Secret World Legends: Funcom Goes Full Murphy

“Full Murphy” is a concept I came up with in a recent article, and I like the idea enough I’m kind of trying to make it a thing now. It’s when Murphy’s Law expresses itself in its purest form, when literally everything that could go wrong does, a cataclysmic confluence of awfulness. It’s a perfect shitstorm.

/facepalmSuffice it to say, you should never go Full Murphy if you can avoid it.

Funcom just went Full Murphy.

Today the news has come down that The Secret World will be put in maintenance mode to make way for a new incarnation of the game called Secret World Legends. It revamps most of the game’s systems while maintaining largely the same content.

I’ve been pretty nervous about the relaunch of the game since it was first teased, but I am impressed by Funcom’s ability to vastly exceed even my most pessimistic expectations. This is bad in pretty much every way that it possibly could be.

Character wipe? Check.

No compensation for the hundreds of hours we’ve already put into the game? Check.

New business model that’s less player friendly? Check.

Requiring people to pay again for things they already bought (character slots)? Check.

Interesting and unique progression mechanics replaced with generic level grind? Check.

No new content to go with the new systems? Check.

The only way this could have been worse is if Grandmaster benefits didn’t transfer over. Thankfully, Funcom will allow lifetimers like me to keep our permanent subscription, but that’s about the only thing that gets transferred. You can reserve one character name for the new game if you want, and “some” of our cosmetics can be transferred, which sounds terribly ominous for someone who’s spent as much time collecting cosmetics as I have.

I’m pretty speechless, honestly. This is truly Full Murphy.

I have five characters in TSW. Two have completed the full storyline to date and have full ability wheels (well, Dorothy is at like 98%). I have full launch lore on one. I don’t have the words to adequately communicate my feelings on losing all that.

Yes, the old game will still exist, and I’ll be able to play it still, but it’s never going to see any new content, and I doubt it will survive for much longer. With no way to acquire new players (only people who already have accounts will have access to it) and no new content, it’s going to die pretty quickly, and once it’s no longer profitable, it will undoubtedly be closed down.

So it’s move to Legends or bust, practically speaking. And that means starting over entirely from scratch. As much as I love the world and setting, going through everything yet again is a less than appealing prospect.

In a way this is worse than if the game had simply shut down or gone into a more traditional maintenance mode. There will be new content (eventually, supposedly), but I have to repeat the entire game over again to experience it — several times if I want to keep getting the perspectives of multiple factions. I’m between a rock and a hard place.

And would it even be worth investing in Legends? I can’t imagine this is a game with a bright future ahead of it. You’re not going to attract huge crowds of people to a game that is still essentially five years old and has a reputation of having failed once before. Nor do I see a lot of veterans making the transition, as Funcom has been pretty thorough about burning their bridges there.

Honestly at this point I think I would have preferred a more traditional maintenance mode. They could have continued the IP through single-player titles. The current situation is the worst of all possible solutions.

The only positive I see in this unbelievable mess is that Legends will apparently be even more solo-friendly than TSW is. They’re not even calling it an MMO anymore. That’s good. At this point I think we can be honest that making TSW an MMO was probably the biggest mistake Funcom made (until now, at least). It was never a good fit.

It’s pure fan speculation at this point, but there’s some talk of maybe adding solo modes for dungeons. That would be nice. I enjoy the group versions, but it would be great to able to explore them solo at your own pace.

I would also love to see raids made soloable or otherwise made more accessible. They’re the one part of TSW I’ve never been able to experience.

At this point, though, I’m not sure if I’m going to play Legends or not. I’ve long said that if games can provide me with a story I care about I’ll put up with pretty much anything, but this is a bigger test of that principle than anything before. Even SW:TOR’s crumby business model and all of WoW’s mind-boggling blunders pale in comparison to this.

The Secret World is one of my all-time favourite games. I’ve spent years loving it, obsessing over it, and evangelizing it. It would take a Herculean effort to burn away all the goodwill I have for it. But right now Funcom’s answer to that seems to be, “Challenge accepted!”

WoW: A Short Visit

Like most gamers, I’m counting the days until the release of Mass Effect: Andromeda (or until my new computer arrives, if that turns out to be later). In the meanwhile, I decided to make a short return to World of Warcraft to get caught up in the game before the release of patch 7.2, which should come right as I’m in the thick of Andromeda.

The Arcan'dor within Shal'aran in World of Warcraft: LegionRu shanna Shal’dorei:

My biggest goal with this return visit — and one I accomplished much sooner than I expected to — was to finally finish off Suramar, both the initial reputation grind and the additional storyline added in patch 7.1.

Taking a break in the middle of the storyline probably didn’t help my impression of it, though admittedly it was rather disjointed to begin with due to all the reputation grinding between story arcs. I will say that I quite like the twist with Arluin. At first I thought, “Oh, this is such a cheesy, generic twist. The seemingly heartless rogue isn’t so bad after all.”

Well, I was right about the second part, but then came the follow-up quest afterward, and I realized Blizzard was being a lot more clever than I gave them credit for. Well played, Blizz.

That leaves the post-launch storyline, Insurrection. I feel like I should have loved this story, as it seems like exactly the sort the sort of thing I’m normally into. It’s almost pure story, and it’s basically Elfapalooza 2017.

But while I don’t have any big complaints about it, I can’t say I was blown away by it, either.

One thing that I found jarring was the presence of what I’m going to call “micro-grinds” breaking up the story. Every so often the storyline would come to a screeching halt as I was sent off to do arbitrary numbers of world quests or order hall missions.

The forces of the Dusk Lily rebellion gather in World of Warcraft: LegionNone of these tasks took very long, and by WoW standards — or really any standard — they’re hardly onerous, but they did throw off the pacing, and I just don’t understand why Blizzard included them at all. The questline was originally gated on a weekly basis, so it’s not like they extended the life of the content any. Are the WoW devs just so addicted to grind they’re now physically incapable of designing anything without it?

I think the lack of good soundtrack in Legion that I’ve touched on before also hindered Insurrection. The grand and terrible events of this arc deserved some epic musical accompaniment, but most of the time, it’s just the standard Suramar ambient soundtrack, which isn’t terribly inspiring.

And I must admit the premise of a corrupt government selling out to a foreign power and then commencing a totalitarian crackdown while fueling the flames of xenophobia is hitting a little too close to home these days.

But more than anything I think I’m just tired of Suramar. It’s a great example of the sort of thing I’ve been complaining about pretty much since I started playing WoW. Blizzard will design amazing content, and then they’ll make you hate it. Suramar is an absolute triumph of game design in so many ways, virtually unmatched in my extensive gaming experience, but after weeks upon weeks of mind-numbing grinding within its twilit streets, I’ve just had enough.

Again, none of that is to say I didn’t enjoy the story. It just didn’t blow me away, even though in theory it really should have.

The Legion cracks down on Elven dissent in World of Warcraft: LegionHonestly I think my favourite part was the banter between Valtrois and Stellagosa. I know some people have been shipping Kor’vas Bloodthorn and Stellagosa, but now I’m wondering if Stella/Valtrois will rise as a rival ship. I’m still not sure I’m on board with Dragons dating humanoids, but those two definitely have chemistry, I’ll give you that.

Also it was nice to see the Blood Elves taking an active role in the story, and especially nice to see Liadrin out and about. I’ve always felt she had such potential, and while her role in Insurrection doesn’t entirely make up for her neglect, at least it’s something.

The Nightmare to the Nighthold:

This visit also allowed me to experience Legion’s raid content for the first time.

Somewhat like Insurrection, the Emerald Nightmare has no crippling flaws, but failed to particularly impress me, especially after so many years of hype around the concept. I did think the ending after the Rift of Aln was a nice touch.

Trial of Valor I like a bit more. It’s a nice solid wrap-up to Stormheim’s story, the fights are decent, and it drops some very pretty gear.

My warlock battling Star Augur Etraeus in World of Warcraft: LegionI kind of wish Blizzard had the courage to do more small-scale content like this. It’s not evil to reuse art assets or have small raids you can finish in an under an hour. It might be a problem if that’s all Blizzard did, but as a supplement, humbler offerings like Trial of Valor add some welcome texture to the game.

Now I’m really sad we never got that Abyssal Maw raid in Cataclysm.

But undoubtedly the crown jewel was the Nighthold raid. Now that impressed me.

I think my favourite part has to be the Star Augur fight. It’s been a long time since a raid boss in WoW really wowed me (no pun intended), but this is a hell of a fight. While it’s ostensibly an illusion, in effect you spend the fight warping through space, arriving at a succession of increasingly hostile and alien worlds. The glimpse of the Void near the end is genuinely horrifying.

Most of the other bosses are solid, too. The voice actor for Trilliax was clearly having way too much fun with the role.

Only one I didn’t really like was Botanist Tel’arn. Annoying voice-overs, unremarkable mechanics. I also don’t think that Elisande or Chronomatic Anomaly quite lived up to the potential inherent in their concepts — last time we fought a boss with powers over time it was a vastly more entertaining experience.

The true horror of the Void in World of Warcraft: LegionI am curious why Elisande couldn’t see any future where the Legion didn’t win. Are we as players so awesome we broke the space-time continuum? Did the Demons trick her somehow?

Probably the latter. She did have frickin’ Tichondrius camping out in her guest room.

The Nighthold concludes with our long-awaited confrontation with Darkness Incarnate himself. The fight might not be quite as spectacular as Star Augur, but it’s still pretty impressive, and the cinematic at the end (a cinematic for a first tier raid!) was awesome. Like a lot of Legion, it did a good job of playing to nostalgia without using it as a crutch, and it was incredibly satisfying all around.

Just a bit of a shame it spoils the end of the Light’s Heart quests, as I hadn’t finished the grind for that yet.

Again, why did this need to be a grind? I actually like chain-running heroics, so the grind hasn’t really bothered me in this case, but I don’t understand the rationale. It’s a story quest with no significant power rewards. Why does it need to be such work? Or any work at all?

Other thoughts:

Few other random things to note about my vacation to Azeroth.

Battling Gul'dan in the Nighthold raid in World of Warcraft: LegionI got my first legendary item of the expansion, the Pillars of the Dark Portal, despite putting no significant effort toward getting one. I honestly didn’t think I’d get ever a legendary in Legion.

It’s a bit of a weird feeling, really. My philosophy has always been that I’m opposed to exclusive content, but in favour of exclusive rewards. I’m honestly not sure someone like me deserves legendary gear. But then again I suppose the Rubicon was already crossed when they Oprahed the legendary cloaks back in Pandaria.

The whole thing was rather an underwhelming experience, which I guess illustrates how much of a non-event legendaries have become. The special power for this particular legendary is so niche as to be virtually worthless (though the raw stats still make it a huge upgrade), and there’s no fanfare, not even an achievement. It just appeared in my bags like any other random piece of loot.

Meanwhile, in my absence Blizzard went ahead with the plan to allow people to convert WoW Tokens to Battle.Net Balance, meaning you can now pay for most anything Blizzard offers with WoW gold, at least in theory. This was followed by a massive upswing in Token prices.

I had feared I wouldn’t be able to continue paying my subscription with gold, let alone buy anything else with it, but it seems I may have underestimated just how easy it is to make gold these days. Despite putting only the barest minimum of effort into farming, I’m ending the month with three Tokens, which means at the very least my sub is safe for a while, and in the long run I may earn enough of a surplus to buy other things, as well.

The haunted coasts of Azsuna at dusk in World of Warcraft: LegionThis is a better deal for me than you may immediately realize, because Tokens convert directly to USD. This means I’m not being screwed over by exchange rates, which are getting pretty brutal these days. And it’s not like I’m going to stop spending on Blizzard games anytime soon.

Just the other day they released a new teaser for the necromancer in Diablo III, and while I’ve been hesitant to support what appears to be a largely abandoned game, the preview of the female necro is turning that around a bit. You’re basically playing as an even more badass version of Liv Moore from iZombie; how can I say no to that?

I really wish I’d known they changed it to let you have more than one unused Token at a time before now. I could have bought two or three Tokens before my sub lapsed the last time, back when they were still relatively cheap. It’s strange I never heard about the change; I’m usually pretty good at keeping up with WoW news, even when I’m not playing. But what’s done is done, I guess.

Now I just hope that Token prices don’t get much higher.