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A Peek Behind the Curtain – Beta Preview

William Murphy Posted:
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I’ve got a confession to make: I wish I played The Secret World more. But every time I take a stab at it since its launch, eventually the monotony of the combat and the overly complex nature of creating viable builds pushes me away. Luckily, it seems Funcom thinks I’m not the only one, and the soon-to-launch F2P Online RPG re-release known as Secret World Legends aims to pull me back in for good. When it launches on June 26th via Funcom’s own platform (end of July on Steam), I suspect a great many people like myself will flock back to Agartha.

For those who haven’t been paying super close attention. The Secret World is staying put, as is. But for all intents and purposes, it’s also being relaunched as more of a co-op RPG (think Destiny or Guild Wars 1) in Secret World Legends.  You’ll see less people in overland zones, but it’s also still an MMO. It’s just more selective about how many people it forces you to see. Combat has been entirely overhauled, progression is deep but simplified, and many zones and quests have been reworked to give a more natural flow. Even the graphics have been given a boost with atmospheric lighting, better spell effects, draw distance increases, and better-looking avatars over all. It’s still the same game you know and love, but also… not.

Character creation is till generally straightforward, but now you’ll actually pick a starting class. SWL still uses a two-weapon loadout sort of combat system, so the classes will use things like Pistols + Swords, Chaos + Blood Magic, and so forth. These are based on the templates many TSW fans know and love, and serve to give new players a familiar baseline when they come into the game. Tanking, Damage, Healing – the trinity is strong here.

Once in game the story is largely unchanged. You still swallow the bee that unlocks your powers, but the tutorial’s been revamped completely. It doesn’t show the Tokyo event anymore. It familiarizes you with the combat system, your weapons, and cryptically goes through the different types of quests while you learn a bit about the back story to the world. Speaking of quests, all the quests, dungeons, DLC (Issues) – it’s all here. And for everyone, it’s unlocked. There’s no need to purchase the DLC anymore.

Dungeons for leveling have been reworked to be 3-player dungeons, and no set healer/dps/tank mechanics are necessarily forced anymore either. Funcom wants people playing more dungeons, and this is just one way in which they’re ensuring that. Instead, the game will charge you for cosmetic items and the like rather than content. As Game Director Romain Amiel said, “Everyone wanted and asked for more story, but the cost always kept them from buying them. They were spending money on cosmetic items like crazy, but not on the content. So why should we keep charging for it? We’ll focus on the cosmetic and the convenience items, and all content we’ve already made and all content going forward will be free for everyone.”

This is not at all unheard of in other online games – Guild Wars 2, Neverwinter, Path of Exile. They all let content be free, while charging smaller amounts for convenience and cosmetic items. But if you loved The Secret World’s setting and monetization before, that’s not going to suddenly change here. You get more for less, and the game’s impeccable style and lore is wholly intact. It’s the combat and progression systems that needed an overhaul, and boy did they get one. Take a look at the explanation of the new combat system below:

While some may bemoan the forced reticule action-style, I have adored it in beta. Combat feels more immediate, and it’s become my preferred way to play almost every MMO that allows it or enforces such a gameplay system. What’s unique about the changes is that each weapon type has its own mechanic. Spamming builders and finishers isn’t the end-all be-all anymore. You’ve got to pick and choose your abilities more wisely, as you have only a few for each weapon at any one time. When Elemental magic begins to heat your character up, the gameplay becomes a delicate balance of keeping the fireballs rolling, but not so much that you burn out.

It’s this kind of interplay between weapons, abilities, and their passives that made TSW so compelling with its character building. But it was also too confusing for many players. It was never clear how to progress your character, how to get stronger. Now, the 500+ abilities have been reduced to a modest but still beefy several 100+, and there are still oodles of passives to work towards. Plus each weapon type has its own Capstone ability at the top tier of progression which adds much more power and flare to the archetype. It’s a whole lot more rewarding than just a themed costume, but Romain assured us those are still there too.

You’ll still earn AP and SP, but you’ll also gain levels, which weren’t a thing in TSW. The decision was to help people feel a more constant sense of progression. Your gear can be fused and enhanced with unneeded items too, much like other MMOs, so you can take a lower tier weapon and upgrade it all the way to epic if you’ve the patience and resources.

We ended our tour in the new Agartha. It looks a lot like old Agartha, but instead of massive winding pathways, you’ll use jump-pads to leap from one portal to the next. At its heart is the main social hub of Secret World Legends. Think of it like the Tower in Destiny, or Neverwinter… in Neverwinter. Massive world bosses will also be accessible from Agartha, and when the portal unlocks, the entirety of the hub will know it and go over the loot. World bosses in general are a lot less rare, as Romain and Funcom want the game’s content to be more accessible. You’ll see rare spawns in zones a lot more often, instead of only at certain times or after long cooldowns.

Overall, I came away really impressed with Secret World Legends. I’m keeping myself out of the beta because I can’t wait to experience the story all over again on June 26th. What a great month for online gaming we’re getting, eh? You may already be eagerly awaiting Morrowind, Stormblood, or even MXM. But at the tail end, there’s Secret World Legends, and it’s looking as solid as ever and ready to make a statement.


William Murphy

Bill is the former Managing Editor of MMORPG.com, RTSGuru.com, and lover of all things gaming. He's been playing and writing about MMOs and geekery since 2002, and you can harass him and his views on Twitter @thebillmurphy.