I immediately remembered that old manual, because Funcom seems to share the philosophy. Granted, there are many deaths, because it's an MMORPG with combat and not a pure adventure game. But The Secret World is also a series of nested mysteries in a carefully built, highly detailed world. You're meant to go exploring, to look into nooks and crannies and see what's there.
That's how I ended up doing a huge number of item quests in Kingsmouth this week. Scattered quests are everywhere, organically. There's a policeman's badge in a crashed and abandoned cruiser. A dropped PDA along the side of a road. A phone on the corpse of an unfortunate cleaning lady. A complaint's form on a policeman's desk. The world is full of the dropped and forgotten objects of daily life, clues to the stories of the people who once held them.
And speaking of the story, I left side missions alone for a while to spend some time advancing through the story of the disaster that befell Kingsmouth. After a few quest tiers—each tier, itself, a small self-contained mission—my Templar contact congratulated me on my persistence and warned me in no uncertain terms that I was not yet ready to pursue the mystery farther. He may as well have said, "go do side quests and level up some more first." Except, of course, there's no leveling.
So the main story will have to wait, while I dig through the other mysteries of Kingsmouth. But now I'm eager to learn more, because the story I uncovered so far was chilling. And along the way to uncovering it, I cracked passwords to violate HIPAA, killed some eldritch horrors, had detailed conversations with other eldritch horrors, and followed the music.
There's a lot of following in The Secret World. Follow the ravens, follow the music, follow the trail of blood, follow the clues. It creates the sense of always having a destination, always having a "to" and not just a "from," but the ends are always shrouded in mystery, hidden when you first step out.
They're also usually shrouded in monsters. Next week, I will be smart enough to take health-recovering breaks in between. Death isn't punshing, but boy am I tired of the trek back from the anima wells.