Fans of psychological horror anticipated the release of Moons of Madness. After all, this game is not only “otherworldly” in the Lovecraftian sense, but it literally takes place on another planet. While it’s not actually on a moon… well, spoilers. But! You live out some pretty typical Lovecraft storylines on a Mars space base. However, there’s one more sect of players keeping an eye on it: fans of the MMORPG Secret World Legends, known in a prior form as The Secret World.
It was implied from the first trailer that the Secret World universe, which has ties to gamesThe Park and Hide and Shriek, as at play in Moons of Madness. Now, with the game out, Funcom have officially declared it part of the cult (or cultist?) hit’s greater original mythos.
If you haven’t entered the Secret World’s extensive network of lore, don’t worry. Moons of Madness is entirely playable without knowing a secret thing about Secret World Legends or any other related media. However, for veterans of the series, Moons of Madness is a nifty one-player treat. Praising the horror MMORPG’s renowned campaign, fans begged for a spooky single-player game taking place in the universe for years.
Still, outsiders might be curious about why Secret World veterans are so excited about this game’s tie-ins. And thankfully, everything’s extremely straightforward! Here’s a quick low-down on the major connections you need to know.
What’s the Secret World Universe, Anyway?
Free-to-play Secret World Legends, formerly pay-one-play-foreverThe Secret World, is a horror and urban fantasy MMORPG released with an easy-to-remember mantra: “Everything is true.” In short, the game crossed over myths and legends from around the world. Mummified families, New England zombies (hello infamous racist Lovecraft and not-as-racist Steven King) and Russian vampires and werewolves are the least you’ll find in the universe. Two of the three factions are literally the Illuminati and the Templars, each with their own Secret World quirks. (The third is the Dragon, a fictional group with deep in-game history.)
The original MMORPG centers around the player, a “chosen one” dubbed a “Bee,” because you were literally stung by a magic bee. And this magic bee gave you magic powers! You need to travel around the world and take down magic threats at the behest of your faction and on behalf of Gaia, the magical representation of the world’s health. They also do note that you’re one in a few thousand Bees now, because there’s an uptick in Bee activity due to a massive pathogen outbreak in Tokyo (more on that later).
While the game tries to draw the players in with its urban fantasy roots, its fans are often more interested in the original lore of the game. In the MMORPG, you can find tidbits about the universe’s lore across the game. They’re spoken from the perspective of the Buzzing, a magic collective assumed to be responsible for your magic powers. While cryptic, you can probably rely on their oral history anyway. And hey, they have a Twitter!
In other words, yes. Tentacle monsters may be very much real in this universe. That’s the premise of no less than one of Secret World Legends’ dungeons. But who knows what’s actually going on up on Mars, where you are in Moons of Madness? Psychological horror, am I right?
The main group connected to the Secret World universe is the Orochi. They’re pretty much Google, Disney, Tesla, Coca-Cola, Exxon, and anything else you can imagine combined into an eight-subsidy super-corp. In Moons of Madness, this corporation, along with their space exploration subsidiary Manticorp, have sent you off onto this extremely ambitious mission to Mars.
Secret World lore suggests this corporation has secret test facilities, magic energy drawing, and even full control over the media. Around the MMORPG, you see the company poking around where they shouldn’t be. Like on magical archaeological dig sites. And on sacred native lands with monsters running around nearby. Normal stuff for a corporation to do, right?
For the sake of Moons of Madness, you don’t have to worry too much, because you’re just a grunt on Mars. A really smart one. But once you get further into things, you get the feeling things are a little messed up at Orochi. And they are. After all, they’re the ones who unleashed the biggest disaster in the world. More on that in a minute.
Also, Secret World vets like “dead Orochi” jokes. Because where there’s something Orochi was supposed to study, there’s always Orochi who were supposed to be alive. Ha.
Off the bat in Moons of Madness, you’ll come face-to-face with some weird, gooey, Lovecraftian-tentacle goo. By its adversaries, this is officially called the Filth. To some, it’s the zero-point pathogen. Whatever the case, it’s sticky, gross, has tentacles, and is probably not good for your mental health.
According to the Buzzing’s lore, the Filth allegedly dates back centuries, perhaps millennia. On Earth and elsewhere, “Gaia engines” do something like keep the dimensions sewn shut or keep the air clean, preventing Filth from leaking through where it needn’t. Unfortunately, given there’s so much damn Filth, it’s clear something’s not going right recently.
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Regardless, the threat remains the same. When infected, Filth cracks open another, or just other, dimension(s) in your brain. In short, you lose sight of what’s real in good ol’ Lovecraftian fashion. Too much Filth does other pretty harsh things to your body, causing you to attack others and possibly shift forms. Some with a stronger mind and body can turn into otherworldly beings. And some become absurd, gibberish-spouting bosses in the MMORPG’s dungeons.
Moons of Madness’s Cyrano ARG, still in progress at time of writing, is a little more on-the-nose about the nature of the Filth. An Orochi employee is quarantined from the rest of the company after becoming “sick.” They can’t find physical ailment, but she can’t sleep. As we get further into the logs, she speaks of other dimensions, singing along to sounds, hissing voices and… plenty more. In short, she’s kinda losing touch with reality and diving into the Filth.
In the context of the universe’s timeline, the Filth centers at the world’s biggest disaster. A bomb of Filth went off in Tokyo, near Orochi headquarters, and caused a giant infection in the city. Now, it’s spreading everywhere, messing up the world order. Given it can affect basically any living thing, including the mythological, it’s definitely not a good situation.
But you’re on Mars! You shouldn’t have to worry about that, right!? Nah, Orochi definitely had something to do with it. And guess who you work for! So, enter Moons of Madness.