Unfair Impressions: The Secret World

I started playing The Secret World yesterday.

I'm nothing if not predictable.

I’m nothing if not predictable.

I was going to start that sentence off with “On a whim,” but it occurs to me that there isn’t much of anything whimsical about starting an MMO. You have the 39.2 gb client download, the registration, and usually getting your billing information straightened out. TSW doesn’t have a subscription anymore, but even though I had downloaded it previously, I still had about 2 gigs worth of patches to download before I hit the character select screen.

In any case, I ran into my first issue on the character naming screen. TSW asks you to enter a first name, a last name, and then a nickname, the latter of which is supposedly your in-game name. But it mentions that people inspecting you can see the others. It occurred to me that this is perhaps the worst naming mechanic I’ve ever seen. Allowing last names not only allows for increased customization, but on a more practical level, it alleviates the problem with one’s name being taken by someone else. Not so with FunCom’s design team; I was not able to move forward with character creation because someone already took “Azuriel” as a nickname. I tried a number of variations, referenced my List of Cool Nouns, then decided that Azuriel Inanage’s nickname was “GQX.”

But... isn't the whole point... wha...?

But… isn’t the whole point… wha…?

The graphics are whatever. I turned everything up to Ultra just to see if it improved things, but decided an extra 15 fps was worth more than whatever it is that Tessellation does or what FXAA means.

I very nearly died in the tutorial area – at least, I assume it’s possible to die there – before I realized that TSW is in the post-WoW active combat genre, with active dodging and whatnot. I’m fine with this style of gameplay, although it seems more ridiculous than usual when people are doing it in a more “realistic” setting. Or maybe it is an art style issue; I had no problem with the way things were handled in GW2.

I stopped the game session in the training room where you can try out the various weapons and decide which one is for you. My understanding of TSW is that you can pretty much choose any abilities you want and can theoretically learn everything, but you would be severely disadvantaged in not specializing early on. I’d be fine with such a system, if the Ability Wheel was not the worst implementation of a skill tree that I had ever seen.

Conceptually, the Ability Wheel is fine. But has anyone ever tried to actually look through it as a new player with an eye for synergies? “Okay, this attack deals extra damage when the target is Afflicted. Alright, what causes Afflicted? Let me just browse every possible weapon in the game, including clicking on these nameless little cubes on the outside in no particular order…”

When secret society immersion goes too far...

When secret society immersion goes too far…

FunCom added “decks” to the game a while ago, which are basically preconstructed talent builds that you can follow along. This certainly would speed up the process, but I am not of the mind to commit to any one thing without knowing all the moving parts, especially if there isn’t a way to respec (or maybe there is?). How am I supposed to know what I’ll find fun a dozen hours from now, let along a hundred? Complex and deep character build options are fine, but I’m beginning to see the visceral appeal of the Diablo 3/WoW system of making one decision at a time.

In any case, my next session will begin with a combing of the internet for build explanations, or perhaps more simply a diagram of the synergies between the nine weapons. It’s cool that the fifth skill in the X tree can make the Y weapon a viable option, but it’s less cool missing out on that interaction because you can’t really see it due to the UI. I want something that will show me every instance of the word “Hinder” and the like, so I can decide that yes, pistols and claw weapons (or whatever) are a combination that is acceptable to me.

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Posted on January 29, 2014, in Impressions, MMO and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 11 Comments.

  1. You’re in luck. I have a TSW Protips page: http://ihavetouchedthesky.blogspot.com/p/tsw-protips.html It won’t go into the detail you indicate you want, but does include this link: http://www.tsw-builder.com/#00vp to a deck builder that shows the synergies you’re looking for. Honestly, this is one case where choosing a starter deck will actually help in the early game. They were developed by players, then incorporated into the game scheme.

    I agree about the nickname thing. I actually wish they’d called it “callsign” or “codename” rather than nickname. In theory, there could be another Azuriel Inanage with a different nickname running around somewhere. I’ll keep an eye out for you in game.

  2. but you would be severely disadvantaged in not specializing early on.

    Really, no.

    Take every single weapon in the training room — head back in once they kick you out if you need to — and keep them all when you leave.

    A perfectly reasonable strategy is to take most (or even all) of the abilities in the inner wheel before thinking much about the outer ones. Good builds take passives from all over the place, the outer wheel skills tend to be more specialised rather than having bigger numbers, and you *will* have to tweak your load-out to suit how the encounters evolve through the game. Not having a bunch of abilities ready to switch in when you find you need to tweak your favored approach is a bad spot to be in.

    You need to be a bit more careful about weapon skill than abilities, but I’ve managed keep up to date in terms of skill points on five different weapons all the way from Kingsmouth to Transylvania, and I’m now at the point where I need to think about what I’m going to pick as my sixth. Sure I don’t try to keep the absolute most top notch equipment for anything but by two favourite types, but drops are plentiful enough to keep my secondary weapons up to date, albeit at the ‘functional’ rather than ‘shiny’ grade.

    I want something that will show me every instance of the word “Hinder” and the like, so I can decide that yes, pistols and claw weapons (or whatever) are a combination that is acceptable to me.

    There should be a ‘Search’ tab on the right edge of the screen when you have the ability wheel up. Not sure why it isn’t showing up for you (it isn’t there in your screen shot).

    • I cropped the picture, so it’s entirely possible that I’m blind/dumb and missed it entirely; I made a similar mistake with D3′s talents.

      Better to be corrected than remain incorrect though, so thank you – I’ll look for it.

    • “Good builds take passives from all over the place, the outer wheel skills tend to be more specialised rather than having bigger numbers, and you *will* have to tweak your load-out to suit how the encounters evolve through the game. Not having a bunch of abilities ready to switch in when you find you need to tweak your favored approach is a bad spot to be in.”

      Absolutely true. One nice example was when one of my Cabals best damage dealers gave me his pistol/shotgun DPS setup, which he used to do insane ammounts of damage in NM dungeons. I was not surprised to see that his passives were taken from 5 different weapons (my solo setup actually has passives from -seven- different weapons), but i was quite surprised when a realized that six of the seven active abilities were actually from the inner wheel. Only the elite ability was from the outer wheel.

      So i fully agree, the abilities from the outer wheel very often are nice for “finetuning”, to bring very specific additional functionality or to exploit synergies, but don’t offer more power by themselves.

  3. Oh I definitely agree. I love the game but to a new player the whole skill/ability system makes very little sense! Going to go ahead and bookmark the links in the comments above.

  4. TSW is a deep game with amazing world and story. I beta tested it and played it for 3 months after release. If you approach the game from min/maxing MMO grind perspective you missing the point. It does have interesting and challenging dungeons(probably the best 5 man content I ever played actually) but they are not the point fo the game.
    its not a game you play “forever”, but its a game you enjoy for the story and deep rich world (just like Planescape Torment)