Thursday, January 10, 2013

Early Impressions of TSW Post-Buy-To-Play

With its business model out of the way, I've given the Secret World another look.  The game still has some rough edges - in particular a relatively steep learning curve.  Given a bit more time (and a lot more out-of-game research), I'm starting to see the game's strengths - a story experience and the skill-collection minigame that serves as the class system.  I'm also wondering that these strengths may not be well suited for longevity. 

Learning Curve
My initial impressions of TSW pre-launch were not overly positive.  Part of the issue is documentation.  The game offers embedded YouTube video tutorials, but these often feel more promotional than instructional.  Some of the challenges are due to ways in which TSW does things differently from other MMO's.  A few examples:
Nicholas "Brevane" Brevane - named for a continent in the Rift expansion I have yet to play, and Templar resident of the Arcadia (RP) server
  • The text at character creation informs you that your first and last names are cosmetic and that your nickname is your unique character identifier.  I spent a while beating my head against the system trying to generate nicknames that sounded like actual names and were not taken, only to find that most players in-game seem to be using nicknames that sound more like social media handles. 
  • Pressing the X button toggles a "sprint" ability that doubles as your mount-equivalent.  There was a brief tooltip on this, but it did little to explain how it worked.  It does not seem to be necessary to hold the button down to continue running - not sure how I got the idea that this was the case, but this happened - but the function does break when you enter combat.
  • It's possible that I did not click on the correct Youtube link, but currently 100% of my understanding of the game's stat and gear systems comes from having read out of game guides.  Gear is statted for tanking, damage, or healing, but some characters (especially solo) will want to take a more hybrid approach to their gear.  On a related note, there was a tutorial on how to attach glyphs to gear, but I did not remember how to do this by the time I found non-tutorial gear I wanted to glyph.  
  • There is a buyback function for accidentally vendoring items, but I had to google to find out where it is hidden.  (Answer: a nondescript button on the bottom of the "sell" panel of the vendor UI.)  
I'm starting to learn the ropes - again, overwhelmingly through out-of-game reading - but the game certainly does not do new players many favors.  

The Story and World
Through a combination of art, sound, and writing, TSW presents a very distinctive world experience.  You may or may not like their specific vision - in particular, I did not find the NPC's for two of the game's three factions in any way people that I wanted to be working for over any extended periods of time - but I definitely tip my hat to them for making the environment and feel of the game stand out. 

That said, one quirk to the game is that most (all?) missions are repeatable.  The quests are also non-linear, in that there are not enforced levels, or a specific order in which they must be completed.  There are definite advantages to this approach, as it leaves the door open for players to replay content (either alone or to help friends), especially if they find they need more character advancement before they can forge onwards.  The catch is that when you do quests in the "wrong" order and/or repeat too many quests just because they are conveniently located, you might try to pick up a piece of the story only to find that it is no longer challenging or rewarding due to your character's progression.

Collecting Skills
The skill system is another area with a major learning curve.  The tutorial gives you a weapon with some basic skills and enough skill points to purchase a few more skills.  This is a trap.  Instead of advancing down the offered vertical path, you are supposed to immediately pick up a second weapon.  Almost all DPS weapons generate free resources for both of your two skillsets, so you are really at a disadvantage in terms of character power and versatility if you fail to branch out. 

This hurdle aside, the system is a fun skill collection minigame.  I started with a sword - a somewhat tank-oriented weapon - and a pair of pistols.  An early passive ability on one of the pistol trees turns unused pistol resources on mobs you kill into free passive healing.  I'm experimenting with several other combinations, but at least I appear to have a better understanding of what you're aspiring towards in character builds.

As with other parts of the game, though,. one a caveat for the future: the problem with progression systems which allow you to pick which skill to get next is that you will (hopefully) get the skills you want first.  Once you have something that works, it's always fun to tinker, but there is a risk that future upgrades will be less rewarding if you don't really need them.

Overall, I certainly don't regret my purchase - all $15 of it.  Thus far the game has been a fun and unique experience.  That said, I can also see how longevity might be limited as players complete their main storylines and skill decks.  This is by no means a unique challenge for TSW, but it might help explain part of the game's limited success under the old subscription model. 


  1. Completing all the Decks is not something that comes easily nor happens entirely fast either. Decks are just guides to helps those who have no clue as yet some roadmap to use some weapon combination of skills to find some form of skill set to work for them. Many people in the early days of TSW barely had a clue how to use 2 weapon sets or what skills to use. That's where Decks came in and since then Funcom has added many more especially with Newbie Starter Deck set which did not exist before the game went BTP.

    As well Decks served the purpose other than Skill as a way to get many players some outfits which are like a mini-game to achieve to get some new matching set of outfits. Thats a bit of a mini-game in itself.

    You nor anyone else playing have to use or rely on using Decks! But the hope is that as a person learns enough of how to arrange or manage their various skills that they hopefully find combination of skills that have synergy with each other and form more powerful combination of skills that works much better… than premade Decks. And the premade Decks is not the most useful or powerful combination of skills a player can make that understand his/her skill set after using them for quite some time.

    But trying to collect all the AP/SP to acquire all the skills will surely take you some time. Allot longer with getting all the AP than the SP itself. What most players do is initially get a Deck or two completed to have some varying degree of weapon skills and they slowly collect the skills they want to form other unique skill set, slowing acquiring more skills.

    The game favors you experimenting with new or different weapons and acquiring the ability to use them to various usefulness. It takes time to slowly fill out the First Wheel and thats not even getting to the Auxillary Wheel for Skills which I assure you will take much longer to complete when many the skills all require like 50 AP for each. And likely more Auxillary Weapon skills will get added over time as all that were added weren't in the game at launch.

  2. Glad to hear you're enjoying the game now.

    I've been subbed since launch, though my rig couldn't handle the game until late September when i got a new one, so I "missed" a couple of months at launch. It hasn't been my exclusive game, especially not recently with Rift's expansion pulling me away. Even so, I'm at 100% SP completion and about 85% of the skill wheel and I've been doing nightmare dungeons since about a month after I started playing "for real."

    Overall I've quite enjoyed it, but I've never been much of one for an "endgame gear grind" so while I've still got some of the skill wheel to fill out, in my own mind I've largely "beaten the game." Mostly I just log in when a couple of IRL friends are on as well and we run around the lower areas to try to help the lowest of us get sp/ap a bit faster. Occasional dungeons when we do that. Overall it's quite fun for me, even if it means my own progression has slowed considerably -- it's not why I'm playing anymore. I simply play to enjoy the game and the time spent with friends now, and tbh, I like it even more because of that.

    FWIW, even after I was in all QL10 gear, I still managed to die to an overpull in the Kingsmouth zone, so the progression really is fairly flat. I like that too, becuz it never feels like you're truly overpowering lower level friends that you play with.

  3. Wow I had no idea TSW is so difficult. I think I want to try it but I don't want to pay $30 for a frustrating experience.

  4. I enjoyed it most as an old-fashioned puzzle game experience. There's a great temptation to check for spoilers on some of the quest but spending ages figuring them out was very retro and rather appealing. Reminds me of games like Eye of the Beholder where I used to sidle into WH Smiths (the newsagent) ultra casually pick up PC gamer, flip throough to the hints page, check for a hint on the bit I was stuck on then replace the magazine in the rack and saunter out trying to project an air of having lots of money to spend if only their products would meet my high standards.


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