Monday, 4 July 2016

Welcome To The Museum : The Secret World

When I first heard that The Secret World was going to be giving every player their own museum it was the most intriguing and appealing news I'd heard about the game for a very long time. Prior to that almost everything seemed to be aimed squarely at end-game players and since I never even finished the main story-line from launch that was exactly what I didn't need.

I'm very fond of The Secret World. The worldscape is meticulous in its attention to detail. The writing, the cut-scenes and especially the voice acting are all significantly above MMO genre standard. There's no shortage of strong, memorable characters and stories. My character looks great and the game takes superb screenshots.

What's not to like, eh? Well, the combat isn't stellar and in a genre that relies on hitting things til they fall over that's a problem. Also it can be quite grindy and not in a good way. The very quality and intricacy of the quests makes the whole process seem even less meaningful than usual when you find yourself doing them for the fifth or sixth time just to earn some AP.

Also I'm just not very good at a lot of what I'm asked to do there. I find the gameplay significantly more challenging than almost any other MMO I enjoy and I am not a big fan of "challenge" in my entertainment. It's not just that I can't do some of the fights, although that's the most irritating part. Quite a few of the non-combat missions, which I can do, I don't much enjoy.

Nevertheless, on balance I do like the Secret World and I'm always keen to go back and have another run at it. The Museum looked, on paper, like an excellent reason to return.


Firstly, everyone gets their own instance. It's free and there's no pre-requisite. Not even a quest. You just open the door and there you are in your very own museum. It's a kind of housing. I've seen it compared to GW2's Hall of Monuments although now I've walked the corridors of the museum that's a bit like comparing a ruined folly at the end of the lower orchard to the fifteen-bedroom mansion at the top of the drive.

Secondly, the gameplay associated with stocking and decorating your museum seems eminently reasonable. Mostly it's filling out achievements, finding Lore updates and killing regular mobs. It sounds like something anyone can just pick away at in their own time, at their own pace. Perfect for my predilections.

I was very much looking forward to taking charge of my own museum as soon as it appeared in game but as it happened that coincided with the arrival of my new PC, meaning I didn't have the game installed. By the time I got around to locating the old drive with TSW on, first impressions of the museum had begun to pop up and they weren't pretty.

Syp, a big TSW booster, who'd been enthusiastic, was less than impressed, describing it as "a huuuuge grind and AP/PAX/black bullion sink". Others were less complimentary. 

The negative reaction did blunt my own enthusiasm and that, plus having a lot of other things going on, meant that I didn't get around to patching TSW up and logging in until this evening. I'm very glad I did.

Jogging through the London streets I noticed that TSW is beginning to show its age a little. Either that or it looked better on my older, less powerful machine. It still revels in the same stellar art design though, even if the textures are looking a little threadbare here and there. 

Once through the door the minimal, almost severe lines of the stone-faced exhibition halls work very much in its favor. There's a brief explanatory pop-up but really everything is easy enough to figure out. Empty plinths await your efforts at collecting specimens. Read the plaques to see what's required. That's about it.

I bought the relevant writ and opened the New England wing, figuring that would be the easiest since it's the game's starter zone. I was happy to discover that I'd already completed a good deal of the necessary requirements for most of the would-be exhibits. I don't even remember TSW having an Achievement system but apparently it does and I've done some.

Some people have taken strongly against the only exhibit that comes with the museum - a giant statue of your own character. I loved it. First thing I did was take several selfies standing and sitting beside my giant doppleganger. 

The Gift Shop was a bit of a comedown. It's mostly empty. I think it fills up as you add exhibits but it looks a little sad right now with all its half-empty shelves. The few plainly carved wooden toys look positively pathetic.

One very odd duck was the postcard stand. The postcards themselves were fine - it was the prominent price sign on the top that struck a false note. Since when did any London museum price postcards in dollars?

That was about the only cavil I had although all those old masters on the walls seem a tad out of place, come to think of it. You'd think something by Dali or Hieronymus Bosch might be a better fit.

Other than that everything looks just as it ought. I look forward to happy times in the woods slaughtering  Ak'Abs and ferreting out snippets of Lore like some Lovecraftian version of Gerald Durrell. Oh, wait, no - he'd bring them back alive, wouldn't he? Not much chance of that!


7 comments:

  1. As you know from my own blog, I am less than impressed with the museum, to put it mildly. It's arguably the biggest grind in the game to date (which is saying a lot), and the rewards are profoundly underwhelming.

    I have some vague hope it may get some changes at some point to be more appealing. If the guardians weren't consumable, or didn't cost bullion...

    I do like the idea of the museum. I wish I could be excited for it.

    If nothing else the new lore is fun to track down. It's all a big treasure hunt.

    Nice outfit, by the way. Your character rather looks like my Templar, actually. Same hairstyle, similar fashion sense.

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    1. Thanks. I think TSW has just about the best character dress-up game of any MMO I've ever played. I love just standing in the Agartha, crowd-watching.

      I think if you were to take the museum as a serious proposition it would be one heck of a grind and a money sink but as a casual proposition it looks appealing. I plan on just cherry-picking the easy stuff!

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  2. Some of the new lores aren't solo-friendly, unfortunately: either in dungeons/raids or from bosses that essentially require a group to kill. At least for that second category there are sometimes nice people on chat who announce that they already killed the boss and so the lore is free for the taking. (I also managed to sneak into one dungeon alone and grab a lore without having to fight anything.)

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    1. I haven't looked into the details yet. I'm counting on there being at least some easy ones. The New England ones ought to be manageable, I'd have thought?

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    2. Curiously enough, i think the lore acquired from dungeons is the most complete facet of the new lores for me. I probably also miss some of them, as i didn't pick up an online checklist to find them all, but rather just collected what we found, but dungeons are still a place i like to do one or another visit a day with my cabal. Although by now they are not that much of a challenge any more, but a form of Zen. :D

      Anyway, the community of TSW is quite a good one. It's rather easy to find a group for dungeons. If you want to do a tour for lores, it would be good form to not simply sign up on the LFG tool, but to ask for a group, though. If you play at European times, feel free to contact me. (Character name: Slad)

      Getting some dungeoning going is no big deal, and if it's a lore-tour, i might actually look up the lores on tswdb, which would even result in me completing the dungeon lores. If that does not work out, i always advise to join the Noobmares and Sanctuary channel. If you ask for a group there, you'll most likely be busy fending off people who are willing to help.

      Right now, during the 4 years anniversary event, the number of helpful people might be a little less, as more people are tied in event activities, but i think there's still enough left. For example this weekend i again did a guided tour through Hell Eternal Elite, with three of the group, including a beginner tank, in all blue equipment. (Just one DPS and me as the healer were in custom gear. )

      It meant that i had some typing to do, to explain the fights, and the last boss took them a few tries to learn, but actually they did great. (We beat the boss at third try, with only one DPS dead. Considering how long it took me to learn that fight in old times, i expected us to be there much longer. )

      Since there are more people around like me, who like to teach players some dungeoning, it shouldn't be hard to find support if you want to collectlores in there. And hey, maybe you actually start to like doing dungeons, find some people for it and get into better gear.

      After all, playing with other people at least for me is the main advantage of MMOs.

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  3. Warning! It's wall of text time!

    It's always interesting to see how our views differ.

    I still like TSW and play it actively. I find combat quite fine, and not as hard i often read it to be. Most striking is how differently i see the comparison of GW2 and TSW.

    I find that my Guardian in GW2 feels weaker than my character in TSW. Now mind you, you could tell that the Guardian is not the strongest class there and i would agree, but i'Ve set it up "full damage", while my TSW character is set up with a health and two major heal rating talismans, which is far from "all damage". ( Actually my usual gear only differs from my dungeon healing setup by one weapon and i can always help out as healer in the open world, too. )

    So despite being more versatile, my TSW character also feels quicker in combat than my damage focused GW2 character. And even next to that, combt for me feels more fluid in TSW than in GW2. The only aspect where GW2 seems to win is on how "pretty" combat is. But if you just once switch off GW2s particle effects, you'll find that they mostly serve to cover up comparatively weak animations. (Also, i find telegraphs in TSW more logical. They always are self-explanatory, while in GW2 i regularily have to wonder if something now is a friendly effect i should stay in, or if it's a hostile effect i have to immediately get out of. So it's "google a guide or die", which i consider not to be so great fun. )

    Where i agree is that if you feel the need to "grind" AP, then even the best missions in TSW can become boring and repetitive. Btw. how far are your HoT masteries in GW2? *grin* But by now i find that whatever i do in TSW, i just end up with more AP which i don't really have use for.

    I also have to agree that TSW challenges the player, which i appreciate. It might be just me, but by the game not taking my hand and guiding me at every step, i feel like the game or rather the developers respect me. They do not expect me to be a helpless kid which need to be saveguarded throughout the experience, but take me as a sentient being who can figure out things and make reasonable decissions. For me that's a welcome change to the flavour of "you are stupid as dirt, so we aim to entertain you at that level" which is so prevalent throughout games these days.

    Mind you, i also don't appreciate the "react within 0.175 seconds or die" challenges. I am well over 40 and i am aware that my reflexes are not what they used to be. But again, i feel that on the "be quick or be dead" front, TSW is way more forgiving that many other MMOs. Telegraphs are fair, casts which really need to be interrupted are usuylly a bit slower than in other games (there are a few exceptions in high end content by now, but as that's nightmare difficulty content and easier versions exist, i can't complain about it) and most of the "but i die instantly" problems of people is because they never took a look at their setup.

    E.g. replacing just one attack rating talisman with a health talisman can give you +80% health at a loss of about 6% of damage output, give an take a little depending on your setup and the quality levels of your gear.

    That all being said, for the Museum i also am on the "hmm, yes" side. Most of all, i am very critical on the "something for everybody" statement. With 50 AP for a basic exhibit, and costs raising for higher ones, the beginner player certainly can not afford to work on the museum. While for me it's not that bad for the beginner they are unaffordable. At the same time, the only thing i am looking for is to at some time unlock and buy those t-shirts in the museums store, nothing else really interests me that much.

    What i appreciate more is the new lore, as i really like to read that. :)

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    1. The entire repeatable quest/event structure that underpins the entire MMO genre really takes an incredible feat of suspension of disbelief to overcome at the best of times. It goes beyond that right into doublethink, really.

      The temporal architecture of almost all MMOs is utterly untenable but I find that the quality and gravitas of the TSW quests, especially with the cut-scenes and voiceovers makes it a lot harder than usual to put that to one side. The stories are too good to put on loop just to get AP, in other words.

      It actually helps to have had a long lay off because I forget the quests and then I can do them again as though I was reading a book for the second or third time, which seems not unreasonable. Doing them the way I do GW2 dailies, though, would just not work for me.

      As for the combat and the fights, as Syp was observing today, the solo quest bosses in TSw are of the difficulty I would expect from Dungeon bosses in most MMOs. That's simply much too "challenging" for me to find entertaining. There's a degree of "challenge" that I do find adds to my enjoyment but TSW goes beyond that to the point that I find even the thought that a long fight might be coming up is enough to make me log out and play something else. I like fights that I know I am going to win and that I know aren't going to take too long and that I know won't end up with my shoulder or neck hurting. TSW quest boss fights almost always fail on at least one out of three of those criteria. Sometimes all of them.

      The whole thing about animations and movement and general combat "feel" in MMOs is desperately subjective. WoW always gets held up as the perfect model in this respect but I certainly never found it to be perfect. Good, yes. GW2 is, by a decent margin, the most "natural" combat I have ever found in an MMO. I guess it suits the way I think and the way my muscles are comfortable with being asked to work. I can be heavily involved in hectic fights for literally hours in GW2 and finish feeling fresh, with no aches or strains. That's not true of TSw or many other MMOs (LotRO was by some margin the worst for that).

      That said, I don't dislike TSW's combat. I have to take it in smaller doses though and not try to do anything too ambitious.

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