No, I’m still not done lavishing praise on this game.
I had an interesting day in the Secret World recently. Nothing truly spectacular happened, but there were a lot of little moments that reminded me why I love this game, and I’ve gained an even greater appreciation for some parts of it.
Having completed the storyline on my Dragon, I decided to go back to my Templar a bit because there are still some nice Templar outfits I want to unlock. I didn’t want to repeat the same Carpathian Fangs content I’d just done on my main, though, so I decided I’d focus my efforts elsewhere.
This sent me to the Last Train to Cairo. In some ways, the arc was actually more fun the second time, since I knew the tricks to all the stealth bits. But the train sequence proved surprisingly frustrating. Whereas my main had little trouble, my poor Templar kept getting overwhelmed and killed by the cultists.
Eventually, I through up my hands in disgust and switched from my pistol/sword focus build to a chaos/sword tank build, which is much tougher but more boring to play. This let me finish the mission, but I was dismayed by how much worse my Templar’s build was compared to my Dragon’s.
It continued nettling at me as I moved on to Transylvania and began repeating missions — mostly nightmares. I began to despair of being able to continue using the pistol build I enjoyed.
The problem is that many builds in this game require you to generate five or so resources before using your finishers. I find this gets tedious rather fast, so I use builds that avoid that. My Dragon uses blood magic, whose finishers usually require less than five resources. My Templar uses Finish the Movement, a passive that doubles resource generation from focus builders, such as are found in the pistol tree.
So my chaos build worked, but it wasn’t fun, and my pistols build is fun, but I had anemic damage and died too much.
I feared I might have to come up with something totally new, but I refused to give in. I dove into the wilds of the ability wheel and began designing new builds with different passives.
I took inspiration from my Dragon and devised a build based on affliction and penetration. Interestingly, my Templar’s version of it uses almost entirely different passives, but the result is the same: penetrations galore.
Wow, that does not sound right.
After some experimentation, I found a new set of passives that greatly boosted her damage, allowing her to defeat enemies before they could wear down her health. The extra penetrations also allowed Immortal Spirit to trigger more enough, slightly increasing her self-healing.
Between the new build and some gear upgrades from Last Train and the Venice vendors in Transylvania, my Templar is suddenly much more powerful than she was before, though still not quite as good as my Dragon. I’ve even managed to do some nightmare missions with the pistol build, with only a few modifications.
I’m not normally someone who enjoys theorycrafting in the slightest, but I find experimenting with different builds in this game incredibly rewarding. There are just so many options, and it’s so easy to try different ideas.
There’s a lot to find:
At the same time, I also spent a fair bit of time exploring, something I haven’t done much of in this game. To my surprise, it actually proved fairly enjoyable. For all that exploring a virtual world is one of the main selling points of most MMOs, exploration is generally pretty pointless in most games, with a few notable exceptions. Guild Wars 2 comes to mind.
I won’t pretend TSW makes exploration as interesting as GW2 does, but I did find a surprising amount of lore honeycombs, item missions, and rare mobs by venturing off the beaten path. Nothing terribly rewarding from a power perspective, but enough to make it feel like a fun little treasure hunt.
Plus, the game world is very spooky and immersive, so that adds to the experience. Recent experiences with games like Guild Wars 2 and Neverwinter have shown me that — for me — an MMO lives or dies by how much I care about and enjoy the world, and I certainly enjoy the Secret World.
This is an area where the difficulty of the game really works in its favour. Exploration isn’t so fun in World of Warcraft because quest mobs are never a threat. What’s the point of exploration if there’s no thrill of danger? In TSW, braving the unknown actually takes, well, bravery, so that makes for a more compelling experience.
On the other hand, the world isn’t carpeted with random mobs constantly trying to gank you. There are generally only enemies where there need to be enemies — mission areas and the like. This means you’re not constantly getting jumped any time you go anywhere as you are in most MMOs, so that prevents exploration from getting tedious.
One of these days I’m gonna run out of nice things to say about this game. It hasn’t happened yet.
Speaking of outfits…
Shortly before writing this post, I succeeded in unlocking my latest Templar deck: Puritan. Note that the hat is a separate item and not part of the deck uniform.