There’s a metaphor for how Funcom treats its players in this picture here. I can’t quite articulate it, but it’s there.
All right. Here goes. The Big Reset. Starting over from scratch. Secret World 2.0, AKA Secret World Legends. It was probably best I missed the messy head start weekend, but even so I feel a little behind.
Before I dive into all of this, let me just share that I remain intensely conflicted over all of this. I deeply love The Secret World as a game, but Funcom can eat doggy doo for making all of us start over and forcing these changes on us. There is no good reason why a better combat system, a new business model, and some of these other changes couldn’t have been worked into the existing game. It’s a weird case of there not being ENOUGH change to warrant a “nuclear” hard reset of an entire playerbase’s progress. Some change, sure, but at the core SWL is still TSW. It hasn’t magically transformed into some exciting new beast, and I really can’t help but think that all of this is a cheap ploy at new reviews, at grabbing a different audience, and at Funcom’s lack of ability to think of a more elegant solution.
Anyway. Rant over, let’s look at the game itself.
To start things on a good note, the legacy transfer went off for me without a hitch, and my newly created Yeti (Yeti 2.0, even more Leet than before) had most of her cosmetics, pets, mounts, and her grandmaster status brought over.
I did my best to make her look as close as possible to my old character, choosing as 80s as a look as possible. The roller skates please me to no end. I wasn’t entirely pleased that you couldn’t just mix-and-match your weapons at character creation; you had to choose a fixed pair. I went with shotgun/hammer, although I’m angling at doing shotgun/chaos as soon as I can find myself a chaos weapon to equip.
The NEW and IMPROVED tutorial ended up being LONG and ANNOYING and VERY LONG and IS THIS THING STILL GOING? It’s a weird mish-mash of the old intro cutscene, the old tutorial, a new four-stage tutorial quest, and the faction transition bits. It took far too long from character creation to getting into Kingsmouth, which I feel is far more of a detractor.
Oh! New Agartha, let’s talk about that. This is one of the big changes I’m actually really pleased about. Agartha got its own social/vendor hub that’s large and impressive, and — even better — now has jump pads that take you right to zone hub portals. No more weird whizzing about forever on paths trying to get to the third area of Transylvania.
I probably spent a good half-hour at the start trying to sort out the new user interface and control scheme. I won’t lie, it’s a shock to go from The Secret World’s setup (which wasn’t bad at all) to this. I got the most annoyed at not being able to zoom in with my mouse wheel to see finer details and take first-person shots (you now have to hit V to go to the vanity camera and then do that sort of thing). It’s a little like Neverwinter, and bit by bit, I was able to ease into it. I do think there needs to be more gameplay options in the settings.
Probably the most off-putting thing of the first night was some weird bug or glitch or something that made every NPC talk as if they were horribly dubbed and their jaws were (as Aywren put it on Twitter) a Nutcracker’s mouth. The lady who came to do the Templar invitation talked so badly and was animated so poorly that it was like a deleted scene from The Room (anyone see that movie?). This did get better following a hotfix on Wednesday… but I still stand by my character’s dubious expression up here.
I really want to know how this zombie got all of the way up to the top of this gas station sign. The birdies flew him up? Got thrown? Parachute? There’s a story here, darn it!
OK, so I’m just going through combat clicking like crazy and kind of enjoying feeling like my shotgun is actually doing damage (I do like the shell-changing mechanic). Everything having levels is weird. The combat animations don’t seem that radically different, however. Again, why was this so radical that it required a reset?
The quest flow is an interesting change. The whole zone isn’t open for business when you first get there; quests open up slowly as you venture through and unlock them, so you can’t just go willy-nilly everywhere. Probably better for a coherent story flow. I do like that the map turns icons from color to grey when you do a quest, so it’s easier to figure out what you have left to do if you’re a completionist.
Another positive map change is that rares are labeled when you’re in the vicinity of one, and since they have loot bags — and you really do need those now that loot isn’t dropping that often — they’re definitely worth taking down.
One rare I fought was Susie of Susie’s Diner. Can’t recall ever seeing or fighting her before, but she was something else. Multiple rows of teeth, one bloodshot eye, claws, and way too powerful for me. While the mobs of zombies have been pushovers so far, Susie at level 8 took my level 4 character to school. I gave it a couple tries but couldn’t take her down right then. Maybe later.
Always makes me wonder about Andy when he casually throws in “human sacrifice” as one of the darker sides of town life. Guilt eating you up there, man?
Over the course of two nights, I made good progress into Kingsmouth and leveled up to 10. And I also started to feel my impressions change from irritation — at the UI, the combat, the changes — start to shift to enjoyment. Not ecstatic delight, but I started to see some definite positives to this revamp.
For starters, combat is no longer a soul-sucking slug-fest. Encounters are, for the most part, fast and fun, and instead of avoiding mobs during travel, I found myself getting into fights just for the XP and fun of it all. And I started to hunt down rares, take on the new random missions (just local tasks that pop up to kill X whatevers or do X things), and even ran Polaris (which was a success). Once I started to get a feel for this new format, it started to click. I think I could live with this, yes indeed. I just need to get a good build going.
Speaking of which, instead of chaos as a secondary, I went with assault rifle. Guess I just like my range, plus I couldn’t find a chaos weapon for the life of me no matter how many loot bags I opened. Mapping a single-target DPS ability to the left mouse button and an AOE to the right gave me quick options on the fly, with the other four skills on the bar dedicated to more specialized situations. I’m also kind of excited about gadgets, which are new to Legends. I have a healing one and a stun one, both of which are useful in a pinch.
We will see how it goes. I’m not 100% happy or satisfied, but I’m not running away screaming and declaring the end of Secret World. Slight changes to the world itself keep throwing me (where’s that ice cream truck?!?) and the combat/UI takes some getting used to, but if TSW taught me anything, it’s that it is important to adapt to new challenges.