Group Hugs for Cthulhu: Dungeoneering in The Secret World — The MMO Gamer

Group Hugs for Cthulhu: Dungeoneering in The Secret World

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“Paint your glass houses shut!  This is a warning from the Sun!  It says it’s old, and tired, and scared of death!”

This is the third part of multi-part series covering the launch of The Secret World from a veteran MMO player’s perspective. You may also like to read:

Tentacles at Ground Zero: A Blind Date With The Secret World

Dare to Disagree: First Combat in The Secret World

Gaming, particularly MMO gaming, is a bizarre hobby when you look at it from the outside.   To glorify a character we don’t even own, we pursue repetitious tasks a sane person would stay away from. Mindless things sometimes barely a notch above channel surfing on television.  Frame the grind in the context of a simulated zombie apocalypse with some DirectX11 sun shafts though, and suddenly it’s nine hours later and the ink on your number keys is faded from all that 1,1, 2 we gamers are so tired of.

Oh so tired.

Still, it’s all about the context these things come in, and today we’re doing group dungeons in The Secret World!

Players can make an attempt at  the first group content as early as two hours into the first quest locale,  Solomon Island. The city of Kingsmouth, Maine that resides on it has been genocidally wracked by a mysterious fog. A fog that called townsfolk into the sea to drown and then rise from the grave as hostile cannibals.  Worse, many of these once-people are used as bloated embryo carriers for the monsters within the fog.  These Deep One reminiscent fiends are called Draugr.

It is the Draugr who star as the villains in the first group dungeon, an instanced mission that takes a team of five players into a section of beach whereupon the wreck of the Polaris washed up with the mists.  The craft was mysteriously lost in the Sargasso sea in 2007… what did it bring back with it?

As it turns out, the Polaris is what the Draugr rode to shore in, and the strongest of them are lurking here to prove yet again that people can somehow feed themselves and tie their shoes but absolutely cannot comprehend that you’re not supposed to “stand in the fire.”

Inquiring Star-Spawn want to know what’s on your mind. Ia! Ia!

The difficulty of the enemies is a significant jump upward from questing and Funcom made no attempt to shake up the Holy Trinity any more than SWTOR did.  One Tank, One Healer, three drooling DPS is the way.

Demonstrating yet again that the people in charge of the gameplay in The Secret World have not played any MMORPGs since 2001, low “level” tanks and healers are difficult to come by. Players willing to take on these roles AND have the equipment to fulfill them even rarer.

While leveling in Kingsmouth your quests will frequently reward you your pick of Tank, Damage, or Healer-oriented equipment.  You cannot make any real questing progress in Tank or Healing equipment at this level so most players are kitted for Damage.    The obvious result of this means that you need to hope that your Tank has been repeating the quests in town at least twice or that he’s somehow already geared up from dungeoneering or questing in higher level zones.

It’s a colossally flawed progression structure and caused me no end of frustration as I attempted all three roles on three different heroes.   Didn’t World of Warcraft figure out that tanks  and healers need to be able to kill stuff on their own in leveling gear half a decade ago? Seven active abilities and seven passives is not depth any more than 25 active abilities and full branching talent trees in other more modern MMOs is depth.

1,1,1,1,1,2,3,1,1,1,1,1,2,3

I hate to say it, but The Secret World needs a Star Wars Galaxies combat update worse than SWG ever did, because no matter what they do to the current  paradigm it cannot be made any worse than it is now.  This has been harped on by much of the opinionated internet, we can all hope Funcom listens.   If there’s one thing about Funcom, it’s that it has people like the Age of Conan lead Craig Morrison who are big enough to agree when a wrong has been designed in, and big enough to engineer a way out of the mess.

I hope there are men like Craig on the Secret World team. Gamers that want to play a game, not watch the game play itself while they make a token key pressing effort.

With a reasonably competent  party of players, the Polaris instance can take as little as fifteen minutes.  The final encounter is pleasantly challenging and hints at the better game hiding inside of The Secret World that we’ll probably be playing next year when Craig takes it over.

The second dungeon in the game turns up the style dial considerably, sending you straight into Hell itself to chase the Wicker man and sort out a rebellion while your blood slowly turns to metal.   The Secret World’s gift for atmosphere and narrative come back here and remind you that you are playing a good game after Polaris brought it into question.  Boss fights are also more complex and playfield connected affairs, requiring all the player coordination and communication of some of the best Burning Crusade era World of Warcraft content.    The difficulty is a large step upward from Polaris as well, but thankfully there are more people with tanking and healing equipment available at this higher stage of the game.  The experience was definitely more pleasant.

Like everything else Funcom has ever done, the House of Grand Ideas Mired by Execution has built an initial grouping experience that oscillates the player between love and utter hate back again to love within the span of ten minutes.   Is this an MMORPG of the second decade of the twenty first century?  It could be.  No MMO, not even SWTOR, has done so much with atmosphere and interesting, rambly, sermonizing dialogues.   The first two group instances were both dull and fantastic.

Will chunky inconsistency be the hallmark of The Secret World? When the New Game Smell wears off will the fans bleed away as happened to The Old Republic?

 

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