What is wrong with The Secret World’s combat?

combatThe 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.

The Secret World Screenshot Tuesday

Our normal Monday night Secret World group was mostly MIA due to various issues, so as a replacement for a tale of our thrilling exploits, I’ll do a screenshot dump with commentary.

t1We need more missions involving this possessed wagon.  I really want to see what’s inside of it.

t2“Ritual preparation available on request” sign outside of a butcher shop in London.

t3Dude, Bigfoot is ripped.

t4I appreciate the sound effects that you hear when you get close to this arcade cabinet, but Funcom really needs to program in the ability to play this game.  How cool would that be?

t5I don’t know what amuses me more: That Sam Krieg has a musical in NYC, or that the Illuminati have taken out a billboard in Times Square advertising how little the population knows about the group.

t6Even the denizens of Hell like to have a good time!  Someone rigged the Overlook sign to read out “hell” and someone else doodled a cute little cartoon deviil on the side of the building here.

t7This is like every bad dream I ever had.

t8Don’t make him tell you twice!

The Secret World: Machine Bully

machineHell sure takes a pounding in The Secret World.  I think it’s a little weary of losing its status as a frightening vacation locale and being treated as a playground to a neverending swarm of tourists from Earth who keep shooting and slashing the heck out of the residents.

I joined up with Massively’s MJ and a few of her friends to run Hell Raised on nightmare mode last night, because why not?  Mama needs the loot and nightmare mode experience.

It was actually a pretty good run, all things considered.  We had a very experienced tank and healer at our disposal, and that covered for our noobishness and weaker gear.  None of the bosses presented too much of a challenge — I think we had maybe four wipes total among all of them — at least until the end.  On the second boss I got a really awesome new purple head DPS talisman which erases the mistake I made a long time ago of selecting a purple health head talisman from the Last Train to Cairo final reward.  Between that and my new shotgun, my purples have started to outnumber my blues and I’m seeing an increase in my effectiveness.

I ran a strike build last night that I kept tweaking.  I love shotgun dearly, although I truly wish it had a slightly longer range.

Anyway, the run was terrific right up until we hit Machine Tyrant, that awful (yet incredible-looking) final boss that features reflective bubbles and shooter hell in the form of constant bombings and roving crosshair attacks.  He’s nasty even on elite mode, and in nightmare, he’s… well, you get the idea.

We struggled a lot with him, because one wrong step and you’re dead — and if one person goes, there goes the fight.  He enrages after a few minutes if you can’t get him down fast enough, so four people really can’t take him.  Other than doing DPS my job was to purge a nasty condition that he put on us.

It’s a fight that requires just a whole heck of a lot of fancy footwork, situational awareness, and sheer luck.  It made me think of the other night in Guild Wars 2 when I was running a dungeon and someone was saying how challenging that was.  I choked back a laugh and said, “Mister, if you haven’t done TSW, you don’t know what challenging is.  This is cakewalk in comparison.”

The one PUG guy in our group wasn’t as patient as the rest of us, although he might have been more experienced, and he started getting frustrated at what he saw as lower-than-acceptable DPS.  I don’t think he was being mean about it, but he was asking us all a lot about our hit rating, which I guess was not up to par.  I’ll admit that I did notice that I was glancing too much and that I have a few holes in my gear that could use a glyph or signet.  But hey, it was a learning run, and even though we didn’t make it through, we had a good time, got some gear, and took some lessons away for the future.

My next step is to do a shopping trip in London.  I have some black bullion that I might be able to convert into another purple piece, and I should definitely make sure that all of my gear is signeted/glyphed up.

P.S. — I’m going to be doing some reading-up on nightmare runs and builds as well.  This thread seems particularly helpful for us DPS types.


Just a quick mention to say that I finally — finally — got a purple shotgun in The Secret World last night thanks to my cabal running a few more scenarios during the bonus weekend.  It might not be the best purple out there, but it’s mine and I love shotgun skills so much that it was hurting me to use a QL10 blue for so long.  So go me!

Weekend Gaming Update

SwordAxe!  Why am I not allowed to use this weapon?

SwordAxe! Why am I not allowed to use this weapon?

I actually had a busy and productive weekend, gaming and otherwise.  Here’s what I was playing:

Lord of the Rings Online

Our kin was abuzz about the revelation that there will be a new class this year, and while there are popular theories, there was no consensus (in our kin or in the larger community) as to what it will be.  Ranger and Beorning seems to be two of the more common guesses.

I did a bit more of my Lore-master’s epic story while thinking about what it might be like to level up a new character all over again.  True, Turbine’s revamping several zones and that will definitely make it easier, but… whew.  It’s a daunting prospect, and one that I’m only willing to undertake if the new class is sufficiently compelling.  I can only imagine what the lowbie levels will look like as everyone rolls the same class.

The Walking Dead Season Two

I’m on week three of a deliberate push to kick my weight loss back in gear with a three-pronged assault: No going to fast food (even for “healthy” options), no artificial sweeteners (sigh… goodbye coffee), and a daily round of exercise biking.  The latter is something I’m looking forward to each day, if only that it’s the one time that I allow myself to play a bit more of chapter two in the Walking Dead Season Two.  There’s something about being interactive with the game that makes me forget that I’m exercising in a way that watching a TV show or reading a book doesn’t.  My concern is when I get to the end of the game — I’m going to need to get a few more on deck.

Guild Wars 2

While every other MMO seemed to be having some sort of bonus weekend, GW2 was trucking along.  I guess their “every two weeks” thing isn’t applying to the season one finale here, because we’re heading into week three.  Apparently there’s going to be a “small epilogue” tomorrow, but I’m still waiting for that feature release that’s supposed to come after.

Anyway, I did a lot of smaller activities: I ran the Lion’s Arch fight a few times (and once through successfully), I did my dailies, and I fiddled a bit around with my lowbie Mesmer because a few guildmates goaded me/encouraged me to stick with it with the promise that the class blossoms a lot later than the others.  I believe “learn to play” was tossed around.

The Secret World

I joined up with my friend MJ to do a couple of scenarios on Saturday evening to get those bonus oreos.  I wish I had been running them more, because man, we were rolling in rewards.  I’m within striking distance of getting a purple shotgun and I netted several more augments as well.

We ran elite duos with three people and did fairly well.  I think we ended up with 5/12 in Mansion and 14/15 in Hotel.  It helped that we had friendly snipers in Hotel and no super-annoying hinderances.

All in all, good times!

The Secret World’s quest design lauded

Passing along this Extra Credits video that discusses quest design in general and TSW’s quests specifically.  This is one of the reasons why we love this game so much:

“[The Secret World] does more to deliver powerful narrative moments and immersive experiences than MMOs with far bigger budgets and far better graphics.”

The Secret World: No one steps on a Times Square in my town!

For those of us who missed touring around the NYC raid in The Secret World last week, our cabal had a reprise last night to check out Mega-C’thulu and all of the pretty scenery.

The raid starts in the NYC subway, where traumatized survivors are huddling after a massive monster attack. It was all fun and screenshots until we started listening to the incredibly disturbing song of a man rocking his baby. When you hear his macabre lullaby, it’s apparent the child is dead.
MMOGC was like, “Really? Do we need to start our night with dead babies? What is wrong with you, Funcom!”
There’s a bit of trash leading up to the big boss. The scenery and atmosphere is incredibly well-done — it makes me wish that there was a NYC adventure zone, to be honest.

When we got up through the parking garage, I asked the team to stop and pose in front of these headlights for a fun group shot. Love them shadows!
I’m back there in my bulky desert camo military gear that I’ve been buying with all of my Flappy fight proceeds. Speaking of which, we wrapped up the night with a Flappy raid and I actually got an outfit drop for the first time — a black turtleneck!
I’m going to take this TV news report as a snarky reference to the very-delayed Tokyo issue. Man, it had BETTER come out in March!tsw4
We took a couple of stabs at fighting Mr. Tentacles here, but with only 8 people we were there primarily for the screenshots. Y’know, as tourists. We did try to trigger the fight and hide to run out the clock and see the Air Force bomb us, but his eye lasers found us no matter where we went.

I really liked the Sam Kreig musical signs that were around Times Square, as well as the many references to Orochi and its subsidiaries.

The Secret World: Flappy Birds

q1Last night was a hodge-podge of activities in The Secret World, starting with a mop-up of the rest of my Savage Coast side missions.  Nothing like going up to a gang of zombies that gave you trouble a year ago and cut through them with a lot of shotgun mayhem.

When the guild logged in, we decided to run a quick Mansion scenario while we waited for the new event boss timer to run out.  Nothing like doing serious property damage while sprinting filth mutants run through the hallways.  Some days I think the bees just wanted to see what would happen if superpowers and deadly weapons were given to a bunch of random Joes and Janes with no GEDs.  Maybe we’re just all hallucinating off of bee juice and the reality is that we’re running rampant across perfectly nice towns where the locals are trying desperately to convince us that they’re not sea monsters and mummies.

q2The new Flappy raid is on a three-hour timer, so we counted down the final minutes before the portal with a couple of hundred of our closest friends.  It was kind of funny, the timer went from 0:01 to 3:00 at the end without people able to get in, and folks just FREAKED OUT thinking that the wait got reset.  Of course, we all got in a minute later, but it was fun to see general chat explode with the kind of pathos not seen outside of ravaged European war zones.

q3I generally applaud how Funcom handled this group boss fight.  It’s instanced, for one, with a cap of 40 (or so I heard).  That way there’s no crippling lag and everyone can play, since multiple instances can be spawned.  Flappy does a lot of dive-bombing attacks and other quick “get out of the fire” effects, but he’s mostly straight-forward.  It can get pretty chaotic at times, especially when he’s summoning adds, but my initial group got him down within ten minutes.

Since our raid got split up when we jumped in, I hopped over to help them out since they were having a rougher go of it.  That Flappy was made with durable wood, not IKEA parts, so he fought to the bitter end.  While I only got a reward bag from the first kill (I think there’s an hour countdown for that), both bosses gave me plenty of slivers and fragments, which are probably just “seashells” and “Smarties” in the non-bee reality.

I’ll definitely want to be doing a few more of these raids.  Someone on our chat asked how long this event would go on for, and I said, “Until we’re sick of it and then three days past that.”  Once Flappy goes away for good, that’s the signal for Tokyo — and we better not be kept waiting on that one.

Achievements made me see again

straightjacketI don’t know what the exact number of times is, but in my mind, once you’ve passed by something a few times you simply stop noticing it.  Your brain filters it out, especially when we’re engaging in a daily routine.  I drive by places all the time that I couldn’t tell you what they are because I never look.

The exception to this is when there’s a reason to truly look, to examine again.  Rearrange a room and you’ll really notice it in a way that you haven’t in years.  Be a passenger in a car instead of the driver and you could find yourself spotting shops that were practically invisible to you yesterday.  Or have someone point out something specifically to you and draw your attention to it.

While I’m not currently geocaching, that was one of the biggest attractions to that hobby.  It’s not really about acquiring treasure — the caches are a placeholder goal, really.  What it’s really about is the thrill of the journey and for strangers to call your attention to places that they found interesting for one reason or another.  I can attest that going on geocache trips radically changed my perception of my town — a hidden world of details and secrets that I had just never noticed.

I know not everyone likes achievements.  I don’t think it’s a real issue of contention because, for the most part, achievements are completely optional and tend to be tied to rewards that are fluff, if they have rewards at all.  But as I’ve been going back through The Secret World’s side missions and unfinished achievements, I’ve realized that achievements are often the developers way of pointing out details and vistas in the world that they’re particularly proud of.  I can only imagine how disheartened some of them must be to see players outright sprinting past all of these cool places, having tunnel vision for the next stage of a quest without seeing what’s all around them.  Achievements can be that geocache to say, “Hey, this is a really cool spot!  Check this out!”

And for me, I love it.  Sure, I could explore on my own (and often do) and come up with my own challenges, but I’m not always a self-starter.  I don’t think a lot of us are.  We often function better when guided in some fashion, from exercise plans to various projects.  And I don’t think there’s any shame in finding more motivation from this guidance when it comes to sight-seeing and deed-accomplishing in MMOs.  Achievements can turn a previously mundane stretch of zone into a new adventure, a new challenge for me to tackle.  After completing tricky or memorable ones, I often find myself seeing that place in a new light when I go by them later.

The Secret World, by the way, is a detail-lover’s paradise.  I’m still finding all sorts of little hand-crafted objects and details through my adventures that I certainly skipped over the first, second, or third time through.  Heck, I never knew that attacking ravens on top of the gas station in Savage Coast summoned a rare revanant, or that there was a dead body booby-trapped with mines on a small island in the same zone.

And do you like my new straightjacket outfit?  Saw that in the store and had to have it!