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The Secret World’s Darkest Secret

August 28, 2012

Dear Reader,

As I’ve made very clear, I’m enjoying the Secret World.  I’m enjoying every second of it that I play.  The biggest problem I face, in fact, is the limited number of seconds I get to play it, as I have once again fallen into the foolish behavior of group leveling.  Once again, everyone’s busy schedules have relegated me to only getting to play one or two nights a week.  It sucks, to be frank, and more so because it makes me lose interest over all as I quite literally get out of the habit of playing.

To keep my Secret World juices flowing, I decided to run around and lore hunt.  I was very successful and finding all the lore in Kingsmouth.  I used a few principles; first, if you could climb something, there was probably a lore on top.  The trick was just finding where to climb.  Second, every named map location has somethinin it, so if you aren’t taken there for a quest, there’s probably some lore.  Lastly, LOOK UP.  Designers talk about how hard it is to get players to look up in games.  This tendency is largely being remedied in FPS games, but up is still a good place to hide things.

Using these principles, I took to Egypt to find the lore I’d missed.  To sum up the experience in a single word, I’d say that it was terrible.

That’s right.  Terrible.  Something about the Secret World was terrible.

I’ve gotten some comments and heard from a distance talk about the solo game.  My old friend’s brother played TSW and didn’t like it.  A friend of one of my party members played and didn’t like it.  A blog friend of mine who played Star Wars with me got to Egypt and lost interest.  How could these experiences be so different from my own?  Simple.  They played alone.

After Kingsmouth, the difficulty of the game so greatly ramps up that I probably died 15 times during a single circuit of the City of the Sun.  You must be careful when running around to avoid pulling mobs; otherwise, you get stuck fighting in a very slow battle that saps your exploration time.  If you’re not incredibly careful, you get a second pull, and a second pull can be lethal. This design wouldn’t normally be a problem, but there are areas so densely populated that it’s impossible not to get 2 or 3 pulls at once.  That guarantees death.

I was miserable after running around the zone one time; I can’t imagine what it must be like to play alone.  As much as I don’t like playing only once a week with my group, I like it a damn sight more than playing solo.

Topping off that terrible fact are the solo instances.  I promised I wouldn’t bring up Star Wars’s tendency to ramp up difficulty in larger parties any more, but I’m going to one last time to say this: at least I can play with my friends in Star Wars.  I really don’t get the insistence on solo instances, and I hope Funcom gets the message and puts a stop to them.  They make the game less fun by separating friends, making healing and tank focused players struggle, and setting groups on different time lines: the only thing worse than being in a solo instance is being done with it and waiting on everyone else.

So there it is, The Secret World’s biggest failing.  It truly is an MMO.  Playing alone saps the game of fun.

In the meantime, my buddy picked up a new Steam game for me called Din’s Curse.  After the D3isappointment, I thought I was basically done with the genre, but since I’d given my friend instructions to find a game that was a) less than 10 bucks b) had a co-op mode and c) was at least moderately fun (you’d be surprised by how many aren’t: Two Worlds 2), when he gifted me a copy of the game, I couldn’t really say no.  However, I’ve been nothing but pleasantly surprised.  The multiplayer works well, the character advancement is very open, and the game gives lots of difficulty options to make things harder and easier.  I’ve really enjoyed it.  I’ll do a more full review sometime in the future, but for now, if you’re looking to kill time until [Game of your choice], Dins’ Curse is a good buy.

Lots of Dungeon Crawling

Sincerely,

Stubborn (and grouping)

10 Comments leave one →
  1. Krel permalink
    August 28, 2012 9:31 am

    I am in the first zone of Transylvania, so recently finished up Egypt. My issues with TSW and Egypt really didn’t have anything to do with the difficulty. I don’t mind hard – I don’t mind having to be careful, plan what I’m going to kill first, watching for pats, etc. In fact, that’s one of the things I like about the game. There are areas that are HARD.

    That said – I suspect that if you (not Stubborn-you, but the generic you) go with skills that don’t offer much if any self-healing you’re probably having a completely crappy experience. I went with AR/Fists right off the bat and I think that has a big impact on how much fun the game is.

    I’m not really sure what it is about Egypt – it just wasn’t as much fun for me. Kingsmouth was great. I thoroughly enjoyed the storyline, the NPCs were great, varied, and interesting. In Egypt, aside from Said, the characters really didn’t grab me the same way. Especially in the second area, City of the Sun God – felt VERY repetitive. Less figure-things-out and much more kill-ten-foozles.

    Transylvania is starting out somewhere in between, but I’m just losing interest at this point. I have cancelled my account, I think I’ll probably go back and finish the zones once they go F2P. Maybe.

    Gonna play some Pandacraft for a while, I think… my account has been disabled for about a year, so there’s lots of stuff I haven’t done.

    • August 29, 2012 2:26 pm

      Yes, I’m having a hard time with my build both as a tank, which has plenty of defensiveness but not great output, and a dpser, which has lots of output but not much defensiveness. I think if I’d just married one role and filled it out first, I might be fine, but instead I’ve split my points and am only getting by in both. In my party, it’s all good, but solo, it’s not.

      Thanks for the comment!

    • Krel permalink
      August 29, 2012 4:39 pm

      Yeah, I can see that – and of course, group leveling has the other issue, of becoming too easy. If I can solo stuff as a dps/self-healer, then a pure dps + a healer are gonna rip through the content.

      Of course, that’s a topic for a separate discussion, which I think you’ve already addressed.

  2. Samus permalink
    August 28, 2012 4:26 pm

    I think you have touched on why so many online games have gone more to the MSORPG route. The fact is, half the time when you log on, your friends aren’t going to be on. What do you do then?

    With very group-centric games (as it sounds like TSW is), it feels like you just can’t do anything meaningful. You log off, which you are experiencing first hand causes you to slowly lose interest in the game.

    With more solo-play oriented games like WoW and SWTOR, you can make meaningful progress on your character every time you play. Even if this isn’t your preferred playstyle, at least this means you don’t get bored.

    So I think this is why those games tend to be more successful. It isn’t that players like soloing more than grouping (with their friends), it is that they like soloing better than logging off.

    Efforts to encourage grouping by discouraging soloing (either through game design, or making grouping so much faster that soloing feels pointless) will only lead to players being bored half the time when they want to play.

    • August 29, 2012 2:29 pm

      Yes, it’s doubly damning because I want to have a game I can play alone but also with my friends. WoW’s cata zones were too linear for that. Star Wars’s were, too. TSW, with the redoable quests, seemed like the PERFECT solution, but then the zones got incredibly difficult to play in alone. It seems like each game is striving to be both at its own detriment. Many good points.
      Thanks for the comment!

  3. Gorbag permalink
    August 29, 2012 10:43 am

    I’ve played up to Transylvania solo. I’d say that compared to other MMOs I’ve played (um, all of them) TSW is more gear and build dependent by a good bit. My dungeon setup is no bueno for questing, I get blown the F up fighting one yellow mob – switch in some cc and more HP, and I roll right through. It’s certainly a step up in terms of challenge, and you can easily dead end yourself if you aren’t careful about choosing good skills, but I’m actually really enjoying the higher difficulty. It’s rewarding in a way that questing in other MMOs hasn’t been for a long time. One tip – the dungeons are tuned quite low, so every new zone you can jump right in and run the heck out of the dungeon for good gear and sp/ap rewards, easing the difficulty curve.

    • August 29, 2012 2:30 pm

      Really? I found the opposite true in the second dungeon (Hell Fallen, I think), which my party + 1 wasn’t able to complete when we first encountered it. As a result, we’ve done dungeons last in every zone, assuming that was how the pacing was designed. I’ll try the opposite in Transylvania and see how that goes.
      Thanks for the heads up!

    • Pardoz permalink
      August 31, 2012 2:17 pm

      Fair warning – the first instance in Transylvania (The Facility) is arguably the hardest of the Elites (currently The Slaughterhouse, in Carpathan Fangs, is leagues easier, although it’s apparently due to get toughened up in the upcoming patch.)

  4. Sylow permalink
    August 30, 2012 9:10 am

    It might be just me, but i find the gear dependance being not as big as most people claim it to be. It’s barely noticeable if the QL of your talismans is a little higher or lower and for normal gameplay, green talismans are actually a very good choice. You get a combination of hit rating and health, which is very useful for solo-play. Indeed, one of the most common mistakes is to wear all blue gear, all set up for the aspect you consider your character to be built for, and end up being more glass than a cannon when being solo.

    So, if you really wear all blue, even as a damage dealer, include some tank gear. (This advise to some degree is even true for instances. If you have below 2k health and the bosses AoE effects can hit for 2k, you’re dead at the smallest mistake. If you run with like 2.2k health, you’ll still be around and the healer can patch you up quickly. )

    The conbination of your gear and build, on the other hand, matter a lot. A rather easy way to push survivability a lot is to just wear one or two healing talismans and include the passive “lick your wounds” (1 AP in fist, you can’t go any cheaper) into your build. If you have any acceptable chance of penetration, which is a must for any reasonable DPS build, anyways, including “immortal spirit” (also available for 1 AP in blades) will increase self-healing a lot again.

    Just using these two make a world of a difference in any solo setup. Using either AR or fist as active weapon increases survivability a lot again, but the mentioned two abilities are passive, are the very first to buy in their inner circle tree, so a total of 2 AP will get you both of them, so you keep your full freedom of weapon choice and active abilities and even still have 5 passive slots available.

    Next to that, yes, non-elite dungeons are rather easy to run with competent players. Gear of the previous area, no matter if green or blue, has proven to be sufficient. (On mediocre players, i actually prefer green gear. While they may deal a tad less damage, their noticeable higher health gives me the buffer i need to keep them alive. :D ) Understanding the mechanics of the fights, proper movement (and halfway decent builds) are of much higher importance than the QL of a players gear. {When running nightmare, things change a bit. Gear matters there, but the minimum gear for nightmare instances is better than what you’ll ever need for any “regular” gameplay. }

    And i’d like to end this text with an amusing sidenote: A WoW-raider who i persuaded to join me in TSW told me that fights in TSW are more complicated than most in WoW. (I don’t know, never been into raids. ) But once he learned to “go with the flow” of TSW bosses, he’s also doing quite fine.

    • Sylow permalink
      August 30, 2012 9:17 am

      Oops. Tiny faulty detail in my posting: you of course get _attack_ rating and not _hit_ rating when using offensive talismans. Just to cover the “but you don’t know what you’re taling about” base. :D

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