The Secret World after One Weekend
So far, so good. My wife and I logged probably 12 or so hours in The Secret World since early access began on Friday. Overall, we’re enjoying it quite a bit. I’m playing a Templar who primarily uses elementalism with a dash of fists, and my wife is an Illuminati who primarily uses blood with some expansion into assault rifles. We’ve had a lot of fun doing virtually all the quests in the main part of Kingsmouth (we haven’t moved across the bridges to the Skateboard park other than to mop up a few side quests. Surprisingly, I haven’t been annoyed at the inability to pick up more than one quest chain at a time; I like having to hone in on one thing, work through it, and then move on. I think what sells that design is the ability to phone quests in at the end, so you don’t have to run all the way back to the quest giver; instead, you just look around and find another quest. It makes it work well.
We’ve successfully finished all three investigation quests that we’ve found, though one of them (don’t worry, no spoilers) took a ridiculous leap of faith to solve (this is not a hint – I mean it figuratively). The investigation quests have been the most fun from my point of view, having to analyze each word, think it though, and figure out what to do. I’m also quite happy that a few of them allow you to erroneously fail them without making you start completely over. Like a good DM, the game allows you to be wrong. Nice.
Another nice surprise was, even though I haven’t in any way been pressuring my secondary buddy (only secondary because he hasn’t played much with us recently, until D3 came out. He was the secondary buddy from group leveling in WoW way back when), he decided to pick the game up and joined us. We only got to play together briefly before the servers went down last night, but in only his third ever TSW quest, he solved a key component of Madam Roget’s investigation quest that my wife and I didn’t come up with. It was beautiful to have “such a new player” (since were such veterans with 12 hours under our belts) contribute in a really meaningful way right at the start. That’s what playing with friends should be about. Teamwork, brainstorming, working together. Not having harder instances because there’s 3 or you instead of 2 (I’m looking at you, SW:toR).
The Anima Wheel has been a lot of fun, too. My wife and I have already invested enough to get to the outer rim in our primary abilities, and it’s really cool. Since it’s a fresh game, there’s not yet a clear right and wrong, so the best part of character design in a pen and paper RPG still exists in TSW. You can study the abilities, think about your challenges, think about what looks cool, and just buy what you want. It’s really nice and refreshing. Yes, there’s decks, but you can just ignore them, too. As a Templar, I chose a weapon combo not represented in a deck because they looked like the most fun. Apparently it is an Illuminati deck, though, which also tells us that the deck paradigms differ from clan to clan. That’s good; it adds even more flavor to each faction.
Combat’s felt good, and while it is just hot-button combat like 75% of all the MMOs out there, it’s still been refreshing for three reasons. First, with being able to move and cast, combat is a lot more mobile than in most of the other MMOs. Secondly, active dodging allows you to make some cool maneuvers to avoid monster attacks. Lastly, the monster’s attacks themselves are presented in a unique way, with ground visuals that are both the location and the timing of the monster’s attacks. For example, a flamestrike-like attack appears first as a large circle with a smaller but expanding cocentric circle inside. You have until the inner circle grows to meet the outer circle to get out of it. A lot of times, simply running isn’t fast enough; you have to actively dodge. I like that. Good additions.
So overall, I’m 90% happy with the game. The other 10%, though, is somewhat saddening to see. Solo instances, again. Why? My wife wants to be a healer. Healing is VASTLY underpowered at lower levels, and without strong dps, she can barely survive. Luckily, I saw what was coming (from having played the beta and having trouble myself with blood) and we avoided the solo instances until she could get exsanguinate and cardiac arrest, and she was fine when she went into them. What about people who don’t know that? Why can’t I just play with my friends,
Crafting, too, is confusing. Yes, there’s training missions in the game. Yes, there’s guides outside the game. I vastly prefer the active crafting as opposed to standing in front of an anvil and waiting 2.5 seconds, but I hope there’s more to illuminate the crafting system beyond the two starter missions, because it’s not nearly enough. I want to be able to do it on my own, not have to turn to a guide every time I craft something. As a result, I’ve done virtually no crafting. I haven’t felt I needed to, either; the itemization from questing seems quite good, but still, who knows what I might be missing?
Lastly, more jumping puzzles. I don’t have a problem with them. My wife does. Getting the last two lore objects in Seoul (yes, we went to every capital city to collect and read the lore. It’s a fun game with a lot of cool information in it. I can’t wait to find out more about the Orochi Group) literally reduced my wife to tears. I couldn’t console her that the game’s not about jumping, so not to feel bad if she was struggling to do it, and she wouldn’t let me do it for her, so it became another head-bashing fest from mixing platformer skills (which my wife lacks) with an MMORPG, akin to the Thaddeus jump in Naxx that made me the meanest I’ve ever been as a raid leader (not to my wife – she didn’t have a problem with that jump).
At any rate, I’m very happy with the pre-launch and heartily recommend the game to anyone who’s still got it in them to play a mostly-standard play style MMO in a very fresh setting with some tweaks to character design, crafting, and combat. I especially recommend it to people who love story, because this game is jam-packed with it (so far), and barring another AoC incident where the first zone blindingly outshines the further zones, I look forward to continuing with the story as the game goes on. I’m on Huldra, if anyone wants to hop in and say hello, under my normal name.
Stubborn (keeping it secret, keeping it safe)