Fighting The Secret War

Riknas, signing off!

….Wait, that’s not how a post goes!

Hey again everyone. Today I wanted to talk about some of the comments people have made specifically about combat in The Secret World.

A fair number of commenters and bloggers have gone on to say that gameplay and combat in The Secret World is very “samey” or “standard”. To be fair, even I thought that for a little while. But having invested a much larger amount of time into the game over the past week, I feel l should clarify that this is very much not the case, and there are two key reasons why.

1. More Action Based Combat

I know it sounds very lame to say, “The further you go, the deeper it gets” but that’s the truth of it. When you first start playing the game, especially if you are beginning with melee combat, it comes across as pretty standard affair. However, as you learn new abilities you will find the need to carefully balance them pretty quickly. As you develop your character, the enemies become stronger in a way that you can no longer stick to your standard attacks, and they will force you to keep moving, literally. Many higher/moderately ranked enemies have special attacks with different area of effects. These are high damage, however you can avoid them if you pay attention to their animations and a white outline displaying the attack area. These shapes can be as simple as circles that might pop up around you or, or a long box appearing in front of the enemy. As such, you must continue to move your character to avoid these attacks. If you end up fighting multiple enemies like these, the faster pace quickly becomes a frantic dance as you try to keep up a consistent wave of damage without taking too much yourself.

The big guy says you can’t hold still.

Another thing that’s cool about the combat is that you have a limited number of ability slots. Hold up a second while I explain why that’s good, okay? In the “average” MMO you slowly fill up your hotbar with different abilities and then you need to assign new keybindings to have easier access to them. By end game, you have set your character movement to the left mouse button instead of the WASD keys, because you ran out of other buttons to use as shortcuts for your massive line-up of abilities to be used like some sort of super-powered conga line.

The Secret World isn’t like that. Instead of having an ever growing list of powers on your hotbar, you unlock new abilities without the hotbar expanding. The Secret World forces you to be efficient, carefully picking your abilities for the best set-up you can come up with. Often after each difficult battle I found myself stopping to look at all the different abilities I had and wondering if I should switch one ability I have out for another… Which actually brings me to my next point.

Normally, you wouldn’t even be able to stop and think, “Man, I should change my set up,” without immediately groaning afterward. Changing your character’s specialization is often a long process, an expensive process, or a long and expensive process. Not in The Secret World. Of the nine powersets available, you can use two at any one time. Pistols and Assault rifles? Sure. Sword and shotgun? Go for it. Bronze knuckles and blood magic? Be my guest. The other specializations aren’t forever lost to you, you can start putting points into those other abilities whenever you like. The only caveat is that you can only have 7 active and 7 passive abilities at any one time. And while this might seem like a hindrance at first, you have less skills that you have to keep track of so you can focus on your target and tracking their movements. At the same time, this also stops you from crippling yourself while trying to switch out to a new build. Early skills come quite quickly and you should be able to replace your old abilities with new ones without much problem.

Even then, almost any combination is valid because each weapon type has two primary uses. For example, while my pistol abilities can be used for damage, they can be also used for support; I can shift myself toward healing and defense without stopping myself from doing damage again later. This can be great if you want to get in on a raid and they already have enough DPS, or whatever your preferred build is. But even when it just comes down to damage, there’s still wiggle room to be had. My second weapon of choice is elemental magic, and with that I often find myself deciding between chain abilities (attacks that hop from one enemy to another) and higher damage single target attacks. Even after I’ve acquired those abilities, I’ll be able to switch them as necessary when the situation changes. That zombie mob went down fast with my chain lightning, but then I might need to switch to using heavy flames and a rain of bullets when I meet that demon around the corner.

2. The Secret World Mixes It Up

At one point I went on to say that the quests were more interesting and compelling than regular quests. Each quest opens with a unique cut scene and has multiple tasks to stop them from being as simple as “kill ten zombies”. Indeed, you might kill ten zombies doing the quest, but that’s because you went to a phone book to check for locations that might have valuable supplies, and while you went to the gas station to pick up oil and the diner to find cans of food you happened to kill some zombified waitresses at the diner and some demented sea creatures for when you passed by the beach.

But the thing is, it doesn’t actually stop with “slightly more interesting” quests, it also has “completely different” quests, times where you simply can’t just fight your way through a mission. With quests categorized as “Sabotage” and “Investigation” you will need to rely on stealth and careful thinking if you want to succeed. At one point, a Sabotage mission actually had me jumping over and maneuvering around laser sensors, and then I needed to evade  spotlights attached to cameras, because someone actually rigged them to explode if I triggered any alarms. Later, for an Investigation mission I was inspecting a room of paintings, trying to determine which one might have a clue that would lead me to some ancient artifacts. To stop me from simply looking at all of them, several would have their own riddles on the back to throw me off the trail; if I was going to save time I had to know what kind of painting I was looking for. At another point I had to look up a site via the in-game browser so I could check the materials I would need to do a makeshift repair on a radio tower. How many games will have you do something like that?

He doesn’t look like it, but the blue guy an solve a rubix cube pretty damn fast.

The Secret World is far from being a “standard” game, and that’s no secret.

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