The Secret World: Modern Fantasy
I’ve gone back to visit some old MMOs, the ones I really loved but needed a break from for whatever reason. The three titles I’m referring to are: The Elder Scrolls Online, Star Wars: The Old Republic and The Secret World. Each of these I played a LOT (with SWTOR being the one I played the most). I thought I’d talk about each a little bit, starting with The Secret World.
The selling point of TSW is the setting. You’re in a modern world full of horror movie references, myths and conspiracies. Belonging to one of three factions, you forward their agenda while trying to save the world from a new threat. Technically speaking, we’re talking end of days stuff. Your character becomes mute when one of the life tree bees flies down your throat and awakens your powers.
I started playing TSW day one and really loved it. The combination of weapons and skills, the outfits and the setting were top notch. Characters looked bad, I’ll be honest (mostly in the face) but the scenery was lovely. They gathered together some fantastic voice actors (Steve Bloom, Jeffery Combs, Tim Vance and so on) and there were so many references, it rewarded you for your pop culture knowledge.
The problem with the game comes from the difficulty. This is not a casual game by any stretch of the imagination. There’s no leveling, no significant guidance. If you play long enough, you’ll have every ability available in the game. They allow you to build a character by creating ‘decks’ of active and passive powers but your theory crafting doesn’t stop there.
Statistics in the game play a vital role in your success. Attack rating, Hit Rating, Penetration, Hit Points, Critical Rating, etc. These are derived from your equipment and you basically decide your role by what you pick (Tank, DPS or Healing). Higher level gear provides a more defined role (less hybrid stuff) but it is also more customizable (more slots for upgrades).
The trick here is that it’s pretty complicated. Passive abilities really matter and can dramatically impact your build. You need to worry about the equipment stats, passives and what actives you take to be truly effective. You only get 8 of each but can change pretty much anytime (and they make it easy to do so). This is a great system for a person who wants to min/max but if you’re a person who just wants to slot some stuff and have fun, your forward progress will be limited.
The built in ‘options’ per faction help you out a little by offering a launch point but the more you play, the more you realize you need to go beyond their cookie cutter offerings. Early build sites were confusing but at this point, they’re pretty well hammered out. I had to give the game a break several times because I got stuck. When I rallied and went back, I figured stuff out but it generally required a lot of grinding.
Here’s my progression for TSW:
Attempt 1: Started the game, made my character and decided to go with Pistols & Swords. I went through the first zone of New England without too much difficulty and the second zone provided a reasonable challenge. I got stuck on the primary mission a few times but ultimately pushed through. When I reached the third zone, I hit a road block and needed to go back and do some grinding. Eventually, I did push through and beat the mission in New England and was able to go back and do the missions enough to build up some available powers. Egypt caused my first break. I was simply unprepared for how much harder it was. This took about 6 weeks.
Attempt 2: I went back to the game with the mindset of abilities and skills being the key to success. I hit New England hard and really powered through a LOT of ability points. I got my first cookie cutter deck (paladin) and it was okay but not the serious success I hoped. I experimented with other trees, including blood but ultimately stuck to my sword & pistol combo. After tons of play, I pushed through the first two zones of Egypt with the caveat I needed to be cautious about the missions I took. Another break happened not too long after I started.
Attempt 3: They drew me back with one of their expansions and I started to really get fluid with my power options. If I knew I’d be fighting a group, I had a build. If I was doing Single Target Bosses, I’d switch to another build. This worked well and it allowed me to finish Egypt. At this point, I somehow pushed myself into a tank role. I had 12k HP! That’s a ton considering dudes who kicked way more ass than me were running with 2500. I didn’t know then what I know now but I was shooting myself in the foot. Battles in Transylvania could be won but they took FOREVER! I still have no idea how I finished that story mission but then, I took another break.
Attempt 4: They released Venice so I had to go back. Big mistake because it was kind of a cheap ass time sink. They added these scenarios which would allow you to get the seal of approval from the Council of Venice. People MIGHT be able to solo them if they build their character right but I couldn’t. I didn’t try this for very long.
Attempt 5: I wanted the whip, I got the whip, I took another break.
Attempt 6: Tokyo was released. A brand new huge zone so they claimed and I was 100% in. They promised to really forward the story BUT there were some caveats, some scary ones in fact. Aegis. They added shields to monsters and they were color coded. In order to damage them, you have to have the appropriate Aegis gem slotted. Red for Demonic, Purple for Psychic, etc. The opening of the scene takes place right after the prologue where you meet this poor woman you took over for your tutorial. She’s screwed up but she teaches you the game and gets you into Tokyo.
Now, in order to GET to Tokyo, I had to get the signet from the Venice thing. Luckily, they added a ‘forged’ seal which you could buy. Unfortunately, it was 2 million pax. I had like 100k. So…grind. I went out and actually got the money in 2.5 days. I was shocked but at least it was done. Paid the amount and got to move on. This required me to go through a crazy scenario under Venice and fight a boss. He took nearly 15 minutes to kill because I couldn’t do damage for shit.
When I finally beat this tool, I got to go to Tokyo. Quickly, I realized I was probably in over my head but didn’t know for sure until I got to the city proper. When I took on the missions, I got owned. Big time. I could barely damage the monsters and even though it took them a while to kill me, they eventually did. I needed to rework my build dramatically or I’d never be able to survive. That’s when I found a good site for builds and learned some distressing news.
The build I wanted sounded good. DPS works for me. The guy said ‘I run with around 2600 Attack rating’. I thought ‘Mine must be like 500 or 1000. That’s why I’m getting owned’. I looked. No, mine was ZERO!!!!! Wow and ouch! So I was a full on tank incapable of dishing out damage. At the time, I didn’t know about using Black Bullions (which is a shame because back then, they would’ve gotten me a lot more than I ended up getting). My only recourse seemed to be grinding money to buy the right signets…so I gave the game a little break.
Attempt 7: This was my most recent attempt. I was lured back because they completed the story they said. I rallied and found out I could use my Black Bullions for good PvE gear. I also learned plenty about how to slot stuff and what powers to use. My Elemental Pistol build seemed the way to go. I started out on the path and quickly built up my Attack rating. I hit some awesome new missions I’d never seen in the older zones and eventually got myself up to 1200 Attack rating. Suddenly, I could handle pretty intense battles in Transylvania so I decided to try my luck in Tokyo again.
This was a mistake. I STILL couldn’t quite do enough damage to push through the main story but I did manage to kill mobs now. So I can do the basic missions but the overall story was tough. I couldn’t dish enough damage quickly enough to really hammer these guys down. Despite all the work I put in (about 4 days of grinding different currencies to get new gear), I still needed to do more. I’ve since decided to give it another break and rally myself for more grinding.
Conclusion: Considering how many times I’ve gone back to TSW, I clearly love the game. It’s a lot of fun and I’m addicted to gathering all the abilities. I also really like the story (though the New England story was the most memorable). I want to see the end through Tokyo but I’m not sure I can stomach the work it’ll take to get there. I have barely scratched the surface of everything the title offers too. PvP, Dungeons, Raids…there’s plenty to do and if you’re a hardcore gamer, this one is definitely for you.
If you’re more casual, you should probably look elsewhere. I’d say I definitely have gotten my money’s worth though and I encourage theory crafters to hit this game pretty hard. You’ll love it.
Stay Tuned for Part 2: Star Wars: The Old Republic!
Author of several books, composer of several CDs. Please check out the rest of the site for some of my work.