Savage Coast, you’ll also be introduced to plenty of other interesting beasts, such as the local big foot tribe. Yes, I just said big foot tribe. How awesome is that?
Travel through Blue Mountain is notably a bit more difficult much like the content it contains. In some cases this helps distinguish specific points of interest, but you should be prepared to take longer hikes across the map than what you’ve experienced so far. That’s not to say you should stick to the roads the entire time; in fact, you’ll get more enjoyment out of the zone if you don’t. Unlike Kingsmouth and Savage Coast, a lot more of the missions in Blue Mountain will be discovered by exploring the map or following paths located near interesting signs sprinkled throughout the zone.
One major point of interest worth mentioning in Blue Mountain before we wrap things up is the Franklin Mansion. I won’t give any spoilers here, but would strongly encourage you to pick up the pair of quests found here. One of them in particular is made of pure, 100% unfiltered awesome, and represents one of the cornerstones of what makes the whole of TSW work so effectively. Think of the Tortage experience in Age of Conan cranked up to 11 and applied to the entire game world in unique and interesting ways, and that still only begins to scratch the surface of how excellent some of the missions like those found at the mansion are in The Secret World.
Overall, Blue Mountain is a total blast to play through. While I had my virtual ass handed to me more in this zone than in the previous two combined, I also attribute that to playing on a dedicated press server more than anything. I often found myself playing what felt like a massive single-player game since I only encountered one other player the entire time I played through the Blue Mountain content. As a result, that meant all mobs were spawned across the entire map which won't typically be the case in a normally populated game server.
That said, soloing is perfectly viable in The Secret World depending on your initial build. But by the time you reach The Blue Mountain you will no doubt get much more enjoyment out of the game when playing it with a few friends. At the very least, grouping will increase your survivability, and help you avoid any potential dirt naps you'd otherwise take when picking up even a single add with most early weapon builds.