Saturday, September 26, 2020

Extreme Makeover : Secret World Legends

's short Massively OP news report on the upcoming update to Secret World Legends came across as admirably even-handed and professional, I thought, given his history with the title. Like many, I'm sure, he's on record as being, shall we say, less than impressed by Funcom's handling of the revamp no-one asked for.

Described as "one of the biggest updates ever", the patch notes supposedly run to "nearly 9,000 words". I thought that sounded a little unlikely so I copy-pasted them into a word counter and yes, I guess you'd have to say 8,792 is "nearly 9,000".

I did not read them all. Instead, I read Community Manager AndyB's overview and summary, much more manageable at a sprightly 644 words. Then I had a quick scan through the epic specifics of the notes. 

I came away puzzled. Not by the brain-crushing detail. I ignored most of that. In part it was the nature of the changes that seemed curious but mostly it was the mere fact that change on this scale exists at all in a game many of us, in this part of the blogosphere at least, had most likely written off long ago.

Maybe that's premature. I was quite surprised, checking the dates for this post, to see Secret World Legends only launched three years ago. It feels like a lot longer. Of course, the original game, The Secret World, debuted all the way back in 2012. The two do tend to blur in the memory. Hardly surprising, given that they're arguably the same game. 

The narrative, such as it is, seems to have been that Funcom, under great commercial stress, attempted to re-tool and re-market what was then their newest, highest-profile property to attract a broader audience and failed. Then their financial fortunes took a turn for the better and they scored an unexpected hit with the little-fancied Conan Exiles, after which the company appeared to lose interest in MMORPGs altogether. 

New content dried up. The older MMORPGs remained in service but to all intents and purposes appeared to have moved into de facto maintenance mode. No-one in this part of the blogosphere talked about the game any more and such news items as appeared on MMO sites seemed both desultory and scarce.

And yet it appears someone must have been playing. Possibly rather a lot of someones. With no new content in years and no prospect of any in the foreseeable future, what could those people be doing?

Judging by this update they've been running dungeons and raiding. Obsessively. I suppose that shouldn't come as a surprise. If TSW/SWL ever had a solid reputation for anything other than story it was probably dungeon play. 

Not that I'd know. I've never done a dungeon in SWL, only a couple in The Secret World, and those in pick-up groups. I didn't form much of an impression. I have read plenty of praise from players who have, though.

SWL doesn't even have a lot of dungeons. Just eight, according to the wiki. As of this update "You may now queue up to Dungeon Elite difficulty 17". I have no idea how many you used to be able to queue for but I'm guessing there's a progression system similar to Guild Wars 2's fractals. 

There does seem to be a demographic within MMORPG players that's happy to run the same dungeons over and over again, always provided there's a number against their character's name that keeps going up. I'm guessing that's Secret World's Legend's core audience these days.

How else to explain Funcom's perception that not only does the dungeon and raid offer need to grow but that the fundemental combat systems which support it deserve a major re-visit? The sweeping changes detailed in the notes suggest an enormous amount of work. Why bother with any of it other than to consolidate and expand a potentially profitable segment? And time-consuming though I'm sure it must be, it's almost bound to be cheaper than creating new narrative content.

It's not going to affect me. Probably. I still log into SWL occasionally but only to ride my motorcycle and look at the scenery. Okay, I might do a mission now and again but it's exceedingly unlikely I'll ever make another serious attempt to progress my character. Even less so that I'll ever set foot in a dungeon.

Even so, I admit to a frisson of concern at the news that healing potions seem to have been nerfed and that "solo survival passives now cap healing at 15,000 max HP". Also "...all nine weapons have received significant changes. Some weapons may even be completely different from what you’re used to".

Doesn't exactly spark joy in the hear of the casual player, does it? It wouldn't be the first time that changes intended for dungeon and raid play spilled over to make life harder for solo players. 

If there are any left, that is.


  1. Huh. I'm vaguely tempted to grab it and give it a try again...
    Mmh. Probably not tempted enough.

    1. Same, really. Maybe if it was a solo combat revamp... but I guess that's what SWL was to begin with and that didn't hold my attention for long.

  2. I really wanted to love The Secret World! I did love the atmosphere of the game but... it couldn't keep me playing for long.

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