Unfair Impressions: TSW, Days 3-4+

Day 3

As mentioned previously, my spirits were up quite a bit from the doldrums of the first two days in The Secret World. Knowing that it was expected that one unlock all the “inner wheel” abilities on the Ability Wheel lowered the existential pressure of permanent choices. And as soon as I confirmed with a commenter that, yes, TSW did have an in-game Search feature for abilities, the mental wheels started turning quite pleasurably. I finished a series of entirely pleasant and non-frustrating quests, got 7 more AP, and then starting picking things that maximized my synergy.

Quests like this were refreshingly novel as well.

“Quests” like this were refreshingly novel.

My present loadout is something like follows:

  • Delicate Strike – single-target blade builder (+10% Penetration chance)
  • Blade Torrent – AoE blade builder (+Affliction DoT)
  • Balanced Blade – AoE blade finisher
  • The Business – single-target pistol builder (+Weakened Healing)
  • Shootout – channel pistol finisher
  • Above the Law – Targeted AoE cooldown damage field

The other relevant passives meanwhile are:

  • Lick Your Wounds – Stacking HoT when you deal damage
  • Immortal Spirit – HoT when you Penetrate
  • Gnosis – Hitting Weakened targets = 33% chance for more damage
  • Dark Potency – Hitting Afflicted targets = Stacking +Penetration buff

You don’t really have to know anything about TSW to sort of see what’s going on there. Blade Torrent hits everything and then gives them an Affliction DoT, which triggers a +Penetration buff for me, which increases my chance to trigger a self-HoT. Meanwhile, I get a baseline HoT for just hitting things. The Business deals damage, puts up a Weakened debuff, which makes further hits deal extra damage 33% of the time.

Actually, the synergy isn’t really all that there. The two weapons themselves don’t really have much synergy with one another. There doesn’t seem to much of a point to not simply spam Blade Torrent, even when I have enough combo points to use my AoE finisher. Using the single-target pistol attack to Weaken and deal bonus damage sounds cool, but I’m mostly facing small groups of weak enemies right now. Even I were facing a single target, the Aff –> +Pen +HoT deal sounds a whole lot better, especially since the Weaken ability I have is essentially the Mortal Strike debuff.

But like I said, the wheels are turning. “Hmm… well, the Shotgun features a baseline ability to hit things in a cone, and you can make that give everyone a Weakened debuff that results in 30% less damage done. That’s certainly better than a single-target attack that gives -Healing on mobs.” Then you run across a higher-tier Shotgun passive called 12 Gouge that causes enemies you Penetrate to become Weakened (-30% damage) that starts making your mind melt in interesting ways.

  1. Oh, so if I spam Blade Torrent, everything around me gets an Affliction DoT, I get a +Penetration buff, then if I Penetrate anything from spamming the attack they get Weakened (-30% damage), which then can trigger the 33% chance for them to take extra damage.
  2. And I get two different HoTs.
  3. What does a 12 Gouge katana even mean?

No doubt there are better, more efficient combos in the game that exploit synergies I don’t even know are possible; I have been limiting my scope to mostly inner-circle abilities, which the exception of 12 Gouge. But, again, this whole exercise has significantly increased my respect for the game… at least in this area.

I mean, this part is, as the kids say, “totes fun.” However, actual combat so far amounts to me spamming one attack over and over. Which is not all that different than spamming Wrath a thousand times in WoW, of course; I’m not even out of the equivalent of Goldshire yet. Nevertheless, I remain wary as to how engaging the combat is really going to be once I “finish” the ability-planning part. And I wonder how much of the fighting game design was sacrificed at the altar of ability synergy complexity.

WoW combat is fun, to me, even when I’m killing entirely trivial mobs. It’s visceral in a way I can’t entire describe. TSW combat is not… also in a way I can’t entirely describe.

Day 4

It is funny and sad, all at once, how much difference a little gear makes in an MMO.

After the fun of planning build synergies the other day, I was facing the reality of what amounted to a number of long slogs against single enemies with 30+ seconds TTK (time to kill). Worse, I was getting little-to-no sense of when/how you would ever use the Dodge button or circle-strafing in TSW. Sure, avoid the bad stuff/targeting reticule on the ground. But beyond that? All the enemies reminded me of the unquestionably lame zombies of Orr in GW2, with their 300% movement speed and amazing clipping powers.

Know what's fun? Not fighting these mobs.

Know what’s fun? Not fighting these mobs.

I died a few times, as you can imagine, against single mobs. Specifically, I died to enemies who never seemed to target the ground with anything – they simply beat my face in, old-school. The worst part of new games is when you fail for reasons you don’t quite understand, or are unable to prevent. I knew I was probably dead within the first 5 seconds of the combat encounter, but it took another 15 before I officially gave up the ghost. I could have probably ran away, but I wanted to know specifically why I was dying, and to get a sense of what I could do to prevent/slow down the process. The auto-HoTs weren’t enough, for sure. But it seemed like only the Assault Rifle and Blood Magic “weapons” allowed for self-healing spamming. Which meant I was going to end up with seven of nine (har har) weapon skills halfway filled, likely putting me signifigantly behind the power curve that would have existed had I stuck with the same two weapons.

Then I got gear. Partly from the “subscriber rewards” I received for having purchased the game for $15 via Steam, and the rest from the AH. Mobs are just falling over now. The stronger ones still take a while, and I still derive no visceral thrill from killing them, but my HoTs essentially keep me above 80% HP at all times.

You'd be surprised how big a difference it makes. Or maybe you wouldn't.

You’d be surprised how big a difference it makes. Or maybe you wouldn’t.

Maybe there will be fun combat later on, but it’s getting increasingly difficult IMO to use that as a proper excuse. With a few weapon exceptions, GW2 was fun right out of the gate, for example. And it all seems extra silly when hypothetical games like SavageSun somehow manage to feel fun to play even when you only have two abilities.

In any case, this will likely be my last Unfair Impressions for TSW. I don’t plan to stop playing necessarily, but I think these few articles have adequately served their purpose – namely, presenting my impressions of a game that I had no particular desire to play in the first place. While the chances that I play TSW in the long-term is less than zero, my opinion of it is certainly better than what it was when I started it. If I play it more, it will be in the context to experience the narrative and quests.

Which sounds great until you realize I said the same thing about SWTOR.

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Posted on February 5, 2014, in Impressions and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. About your setup, you clearly are on the proper way, although you interpret the corruption effect wrongly. It only reduces healing (or shields) on enemies and most regular mobs don’t rely too much on that, so this effect is negligible. The 12 gouge, on the other hand, is really worth it.

    Another nice passive for your setup would be “breakdown”. Indeed, it’s in chaos on the outer wheel, but it’s the very first ability in its branch, so for 9 AP it’s still affordable. It exposes an enemy whenever you hit with a blade, hammer or chaos attack, and it stacks to the enemy taking +30% damage.

    About how combat feels for you: i can’t blame you, feelings differ for people, but i also would like to point out that keeping the enemy on the move and force them to turn can indeed reduce their damage output a lot. Forcing them to turn also forces them to delay their attack animations and thus delay the damage they do. According to a developer statement (not going to find THAT quote, it was on the forums shortly after the game was released) it’s intended that you can reduce an enemies damage output by up to 30% by forcing his animations to delay the attacks.

    Then on healing, you missed fist. On pure healing done, that one actually is the strongest healing weapon, although i prefer AR for solo play as it allows you to deal damage while healing yourself.

    At the same time i wonder, which enemies killed you so quickly? Your screenshots are all Kingsmouth still, where your beginner gear is sufficient. (I only started gathering dungeon gear and thus higher gear than what you get in a zone when i already was at the end of Egypt. ) The only exception are a few corners in each zone, where targets for higher up players are located. So if you ran into zombies near the airport or entered the lair area north of it, you found “higher level” zones within your area. Everything else makes me wonder what could be wrong.

    On the matter of the future, I personally like the game, mostly the way the missions are presented, and the challenges you are handed, but i also find combat not that bad. At a short glimpse the combat system of GW2 and TSW are very similar, although TSW has two big advantages. The smaller one is that dodge by itself is not a blank “immune for a second”, like it is in GW2, the bigger one is that i find telegraphed attacks much more consistent and thus much easier to identify in TSW. As mentioned above, movement in combatdoes matter, by good movement you can cost an enemy up to 30% of its damage output by forcing it into non-attack animations. Unfortunately the game does not yield that information easily.

    Still, tastes differ and while i hoped you’d like the game, i also understand your conclusion. I just with the developers would read your “review” here, they might be able to make some improvements based on it.

    • I’m not entirely sure of the mob name, but the first time it was due to a zombie out behind the church during the “find the glyph” quest. I’m almost certain I was at full HP at the time, but in any case I was surprised at how quickly my life was dropping. It’s possible I was being damaged from a ground effect that I didn’t see.

      The second death was on the way to the RC park, to deliver the airplane. The quest was labeled Very Hard, so I don’t really blame the game.

      It’s good to know that circle-strafing actually does something, although it doesn’t really feel like it at the time. It could be that I’m used to mobs doing their normal damage regardless of what their animations indicate.