Secret World Legends: Home but Not

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.

I and my friend's characters in Secret World LegendsOf course, the original original is no longer an option, except for those of us who were already players. That left Legends as her only option.

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.

I and my friend's character in Secret World LegendsA 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.

My Elf character in Secret World LegendsElemental 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.

A scenic beach in Secret World LegendsAt 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.

Secret World Legends: I Hate Myself

I have often said I have far too much franchise loyalty for my own good.

Case in point.

A brief encounter with the Unutterable Lurker in the tutorial of Secret World LegendsI think my feelings on The Secret World’s reboot as Legends are known by now. Nonetheless, I can’t say with absolute certainty that I’m never going to play it. I have eight characters in SW:TOR now, after all. No one could have predicted that.

And if I ever play it, I’ll want my loot from TSW. And if I do, I’ll need to link my account now, because there’s a time limit on that.

In theory, all you have to do is click a button on the account page, but I’m paranoid, so I wanted to actually log into the game and make sure it all transferred. Which meant actually playing the game, as you don’t get delivered items until you finish the tutorial and make it to Agartha.

I bring you now the tale of that ill-fated excursion.

I agonized greatly over which character to attempt to recreate. This is one of the biggest things turning me off Legends to begin with. I don’t have enough character slots to bring them all over (which is ridiculous; I paid for the damn things), and I hate the idea of having to choose between them.

In the end, for reasons I have trouble articulating even to myself, I picked Dorothy the Templar as my ambassador to this new/old world.

My Templar in Secret World LegendsThings didn’t get off to a great start. The new character creation is just awful. TSW already had fairly limited options for a modern MMO, and Legends has greatly reduced your choices. You can no longer customize facial features individually. You can only pick a face and then choose from a variety of randomized variations of it. I can’t imagine how anyone thought this was a good idea.

Also, why is everything blinking all the time?!?! Aaaaaghhh.

To be fair, I like the new hair. It’s mostly the same styles, but they’re now higher rez, and there are more and better colour choices. There’s actually a nice green now. I almost made Kamala instead for that reason, but I couldn’t come up with a face that looked at all like her.

Not that I got Dorothy entirely right, either. She wound up in this weird uncanny valley scenario where she almost looked like the character I know… but not quite.

The new tutorial has gotten some criticism, but I actually kind of like it. It’s atmospheric, and it has some interesting hints about the greater lore. It also feels pretty remedial at times, but a lengthy, hand-holding tutorial is exactly what the old game needed. Really that’s the only big change it needed. I think this will be good for new players.

This is then followed by the original tutorials in Tokyo and the faction HQ (each slightly redone), and I did start to get impatient after a while, but I think that’s mainly because I’m a veteran who knew what to expect. Again, I think a new player would probably find it a lot more palatable.

KILL IT WITH FIREI didn’t experience enough of the new gameplay to form any clear conclusions. It all seemed as insultingly easy as I’d feared (most enemies died in literally one shot), but that is the tutorial. Maybe things are different once you get out into the world.

A part of me died when I saw the “class selection” section in character creation, and the new skill trees are definitely simplified, but after studying them a bit, they didn’t seem quite as brainless as I’d expected. There are still far more abilities than you can equip at a time, so it seems deck-building is not entirely dead.

I still hate the idea of having to unlock additional weapons beyond your base class, though.

From the looks of it, shotguns are now a true tanking weapon. I really like that. I always wanted to tank with a shotgun as my main weapon.

I’m curious if any other weapons have changed roles, but I didn’t notice any at a glance way to see the roles of various weapons.

The new combat animations don’t seem to have quite as much energy or flair as they used to, at least where firearms are concerned, and there’s now this awkward animation whenever your character stops running. It looks absolutely terrible. I don’t know what they were thinking.

The game world itself doesn’t seem much changed. Temple Hall is still full of cats — I wasn’t sure if that would carry over. I thought maybe they’d run the competition again or just ignore it all.

Agartha in Secret World Legends

One thing hasn’t changed: Agartha is still weird as hell.

Eventually, I finished the tutorials and made it to Agartha, at which point my cosmetics unlocked. I didn’t go through it all with a fine-toothed comb, but it does seem the large majority of stuff did carry over, including my Panoptic Core.

Deck uniforms are one thing that didn’t carry over, though, so I was not able to put Dorothy in her traditional Puritan outfit. But I did see some people in Agartha with deck outfits, so they must still be in the game somehow. Bizarrely, they no longer seem to be tied to faction. I saw someone in a Templar uniform that had Illuminati colours. It was very jarring.

Unfortunately, upon entering Agartha I also began to suffer from nearly constant disconnects and crashes that made it unplayable. After nearly an hour of relogging, rebooting, and tinkering with game settings, I was unable to solve the problem. I thought maybe if I could make it out of Agartha things might improve, but I was crashing so much even that proved a bridge too far.

At this point, my already thin patience with the reboot reached its end. I ragequit and uninstalled.

I’m still not going to say I’ll never play Legends, but it’s certainly not something that greatly interests me right now. I still see no good reason why we needed to lose our characters and all our progression, and the fact the game is literally unplayable for me right now isn’t improving matters.