The Secret World: One Man Army

Yes, Heart of the Swarm was released yesterday, but I’m waiting until I’m farther into the game to do a post on it. I want to make sure I’ve got something intelligent to say, first. I will say that — considering how much I don’t like playing Zerg — it is amazingly fun so far.

In the meantime…

One woman, technically:

My Templar soloing a nightmare mission in The Secret WorldIn The Secret World, I’ve been pressing deeper into Transylvania on my Templar. I’ve now made it as far as the Shadowy Forest. You may have heard me say before that TSW is a very difficult game.

Let me tell you: the first two regions have nothing on Transylvania.

While the previous zones might have had one or two nightmare missions, it seems like nearly half the missions in Transylvania are nightmares, and even the normal missions are rather intense.

Despite the fact that MMOs are trending more and more towards solo-friendly content, this is the first time that I’ve encountered truly challenging endgame content designed for the solo player.

Essentially, nightmare missions are solo raids. Imagine all the thought, effort, and complexity that goes into a raid in World of Warcraft, strip away all the other players, and you have nightmare missions.

The Dutchman's lair in The Secret WorldEvery enemy has unique mechanics. Instead of a dungeon journal, they just have buffs that you can hover over to read about their abilities and how to counter them. And just like in a standard raid, if you do not learn to adapt to the mechanics, you will be a stain on the ground in no time flat.

Whereas in a true raid you’d have at least nine other people to lean on, it’s all on you in a nightmare mission. You’re the tanks, the healers, and the DPS all at once. You need to make sure you can heal through the damage, tank the hardest hits, and burn the enemy down before your health runs out.

So how do you cope with this rather extreme level of difficulty?

You become a one man army.

My name is Legion, for my builds are many:

This is where the ability wheel truly comes into its own, and where I become glad that I was a bit schizophrenic in my weapon choices prior to endgame.

An RPG where diversification is encouraged instead of penalized? Heresy!

Wee!I quickly developed a very hardy sword/chaos build for the tougher missions, but that was just the beginning. I’ve found myself swapping in different skills to cope with every new situation. Sometimes, I might go through half a dozen builds or more in a single mission.

Werewolves are vulnerable to stuns? Good thing I specced swords, then. Fungal monsters apply a lot of DoTs? Well, all I need to do is equip a focus skill and Ready for More, and they can’t touch me.

The true brilliance of the nightmare missions is not their difficulty, but that they never feel hopeless. No matter how brutal they are, you can always overcome them if you’re just willing to experiment. With no classes, there’s nothing stopping anyone from hitting on the perfect build for the situation.

Remember what I said about how you need to do the jobs of an entire raid to complete a nightmare mission? If that sounds a little overwhelming, it can be, but the other side of that is that you have the power of an entire raid of players at your fingertips.

My Templar poses against a starlit Transylvania skyIf you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you know I don’t set much store by in-game accomplishments. Part of the appeal for video games for me is that nothing you do in them matters. But I have to admit that I’ve never felt like such an utter badass as when I finally saw the last boss of The Girl Who Kicked the Vampire’s Nest drop dead at my feet.

This is what RPGs should be:

Only now does it occur to me that The Secret World is the RPG I’ve waited all my life to play. I’ve always loved the idea of RPGs, but I’ve always hated how they put grind ahead of skill, and how they force everyone into these narrow boxes of class and spec.

The Secret World is what RPGs should have been from the start. It’s not about the grind; it’s about using your wits. It’s not about forcing you into some narrow specialty; it’s about allowing you, encouraging you, to become as diverse and versatile as possible. There’s no limit on what kind of fighter you can become.

And with all those irritating roadblocks out of the way, you’re left to embrace the dream of pursuing the hero’s journey, growing more capable with every evil you vanquish.

The moonlit ruins of Transylvania in The Secret WorldI really, really like this game.

Edit: Issue #6 tomorrow:

And just as I post, it’s announced that The Last Train to Cairo will be launching tomorrow.

Dun da dun dun…

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