Perfect Ten: Observations on Secret World Legends’ relaunch

Everyone has those sacred video game cows that are dearly special to them, carry personal meaning, and trigger fear and anxiety when messed with. In the realm of MMORPGs, one of my own cows (moo!) is definitely The Secret World, which has been one of my favorite online games since its launch a half-decade ago.

I won’t lie: The reboot of the game into Secret World Legends made me intensely nervous. I got the feeling that the game itself was on the verge of disappearing forever and that if the team didn’t get it right, this was it for Kingsmouth, Anima, Orochi, and the rest of the gang. I was — and still am — pretty critical of how Funcom’s been handling the relaunch and the need for it in the first place.

That hasn’t stopped me from playing, however. In fact, I’m logging more daily hours into Secret World Legends than I was in the past few years with The Secret World, partially due to the excitement and partially thanks to the changes that the team wrought. Now that we’re a month into all of this, I thought it was time to offer up some personal observations on how the relaunch is going, what’s working well, what needs improvement, and how I feel about the future.

1. Combat is much better

At best, I’m tolerant of action combat and reticle controls in MMOs. I’ve used them, I’ve adapted to them, but they’re still not my favorite. I always feel like my cursor is being held hostage and isn’t letting me explore the world the way I want to. That said, overall I’m pretty pleased with how combat handles now. Probably the greatest thing the devs did was to vastly reduce the time-to-kill on mobs, replacing that “slogging through encounters” feel with a faster and more dynamic experience. TSW’s combat was its biggest flaw, and while the devs haven’t made it a pure joy to play in SWL, it’s vastly better where it counts.

2. The weapon gimmicks are… gimmicky

Unfortunately, I’m just not that pumped up about the weapons or skills any more. These weapon gimmicks are tacky and give the impression of being shoehorned into a game that doesn’t really need or want them. The UI on them is distracting and some of the gimmicks are frustrating to use (hey, my rifle can now explode in my face, thank you devs!).

I also miss a lot of some of the more fun skills and the way the old game would encourage you to experiment with synergy. Now I have a build that’s solidly in place and has been since Savage Coast, and I don’t think it’s going to change going forward. There are fewer combat skills now and the ones that made the cut don’t have that “pizzazz” that makes them super-exciting to use.

3. Where are my auxiliary weapons?

I want my flamethrower and chainsaw back, darn it!

4. I’m progressing way faster than before.

Thanks to both my knowledge of the game and the aforementioned combat improvements, I am all but rocketing up through levels and zones. It used to take me weeks, if not months, to fully finish a zone at the pace of one or two missions a night, but now I’m screaming through eight or so on a regular basis. I love the feeling of accomplishment that this provides and that as a returning player, I don’t feel like it’s going to be forever getting my character caught up to where she was before. Still going to be a good few months, however.

5. Funcom still isn’t handling communication that well.

Both before and after launch, the dev team is being incredibly stingy with communication. It’s there, I’ll admit, and the livestreams and roadmap were much appreciated. But there are no official forums (um, why?) and Funcom seems incredibly reluctant to engage its community on Reddit or Twitter as a substitute.

Livestreams are nice and all, but communication needs to be more than a once-a-week phone call from the parents. More blog posts, more Q&A sessions, more official talk on Reddit, and more answers in general would be appreciated. Also, the whole “not having a forum” thing comes off as being both cheap and neglectful. It’s weird.

6. The graphics really aren’t that improved.

I don’t know what Funcom was talking about when they were making noise about improving combat and animations, because aside from a few new weapon flourishes, everything looks and handles pretty much the same as before. There is no graphical facelift here (other than player character facial models), and in a few places, the NPCs actually look worse/a little broken. Some of them have puppet-like jaws when they talk while others show glitches in their cheeks and necks.

I always thought The Secret World was a visually evocative and occasionally beautiful game, so a complete graphic revamp wasn’t really needed in my opinion. But this is like a “nothing revamp” more than anything else.

7. The new business model is a little strange.

As a lifetime subscriber, I’m playing a different game than the F2P crowd, which has to deal with much longer mission cooldowns and other restrictions. But generally it doesn’t appear to be that bad. The store is more integrated into the game’s UI than a separate entity, occasionally making its presence known if you want to buy more inventory space, shop for specific outfits, or purchase AP boosters when you run out of points. Otherwise it sits in the background and keeps to itself.

I’ve heard it said that the studio is being really stingy with how much you can unlock in terms of inventory and sprint without resorting to premium currency, and I agree here. Inventory in particular seems rather low, with only 45 slots for a max without aurum. That’s kind of paltry when you’ve got dozens and dozens of items on hand for upgrades and fusions and whatnot.

The one thing we do see, and see a lot of, are those purple lockboxes. It’s both strange and frustrating that regular mobs don’t drop loot these days save for the lockboxes, because it makes those purple monstrosities all the more in-your-face. And since I get a free key a day and have been opening them since the start, let me tell you that the odds of getting anything good are really dang low. Don’t waste your money.

8. The playfield teleport is my best friend.

One of the best changes for the reboot in my opinion is that you can now use the teleport interface to jump whole playfields. This takes so much aggravation out of having to backtrack and use portals when you can go from, say, London to Egypt with a button click. It also makes heading back to Agartha for socializing and services more palpable, since I won’t have to be staring at a long travel time to get back to where I was.

9. The mission flow and level restrictions weren’t necessary.

While the missions mostly remained the same, the devs did monkey around with how the zones unlocked and how they wanted to guide players through areas. My opinion? It really wasn’t necessary. Telling me that I can’t access a certain quest because I need one more level or I haven’t fulfilled a new prerequisite goes against how TSW used to function, and it chafes a bit. Once you over-level everything it ceases to be as much of an issue, but I wish it wasn’t there at all.

I’m trying to stay open to the main storyline and how the team has woven some previously independent quests into it, and I guess it works? It’s odd and a little confining, but only to those who have played in the past.

10. The core of the Secret World experience has been preserved.

Apart from generally having a lot of fun, the best thing about the reboot for me is that what I consider the core of the Secret World experience — its world building, its lore, its cutscenes, its characters, and its mission ingenuity — is still present. It might be a little streamlined or dumbed down in a few cases, but for the most part it’s the same game that I’ve been playing and loving for years. Mobs can still kick my butt if I’m not paying attention, sabotage missions can still be frustrating, investigation missions are neat to solve even if I’ve done them a few times before, and many of the NPCs still make me smile and laugh and empathize as I did in the past.

I still have concerns, yes, but not fears, and that’s a relief. I’m genuinely excited about where the game is going past Tokyo, and I hope we hear more about that very soon.

Everyone likes a good list, and we are no different! Perfect Ten takes an MMO topic and divvies it up into 10 delicious, entertaining, and often informative segments for your snacking pleasure. Got a good idea for a list? Email us at justin@massivelyop.com or eliot@massivelyop.com with the subject line “Perfect Ten.”
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46 Comments on "Perfect Ten: Observations on Secret World Legends’ relaunch"

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Wendigo Runner

hm. the lockboxes that you mentioned, especially as loot, cancels anything else. I’m pretty glad that I’ve not been able to login to my old account. What a monumental waste of time downloading would be.

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wonderrat

I’m happy to say blood and elementalism “gimmicks” don’t feel like gimmicks to me at all. Blood’s especially adds some tactical depth to the game and makes me think about what I’m doing.

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John Dietl

I agree with this list except for number 1. The new reticule control scheme is a dealbreaker for me. I liked clicking on stuff. And I miss the skill wheel.

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John Mynard

I agree, the shotgun gimmick of different ammo types is kinda spiffy and I wish it made more difference. But the pistols gimmick of random damage bonuses is silly and impossible to build for practically speaking because you nerf yourself if you do.

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Malcolm Swoboda

Mixed-Positive. Maybe Positive. I’ve reached Lv 50, working into City of the Sun God, and completed all 4 previous zones except for total special achievements (especially Unseen) and legend collection. So I’m touching into max level content, but not really endgame.

In terms of Steam, I’m bracing for a Mixed response. More will impress me, less will surprise me.

I’m enjoying myself more than TSW. I think I agree with their changes more than at least some (louder negative) feel about them. I do agree with some that SWL just does not go far enough for what a proper relaunch should be, but also think there are more substantial changes that happened than they’re often given credit for, and I either don’t mind or approve of certain things that are most complained about.

In terms of advancement, as F2P doing all content at least once, I’ve reached Lv 50, mid-levels for weapon skill, all active abilities unlocked for my two weapons and I’m working on capstones and a third weapon now, 2+ lines unlocked for the passives for my two weapons, and my gear is a mix of maxed greens or leveled or maxed blues, with other gear like prepared other weapon types and talismans being in-progress. Sprint IV unlocked and I’ll get around to V. 45 inventory slots and I’ll upgrade that when I actually really feel the pain.

Others are obviously ahead of me. Regular players are in ‘Blues’. Frequent players or payers are in ‘Purples’. Whales or grinders are in ‘Oranges’. Big whales are in ‘Reds’. But for what I’ve played and how I’ve decided to play, I’m currently in a good stage of progression and I don’t feel hampered, 5 zones in and just hitting level cap. Of course we’ll see with August, Tokyo, and beyond. Will Blue progression be painful, or just nicely expected? Will Purple progression be the end of the road, or just where I’m comfortable at for months? Will I even reach Orange/Red/multiple full gear sets/all weapons maxed in any reasonable time (months, not years)?

I haven’t had most of the worst bugs/crashing that others have been getting, thankfully. Performance is overall better than before, but I agree that the engine and game still needs significant programming and designing love.

I rate TSW a 4/5 for my sensibilities (and when it comes down to it, a 5/5 for how it draws me in), but the treatment of the game declining to a 2-3/5 as the years went on. This relaunch so far is a 3/5 – though I really desired a ‘4/5’ – and its enough to keep me pushing on for a month, but I’m not certain I’ll keep it going for the rest of the year, and I have no clue about after. But I can’t say I’m not enjoying myself. I am, and I think much more has improved than worsened. If Fall actually cracks more of the game into shape, I can finally see myself putting at least $10s+ towards the game. As it is, I’m uncertain about the future and I’m just enjoying what’s there for what it is.

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Karinshastha

I’ve heard it said that it’s possible to have mixed feelings about something while playing it daily, supporting it financially, and hoping for the best. This is exactly what I’m currently doing with the caveat that I’m not so bright-eyed about the ubiquitous, miserly RNG that permeates pretty much every aspect of the game – hidden or in plain sight – even for those who throw down major cash. Your source(s) undoubtedly touched on the lack of monthly cash shop currency allotments for patrons which would allow them to slowly save up for inventory slots and Sprinting V/VI. This would be an excellent way of allowing one to eventually purchase otherwise expensive things “offline” in a manner vaguely akin to something like EVE’s passive skill training system.

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Nick Smith

I am so there when it rekeases on steam. Is that soon? If i remember right it was in Aug.

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Malcolm Swoboda

Next week.

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Anthony Clark

I’m enjoying it greatly. I find myself playing it daily.

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Tithian

About #4: I get the feeling that they made it so only relatively few missions would be mandatory for someone to complete the main story. That way if someone want to do only (for example) Sabotage missions (weirdos) he would not have to get too involved with much of the zone to progress. And it will probably be a lot easier for people to catch up fast with the main Story to get into Tokyo, especially with the Steam launch being imminent.

I did full clears in the first few zones and yeah, I was level 50 when I got to the City of the Sun God. Felt weird, but at the same time revisiting older areas to do Investigations or Sabotage is less of a pain in the ass.

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Malcolm Swoboda

I reached Lv 50 in very early COTSG, but like, that’s not a really bad deal. You’re supposed to reach 50 in that zone or Besieged Farmlands latest. All I accomplished was more times of mobs being greyed out, making some missions easier to deal with.

I do want Hard Mode zones but I’m perfectly fine with leveling zones in themselves.

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Rolan Storm

Content will live on – that’s good. Blood Magic is da powah! – good too. Everything else will be sorted out one way or another.

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Bryan Correll

I also miss a lot of some of the more fun skills and the way the old game would encourage you to experiment with synergy.

That’s my main complaint with the reboot. Combat may be faster paced, but the ability to make interesting builds is just plain gone. There are a few ‘fun’ abilities, but with most weapons (especially those where the weapon’s gimmick requires its own slot) you’re simply not going to have room for them.