There has been a deluge of MMO releases these past few weeks. And yet, the one I didn't expect to get completely sucked into has been tying up all my free gaming time since Funcom let press in the doors early this week - Secret World Legends is a blast. In many ways, SWL is the The Secret World you know and love. But in all the best ways, it's also a more approachable and highly more engaging affair thanks to a revamped combat and progression system. This is our Secret World Legends review - in progress.
The first thing most players who are veterans of the game will notice is the revamped tutorial. The flashback to Tokyo's events is still there, but it's more for story than instruction as the Dream Architect now takes you through the ins and outs of questing and combat. The former is largely the same, with ordering and mechanics changed a bit in Kingsmouth from what I remember, but the combat is what now really shines in Secret World Legends.
Fighting is now entirely reticle-based, a la TERA or any other action-combat game. You pick a primary and a secondary weapon (starting with one of several "classes" at character creation), and those make up the bulk of your attacks. I've only toyed with Hammer, Sword, and Pistols so far, but each weapon type now has a unique mechanic that influences how you use it. No more is combat pretty much builder-builder-builder-finisher. Instead you'll manage resources and combos. The hammer has a rage meter that increases and decreases based on skills used, for example.
Originally, TSW had over 500 skills. Those days are gone in SWL, and some folks might think that's a bad move. I'm one of those who says it's for the better of the game. A lot of the skills in TSW were pointless or useless. There are now over a dozen active skills for each weapon in the game, and over a dozen passives as well, bringing the total down to around 200 skills. What's more is that Funcom and Game Director Romain Amiel already have plans to add more weapons to the fold, increasing the skills without losing each weapon sets distinct functionality or usefulness.
Heals, tanks, and DPS are still a part of SWL, but for leveling purposes dungeons no longer need specific layouts. Your first dungeon will still be The Polaris, but now it's only a 3-person dungeon, along with the rest of the leveling adventures, and you don't need specific roles. It's more like an Action RPG in this way, though I'm sure a healer and tank will help you. It's at the endgame where roles and the like will come into play with hard modes and so on.
Speaking of leveling - Secret World Legends has levels. 50 of them to be exact. This is a clearer cut way to let players know they're making progress, but worry not - even beyond level 50 you'll still be earning tons of AP and SP to increase your power and versatility. In this way, it's kind of like Elder Scrolls Online's champion system. Only here level does mean power, so you won't be taking on later game content with a level 1, for example. Gear also can be upgraded now, by fusing it with resources or other unwanted items. You can take a basic green weapon all the way into the endgame if you put enough work and into it.
Now, about monetization. Here's the part that's going to be divisive. You can spend real money to by AP and SP. You can't buy levels, but if you want to progress through the game's skill trees fast, you sure can spend your way there. None of the game's content is behind a pay wall. But new weapon types outside your character's chosen starting weapons are. This will be the chief way SWL makes money, that I can tell you. You can unlock all AP and SP, and all weapon types simply by playing the game and earning the currency to do so. But less-patient folks will just pay their way through it. Even though I get to transfer my lifetime account over today, I still wanted to test the purchasing in SWL, and I bought enough gold to unlock a new weapon and its passives (owners of The Secret World get all the weapons unlocked for free). It worked easily, and simply, and I even had enough left over to buy some AP.
Is it P2W? I don't think so, as it doesn't really affect PVP at all. It's pay to progress. There's a subscription option too, for $12.99, which gives you bonus login rewards, bonus XP, items from dungeon chests, and the like. Lifetime members of The Secret World will get this in Secret World Legends as well, and yes starting today you can link your TSW account and all its unlocks to your Secret World Legends account.
I've had a ton of fun so far revisiting Kingsmouth, and I can't wait to get to some of the zones I barely touched or never played in TSW. Questing through the world feels fun again, even if I've done the Stephen King-themed New England areas a million times. Some quests have been tweaked, and the maps now display all of them so you know where to go to do them. I can't tell you how many in Kingsmouth I did for the first time this week, because I never saw them before. There are also location-based "kill quests" and the game's rare mobs are littered all over the map for one-time rewards too.
I could gush more about Secret World Legends, but I won't - you can try it for yourself today when the servers open. If the combat always held you back from TSW, this is the best time to try again. The engine's getting a little old, but the questing is still the best of the genre and the combat now feels like it should - engaging and impactful. Our final review of Secret World Legends will come out in the next couple weeks. For now, get in there and play it yourself.