Hands-on with Secret World Legends: A second chance for a first impression

I would like to start this article by saying that there are a lot of things to like about Secret World Legends, but for me, those good things — despite their being some of my favorite things about RPGs and MMOs — make it hard to overlook what I consider the flaws of the game.

Although there were always weird bits to The Secret World’s storytelling, like the silent protagonist, I’ve long considered it to be some of the best storytelling in MMORPGs. With the launch of Secret World Legends, that has not changed. In fact, I would say that as an introduction to the game, it’s improved. The weak point to the game has always been the combat. There were some very confusing things about it, which have been fixed, and there were some aesthetic issues, which have not been fixed.

I am very torn about how to approach my impressions of the game. I want to come at it as someone who hasn’t played it before because it’s being sold as something new. But at the same time, I have played the game, and I know exactly why I never played it for more than a week at a time. I approached the game from two different perspectives: Would this impress someone who has never played it, and will returning players who didn’t stick with it over the last couple of years be interested enough in the changes to come back?

A brief overview

Secret World Legends asks this core question: What if all conspiracy theories and supernatural phenomena were real? It sets what could be deemed a fantasy RPG in the modern era with guns, swords, and magic all interacting in the same universe. By far, it is the most interesting MMORPG concept to date, and although it was dreamed up over half a decade ago, there really hasn’t been another MMORPG that has embraced that kind of world — if you are looking for an MMORPG set in the modern world at all, you are going to be hard-pressed to find one, and you certainly will not find one better.

Secret World Legends takes some of the great things about older RPGs that had limited combat and melds it with a more modern combat system and enemy AI. During character creation, you are given the choice between different sets of primary and secondary weapons. You are given examples of abilities, the premise for the weapons, the role that those combined weapons are intended to play, and the general difficulty of that class. There are nine different weapon combinations, which is more than enough variety for players to find one that they like.

As story content, the introduction to the game is all over the place. You appear to be jumping back and forth between a dream and the real world. In the real world, you swallow a bee and gain special powers. In your dreams, you are traveling through time and space, fighting everything from zombies in a graveyard to Cthulu in Tokyo. Despite the off-the-wall storytelling, you do learn a lot about the game. By the time you step into the primary zone for your faction, you should have a good grasp of how combat works and how puzzles and mysteries drive the game forward.

New players

If you’ve never played The Secret World before, then it will take awhile for this game to impress you. In fact, I would venture to say that it will be difficult to really understand how this game is different and fun until you leave Kingsmouth. That’s not to say that you won’t have an understanding of what the game is about, just that there is a lot of hand-holding up to that point. However, if you play the game as I did, it will be quite a few hours of gameplay before SWL lets go of your hand enough to make the adventure your own.

New players, if you haven’t played a video game since 2008, then you will probably not be fazed by the blocky polygons, featureless textures, and stiff animation. However, if you are like the rest of us who have played games after Fallout 3, then you will notice a distinct difference between the player character and practically every other NPC in the game. Your character has pores in his skin and tighter adhesion between his skin and the mesh. In fact, in the Dragon introduction right before the woman in red awkwardly goes down on you, you can clearly see the triangles that make up her wireframe.

I would also like to point out to new players that despite the mouse turning, which I think is a marked improvement over the standard tab targeting of an MMORPG, this is not an action RPG. I have tried to avoid the marketing of this revamp so that when I did jump in for my re-impressions I would not be tainted by the hype. Don’t be fooled. It’s just a different way to tab target. I like to call it active tab-targeting, where you have to hover you mouse over the target instead of actually to make sure the target is in your damage zone. That means that if you’re an active place like me and constantly moving around, your bullets will curve most of the time.

Returning players

Despite having watched The Secret Word superfans like The Hive Leader and our very own TSW columnist and streamer MJ Guthrie play through the game in later levels, I had personally not stepped into the game for about five years. I’ve loosely kept track of the game because it was an MMO and those are my bread and butter, and I’m always looking for innovation in the genre. The Secret World always had a way to turn my head, but it never impressed me enough to make me want to jump back in.

As I hinted about previously, the combat always seemed off to me. It was never the complexity of the combat that was the issue. I actually thought that was interesting, but I understand the complaints about certain weapons being useless and many of the abilities serving no real purpose other than being a stepping stone to better abilities. My issue was that I found combat to be poorly animated. The projectile weapons had zero impact on the target or the player, and melee weapons were cutting through warm butter. Unfortunately, I cannot say that the weapons have changed aesthetically. Chaos felt the most visceral to me. I used that weapon in the Trickster class, and I like it well enough, but the pistols as a secondary just didn’t work. I guess I could have just never used pistols, but why even have a secondary weapon if I am never going to use it?

I think the biggest thing that returning players will notice is that very little has changed. Sure, there have been quality-of-life changes, and a lot of small things have been moved around. Agartha is finally the hub that it should have been in the first place. I enjoy it when small things change in the games that I love. They help me feel that the developers understand the current playerbase, but if you haven’t played for years, these minor changes will only make you question why they weren’t there in the first place.

The takeaway

If you’ve never played The Secret World and if you can look past the aesthetic issues of the game, then you will find the game deep, interesting, and most of all, fun. The puzzles and the story of Secret World Legends are far deeper than any other MMORPG out there. As a multiplayer RPG, it will be interesting for you to explore and solve the mysteries of the secret world, though returning players will surely be unenthusiastic about losing their progress from the last five years when forced to reroll.

If combat, animation, or general aesthetics are important to you as a gamer, then you will wonder why this game is even being re-released without a much more expansive graphics overhaul. You will wonder why you ever took this trip to the uncanny valley and want to get out as soon as you can.

If you are me, then you will quickly find that there is not enough changed or added to the game to play through it again. I admire Funcom for its desire to make things better for the game, but it’s my impression that it fixed things that didn’t need fixing while avoiding some of the real problems with the game.

Massively Overpowered skips scored reviews; they’re outdated in a genre whose games evolve daily. Instead, our veteran reporters immerse themselves in MMOs to present their experiences as hands-on articles, impressions pieces, and previews of games yet to come. First impressions matter, but MMOs change, so why shouldn’t our opinions?
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xpsync
Reader
xpsync

This was unexpected, SWL is now my main and ESO to complete the combo. I officially have made it past Blue Mountain, never really dented BM in TSW in all the times i came back to it.
Landed in with a really good guild too, forgot how much this can make an mmo so much better.

I hit EQ2 Fallen Gate sever and after a 10 hour run i finally hit level ten for the reward and in this experience a couple things i noticed. There are allot of amazing peeps still playing EQ2. I did a couple Black Burrow runs, i have to say how impressed i was with the skills people still have in that game.

Everyone knew their toons very well, and damn was it so good to feel that rush of synergy in a group again. On regular servers it’s a laugh, aggro it all and kill. I couldn’t have asked for a better nostalgic return to the glory of that game.

However unfortunately it also made me realize just how done i am with that game, when it runs as it was designed to as in the FG server, it’s at it’s best, but as much as i miss those days, reliving them has made me aware that I’m not that into it anymore. I love SWL, ESO and can really appreciate modern changes so much more.

I always envied those players that can stick with an mmo for so long, through thick and thin, good and the bad, they are the real hard core players. Judging with my return to FG, well, you would have thought EQ2 was the only mmo running, it was so packed and alive, and chat was full of so many vets, DB would be crazy not to make an EQ3.

Dunno for me it was really cool to see how many truly dedicated players that game has.

Reader
Loyal Patron
Rottenrotny

Hit level 26 last night and I’m enjoying it.
I do agree that they didn’t change much as to warrant a re-release.
I find the F2P cash shop distasteful though. The argatha crates etc.

Reader
J

I’ve been trying this game again and still it just doesn’t click. I hit level 10 today and the combat is still lack luster. Jagged, sloppy, repetitive animations. Also entirely to easy. I am mowing down groups of 10+ mobs that are the same level as I am. Without any fear to my well being and I am just smashing the same button over and over again.

Maybe its the setting and story that grabs people, but once again. I am just not feeling it. I will endevour to push ahead and get to at least 20 before I give it my final judgemet.

I am done for today though. I hit up the Secret World Legends Reddit to ask about the Patron bonuses and what they do. All I got was spiteful comments and disdain. Great community.

Reader
Weilan

I can’t say the combat is anything special, originally I was concerned that the 21st century setting might make me leave the game prematurely, but I approached everything with patience and understanding and the story with the cutscenes and all really got me hooked, I chose Assassin, because I usually play a swordsman in most MMOs (aside from Vanilla WoW where I only play hunter), the though of using a sword in the 21st century is kinda cheesy, but I’d rather ignore RP and enjoy the kind of class I like.

All in all I only see myself playing one character as Dragon and seeing the story once, when I reach the level cap and finish all the story, I will stop and wait for a new story content to come back. It’s not this game, I’m just tired of MMOs, but this one is too good to miss out on.

Reader
serenityinaz12

I guess if you’ve already done all this content it wouldn’t be as enticing as someone new like myself. I disagree highly with this article stating that there is nothing to grab a new player until you leave Kingsmouth. A few investigation missions alone was enough to grab me. Liking it a lot this game.

Reader
Kickstarter Donor
Paul Hurtado

I think the bottom line here is, if you were a fan of TSW before, and could overlook it’s warts, then you’ll probably be a fan of Legends. The only question that you have to ask yourself then is if you’re willing to run through the content again… Honestly the only thing that has changed in any significant way is the combat, and I don’t necessarily know if I’d call it an improvement.

For myself, I’m in…

Reader
Kickstarter Donor
Jeffrey Meade

I was playing this evening. Overall Ive always like The Secret World, but Legends doesn’t feel different enough for me to want to play through the same content all over again. I am willing to give it a shot, but I don’t see this new launch being very successful without a decent amount of actual new content that comes sometime soon.

hurbster
Reader
hurbster

Relogged today and i now have 3 character slots, nice.

Reader
Bryan H

Are there details on what exactly is transferred when using legacy transfer?

How are item store points handled?
Have quite a few accrued from sub this year.

Reader
Patreon Donor
Josh Whipkey

One HUGE issue is – as a returning player, who played the original game to “completion” – I KNOW parts of the game that I HATED but ultimately got past to spend more time playing parts that I enjoyed.

A lot of what I hated was the stuff required by the main story quest. I am not looking forward to doing ANY stealth quests for example – they are awful.

The attraction of this game was it’s backdrops and story. Best lore of any game…ever.

The parts that sucked before:

1. Combat
2. “Sabotage” Missions
3. Dungeons
4. Skill Grind

Guess what – THEY STILL SUCK!

Not sure what the point of this “upgrade” was.

Reader
Malcolm Swoboda

Huh, I kinda like Sabotage (I think they made main story Sabotage easier, even past Kingsmouth? Maybe), and I love the dungeons. Skill grind is whatever.

Reader
AvelWorldCreator

I love the stealth quests. :p
Only skill grind is a pain, but that’s common to a lot of games. The combat did need some work though. It was inconsistent in some places I think, but that might be just how I’ve built my current character.

Reader
Caec the Warrior

I’m confused as to the point of this reboot. Is there any actual new content? If not…then why not just keep the current game, make it F2P, and patch in the combat changes?

If you’re someone who finished the story ages ago…all this reboot does is make you play through it all again?

#confused

Reader
Kickstarter Donor
Ailsa Nordstrom

There were dramatic changes to active/passive skills, talisman & weapon upgrades, and currencies in addition to the combat changes. I’m sure they investigated the feasibility of making the changes to TSW before making the decision to do this relaunch. When I first heard what they were planning I wasn’t happy. But now that I’ve given SWL a chance I am enjoying it!

Apridise
Reader
Apridise

I think these are things that could have been done to the main game, by launching a second that is close enough to be a clone you end up splitting the community and usually one of the games ends up dying anyways.

Reader
Coolit

Something that has crossed my mind is that by making a new game they are able to get around the legalities and make everyone pay $ as they no longer have GM’s sitting there getting game currency every month.