Chaos Theory: Interview and impressions of Secret World Legends, part II
Last time, I told you my Secret World Legends tour with Creative Director Romain Amiel was too big to fit in just one Chaos Theory. Luckily, we aren’t restricted to just that one! After talking about the monetization and lockboxes, customization, and a bit about combat, we can focus on other facets of the revamp. Specifically, I’m delving into the accessibility of the new game. We’re told a big push for the revamp and relaunch was the fact that The Secret World had barriers to entry and retention that led to the loss of too many players for the conspiracy-laden game to remain viable. So SWL needs to hit that nail on the head. Does it? Honestly, I think it takes a mighty swing and lands fairly true. As much as I love TSW, this title does appear to be more accessible.
On top of accessibility, we take a long look at the new Agartha as well as touch on lairs, scenarios, open beta and launch. Grab a conduit and join us for the second half of the highlights of my tour and talk with Amiel.
I am certainly quick to tell people how much I love the original, but there are a number of ways that Secret World Legends is proving to be more accessible to players (something I hope translates into great success and continued story development!). First but not necessarily foremost, it is going to be free to play. That means once the game launches on June 26th on the site and July 31st on Steam, anyone who wants to can hop in and experience the amazing story and atmosphere without worrying about purchasing the game. But the improved accessibility goes beyond that. The new tutorial, the dungeons, and Agartha also lend to a smoother experience.
The new tutorial gives a much better taste of what is to come in all aspects of the game. While I first worried I would bristle at the changes from my original (awesome) experience, I actually appreciate the final result. All of the cut scenes I knew and loved were still there, they were just interspersed with some gameplay tutorial and practice. The tutorial was true to the atmosphere and offered quick tastes of all three mission types. (Admittedly the investigation one was insanely easy for ayn investigation mission junkie, but it definitely introduces the feature well for those who’ve never experienced it.) It won’t be anything earth-shattering for old TSW players, but it is worth one run through just to experience the revamped Tokyo flasback. (Sadly, no you won’t be able to test of all the weapons in the Crucible like before; you can only use the two you selected with your class.)
During the new Tokyo flashback, players are no longer just walking through a scripted scene where they are invulnerable, restricted to just the shotgun. Now, the experience is an actual mission where the player is using his or her own chosen weapons. Amiel also noted that players could actually die here if they do super poorly (this I did not know!), although it is still meant to be fairly easy to get through. The point is there is still story and there is action, both aspects to grab the players and entice them to stay.
Another increase in accessibility involves the dungeons. There are two modes now — the three-man story mode and the traditional five-man mode. Whereas the five-man is meant to be the endgame, hard core type of content, the story mode is an easier version meant to let everyone have a chance to experience the story aspect of it. “Our dungeons are great: They are very moody and have some great stories on top of having some very interesting bosses,” Amiel said. However, he noted that maybe only one-third of the players would do dungeons. Many of these folks would express they felt like they were missing out on story and content.
To fix this, SWL’s three-man story dungeons (that are run as players level up) have easier bosses with slightly less epic loot. Amiel stated that group composition doesn’t really matter either, quipping that three healers could even get though these. These dungeons are designed so that, as he put it, “As long as you are looking at the monster and clicking your abilities, it will die.” However, you still need to pay attention to environmental hazards! Besides opening up content that players may not have been able to get through for lack of groups or whatnot, it’s also a way to give folks some prep for the harder versions.
Story dungeons are also more accessible because you don’t have to take three people in: you can go solo or you could take more. The way you can accomplish this is by opening the group finder window and checking the Private Team box next to the sign-up button. This allows you to bypass the normal requirements and restrictions on a dungeon and take in your current group. The only requirement that can’t be ignored is the minimum level (so no, you can’t go to The Facility as a level 10, but you can do Polaris as a level 50).
A different scenario
Scenarios have also been reworked. Instead of going for 30 minutes, they now go for 10 to 15. Instead of having to run like a mad person between multiple survivor groups to deal with the various mob onslaughts, players will only have to focus on one group at a time. This comes in handy because scenarios now come only in solo and duo modes. I asked if the Private Team would be available here as well so that our regular group of three could do these together still, but Amiel said that is so far undecided. I hope they do! Amiel believes the scenarios are much more fun now and hopes players will participate in them more regularly now.
On top of this, scenarios also no longer give augments. Instead, they give glyphs, and this will be the main way to acquire glyphs. Anyone who didn’t really understand or put much time into the augment system might be glad to hear that it is gone. Instead, Amiel explains that the role of the augments have been woven into the passive abilities and some equipment.
Like scenarios, lairs have also been revamped and made easier to participate in. One of the changes is that players no longer have to find and assemble all those pieces of a key in order to summon the lair boss. Taking place of looting those pieces is doing daily missions in order to acquire the keys. The lairs themselves are also harder, Amiel said, scaled for five fairly well-geared players instead of three. Of course since it is an open play field players could still go in with raid groups of 10. Player who manage to get one of the mega world bosses will actually summon them from a specific portal right in Agartha and zone into the fight. At that point, the open portal is advertised by its changed color so that others will have the opportunity to join in, up to the max of 40 persons, with priority going to group and cabal-mates first.
More accessibility is also seen in the combat. We’ve heard about how the complexity of the old systems were very off-putting to many new players. The new combat combats that by streamlining the abilities. But that’s not the only thing. Part of the development of this mode of combat, Amiel explained, was so that players who for whatever reason couldn’t or wouldn’t play with a mouse (including any disabilities) could still play with the keyboard only. “It was one of the things that was unacceptable for me that someone from TSW would not be able to convert over to SWL because of something they physically couldn’t do,” he said. “I wanted to make sure we avoided that at all costs.”
In addition to all this, other increases in accessibility include tweaking the main mission early on and giving players the ability to advance in even more ways. At first I was actually quite disappointed that tier 4 of Endless Night, the main mission in Kingsmouth, was dumbed down. That exact quest was what made me totally fall in love with The Secret World. It blew my mind that my other knowledge and abilities would contribute to winning in the game. I knew the more obscure password hint because I love classical music. Now the answer is pretty obvious. However, I realize that an investigation element this early on did actually create a barrier to some folks, as the main story cannot be completed unless you get past this. Amiel confirmed that people got stuck and it was just too much too soon. I certainly don’t want folks to feel pushed out by a quest they can’t just skip. He did assure me though that the later quests were not tweaked as such, and the actual investigation missions themselves were not tampered with.
As for advancing in other ways, XP and anima shards (the third new currency) are granted for collecting lore, which are now called legends. Oh wait, this means that there game is actually named after lore! I knew lore was all important!
I mentioned one of the changes to Agartha when talking about the lairs. But there is so much more to it. Besides the change in the ability wheel to weapon pages, this zone’s revamp is the most visually obvious change. Devs had noted way back when that the faction cities — and London in particular — were mean to be hubs. That didn’t work. Most congregating happened in Agartha. Devs took that and ran with it, souping the region up to meet players’ needs. I have to say that I am really impressed with Agartha.
With Agartha revamped, SWL makes the playfields more accessible, raids and lairs more accessible, shopping and banking more accessible, and even roleplay more accessible. Instead of long runs across branches to get to the various zones, players will jump pad to where they want to go. (Amiel revealed that there are still secrets you can discover if you explore and find ways to other less accessible branches.) There is a mega hub in the center hollow of the tree that has bankers and merchants, group finders, even large venues for roleplayers. There is a dance floor and DJ set up that Amiel said will be like the Horned God in London, with the light up floor and dancing NPCs. There is tons of room and all the amenities that players would need, giving them ample reason to be in Agartha. Amiel believes this will make finding groups and such even easier, allowing players to get more involved in content easier.
Personally, I never liked hanging out in Agartha. It was totally immersion breaking; I only went there when I had to. Now, I want to hang out! I think devs did a really great job seeing a need and filling it here. It also just looks really cool. Getting around is easier and quicker, and lollygagging is more rewarding. I look forward to exploring and finding those hidden lores and such.
Sadly, I couldn’t really get much information about an open beta or when the NDA might drop. Amiel did state that a new wave of beta invites were due to be sent out Monday, and one more round would also go after that. There is also talk of bringing people in via key giveaways elsewhere (this answer in response to me asking about the possibility of giving keys away on OPTV stream). The idea of an open beta isn’t really solid and may not happen. We will just have to see.
Hopefully, folks will still give the game a go. Amiel did say that a big marketing push was planned for the June 26th launch. Additionally, the Steam launch will be pushed in July. Hopefully all this, as well as revamp, will entice new and returning players back into our favorite land of myths and legends. I know I will be there, and I hope you will join me in giving the game a chance. Amiel understands that the changes can be hard, but he emphasized that everything that the team is doing is for the benefit and greater good of the game. He stated, “Everything is done so that we can go to season 2 and continue telling that story.” Ideally, he hopes that existing players will agree that SWL is a better game. He added, “If the game had been this way from the start, maybe it would have been more successful now.”
We will see. But I am rooting for the best.