A few weeks back I did a second run through of my TSW-inspired D&D campaign for a different group of players. One of my friends became so taken with the setting that she decided she wanted to play the original.
So now I find myself in the position of playing Secret World Legends with her over Discord one night a week.
I have of course been quite critical of this reboot from the start. My last attempt at playing didn’t exactly go well. But I’m not a believer in making stands on principle when it comes to what games I play, and I’d always wanted to introduce more friends to this setting, so I’m not too salty about it.
We’re still not that far into the game — my friend and I are currently working on John Wolf’s missions in the Savage Coast — but I’ve now spent enough time in Legends to develop a better feel for what this rebooted version of my favourite game is like.
I will say, it’s not as bad as I thought.
It is easier, and I still don’t think it needed to be. I’ve said it a thousand times, but original TSW was not too hard as long as you had a decent build. It just needed better tutorials. Half the people playing had no idea what they were doing, and that is almost entirely the game’s fault.
A part of me died when I ran the new version of Horror Show. The old version was probably too hard for an introduction to sabotage missions, but the new one is insulting. There’s just gaping holes in the lasers you can easily waltz through.
That being said, it is not quite as mindless as I feared it might be. Once you get past the early quests in Kingsmouth, challenge does ramp up. It’s easy, especially with two people, but not quite at the “enemies drop dead from a dirty look” extreme that far too many other MMOs shoot for.
Similarly, the new build system is unquestionably inferior to the original’s, but it’s still much better than you see in most other games. There’s still quite a lot of flexibility in how to build you character, and you can still adjust and make new builds on the fly. If I wasn’t comparing to the sheer awesomeness of the original’s ability wheel, I’d be far more impressed.
The character I chose to play with my friend is a recreation of my “Elf” character, whom I barely played in the original. I’m playing her with blood magic and elementalism, just as I intended to in the previous incarnation.
I am not in love with the changes to blood magic. The corruption/martyrdom mechanic is confusing and clunky.
Elemental magic, though, is damn fun. Dare I say I think I like it better now than I did in the original. Balancing your heat level is a fun and intuitive mechanic that still includes some depth. I had intended to go mainly blood with a few elemental skills, but instead I’ve ended up with the opposite. Blood is fine as a supplement to my elemental spells. It works out to a fun build that I’m really enjoying.
I must also admit the new magic animations are really neat. My blood AoE is spectacular, and I really like how my lightning spells turn red as my heat level gets high.
It’s odd how not all animations have been updated like that. My friend is going for a sword build, and near as I can tell none of those animations have changed at all.
One change that I do think is very positive is making the story mode dungeons more accessible. My friend and I were able to do Polaris with just the two of us, with crappy gear and basic solo builds. TSW has always been best experienced solo or in a small group, so making it even more friendly to those playstyles is a big plus.
Now if only they could get rid of solo instances. Forced lack of grouping is as bad as forced grouping.
Most importantly, the story and ambiance — the main appeal of this setting — are largely intact. There’s a few things that compromise the immersion — like those tacky glowing tracking aids for blood trails — but mostly this does feel like the same world I love.
At this point my biggest issue is how much they screwed us grandmasters. With how fast the leveling is now and how seriously this version of the game takes its vertical progression, the XP buff feels more like a penalty than a bonus, and you don’t get much for your GM status beyond that.
No more stipend of cash shop currency, for one thing. But near as I can tell there isn’t a cash shop anymore? There just seems to be an option to pay for various boosts, which is deeply unappealing given, again, how easy it is to outlevel stuff now. In the original, I never felt like I had enough points to get everything I wanted, even with the GM stipend, but in Legends there’s nothing I’d want to buy even if I did have the currency for it.
Even so, I must admit I am having fun. The original is still a better game in almost every way, and I still think the reboot was a bad plan, but even an inferior version of a brilliant game can still be pretty good.
Also they made those beeping tracker missions less aggravating. It’s almost worth it just for that.