The Secret World after a Month
I thought a bit more of a review would do well to help celebrate the one-month anniversary of The Secret World. I’ve gone back to my “TSW After One Weekend” post to review what I wrote there. Here, I plan to continue, revise, and add a few topics.
Things I Like
I love the anima wheel. I love the freedom and synergistic qualities of it. I love being able to drop what I’m doing like a rabid wombat and explore another path. I have 4 inner wheels completely full with a few outer ring talents and one outer ring segment full. I’ve already got my eye on another outer ring talent, but have to go all the way through the inner ring of Shotgun first. I love that there’s a search option, too (there is, on the right side of the screen; I point out its location because I’m apparently the only person in my group that noticed and used it until I pointed it out to them). I love being able to search terms and find more synergies. It’s been a lot of fun.
I still like the mobility of combat. I have no stationary attacks (like a turret or manifestation) that I use, so I just run and kite. I think it makes a big difference, too, as in “emergency” situations, I can often run and survive where if I stand I die. I still like the chalk drawings, though I’ve heard rumors they vanish. Fine. Even better, in fact, because I like being trained and then pushed to achieve more. I still love active dodging. I love the action of it; as the boss’s big ability is about to go off, I leap out of the way to avoid it. Brilliant.
Separate Offensive and Defensive Targets
I always wanted this in WoW. Now I’ve got it in TSW, and I can’t imagine going back. Yes, you can just focus in WoW, but this is even simpler. I love keeping an eye on my wife’s health during a big pull or a boss fight so I can respond instantly if I see it drop. We already have great communication, and now it can be reserved for really dire circumstances or strategy shifts.
Leveling Training Dungeons
I like that many of the boss-style mobs you fight at the end of long chains mimic what you’d expect in a dungeon. The lack of such scaffolding is a major drawback in WoW; in TSW, I feel trained for instances by the leveling process. Different types of mobs require different setups, just like in the dungeon. Different mobs use different abilities, which you can learn to avoid, just like in a dungeon. The boogeyman, for example, at the end of the theme park missions behaved like a raid boss, for god’s sake, and it’s within the second zone of the game. How far did you have to go in WoW to see raid boss mechanics? Into a raid, at least.
Narrative Flow of Quests
In WoW, it’d be “Go investigate the Scary Farm.” Return. ”Go kill ten undead farmers.” Return. ”Go kill the undead farm boss.” Return. ”Go get the evil artifact from the guardian of the farm.” Return. Admittedly, that’s gotten a lot better in WoW, but I like the flow of the quests in TSW. You don’t have to return to some pencil-neck paper pusher who can’t take care of their own problems for guidance in TSW; you just figure it out and take care of it yourself. Massive improvement.
Lack of Hubs
I never liked hubs. They’ve always felt disingenuous. I like how spread out quests are in TSW, and while most of the major players have two or three quests, and while there are a very few places where you get more than one quest giver, they all flow naturally. They make sense. Take, for instance, Hellfire Penninsula. Why are those hordies out there between Zeth’gor and the haunted alliance area? Why don’t they just go to Thrallmar? It made no sense. Mrs. Franklin is in the Franklin mansion, keeping her cats company (loved the cat quest, btw). Sarge is in the middle of the shit, trying to figure out how to put down the baddies. They’re not hanging out together at the Wabanaki camp, where they’re not even really welcome. Sensibility at last!
I love investigation missions. I don’t know how else to put it. I think I’d had them if I was playing alone; I’d probably loathe them. However, I’m playing with a total of four educated people with 7 college degrees between us, and it’s a ton of fun to work out what to do next. Everyone contributes. Everyone tries things on their own. It’s this mass of collective and individual accomplishment that somehow comes together. We haven’t had to look one up yet. The longest shots seem to end up working out each time. We only have 1 more – Mrs. Franklin’s – to do before we’re totally done with Solomon Island. Incidentally, if you need a hint that won’t be a spoiler but might help nudge you in the right direction, let me know!
Lack of Reliable Information
It’s great. I’m not even sure if I could look up the investigation quests (I probably could). There’s a lack of centrality about the information. That’s changing, to be sure, and will continue to do so until we have TSWhead or its like. For now, I’m happy that the one thing I’ve bothered to look up, healing and dps specs for AR/blood to help my wife out (more on that later), I really had to dig for. It got to the point where there was so much conflicting information that my wife and I just sat down and looked at the wheel ourselves to work it out.
Lack of Add-ons
Like the above, this will, sadly, change. I don’t want TSW to become WoW2, and when and if it does, it’ll probably ruin it for me. I like not knowing. I don’t want to be sad that my dps is low or that my spec is “wrong.” I want to just play and succeed or not, and when we don’t, we regroup to figure out what went wrong and how we might improve. That’s fun. Parsing numbers is not.
Level of Difficulty
Dear god. I’m having trouble with some single pulls when I’m alone. I ran into a beast called “Billy’s Muse” in Blue Mountain and it MURDERED me. I had to carefully clear the whole area around it, drink a barrier potion, then carefully pull and really let loose with dps while madly scrambling from its ton of AoE effects to survive. One mob. A normal mob. I loved it. Even running around with the 4 of us is no police action. We’ve routinely become overwhelmed in areas with a lot of runners (like range casting spirits) or charging mobs, who either charge into a buddy who pulls or who we dodge from and pull. This is with a tank, 2 dps, and a healer, and while I fully admit we’re not carefully single pulling every mob – which probably would be a police action – we’re not playing recklessly, either. That’s a tough game. That’s a fun game.
WoW! A responsive customer service! We had a bug, we reported it, and the next day when we logged on it was fixed, with an apology and explanation of what had happened in our ticket box. No dismissive form letters, no responses that clearly indicated the custserv rep hadn’t bothered to read the ticket, no suggestions of taking my problems to a different forum, just an apology for the inconvenience, an explanation of what had happened, and a fixed quest. What more could you want?
Things I Don’t Like
I mentioned it before, and it’s only gotten worse. My wife is not the consummate video gamer (i.e. nerd) I am. She’s been in training for many years, but some of her skills just aren’t ever going to get to where mine are. She’s, you know, brilliant and successful, so that’s not really a problem, but it is a problem when she’s forced to play in solo instances. I’ve done exhaustive research to work on how she should do solo instances, specs, rotations, etc. I’ve done a few for her, which I don’t like to do (learned helplessness and all that), and I’ve had her watch what I did so she could replicate it. She’s not used to strafe tanking, which is good for dps, too, in this game, since you’ll often be away from AoEs before they go off w/o having to break your rotation. She’s not used to looking for environmental exploits, like charge mobs who you stick behind a stalagmite and go to town on. I am. She’s getting better; she finished Mrs. Franklin’s red mission completely on her own – including the boss at the end – but that’s the first one like that. The bosses often were overwhelming for her. The Wabanaki dream quest mission was a nightmare for her; she’s not used to having to avoid pulls, but having learned that skill, that mission has instant double pulls that are unavoidable. She died repeatedly and got frustrated (understandably so), so I had to take over.
It’s just foolishness. It’s an MMO! It’s not a single player game! Why force it? Here, Star Wars actually outperforms TSW; they allowed you to bring your friends in to solo instances. The rest of the design was crap (ramping up difficulty exponentially), but at least you didn’t have to play an MMO alone. Come on, Funcom. Get it fixed!
Along those lines, I saw people complaining in general that there weren’t enough mid-game healers. I pointed out the solo issue, and they dismissed it, but then they’re clearly not healers themselves. When you have to choose your early deep specializations, are you going to pick something that will keep you alive during the required solo instances so you can continue to progress through the game, or something more party oriented? It’s an obvious choice.
Why don’t heals proc resources for both weapons? I get it; it would make healing “too easy,” I suppose (though I don’t know if that’s honestly true or not). They should. At least AR should, since it’s actually an attack, after all, as well as a heal. It really makes no sense that you have this one mechanic that works one way for dps and another for healers. Why shouldn’t they be able to build 5 resources and then get 2 big finishers? It’s not that heals are powerfully overwhelming; a tank routinely has 6k hp at this stage of the game, and my wife’s single target “big” heal is maybe 1/6th of that. Consider WoW, where leveling heals can fill a tank up to full and end-game raiding heals can easily do 1/3rd of a tank’s hp. Why slap healers down twice, with both solo instances and this mechanic?
Lack of Reliable Information
As much as I like there not being reliable information, the problem-solver part of me really would have liked to find the magic bullet to solve my wife’s continuing solo problems. The “Should be” part of me – the judgmental mathematician – wants those parsers. I think he’s dying off, though, and thankfully so, but it was worth mentioning and being honest.
At any rate, if you haven’t tried it and aren’t planning on GW2, then I’d strongly recommend TSW. It’s been an absolute blast! If you get in, I’m there by name, so look me up!
Stubborn (and Stubborn in-game, too)