It’s been no secret that I have been playing quite a lot of The Secret World lately especially if you’ve been monitoring my twitter feed. It is a game I have grown to appreciate despite that fact that it is decidedly less robust than WoW in terms of content and non-endgame group content available to players. I like the game because I enjoy the flavor and enjoy the combat.
The combat is TSW is extremely customizable and is both complex and not complex at the same time. Mush like playing a CCG you are tasked with building a ‘deck’. Your deck consists of assigning 7 active and 7 passive abilities to your character. The complexity lies in making sure these abilities all synergize well between actives and passives as well as the stats you’ve assigned to your gear (since most gear is entirely customizable for a price). Once assigned though, playing your build is much simpler. Good play however is entirely on you and your ability to stay alive.
What makes the grouping in TSW interesting, and slightly different than wow are the responsibilities:
Tank: Hate, Survivability, Interrupts, Avoid-or-die
DPS: Hate-management, Damage, Self and Group Cleansing, Avoid-or-die
Healer: Hate-management, Healing, Self-Cleansing, Avoid-or-die
Secret World has embraced a rather interesting take on MMO combat. This is a world where people have guns and monsters wield some fairly frightening magic. As such it is almost always going to kill you if you get hit with ANYTHING. You are tasked with avoiding every single aspect of a nightmare encounter that can be dodged in order to stay alive and continue doing your role. DPS are responsible for a bulk of the cleansing and there are a host of abilities tanks must interrupt or they can (or will) kill someone. I like this!
I understand however that this is incredibly daunting to a new player. Secret World tries its best to help you through them by adding ground warning effects for EVERY AoE attack in the game. You will always see where an attack is going to land before it happens if you are expected to avoid it. That part isn’t so bad I don’t think. The mechanics where a tank must impair (their version of interrupt) or DPS must cleanse themselves by way of Sleight of Hand is nebulous at best. Here are three examples of non-raid level nightmare capstone bosses.
Polaris – entry level Nightmare Dungeon
Final Boss – The Ur-Draug
-Cleave – will kill anyone but the tank in a frontal cone
-Ground Slam – warning shown for the cone affected – tank must avoid
-Submerge – when the boss submerges bubbles will appear around the party in the ‘safe’ zone completely immobilizing you. The only way to get out is use a spell to remove the hinder effect or use a ‘jump’ type skill. Failure to do so leads to death
-Blue phase – Boss shifts dimensions and wanders looking for you, part must play hide and seek behind rocks while dealing with adds. If you are seen by the boss you will be killed
-Pillar Explosion – when the boss drops to very low health he shatters all the large rocks in the zone originally hid behind, kills anyone near them other than a tank
That’s 4 ways you can instantly die instantly as a dps or healer on this encounter
Hell Raised – entry level Nightmare Dungeon
Final Boss – Machine Tyrant
-Anima Overcharge – boss puts up a shield after a timer has wound down that persists until dragged over a anima well. Will kill any DPS that hit him with the shield up
-Cleave – will kill anyone but the tank in a frontal cone
-Knockback – will kill or severely damage any melee who do not avoid the warning circle
-Firmament Barrage – moving crosshairs chase players dropping bombs periodically. Will kill anyone they hit
-Wave of Immolation – moves to the center of the room and creates a very large spiral of runes around him that will kill anyone caught in one
There’s 4 ways you can die instantly as a dps or healer on this encounter
Hell Eternal – Tier 2 Nightmare Dungeon
Final Boss – Eblis
Solar Collapse – huge crosshairs of doom and bombs or destruction. Run like hell or die
Drink Deep – tank interrupt or likely someone is killed
Occluding Lense – reflective shield DPS can easily blow themselves up on using finishers
Consummation – reduces a party member to 1 HP (can do tanks). Particularly deadly with the above Occluding Lens
Cast Out – pulls the party into a barred off area with:
-moving death circles on the ground
-Painwheel Overdive – tank must interrupt or we all die
-Vanquish – line attack to the boss’s left and right in the way he’s facing when casting it initially. Kills you
Chains – movement hinder ability that kills you when it expires. Remove it or die.
There are 8 ways a player can instantly die on this fight: 8 of which as a tank, 7 as a dps, and 5 as a healer.
I might be a little bit of a hard-ass but I honestly like this kind of punishing encounter. This might also be a reason why TSW isn’t really doing amazingly because the encounters are extremely difficult if you are not acutely aware of your surroundings and the fight itself. Couple that with it being a heinous gear grind once all story plot has been completed and you have a fairly tough sell.
As a healer in WoW I find it frustrating that some avoidable mechanics are not necessarily death related but simply painful. You will primarily see this in normal and LFR Difficulty as well as 5 man content. I think there needs to be a strong push for players, not just DPS, to be much more self sufficient when it comes to their safety. Having the security blanket of the healers is always a dangerous notion especially when you’re trying harder content and cutting back on the healers present. For our progression group we tend to rarely run more than 5 healers unless we absolutely have to for the encounter to function.
Secret World trains you hard from the very first moment you step into the game. Every mob from the most basic to elite and boss level all telegraph their moves to give you an option to avoid them. You are also given a quick directional dodge ability with a cooldown you can always use to move from place to place quickly. On top of that mobs are fairly lethal in general. Unless you give yourself self-healing or damage mitigation you’ll find yourself getting low just by taking on two or three of them and you might even get yourself killed easily enough if too aggressive. In a game with an extremely harsh environment I think it breeds a level of awareness players need to survive at the endgame level.
Because so much pressure is on players to avoid and dodge mechanic during fights I’ve found almost all players, except for tanks, shed ALL excess +hitpoint stats from their gear and streamline their damage and healing output. When a fight comes around where there is heavy periodic damage that cannot be avoided it is expected the player knows enough to swap in a health item to bring up their max hp. Failure to do so often leads to death.
I’m a weird individual though. When it comes to games like MMO’s I like punishing (but not unfairly so) environments because I think it makes better players. At the same time though I almost refuse to go back and play old retro console games without a save state function. I think for me the line that can’t be crossed is when challenge becomes frustration. A Heroic fight in WoW is challenging. The speeder bike level in Battletoads is frustrating. I think game developers need to be aware that creating a fight with immense amounts of luck required or hidden knowledge it can easily cross into the realm of frustrating. WoW heroic encounters as of late, and most of what I’ve seen in Secret World, are very learnable fights that require people to iterate on previous attempts in a logical manner. Having Save or Die mechanics in your fight are perfectly fair and do not in and of themselves make a fight a poor design.
There are my ramblings for today complete with some mild stream of consciousness in there as well. I hope I’ve at least given you a little something to think about