The Secret World’s combat system is often cited as one of the more significant roadblocks for people getting to like the game. I’ve seen enough comments on Massively and elsewhere to know that either a small group of people really, really hate the combat and mention it any chance they get, or a lot of people feel that there’s something not quite on here.
I wouldn’t argue with the latter crowd. I don’t hate TSW’s combat, but it’s not great either. There’s something… off with it that makes it a less satisfactory experience than it should be.
It could be the combination of several factors melding together:
- A lack of auto-attack (and resulting finger fatigue of always having to mash buttons)
- The length of combat, as even a standard mob takes longer to kill in TSW than a contemporary MMO would
- You just don’t feel like you’re really hurting the enemy, even with reaction animations — maybe this goes back to the time-to-kill length
- Overused and sometimes awkward animations
- The pattern of combat, which involves spamming a builder and then eventually firing off your two closers without much variation
- Range combat seems to have an inherent advantage
Little things but significant and ones that add up. Combat is one of the game’s core systems (happily not the only one, however) and as such it should be fun. Instead, it’s often a chore.
It’s not all a wash, of course. Some of the attacks are viscerally enjoyable to use, you can cast on the run, the footwork you have to do for fights certainly keeps you on your toes, and the flexible skill system lets you create the type of attacker that you want.
Seeing as how Funcom’s not going to want to redo the combat system from scratch, I have to be realistic in what recommendations I’d make to improve it. Off the top of my head:
- Significantly shorten combat time but perhaps make mobs more challenging in other ways
- Allow us to put our builder as an auto-attack (have to make a change to how the global cooldown works to allow us to interrupt those to fire off other skills)
- Add more varieties of animations
I also really like what Guild Wars 2 did a while back, which was to add little symbols by flying damage text to show that this damage came from burning or confusion or whatever. That would be really excellent to see in TSW.
I’ll admit that while I’m excited about Tokyo, I’m a little nervous about the devs adding another layer of complexity on top of the combat system (the AEGIS shields) without taking time to address some of the complaints people have had about the basic system. We’ll see.