Exclusive Interview: Funcom’s Romain Amiel on Secret World Legends’ combat revamp and more
It is no secret that I am deeply vested The Secret World. It is my favorite game, and I am fortunate enough to get to write about and stream it as well as play it regularly. So I care about its future. And now, that future includes Secret World Legends. There is so much about this whole reboot/rebrand thing that we don’t know, and things we just can’t quite conceptualize yet. That’s why I was so glad Game Director Romain Amiel asked me if I wanted to sit down and chat about the game, tossing him all my questions. Boy, did I have questions! (He might have come to regret that last bit, but he did answer my huge list!) Obviously with only a couple of hours I couldn’t learn everything there is to know, but here’s the run down of everything I did. Also, there are a few more items that players will be happy to learn as soon as they are officially announced!
I will say, that although there are some things I personally don’t think I will like (though I think many will), I am much more optimistic and even excited about the whole situation. Secret World Legends is how we get to continue the story we’ve all be dying to experience. And devs seem committed to giving TSW players bonuses and perks in the new game, such as free weapon unlocks.
We all know something had to happen. We loved The Secret World, but in order to keep getting more TSW story goodness, it needed to bring in the funds. So change was necessary. As Amiel said, the reboot is the way to continue telling the story, and the team really want to tell this story! They wanted to continue making the game. And trust us, we want them to continue telling the story as well.
Some might wonder, though, why such a drastic move? Amiel summed that up by saying: “It’s the opportunity to fix so many things we wanted to do since before launch.” He said that the original build tried to innovate too much all at the same time, and the game suffered for it. He went on to say that once the game was live, it was all about moving forward and getting more story out, especially as the story is the selling point of the game. However, that didn’t afford the chance to stop and fix things like they wanted. And a system like combat has to be fixed from the ground up. This gave them the opportunity to fix, and Amiel is excited for how it all turned out.
A quick note about beta: We already know that closed beta invites have already started and that invites will be coming out in batches. Testers who jump in will have beta forums to communicate with devs (Amiel noted that devs will be very active there), and feedback will be essential and is encouraged. Other than that, however, mum’s the word; players will be under a strict NDA. Basically, if you see me stop speculating, it means I am in! At the end of closed beta there will be a total wipe, then beta will open up to everyone. At that point no other wipes are anticipated.
One of the biggest questions on people’s minds is how does combat change. Since this was one of the biggest turn offs for many, it’s going to be a make-or-break point for a number of folks. If you like action combat, you will probably be pretty pleased. I will honestly say that after hearing everything, I am saddened because this is the type of combat I hate to play. But, I’ve always preached that the game was worth it for its stellar storytelling and atmosphere even if there is an aspect or two you aren’t in love with, and so it is still totally worth it to me to play even if I’m finally in the group that doesn’t like the combat.
So let’s define what is different and what is staying the same. Let me start by saying that the ability wheel itself is gone: The physical manifestation of the wheel no longer exists. However, the ability to choose whatever abilities you want in whatever weapons you want is still there. Amiel said it was crucial that players could still make their own deck how they wanted. The difference is that now the interface is a page instead of a wheel. As attached to the wheel as I am, I have to say after seeing this weapon page I believe I shall be a fan of it. Amiel discussed how one of the biggest turn offs to new folks was how overwhelming the wheel was, so making things simpler and less confusing was the team’s goal. And these weapon pages are less cluttered, easier to see everything at a glance, and allow you to track progress better.
Basically, every weapon has a page accessed via tabs on the left, and each weapon page will have a tab for active abilities and one for passive abilities. (Auxiliary weapons also have a tab there, but we aren’t discussing those yet.) There are fewer abilities, but Amiel emphasized that the ones that were pruned were filler abilities that no one used — players just bought them on the way to the abilities they wanted. He explained that the abilities are sorted into three progression paths: damage, uniqueness (like healing), and group build. However, choosing one path does not prohibit you from choosing another; you still earn the AP to unlock whatever you want (that is next in line) on whatever weapon you want that you’ve unlocked. Your level will have no bearing on which abilities you can select, just how much AP you have and which weapons you have unlocked will.
Now, about passives. These abilities are split into two categories. One is the passives that are locked to the specific weapon and can only be used (and benefit) that weapon. The other category is global passives. These are passives which become permanent, always-active buffs on your character regardless of what weapons you use. If you wondered what reason people might have to unlock other weapons than the ones they prefer, this is it.
Another quick note about the weapon pages: There is also an expertise level associated with each weapon, and using that weapon will increase your expertise. Having a higher expertise then translates to being able to use the weapon better, which means you get higher bonuses the more you use that weapon.
To start out, players will choose a deck to play, sort of a class. I hesitate to use the word class because players are not locked into that at all. The starter deck/profession/class will grant the player access to the two weapons for free as well as the clothing deck reward. (To earn all other deck outfits players will have to complete those weapon pages.) Although all TSW players who link their accounts will have every weapon unlocked for free, everyone else will need to actually purchase each additional weapon unlock. Fortunately, since currencies are tradeable, folks can also purchase the necessary currency to buy unlocks from other players using currency they have gained through playing.
So here’s the part I personally hate: Combat is now action combat with a forced reticle. Your primary weapon attack will be the left mouse button and your secondary weapon will be the right mouse button. Dodging will be via an action button instead of double-clicking a movement key. Potions and food will also have a place on the hotbar, and even mounts will have an easy access spot in the new UI.
Amiel said that the focus was on making combat more interesting and engaging. As such, each weapon has its own identity, a gimmick you could say to make playing it feel unique compared to the others. It wasn’t about just making different animations, but making it feel different. He also emphasized that the main ability is stronger than before.
The actual fighting will be using the mouse buttons as well as special abilities you add to the number keys. Movement is by WASD, and the mouse will turn your view. Players will have the ability to rebind to a configuration they prefer.
On the subject of fighting, there’s also some cool news incoming about dungeons, so we’ll have to keep an eye out for that announcement to be made.
Possibly the best part of the fight is the conclusion when you receive your reward loot, right? Amiel described how the loot mechanic was changing. All players who participate in a kill (grouped or not, there is no mob locking) will receive their own individual reward. Players can compare their loot and trade, or they can keep anything they want to use in the new gear mechanic.
That brings us to another change: gear. Amiel explained that gear upgrades are done differently now. Basically you can find a green item in Kingsmouth that you love and you can just feed it other gear to level it. In time, your favorite items can become blue, purple, and even legendary. So the gear you begin with can grow with you throughout the game.
Thankfully, gear items and appearance clothing remain completely separate systems. In fact, Amiel said that the dressing room interface has been revamped. He said it is improved dramatically, making it much easier to use; it’s easier to see what you own and even how to get what you don’t own yet.
As for the Aegis system, Amiel stated, “It’s been improved and made a lot more fun, but more information about it will come with the release of Tokyo.”
Let there be levels
Another concern folks have is the change to levels. Amiel said that the game always had levels, they were just invisible. Zombies in Kingsmouth were decidedly easier to kill (lower level) than vampires in The Shadowy Forest. The difference now is that those levels will actually be noted on mobs and characters; folks will see in a glance if they are of an appropriate power range to take on any certain encounter.
One reason for this change was because of an inherent flaw that came with the completely open choose-whatever-I-want system. Amiel explained that there were many instances where, in choosing to spend their ability and skill points in certain ways, some players actually seriously hampered their ability to play. Basically, they messed themselves up by not giving themselves the tools they needed to move on. This would cause great frustration and the game lost players. With this level system, players will get boosts in HP and such as they level, making sure they have the minimal tools available to continue their journey. If this can help people from slamming full force into the Blue Mountain wall and quitting the game, it will be a good change. Players can still help friends of any level, and being over-leveled should not hinder the lower level as loot is personal.
As a side note, I also learned that there will be the requisite “you leveled!” ding and animation. Amiel told me it is an anima burst and an announcement. I can only pray it is very muted, because that kind of fanfare would totally and completely detract from the setting for me. I do not want a light show heralding my new power! I can understand others like that though, so perhaps an option to turn that completely off could be a part of it.
PvP may not be a focal point of TSW, but it is a part of it. So how will PvP be handled in SWL? Amiel said that to start, likely only Shambala will be available. He said the movement is away from faction PvP. The team will be taking feedback as to how to fix and implement the other battlegrounds, so be sure to add your feedback on the beta forums when you get in!
But wait, there’s more!
This may seem like quite a bit, but we all know it isn’t enough! Don’t miss out on learning many other tidbits in our second half of the interview coming tomorrow.