Choose My Adventure: Secret World Legends in review

Earlier this year, when we had yet to actually get much information about Secret World Legends, I posted a piece in which I discussed at length how Funcom didn’t seem to quite know what it was doing with the whole reboot thing. On the one hand, the development team didn’t seem to know if SWL was actually a reboot of The Secret World or just a new structure for it; on the other hand, it was certainly positioned as a hard reboot, considering how it jettisoned more or less everything players had previously accomplished.

So the question, for me, was always whether or not the game could justify its reboot and still be fun in and of itself.

The answer to the former question, I’m sorry to say, is an unambiguous “no.” There’s a lot of reasons thrown around for why the game absolutely needed a reboot, but none of them actually succeeds at justifying a whole drop-and-rebuild. Partly because, well, the game didn’t rebuild anything. It patched in a few new systems and called it a day, and it did absolutely nothing to address the core problems that kept people from being turned off from the game in the first place.

Don't you worldshame me.I mention in the piece from before that there’s an actual history of a successful reboot on the books, and one of the first things that said reboot did was make sure that no one was going to lose progress. In order to justify actually losing progress, the game would need to not just wildly overhaul combat and progression, it would need to overhaul such systems to the degree that you could not, realistically, port progress over. There would be no way to make the new system work based on the old one.

Right off of the bat, that doesn’t happen. It would be easy to set level based on main story progress (not difficult) and AP/SP based on total earned there (also not difficult). So right out of the gate, that doesn’t justify the loss of player progress.

“Oh, but the business model also changed!” Yes, as it had with so many games that I can’t even count, and several of them have undergone more fundamental gameplay shifts as a result of the new model (WildStar and Star Trek Online both spring to mind). And none of them have responded to that with a sage nod and a muttered “so sorry, you’ll have to start over completely.”

You might wonder why this matters in the first place if I was always going to be restarting from level one regardless. But it matters because this is part of the game’s overall justification for its reboot, a reboot that has left the game as being more or less the same entity. It’s starting off from a shady point, forcing people to replay things that they have doubtlessly seen many times now.

The bright side is theoretically the new combat system. Unfortunately, that doesn’t quite work out. It’s better than the game’s combat used to be, yes, and it guts things like the AEGIS system which approximately no one actually liked. But it still has a serious issue wherein it never actually quite becomes fun, just more ornate.

Some of it is the limitation of options. It’s hard to pin down an exact number of buttons to hit for a game to be fun, as a lot of games manage to be extremely fun with a real dearth of things to do. But the shot list of abilities that SWL outfits you with is small enough that it feels more like, in spirit, it’s closer to a game like Mass Effect: Andromeda. You have a small lineup of special abilities, and most of the gameplay is based around using those abilities to supplement your core attacks.

Except… that’s not how it’s designed. There’s no set of core attacks. You wind up spamming a few abilities and just calling it a day.

From foul trees, it grows.

I was excited about the prospect of each weapon having a unique minigame associated with it, but the lack of cross-weapon synergy for abilities means that the gauges wind up not meaning a whole heck of a lot. Chaos and Pistols, which I started with, are particularly lackluster in that regard. Chaos is literally just “spam and hope that you get Paradox, at which point stuff happens you get no control over;” Pistols are slightly more engaging, but it comes down to a functional “get a buff at random times” that doesn’t really alter how you play.

But how could it? You have a handful of abilities and couldn’t really swap to doing something different if, say, you land on two red chambers. There just aren’t enough options, and there’s not enough synergy to make the randomness feel like a fun thing to account for.

Plus, once you’re done with the content in the game, you run into the exact same problems that already existed. There’s still little to no reason to re-run missions unless you direly need to fill out your daily challenge. There’s nothing to do beyond running missions or dungeons. The lack of repeatable content hasn’t actually changed much at all.

In other words, Secret World Legends is the exact same game as The Secret World in enough ways that it can’t justify its “reboot” status, and the changes it has made are pretty universally erring on the side of less engaging rather than better. Making maps smaller and more private doesn’t improve the game in any meaningful way, it just seems to be afraid of the prospect that this could still be an MMO.

Goodbye forever. Again.It’s rare that I’m willing to give into spite and say “well, the company declared this to not be an MMO, so it shouldn’t count as one.” Most of the time, that doesn’t hold up. But SWL tries to gut TSW’s features without justifying its removals. It makes for a game that’s at least more accessible, but not any more capable of capitalizing on what made the original game good, and not changing the fundamental mission landscape in any way.

That was what provoked a certain amount of consternation from me all the way through. It’s not that the game is bad, necessarily, as it’s a game that took progress away from players for basically no reason. And all of the weaknesses it had before aren’t actually fixed, with many of them not even being addressed at all. That’s not a mark in its favor.

I can understand it getting interest right out of the gate. TSW fans have the promise of getting new content in the future, which was something the game’s players long waited for, and they also have a less annoying combat system to grind through than the old one.

If you were already a big fan of TSW, it definitely has enough there that you liked before to keep you engaged. But it still feels like dirty pool to yank away solid progress that was made just to accept a few debatable upgrades.

So no, I’m not a fan.

Feedback, as always, is welcome down in the comments or via mail to eliot@massivelyop.com. Next week, instead of jumping straight away into the next round of voting, I’m going to spend a little time looking back at the year in CMA entries, starting from the first one and moving on down the line. It’s not quite a “greatest hits” second round of voting, but it’s in the same general food group.

Welcome to Choose My Adventure, the column in which you join Eliot each week as he journeys through mystical lands on fantastic adventures — and you get to decide his fate. You do not get to decide his fate on Thursdays. That’s his time, and frankly none of us want to know what he does with it.
SHARE THIS ARTICLE
Code of Conduct | Edit Your Profile | Commenting FAQ | Badge Reclamation | Badge Key

LEAVE A COMMENT

33 Comments on "Choose My Adventure: Secret World Legends in review"

Subscribe to:
Sort by:   newest | oldest | most liked
Reader
Aaron Biegalski

Yeah agreed. My big complaint here is that I really don’t feel that combat was ‘improved’ per se.

The old system was over-complicated, but it felt like I could really make a cool build that suited my playstyle and desires. Now it’s just… well, every set has mostly the same exact stuff. It’s mostly down the the ‘flavor’ of combat you want. And I wouldn’t say that the combat (mechanically) even “feels better”. It honestly feels exactly the same to me as it did back when I played the original iteration.

I appreciate the new gear scaling system, I guess? Maybe?

Reader
Loyal Patron
Briar Grey

Pretty much agreed on this. Since they didn’t put this on new rails (i.e. a new engine), and they didn’t really do what they said they did (per your breakdown above), why bother to make a “reboot” — why not just put the time in to effing improve what they already had?! I’ll still log in and play through TSW – I never got past Transylvania, so when I came back awhile ago, I rolled a new Illuminati and just started a play through from the beginning, slowly just enjoying everything. The game has SUCH a great feel to it – kinda creepy kinda cool (to quote one of my favourite podcasts, “Spirits”). I haven’t yet hit the hated Aegis phase – got sidetracked by joining the other half in playing LOTRO, but nothing about TSW screamed “needs a reboot” to me. Yes, it has some issues, but those were made worse by SWL in my opinion. I can’t play SWL with its reticule-style at all, so to not have an option to do a different view, I can’t play (just like I can’t play ESO and a few others I’d like to try). I really like having a massive wheel of abilities and skills and filling them all out then finding combos that work for me — I don’t like how they did combat in SWL. So yeah, I consider it a fail.

Reader
sevrl bats

I’ve played on and off since launch and the reboot got me to play through all the content again! losing my progress didn’t bother me at all, I like the luxurious long-termness of earning another ability or QL upgrade or two whenever I go back to the game for a couple hours. ‘s not like the game demands anything like the gear heights it lets you ascend to.

yeah, it’s not really a game that supports indefinite daily play, but all of the atmosphere and writing and performances are still as pitch-perfect as they always were, and I’m sure I’ll keep going back to it now and then to roll through my favorites for so long as it stays open. plus, theoretically, new content early next year? we’ll see if they hit that target!

Reader
Jeffery Witman

I can’t decide whether Funcom is incompetent or malicious in this case. They’ve certainly given plenty of evidence for both.

Reader
Zen Dadaist

Yes. This. All of this. You’ve hit the nail on the head, from my perspective at least. As someone who was with TSW from Beta, who’d seen and done it all, it’s makeover gutted me and felt like The End.

What’s worse, though, is that I’m hearing that beyond the initial hype and boosted player count its activity is falling right away again and it’s not much more than TSW was.
If this is actually true, then they ransacked TSW for next to naught.

Reader
Kickstarter Donor
Patreon Donor
Loyal Patron
BalsBigBrother

While it saddens me to say it I can’t really disagree with your assessment though I really wish I could /sigh

Reader
syberghost

This rebuild was about one thing:

Devaluing lifetime subs. We had so much coming in from stipends there was no reason to spend any money ever again, but now we get a lot less for our money.

If they’d just changed some systems (and I think some of these system changes were excellent), they’d have had to keep giving us what we paid for.

Reader
Telcontar Dunedain

Secret World was one of the few mmo with writing strong enough to make up for the huge amount of solo questing required to level (The Division, surprisingly, is actually the only other game with good enough writing for me to enjoy the questing). I always recommended it because of that.

I’d just finished Transylvania, but hadn’t started Tokyo, in the original game when I put it down.

My progress is reset to zero, there is no new content, the new combat system feels like a downgrade as the things I appreciated, if not liked, are gone but nothing good has replaced it.

I’m … confused as to why I would relevel?

I’d like to go to Tokyo but yet… tens of hours just to even get there.

Until Funcom gives me a releveling token of some kind, I’m probably not coming back.

Reader
Kickstarter Donor
Jeffrey Meade

I’m with you on TSW. I played the old game into Transylvania. Tried really hard to get into the reboot and made it back to Egypt, but I couldn’t make myself level through all the same stuff again for no good reason.

styopa
Reader
styopa

I played TSW to endgame and really quite enjoyed it. Some of it could be frustrating, some of it could be infuriating (mostly that one has to do with the Funcom penchant for ‘click this PRECISE PIXEL or no good’ code), but I loved much about the game.
Trying SWL…I dunno, maybe it’s just that I’m burned out on it, but it feels rather …pedestrian. It doesn’t feel special any more, and is IMO a great deal easier (note: I’ve only leveled to the end of Blue Mountain in SWL).
I guess if the new game brings in a ton of new players, and this influx spurs them to make actually new content, I may be motivated to slog through Transylvania again (I like CotSG too much to call it a slog), and … well, doing Tokyo again HAS to be less annoying this time around, yes?

But yeah, as a “reboot” it was very much oversold. 80% unchanged isn’t a ‘reboot’. Frankly speaking, if they’d LEFT the mechanics the way they were and re-engined it into Lumberyard or CryEngine and made it beautiful, it would have merited the ‘reboot’ much more.
I personally thought the pinwheel of skills was FAR more interesting, working up unexpected synergies, than the current one, although they’d left themselves really little room to expand that feature – maybe another ring of abilities or a new sector (weapon) or three?

Reader
Malcolm Swoboda

1)I agree with your unambiguous ‘no’, though I think it approaches coming close to it. 2)I still like it. I’m playing SWL and enjoying it more than TSW, even as I can sympathize or agree with criticisms. Its just a game that fits me better so I won’t hesitate to say I like SWL more. The ‘depth’ of TSW often felt misplaced.

Its not a game that appeals to those who are used to and prefer the ways of the old. But it got me playing, got friends of me playing/trying more seriously than with TSW, and it seems to have a little higher population (? I see over 1k on Steamcharts at the moment when I recall it constantly mid to lower hundreds on the tail end of TSW) and probably more spending (even if more targeted to whales). Its not the reboot the game deserves for greatness, but its the relaunch that may or may not end up bring the boost the game needs.

hurbster
Reader
hurbster

I miss the old game. It was just better.

Reader
Loyal Patron
Patreon Donor
Kickstarter Donor
Paragon Lost

Exactly. Everything that they did with making it SWL took away from TSW, not improved upon it from what I see. :/ Instead of fixing what was wrong with TSW, and improving and expanding what was right about TSW they abandoned it. For a shell game cash grab.

Reader
Loyal Patron
Patreon Donor
Kickstarter Donor
johnwillo

They lost me when they didn’t transfer all of my costume and then, after I purchased poor substitute pieces (with real money), they disappeared from my inventory a week later. Screw ’em. When I want to play TSW, I play old school TSW. Funcom’s cash shop isn’t getting anything more from me.

luxundae
Reader
Loyal Patron
Patreon Donor
Kickstarter Donor
luxundae

TSW was my favorite MMO. I liked the deep combat deck creation system, I loved the environments and settings, and I absolutely adored the characters and stories, and the community was fantastic. I spent years following it prior to release, and then years playing through everything again and again and unlocking the entire ability wheel and finding all the secrets and easter eggs.

I just couldn’t bring myself to give that up for SWL. I really tried. I played through Savage Coast. But everything seemed just a little shallower. Everything was a pale echo of the dark, dangerous excitement of being there for the first time with hundreds of other players, years ago. And none of it was on the character I spent the last five years playing, building, outfitting, and living.

I think SWL has plenty to recommend it for those who weren’t so deeply invested in TSW. But I have reluctantly been forced to give it up. It was just making me forlorn. Maybe I’ll be able to push through if new content is ever released. Until then, I’m taking a break from MMOs in general until this next generation of crowd sourced ones starts to actually release finished products (fingers crossed).

Reader
Bryan Correll

But everything seemed just a little shallower.

Bingo. The ability wheel is too complicated? Fine, we’ll ditch it for a system that allows almost no flexibility in builds. Missions are too difficult for some people? Fine, we’ll put up big flashing signs to make sure they know what to do.

Reader
Kickstarter Donor
mistressbrazen

and don’t forget the glowing , sparkly footprints that lead you to where you need to go….

shallow hits it on the head, but hey, maybe that’s all the new players want. I’m with @luxundae, will wait for a new crop of games to come out next year.

Reader
life_isnt_just_dank_memes

All games have deficiencies in an area or areas. Character models and animations spring to mind when it comes to Bethesda games and combat seems to be Funcom’s Achilles’ Heel. It’s not good in Conan either.

Reader
blah blazh

Combat is miles better in Age of Conan than in TSW/SWL

Reader
Kickstarter Donor
mistressbrazen

At least the Conan people got to keep their game even if it is just maintenance mode. And other people can come and join them in their game. People can still buy a sub in AO. The TSW players were not afforded such an option.

solardragon4114
Reader
solardragon4114

So then I guess that what you were wanting is to not lose any progress. Fine then what they should’ve done is since you completed everything in TSW. Then they would mark you as 100% complete in everything. That includes the new stuff to do in SWL along with the new achievements. So the new mission lines that were added you would be marked as done. Even though you physically never took a character through some of those missions.

You might love being marked for things that you hadn’t done but I don’t. Because that is the only way to mark someone as complete in a game. That would include the achievements as well.

We were told why we had to start over again. Also it gave us something to do until they got caught up to what TSW had so they could then go beyond that which they will do in time.

Also you mention about being at a point where you are doing the same old thing with nothing new to do. You do realize that all games come to that point where you have to repeat the same stuff over and over again.

Yes grinding in games in unavoidable regardless of what game you are talking about. Removing grinds would mean that the game would have to give you everything on a silver platter from day one. Where you would have max level, tons of resurces, everything unlocked, all BiS gear fully leveled and loaded with everything it needs, etc… All because you play their game.

Reader
Kickstarter Donor
mistressbrazen

Um..no. There was absolutely no reason not to think through a system of crediting the 5 year players with some kind of level or experience in SWL. In many games today you can buy a character already leveled if you’ve been in the game. There were ways it could have been done., particularly in SWL because the game is less complex than TSW. And then there’s the point about SWL not being caught up. The “caught up” claim is false because not all of the content was put in SWL. TSW players know grind. Hell we were doing it for at least three of the five years. The complaint is not about the grind. It’s about the enforced grind for no reason.

solardragon4114
Reader
solardragon4114

If he wasn’t complaining about the grind then please inform me what the quote below means.

Plus, once you’re done with the content in the game, you run into the exact same problems that already existed. There’s still little to no reason to re-run missions unless you direly need to fill out your daily challenge. There’s nothing to do beyond running missions or dungeons. The lack of repeatable content hasn’t actually changed much at all.

When you are done with the content of the game he is not talking about going from level 1-50. He is talking about repeating missions after level 50.

Reader
Bryan Correll

So the new mission lines that were added you would be marked as done.

Please name a single mission line (other than the new and pointless tutorial) that didn’t exist in TSW. Conversely there are still quite a few TSW missions that aren’t in SWL yet including all the auxiliary weapon missions (except the whip, kinda) and the faction rank missions.

solardragon4114
Reader
solardragon4114

Are you saying there wouldn’t be a single broken mission lines if they just ported over everything you done without adding in the new pieces of some of the missions in Egypt. Because IIRC they said that they overhauled some of the missions in that area where they make more sense. If they changed their mind and decided to keep all mission lines the same then I could see your point. But AFAIK they haven’t stayed the same.

Reader
Bryan Correll

No, I’m saying that slightly altered missions are not “new mission lines.” Most of the changes were just making the main story require that other missions be completed or a certain level be achieved before you could proceed. That and dumbing it down.
For example: one step requires you to figure out Dr. Bannerman’s computer password with the hint “My favorite composer.” In TSW the room contains a framed photo which says something to the effect of “Helen and I watching fireworks and listening to The Four Seasons. That’s what you had to work with. Even if you didn’t know Vivaldi wrote those concertos it would have been easy enough to find that out online.
In SWL the room also contains a CD of The Four Season with a note* from Helen Bannerman that more or less says “Hey, I know you said Vivaldi is your favorite composer and this is the only CD I could find.” So now it’s just dumped right in your lap.

*A note on notes: In TSW there are lots of handwritten notes around the world and they are all made to look as though they were actually hand written. That helps with immersion. Notes that are new to SWL are easily identified as they are all written in simple block letters.

solardragon4114
Reader
solardragon4114

Since there would be broken mission lines then it is okay for us to start over again. Also it fits due to them not having everything that is in TSW on the day that SWL launched. The time it takes for us to get there along with all of the other things we would need to do would give them more than enough time to catch up. Then when it is all said and done we have everything that was in TSW along with all of the changes.

Who knows those tier dungeons might be harder than what others would think they are.

Like I said before the only way to port over progress when you know there are gonna be broken lines of things that you didn’t do is to give you credit for doing it all. If you have completed all missions in TSW then in SWL you will be marked as 100% complete. The same would have to be true for achievements as well.

I am the type that wouldn’t like getting marked as compeleting something that I know that I didn’t do.

I like earning everything that I get in a game.

Reader
Bryan Correll

I wasn’t arguing about whether or not losing progress was an issue. It frankly didn’t bother me all that much. I was just pointing out that there really is no content in SWL that didn’t exist in TSW. And what (minor) changes were made to missions only served to make them easier.
Frankly I consider almost all of the changes to the game to have been for the worse. Other people may like it, but I do not. I quit playing SWL about halfway through the Shadowy Forest. If they ever do start releasing genuinely new content I may come back.

Reader
Kickstarter Donor
mistressbrazen

Well written Eliot. This is the frustratingly maddening reaction this TSW fan had to SWL. Why did we loose our beloved game to this poorly done reboot? I remember all the “I would play this game if the combat were better” comments in MOP (and MOP that was). “I don’t want to have to press 1-1-1-1-1-5″ over and over.” Not that that was ever true, but look at what it got replaced with! It’s now a system where spamming is the system. Restricting players to “levels” and that weird smaller map was like being stuck in some kind of playpen where you get bombarded with loot crates and forced side missions. The nightmare dungeons may no longer be in the game but being stuck in that playpen was a nightmare for me. The reboot actually removed many aspects of player choice. I won’t bother to dwell on the fact, apparently by design, the reboot does not include the more difficult nightmare zones.

I followed the development of TSW from 2008 and played it as soon as I could get into the closed beta. I did grit my teeth and go over to SWL at first, but I couldn’t keep playing that. I see, in other threads here and there, that many TSW players did go over and play through to Tokyo. Some were lost along the way and many of the ones who played through are now asking why? Why was this done? And then of course there’s MJ who will love anything and Justin, who is hoping so badly (you can hear it in his voice on the podcast) that the new content will be worth the pain. Even when the new content comes, judging by what this new team put out, I doubt it will be of the quality we came to love and expect from TSW. I hope all the “we will play it if combat is changed” people will support Funcom the way we did, even after the company told us we could go to hell and it was willing to pay the price of losing us.

Reader
Zora

Cynicism urges me to infer that the need to shovel existing players in redoing everything again was first and foremost to ensure they would have -something- to play through while waiting for funcom to actually push out new content…or catch up to the existing content, since not everything released at once.

Once you internalize that, I agree game feels its old self which is not a bad thing if you ever liked it. Whether it succedeed in drawing new players in I have no clue…

Reader
Matt Redding

That, plus I think they wanted to discard the players who had lifetime subscriptions as (we) were not necessarily bringing in more revenue. Of course the kicker was that we were willing to spend more money they just didn’t give us anything to buy! When you’re not kicking out updates those points that you use to buy them build up. I literally could not spend them fast enough on the few cosmetics they released.

This whole thing smells like a simple cash grab done at the lowest, shadiest level. I can’t even play the old game anymore! The installer automatically changed to the new games and when I tried the instructions I found online to reinstall the old one they flat out didn’t work.

Reader
Loyal Patron
Briar Grey

Right? I loved that I had a lifetime sub, but when I played, I also recognized that I got a lifetime sub for what I consider dirt cheap. So I would buy points and then buy fluff. But they stopped putting good fluff in. Then they stopped putting anything in. I still bought points and used them for AP and SP boosts just so I could support somehow. I’d’ve been okay with a hard rethink on the “lifetime” part of the sub and have them discuss it with us to see options of how to make it work if there were so many lifetime subs that were impacting their bottom line. But they just decided to cash grab and make a worse game. Ugh.

Reader
Cosmic Cleric

@Elliot: Based on your article, do you then just consider SWL solely a rebranding to generate new sales?

wpDiscuz