Perfect Ten: Observations on Secret World Legends’ relaunch
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.