Secret World Legends: Massively single player

Having read a lot about The Secret World, I managed to miss out playing it completely by adding it to my Steam queue about 1 day before it was withdrawn for the rebirth as Legends.

So I’ve come to the ‘new’ game completely blind, and untainted by expectation (other than the much lauded storyline) or experience. Which helps a lot when it comes to enjoying it without having to rue/farewell the good/bad old days.

I’ve levelled up to 10, and the most striking thing about it so far is how it plays like a single player game. While there have been other players, occasionally, for the most part it feels like a solo RPG. Mysteries, quests, power-ups, and a lot of (excellent) NPC dialogue. But not a lot of interaction with other players, nor seemingly any compelling reason to group up.

Admittedly that feeling of solo play started to change in Kingsmouth, but mainly due to world chat suddenly exploding into action. There’s too much chat to really pay attention, especially because the bulk of it is comparison talk – what’s better, what’s worse – but at least it proved there are other players out there. It does sound like group content is approaching – teams for ‘Polaris’ keep being advertised, so that’s promising.

And I think at level 10 something flashed past on the screen about PVP? The UI leaves something to be desired – often I was being awarded something or other but couldn’t see it behind the quest completion or inventory UI. I also have no clue what I’m doing with skill upgrades or talent builds – so far I’ve ignored them and it hasn’t mattered at all.

The combat is also pretty average, as advertised. I chose to roll Demolisher, liking the idea of a hammer-smashing sword-slashing tank, but there is zero ‘feel’ to the melee combat. It has no weight whatsoever, the hits don’t connect with any heft, and it seems that just mashing right and left mouse will do the job. Even with the world bosses, the only minor challenge has been to dodge the action telegraphs. The airiness, more than the clumsiness, of the combat is disappointing, even with low expectations.

As for the story, it’s certainly far more involved than Warcraft or GW2, approaching SWtoR in terms of craft and depth. SWtoR still wins hands down for the feeling of heroism, that you matter and your character is shaping epic events, but TSWL is proving to be a refreshing change to the fantasy and sci-fi tropes. Wry humour and well written NPCs, and an omnipresent tone of everything in the world being slightly – but not totally – off kilter.

A friend is also playing, and it’s his first ever MMO. Which is kind of unfortunate as it’s hardly that thus far, but we’re going to team up and see what eventuates. More zombies, I’m guessing.

Warcraft: Back to Basics

After a fairly long break, the Warcraft itch returned recently. I haven’t played at all for months, having been dabbling around in Uncharted I (fun, quick, entertaining), play-by-email Civ VI (thanks to the genius behind Play Your Damn Turn), and Overwatch (still, though a lot less). It become obvious the MMO urge was back when I started patching GW2, SWtoR, and even LotRO recently (without really playing any of them). I eventually admitted to myself that Warcraft was what I was really hankering for.

In some ways this seemed kind of regressive, as Jeromai at Why I Game recently pondered – why do we continually return to the comfort of what we know when there is so much new to play out there? But then I think that comfort is part of the point – having invested enough time to really deeply understand a game, especially an MMO, makes playing it that much more satisfying. The best answer is to balance your ‘main’ game with others, though sometimes an MMO makes that difficult, particularly if you’re raiding.

If it was going to be Warcraft, I figured I wanted to start again (yet again). That seems to be a common pattern – come back and level 3 or 4 Tauren through Mulgore. I must have done that zone 100s of times. I love the feeling of openness, the rolling plains, Tallstriders, and wandering Kodo (never to be killed). I also love low level levelling, it’s so satisfying seeing new skills arrive that radically change your play style, as your character takes shape. Bhagpuss wrote it best in a lovely treatise on the joy of low level play:

There really is nothing to match the satisfaction, the involvement, yes, the immersion. Stepping out in rags with a rusty sword or a knobbled stick, making your way in a hard, harsh world, being useful, helpful and always, of course, violent. Learning a craft, finding a path, seeing your rags turn to riches or at least to leathers.

Taming pets, earning mounts, flourishing your first cloak. Seeing your reputation rise. Watching the world open up around you. Making space to stash the treasures you find. Paying the rent on your first home and laying down the pelt of that great bear you slew, in front of a roaring fire you made all on your own.

As has been extensively discussed, one problem with low level play is that you quickly outzone the content, especially when decked out in heirloom gear. The ‘vanilla’ discussion is as lively as ever, but still seems unlikely to ever really happen (though the advent of Starcraft Remastered might be a glimmer of hope for the olde skool WoW fans).

So I decided to create my own vanilla, by creating a new account and playing the free level 1-20 Starter Edition. No heirlooms, no money, no bags, no speed running.

And it was fun! The level progression is slower, though surprisingly not by much. Blizzard did to a revamp of low level quest pacing back in mid 2016, and it seems to work if you’re not over geared. I was right around the correct level for everything I was doing in Mulgore, even having to go and pick a few random herbs at one point to get high enough level to tame Mazzranache (though gosh the guilt at leaving little Hazzranache, Razzranache, Jazzranache, and Spazzranache orphaned is pretty bad).

The Mazzranache family

There was still no challenge, everything dropping like flies (albeit with a few more hits than normal), but it was more fun having to watch every copper and celebrate every 6 slot bag drop (tip: kill the rares – except the sacred Kodo Arra’chea of course). Having no resources also made professions more interesting, and starting fishing from scratch was entertaining in a sadistic kind of way.

As usual I got to Thunder Bluff, and promptly found the idea of going any further kind of overwhelming. It’s a long path ahead, and some of the levelling zones have worn out their welcome. At this point I usually abandon my best intentions of zone and quest levelling and just dive into dungeons as a Tank, getting to Outland in no time by chain dungeoning. But this time that seemed wrong, these toons are not speed levellers1, they should stay the course, or just make a home in the Tauren capital and go no further.

So I’ve settled my well rounded level 15s in Thunder Bluff, and stopped again. The next decision is whether to resubscribe and get some toons to level 110 – mainly my Hunter and Rogue (the Rogue being my very first WoW character, still going). I’m sorely tempted, but then The Secret World Legends is intriguing, Dishonored 2 sits in the queue, and finishing Geralt’s journey in Witcher 3 is also a possibility.

But I think getting at least someone at 110 is a good plan, and after all, more than one game at a time should be possible – or twelve, if you’re Syp!


  1. Plus I’d have to make a financial commitment to get these characters past 20.