Se­cret World Le­gends

Has go­ing free-to-play given Se­cret World Le­gends a new lease of life?

PC GAMER (UK) - - CONTENTS - By Richard Cob­bett

All con­spir­a­cies are true. Dark days are com­ing. Also, you just swal­lowed a magic bee. In an in­stant, your world is changed for­ever. Your life now be­longs to the cheer­fully evil Il­lu­mi­nati, proud and proper Tem­plars, or chaotic Dragon fac­tion. Be­fore you’ve even had a chance to process that, you find your­self stand­ing be­tween the world and Love­craftian night­mare. And you’re not even get­ting over­time.

TheSe­cretWorld has al­ways been my favourite MMO that I wish hadn’t been an MMO. It a won­der­ful set­ting: a con­vinc­ing world with ur­ban fan­tasy twists. Ev­ery­thing, from start­ing out as an Il­lu­mi­nati in a New York district to glanc­ing at the first maps of the ma­jor hub of Solomon Is­land, of­fers a crazy uni­verse worth ex­plor­ing.

Along with the fan­tas­tic map de­sign, TheSe­cretWorld’s writ­ing is a joy. True, the de­ci­sion to have a silent pro­tag­o­nist is re­gret­table, but that doesn’t mat­ter when fac­ing the likes of party girl Il­lu­mi­nati han­dler Kirsten Geary, magic school head­mas­ter Mon­tag or Stephen King expy Sam Krieg. And that’s to say noth­ing of some of the amaz­ing mis­sions. While they do in­clude plenty of kill or fetch quests, just as of­ten you’re be­ing mur­dered by spir­its, rais­ing an army of the dead and re­turn­ing to kick seven dif­fer­ent su­per­nat­u­ral va­ri­eties of arse.

Un­for­tu­nately, the game’s qual­i­ties were un­der­mined by its MMO side,

which meant the dis­trac­tion of other peo­ple, pad­ding and com­bat that can be char­i­ta­bly de­scribed as, ‘Look, it tried.’ A sub­scrip­tion fee and box pur­chase at the dawn of free-to-play cer­tainly didn’t help.

With Se­cret World Le­gends, Fun­com has re­booted the whole thing. It’s the same maps and sto­ries, at least for now – more is planned, as per the of­fi­cial roadmap. How­ever, as well as be­ing free-to-play, many of the sys­tems have been over­hauled. The orig­i­nal game was built on a myth about hor­i­zon­tal lev­el­ling. Now, you have lev­els, en­e­mies have lev­els, quests have lev­els, and even equip­ment has lev­els with sim­pli­fied skill trees for each one.

The re­sult, though, is dis­tinctly mixed. You can play through the cam­paign for free and not be both­ered by any pur­chases, as long as you don’t mind stick­ing to your start­ing weapons. If you’re an ex­ist­ing The Se­cret World player, they’re all un­locked for you. If start­ing fresh, you’ve got to un­lock one weapon at a time, which costs real-world money or in-game cur­rency.

BE­HIND THE LEG­END

The bad news is that while many of the MMO bits have changed, the changes don’t deal with the prob­lem. Skill de­scrip­tions have changed, yes, but re­main vague and do a ter­ri­ble job of point­ing out what syn­er­gises with what and how best to build out a char­ac­ter. The worst of these changes is that in­stead of en­e­mies drop­ping up­grades, they now drop ba­sic gear. This gets as te­dious as it sounds, es­pe­cially with the need to later fuse high-level gear to­gether and up­grade two weapons and seven tal­is­mans. Some­times you just want to get a shiny new gun.

The story is mostly as was in The Se­cret World, though with a few changes. You now have to hit spe­cific lev­els be­fore con­tin­u­ing. Com­bat is now retic­ule-based, it’s not great, but this is a five-year-old MMO. Key phrase: MMO. Pad­ding and pac­ing re­main an is­sue. Too many quests hav­ing too many stages, and there be­ing some weird new de­ci­sions. The end of the first Egypt zone, for in­stance, takes you right to the en­trance to the sec­ond map, in what has to be one of the genre’s best vis­ual re­veals. To go in, though, takes an­other few hours through what was for­merly DLC, killing the pace.

The more that you want to play Se­cret World Le­gends as an MMO, the more you’re likely to chafe at this re­boot’s re­stric­tions, es­pe­cially in terms of loot. For more solo or nar­ra­tive-fo­cused play­ers, how­ever, it’s a great sec­ond chance to see what it has to of­fer, as well as The Se­cret World’s best chance in years to ex­pand its reach and con­tinue telling its story.

The game’s qual­i­ties were un­der­mined by its MMO side

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