Funcom has had problems monetising their game. Starting with a Subscription, moving onto Buy-to-Play with DLC and now finally Free to Play. Along with this free to play conversion Funcom has touted revised enhanced visuals, action combat and smoothed content flow.

Having played the original Secret World (TSW) extensively and getting back into the revised Secret World Legends (SWL) it’s quite apparent to me that game is essentially the same with some superficial changes, simplification and system overhauls to encourage spending money.

Action combat overhaul

The supposed action combat overhaul is a totally dishonest descriptor. From an operational perspective the game plays almost identically to the previous version. The only change is instead of clicking and tab targeting, you now use a mouse to look at the target instead. Skills still behave and execute identically to TSW.

combat

“Action” Combat

There is only one substantial  upfront change to make the game more “actiony”. Funcom has added secondary mechanics and/or resources to all the weapons which are all too common these days. For example sword has a bar when you fill up you can activate with a skill for bonus damage for a while or fists have a bar which you fill up you can use alternate skills for a while. It’s more of a gimmick than adding any depth or increasing enjoyment of the moment to moment action.

Some returning players may notice the whole build/spender dynamic is “gone”. I argue that it is exactly the same, it’s merely disguised. So previously once you’ve spent your resources you spend your time building em back up by using builders. Now in SWL once you’ve spent your resources you mash your “basic skill” until your energy regenerates back to spendable levels. Functionally its the same, spend resources, while empty mash something else till you can spend resources again.

secondary_resource

Weapon energy and secondary resource display

 

Revised skill system

The skill tree has been heavily reduced and simplified. As a veteran Secret World player who’s unlocked the entire skill tree and loves to play with builds and construct custom decks this was extremely apparent to me. Formerly most skills were not necessarily weapon locked and passive skills much more generically applicable which allowed for some creative or unexpected usage. Examples: Some damage builds would learn elementalist skills to unlock a passive which made every seventh shot do bonus damage, builds which utilised this passive would then stack as much buffs and bonuses as possible on this 7th shot do a lot of burst damage. There were mitigation tanks, self healing tanks, tanks that not only healed themselves but also others which negated the need for a dedicated healer in many instances. There were some hybrid damage builds like leach rifle which would damage and also heal someone at the same time, this was a great build for easier group content to allow for more damage stacking. In player versus player people made incredible damage reflect builds which would murder anyone who attacked them at the wrong time. This new skill tree has almost all passives linked to not only their respective weapons but outright match up with a specific skill to make them much simpler and way less interesting.

passives

The new passive skills. Not only can you boost “x” skill you can also get STAT BOOSTS! I know so exciting…

Enhanced visuals

Some of the skill effects have been updated but honestly an upgrade from terrible to slightly less terrible is still terrible.

graphics.jpg

Instead of merely twirling, you can twirl with some random lines. 

Itemisation

Crafting removed and replaced with a system where you consume unwanted gear to do a sort of gamble to upgrade your gear.

upgrades

Upgrade your gear for up to $2.50 USD per attempt

Progression

A leveling system added to the game to smooth out progress. Previously you merely gained skill and ability points, statistical advantage came from gear which was also limited and not ballooned to absurdity like some more popular online games (World of Warcraft). Now levels also give you statistical boosts. Quests also have level requirements, this prevents more novice players from banging their head on a wall so to speak but however prevents more knowledgeable players from progressing through content so fast. Whether this change is good or bad is debatable.

How Free is this game really?

All content is free in this iteration. The main restriction is keeping, movement speed upgrades, inventory slots and additional weapon abilities behind a “Grind Wall” of sorts. This grind wall is implemented via a currency called “Marks of Favour” which are used to unlock the aforementioned upgrades. You can earn up to 10,000 per day and this currency is locked to your character, not shared account wide. The first speed upgrade costs 1 days’ worth of grind, the second 2 days, presumably increasing drastically to encourage you to purchase their real money currency “Aurum”.

What can money (Aurum) buy you in Secret World Legends? Almost everything: skill points to buy skills, ability points to buy abilities, unlocking weapon sets, and movement speed, and inventory space. The loot system has been changed to encourage purchasing Aurum, you’ll randomly find caches that can only be opened by keys that can only be obtained with Aurum and in instanced content you’re limited to a certain amount of keys per day to open loot boxes which you can either get more per day with a subscription or outright buy with Aurum.

Can you play this game without spending a dime? Absolutely, especially when considering the main draw being mission content, exploration and story rather than some kind of infinite gear grind treadmills you see so often.

subscribers.jpg

Subscriber benefit no longer includes monthly Aurum (Funcom Points) stipend

Note for returning players

A legacy transfer procedure is available to unlock previously earned/purchased skins and subscription time (includes lifetime). More information here.

Recommendation

If you’ve never played Secret World before and you’re more into story and atmosphere definitely give it a shot as Secret World is quite unique in this regard. If you’re looking for engaging gameplay or in-depth character customisation this is a no go. For those who’ve disliked the game in the past, you’ll probably still dislike it. For those who liked the game in the past, you may not like the changes. The old game is still up but is in maintenance mode as company resources are focused on Secret World Legends.

If you think this game is for you click here for the official site.

 

 

 

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