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MMORPG | Genre:Real Life | Status:Final  (rel 07/03/12)  | Pub:Funcom
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The Secret World Column: Review In Progress Part 4 - Dungeons & PvP

By Suzie Ford on July 30, 2012

In the final chapter of my Review in Progress for Funcom’s The Secret World, I’ll be taking a look at both dungeons and PvP. I will admit right here that neither are aspects of any MMO in which I regularly participate. It’s not that I’m against them for any philosophical reasons or deep seeded hatred of player killing. It’s mainly because I am most focused on finishing quests and collecting gear. By the time I hit the mythical ‘end game’, it’s usually time to move on to the next title. Yeah, I know. I’m rather slow that way but, hey, it’s not easy balancing work, kids, family responsibilities and gaming. Add in the fact that LFG is a poor way to find a successful group, PvP just doesn’t do much for me and you have the recipe for a “CAREBEAR”. So sue me.

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I spent some time wandering about (or trying to!) in The Secret World’s PvP zones to get an idea what they were like. As for the dungeons…well, I was less successful there. It seems that many players are getting rather snobbish about who they will allow into groups and without a dungeon finder tool, it makes it quite hard to find a PUG. Luckily, I had terrific experiences during a media event not long ago that gives me plenty to write about.

Dungeons

Dungeons in The Secret World are actually pretty interesting and seem to have a lot more people playing them than my experiences with PvP. There is a lot of spamming going on in the public channels as people search for dungeon mates. Luckily, Funcom is working on a Dungeon Finder tool that will reduce this and make it easier for folks to find others to tackle the game’s dungeons with.

What I love about TSW’s dungeons is the fact that they actually have a part to play in the overall story of the game. They’re not just some random encounter thrown in to give players an excuse to take on bosses for epic loot. Sure, there’s that too, but that’s not all. Not only are the dungeons packed with boss monsters that escalate in difficulty and toughness as the group ventures through but the end features what I think of as the “king of the castle”, the final boss that will give players pause to actually think rather than just survive.  It’s not enough to have party members fulfilling the traditional roles of tank, healer and DPS. Winning in a Secret World dungeon requires strategy and cooperation.

In most MMO dungeons, if a player dies, he/she can be resurrected by others and play continues until the end boss is finally brought down. It’s a battle of attrition much more than a battle of skill. In The Secret World, players aren’t given that luxury. If you die, you stay dead (albeit in an anima well nearby) until either the entire team wipes or the boss is finally killed. It’s harsh but it’s something that players seem to really enjoy. I’ve always said that TSW is a “thinking man’s” MMO and dungeons like Polaris and all the rest certainly embody that notion.

Funcom has really capitalized on TSW’s story here and it shows.

PVP: El Dorado, Fusang & Stonehenge

I have to admit that I put of PvP for as long as I possibly could. It’s just not my thing. That others love it and that it’s included in MMOs is great. It should be since the idea is to appeal to a broad base of players in as many ways as possible. Whether is gear or clothing acquisition or participating in several types of PvP, Funcom has done a good job giving players a lot of ways to engage themselves with the game.

In The Secret World there are basically four different ways to engage in PvP:

  • Fight Clubs are where players can take on others to try out new skill builds, etc. These are found in each faction’s city. Matches can be 1v1, 2v2, all the way up to 10v10. These are terrific places for players to try out group dynamics as well.
  • Stonehenge offers players a ‘king of the hill’ experience with faction teams of five scoring points for having the most players inside the stones’ ring or for killing off those inside the ring. Again, strategy is king with teams needing to decide whether it’s better to be in control of the ring or to be the ones on the outside picking off the weaklings.
  • El Dorado brings the traditional “capture the flag” experience into the game with faction teams of ten trying to capture and control relics. Interestingly, teams spawn in the center of the map, everyone together which makes for interesting scenarios for survival!
  • Fusang District is the persistent zone where I found the most activity. The map can hold enormous teams of players all fighting for control of facilities that can grant big bonuses as well as nearby anima wells for resurrection. It’s a huge map that can leave players feeling a bit lost as it can take quite a while to reach the most hotly contested areas of the map.

Honestly, I could not get into either Stonehenge or El Dorado so I have nothing to say about them. I queued up and never managed to get in so I’m not sure if it’s just that those areas are not well-trafficked in favor of the more popular dungeons and warzone or if it was just my bad luck when I tried. I know I’d like to try them out and will keep working at it!

By contrast, Fusang was packed on my server though it didn’t always appear so because of the size of the map and the proclivity for all players to be centered in one or two spots battling for control. It was fun but I was laughingly weak and got ganked most of the time by high level and very skilled players. Still and all everyone seemed to be having a pretty good time though and control points shifted hands often.

Final Thoughts

Basically, Funcom has given players lots of ways to continue playing the game in interesting ways after finishing the main story arc. Dungeons, in my opinion, will continue to draw the most players as they definitely fill in the overall story as well as provide some wickedly awesome battles for players to try their skills on.

It will remain to be seen whether or not PvP as it is right now will continue to engage players. It’s not that it’s bad, it’s just that it seems a bit ‘tacked on’ to the game. The Secret World’s overall strength is in its story and PvP just doesn’t seem to fit in as well as the dungeons do. There’s nothing wrong with it and there are very familiar ways for MMOers to participate but Funcom will have to step up the inclusion of more Stonehenge and El Dorado type maps to hold player interest.

What about you? Love dungeoneering? Tell us about your best and worst experiences! What about PvP? Love it? Hate it? Tell us why in the comments.

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