Choose My Adventure: Secret World Legends in review
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.
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.
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.
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 email@example.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.