The Secret World Legends – A Newbie’s Impression
As some of you might remember from my post about MMOs last October, I’m not really a big MMO gamer. But since it’s free to play and comes highly recommended (and I was in a bit of a slump gamewise), I decided to give The Secret World Legends a try. So far, I haven’t regretted it – but.
Ah, the “but”. Wouldn’t warrant an article otherwise, right? 😉
As a prelude:
I have not yet come very far within the game. My character, Finn, is Level 21 and still in the Savage Coast, which is the second area you can reach after the prologue in the respective cities (in my case London). Thus, some of my observations may not be accurate or might still change in the course of the game. I know already that there are certain decisions one has to make later on which impact, at least in part, your character, if not the plot itself. So, this really is a newbie’s impression and not in the least a comprehensive critique of the game as such.
By now and thanks to SWTOR, I am familiar enough with MMO worlds per se and the MMO-inherent immersion breakers that I can ignore most things that I don’t like and still be “in” the story. It still sometimes annoys me that everything one does within the game changes back to its original state, sometimes within two seconds, but it’s something I accepted.
The thing I love about SWTOR is the amazingly written and beautifully voiced protagonists and their personal story. That, however, is not something The Secret World Legends offers (which is also why I cannot see any ‘roleplaying aspect’ in TSW). The protagonists are mute – which isn’t necessarily a problem as we saw in Dragon Age Origins, but they are not only mute, there is not a single decision you can make yourself within cutscenes and dialogues. Or, rather monologues, since the only people talking are NPCs. While the fact that many NPCs comment on you giving them the “silent treatment” is sort of funny, it doesn’t really help me as the player become part of the world of TSW. There is no personal story at all in TSW, in fact it is more the feeling of “watching a show” than playing a game. This goes so far that I have been wondering more than once why TSW is not a single player game – since you can only follow a single-path story anyway, the open world isn’t necessary to the plot. Okay, the fun of playing with friends and doing dungeons etc. There’s always that.
What I really enjoy about TSW is on the one hand the lore one can find (which is really well written) and on the other hand the mix of various quests: fetch quests, kill quests, side quests and investigation quests. Every major quest starts with a cutscene with the NPC that gives you the quest and most have some story aspect that adds to the huge major storyline behind everything. There is “areal” lore specifically for local events or buildings or groups and there is lore that is more global – e.g. for the various organisations one meets. Personal favourite so far: the Orochi. Which might have something to do with the awesome dialogues of two NPCs, including Star Trek references 😉
So far, I am still a bit divided concerning the investigation quests. There are some that are really mainly fun and I love the fact that it’s not just “hack’n’slay” in the game. I do enjoy puzzles and searching the area for clues… but unfortunately, most of the investigation quests do not only require “searching the area” for clues and straining your brain a bit. I don’t mind having to use a browser to google a game-related website the game hints at for research, but some of the quests and clues are obscure to such an extent that I sort of brain-flatline. The background of a painting points to a clock the hands of which show numbers which in turn point to a book referenced earlier in the quest… not a chance in hell that I would get these clues myself. Not without wrecking my brain for (and I’m not exaggerating) hours – and that’s not something I want to do when I go gaming to relax.
Then there are those where it’s “Find the place in the picture”. And the referenced place is not somewhere the player has been so far – not even in this area. How am I supposed to be able to find this? It would be less of a problem if you could just put the quest “on hold” but that isn’t possible. You can have only one quest active per quest type – so to accept another investigation quest, I have to finish the one before. Which means that the game designer obviously either want the player to search the whole of all accessible areas for these specific places (which was in the sewers, so not even visible by just walking through the area) or to go through the whole of the game with that specific quest in the back of their mind (even if it’s no longer active) to go back later and finish the quest then. OR they think only people who played the game already and thus know every area and… in any case I wouldn’t have been able to finish this quest without a solution guide.
And while the above-mentioned were just two of various investigation quests (several of which were fun and absolutely doable), my main problem with this is that I tend to get frustrated more easily than I normally would. As soon as I don’t know what to do within moments (or think I have a clue), I go to find the solution because I fear it’s another one of those quests which I cannot solve anyway. And then I just follow a walk-through which is not very entertaining in the long run. I do hope that my frustration level isn’t rising too quickly, for at the moment I suspect that this will at one point or another be a deal-breaker for me.
The obscurity and secrecy isn’t all bad, though, on the contrary. Several times already I started to write something down, sometimes quest-related, sometimes just something I stumbled onto and was intrigued. I love how the game manages to convey the feeling of “Everything is connected… by something dark and powerful” and I love the dialogues and characters. I am really looking forward to getting a more thorough view of the Story Behind Everything and am already wondering whether the protagonist can in fact do anything about anything and also, how the secret societies play into it, if they in fact do at all.
Interestingly, but that is a very personal problem and has nothing to do with the game itself per se, the game so far really creeps me out. The first areas are zombie land, a Lovecraft-Poe-inspired horror world, full of zombies, sea tentacle monsters, wendigos and, later on, ghosts and haunted houses. And while I have played The Last of Us and Left for Dead and watched The Walking Dead (up to a point) and thus know zombies and normally don’t really care about them, something about the way TSW made them freaks me the hell out. I think it’s the sounds they make when you pass them (even if you manage to get by without them attacking) – and don’t get me started on the haunted Amusement Park at the Savage Coast. Creepy as fuck. This leads to me not being able to spend more than two or a maximum of three hours in the game or I get SO FREAKED OUT that I tense up completely, so much so that it physically hurts.
Personal goal: get at least so far as to come to the next area where there a no more zombies.
How about those of you who are also newbies to the game? What are your impressions?