Yep I have done it. I left the blog and got down to business with a 15 hour run over the weekend through The Secret World. I managed to run through most of Solomon Island’s Kingsmouth and part of the Savage Coast. I also experienced some with the Polaris Dungeon.
Overall – I learned a ton about the game. I had a lot of pretty misleading ideas about TSW and over the weekend I tried to address my concerns while having fun. Bottom line, before I even start with my review, is that it has a few traditional issues (e.g. with the questing system), but it also has some intriguing charm that made me stick to it for that many hours. And then when I realized its releasing over this upcoming weekend I pre-ordered it today. I may not keep my subscription, but the weekend was enough to convince me that its worth my initial month. I HEREBY RECOMMEND TO YOU ALL TO BUY TSW. If you are interested in my revised review please continue after the cut.
Lets start where TSW is both walking the traditional path as well as innovating. Questing is definitely not your typical MMO experience. Quests are divided into several categories and you can only hold 1 to 3 of each type (e.g. 1 story, 1 run, 1 dungeon, 3 side). You can switch quests but the fact that your quest log is not overflowing is a good thing. Quests are given by NPC that are marked on the map, as well as items in the game that are highlighted within the environment. So its a blend of knowing where to go to get them, as well as exploring in order to get bit more. Quests were on one hand annoying for me and on the other fun. The annoying part involved a click fest of yellow areas or even dots in the environment. If it is used by your quests, these yellow areas will just appear. In my opinion these involved too small areas to click on besides the point of disliking clicking on the environment in general. The fun part though was their innovative approach to traditional quests. Besides the initial quests that kind of turned me off to get X things from Y locations, I could also find quests that allowed me to interact with the environment in a fun way. E.g. jumping on cars to start their alarm or find a way to climb on houses to get to their security cameras. I also got to a quest that threw me into a private puzzle where I had to neutralize a booby-trapped warehouse. Some quest types were not for me though, like investigation and stealth. I just bypassed them and that was a good sign too. Its not like one can pass on questing as it is your bread and butter mechanism for advancement. But all considering I found most interesting and different enough to keep me going for the whole weekend. Questing eventually simply got a passing grade with me.
The next facet of the game which got me going was the ability wheel. The game is marketed as having no levels with an open ended skill system. But that is only half true. Besides abilities which are acquired through AP (action points), you also have SP (skill points), and these in many ways dictates what could be considered traditionally as your level. Its not straight forward, but close. You put SP into various weapon and item types mastery. That directly affects the QL (quality level) of the weapons and items you can equip. Which affects also your stats. Getting to a decent ability deck is kind of easy, but raising your quality level is probably the bigger challenge. SP are also given to you less frequently than AP.
One of the big misconceptions I had with the previous BWE was that I missed noticing that the ability wheel actually had two tiers of abilities. Each of the 9 weapons has two sets on the first tier. Usually one offensive and one support. Sets are organized as lists, with one ability leading to the next, with higher cost to move down the list. Every set includes passive and active abilities. And once you have learned an ability you can drop it in your combat deck, mixing as many weapon set and abilities as you like. Once you buy all of the first tier abilities of a certain weapon (from both sets), you are allowed to start exploring the second tier. Which is constructed of 5 upgraded and more specialized sets. These sets look very expensive AP wise. I can’t say that weapons are different in every way, as you can find both single target as well as AE abilities in each. But they are different enough with different side effects, range and mechanism to make it interesting. At least for now. Your challenge is to find the right synergy between abilities and sets. And this is why I still think that the game can be much more friendly to new comers with an automated system that would educate people at least of the benefits of their current deck.
Something that I think I will have to get used to or probably further learn how to resolve, is “considering” monsters. Throughout the weekend I couldn’t really predict accurately how I am going to succeed in PvE against some of the zombies. I have a feeling its just that I am missing some important point there – as I have with so many other systems in TSW.
Combat is also nice. Nothing ground breaking but its not too dull or oversimplified on one hand (despite the only 10 available actions) and not too action oriented on the other. I liked the GW2 like ground symbols that you have to consider. Moving on … the environment is interesting and different. Its not my cup-of-tea, but at times Solomon island reminded me bit of Fallout. I expect to see different settings as I progress and thus for now again, it kept me happy. Content is also enough, and once you get that the marked NPCs are your anchors you are pretty set. I guess that I will leave some for my next posts. But overall again I think that I have judged TSW too quickly after the previous BWE. I think that its going to be fun playing it for now. And I will decide on whether to keep my sub based on my first month experience. Stay tuned