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The Outer Limits of Solo

September 29, 2012

Dear Reader,

I’ve finished the story quest in The Secret World.  There have been many complaints about it, particularly in Egypt, but I enjoyed it from start to finish.  I’ve also finished all but 4 red “action” quests, which are usually pretty straightforward “go kill stuff” quests, which pose no threat since I’m in a party of four.  In other words, I’m reaching done with the game.

I feel obligated to report fairly on last night’s play session, though.  It was unpleasant, to say the least.  In 4 hours of play, we essentially accomplished 3 quests.  There’s nothing inherently wrong with that, except that all three of them were solo instance quests.  In other words, last night, within a party of four, I spent nearly the entire 4 hours playing by myself.

I simply do not understand this trend, and I say trend because I feel like it’s cropping up more and more in MMOs.  I wait patiently all week, then work to coordinate 3 other people just so I can play with my friends.  To then sit down and find myself playing alone for 80% of that time is quite frustrating.

To top that off, 2 of the 3 solo instance quests were incredibly frustrating, as well.  In one, I, alone, had to collect six unique objects (parts of a body, to be clear) from six similar mobs.  Surrounding these mobs were trash packs of 5 or 6 individually weak but nasty when combined pulls, and above the pits in which these mobs were found were very dangerous ranged adds.  Pulling more than 1 of the individual mobs meant guaranteed death, which was difficult since the mobs with the necessary quest items had a huge AoE effect that you had to move around a lot to avoid.  Guaranteed death, as in I’m in the pre-heroic gear, have a very solid solo spec, have a good MMO skill set, and know to drink my pots.

And that was me; I’m either the strongest or second strongest player on our team, depending on the task.  My second buddy and my wife aren’t nearly as strong.  It took my wife about twice as long as everyone else to finish, which of course meant a lot of sitting around waiting for her, which I don’t blame her for, I blame the design.

The other frustrating solo instance was 0ne of the “stealth” sabotage missions.  These have been notoriously frustrating to the rest of my group but not for me – up until now.  This one simply did not mesh well with me.  I’ve played a lot of single-player stealth games; I prefer those to typical FPS’s because I feel they require more thought and patience.  TSW’s previous missions were okay, but I knew all along that it was a pretender to the throne. It was no stealth game; it was a game of repeated trial and error which resulted in immediate death.  With my larger volume of practice at stealth games, I had some, but little, trouble with the previous missions .  This one, though, drove me to fury.

In most stealth games, there’s at least 2 states between “hidden” and “dead.”  You frequently have an “alerted” state, which means someone’s suspicious and you need to hide your butt.  Then there’s the “caught” stage, in which you end up fighting a usually very superior enemy force, but you can fight them.  Neither of these holds true in this sabotage mission.  Despite the fact that I just ruined Queen Mara, who had a very large pool of hit points, there were mobs with 14k or so hp who simply instantly immobilized me.  If you were spotted, you were instantly “dead,” though it was simply jailed, from which you had to kill the jailer and start over.  In other words, you went from hidden to dead without even a chance to defend yourself.

Top that off with the fact that the solo quest zone is essentially a dark maze, and you’ve got the makings for a very challenging quest.  I like a challenge.  I don’t like flipping a coin over and over until it lands heads up 100 times in a row, having to restart the count after each time it turns up tails.  That’s what this quest felt like.  Incessant, pointless trial and error with no chance to remedy your mistakes through intelligent game play or combat.

Even there, as frustrated as I was, I was the second one done, so again we had to wait a long time for the others.  The worst part is that I know the others were frustrated with making us wait, as well, which simply taints the game as a whole.  Please, anyone out there who ever ends up working at an MMO company, don’t let your game have solo instances!

At any rate, it was a disappointing session, and it’s likely to be the next-to-last one.  We’re reaching the last few moments of the game here, the outer limits of it, and it’s beginning to really test my patience.  I want to remember the fun I had in it, but this was not a good way to nearly end.  Hopefully next time will be better.

In completely other news, after being told I could expect my computer on the 8th, I was informed that it had already shipped and would be here – yesterday.  It’s in, hooked up, and I played on it last night.  It’s pretty sweet.  I’m baffled by the false alarm of lateness, butI again feel obligated to be fair and let you all know that it did show up much earlier than the 8th.  I’m still not sure why I got that amended delivery date, but it was clearly wrong.



4 Comments leave one →
  1. Samus permalink
    September 30, 2012 2:33 pm

    You play once a week and are already (almost) done with the game? What do you think this would mean for a “typical” MMORPG player who plays 20+ hours a week?

    • October 1, 2012 3:15 pm

      There is a point there, but keep in mind I play with 3 others, which makes most quests take 1/4th the time. It probably doesn’t come out mathematically equivalent, but I’m sure it certainly makes up for some of the difference. But yes, I agree. Still, isn’t that true for every MMO, including WoW? People get to max level in days now, chew through expansions in hours (sometimes), and blow through endgame content in weeks. I’m not sure if I see much of a difference.
      Thanks for the comment!

  2. October 3, 2012 10:19 am

    Yeah the above statement that players get to max level n days etc is really bothering me^^, but what really wanted to comment on is that I think devs have become obsessed with delivering story in their MMOs and the cheap way of doing it is with solo instaces and phasing. After all if you are solo it is suppossed to feel more heroic and challenging as you have no external help. It also always comes down to what s cheaper and still does the job like in so many cases, which is kind of sad

    • October 3, 2012 11:24 am

      It bothers me, too, but perhaps not for the same reasons. Elaborate a bit for me if you’re up for it.
      I agree; the whole “fourth pillar” thing has been so badly implemented that it make me almost prefer GW2, which has less story than probably any mainstream MMO I’ve ever played, despite the fact that I’m a damn English professor. I should prefer story! But it’s so badly, badly done.
      Thanks for the comment!

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