MMOments: Secret World Legends and the Power Of Second Impressions

The Secret World will go down in history as one of the few games to put some of its executives in actual, physical prison, a strong connection considering that the game itself didn’t exactly leave much of a splash on the genre when it launched in 2012. It’s disappointing but true, while critics were praising the title for its intelligent missions and players were getting through the launch ARG, the game initially tanked Funcom’s stock value and never really garnered the kind of following it deserved or really needed. It was no failure by any means, don’t get me wrong, but five years later, the game is in some dire need of a reboot.

For those who haven’t given The Secret World a look, Secret World Legends is a not-exactly-horror game set on modern day Earth with a lore steeped in conspiracy. To picture the world you will inhabit, imagine that every conspiracy theory you’ve ever heard is true. The Illuminati exist but they don’t really control everything, there is a town in Solomon Island, Maine that has been besieged by zombies, the Egyptian gods were real, and Transylvania actually does have vampires living in it. Who knows, Bigfoot probably also exists. You start the game by choosing one of three factions to join: The Illuminati, the Dragon, and the Templars. Who you join basically determines your faction quest line and your choice of faction specific outfits, otherwise you’re pretty much going through the same zones and missions.

The absolute strongest aspect of Secret World Legends carries over from The Secret World: Its story telling. While the animations are about as stiff and lifeless as you’d expect from a Funcom game, the missions themselves are quite a bit of fun to go on. Best of all are the investigation missions, bits that have you solving rather difficult puzzles that require outside reading and research. Normally this is where I’d joke and say “grab your bible, because you’re going to need it,” but you’re actually going to need access to a bible if you don’t want to cheat and look up the answers. A number of the puzzles in Secret World Legends involved cracking open a bible and reading passages to find clues. Crazy, right?

You won’t be doing any long division or physics problems for the puzzles, they’re more understanding references and taking a look at the scenery. Some are obscure, require you to really soak in the scenery, while others are simple “the answer is the length of this song.” Almost every mission starts and ends with a cutscene, and usually some sort of message from your faction offering some more information on the case.

Combat is the next big thing in Secret World Legends, because the one that existed in The Secret World wasn’t exactly what you’d call…well received. This time around, combat is more action oriented, with a reduced number of slots for actions along with each weapon having its own special ability. Combat isn’t great, but it is a step up from the floatiness of The Secret World.

I can appreciate that the game points out harder enemies on the map, not only because they are more engaging to fight than the random mobs roaming around but because this game is seriously stingy when it comes to drops. I imagine that Trond Aas must be getting more from his commissary than Funcom is willing to dole out in goods. The plus side is that you don’t have to spend much time comparing stats since your weapon/talisman drops will just be recycled to gear up your current weapon, so the lack of loot is sort of complimented by the fact that it is mostly useless for purposes other than feeding your current equipment regardless.

As someone who abandoned The Secret World early over its lack of players (understandably contributing to just that problem), I’m glad to see Funcom give the game another chance rather than letting it slide into a slow death. While you would be within your rights to be angry about having to start over,

More impressions to come.

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  • TJ

    This is a great article. Thanks for breaking down (briefly) the history, and some general concepts behind the original and relaunch. I would like to see some expansion on the differences introduced in Legends, and is there any compelling reason to try it out? Like you, I didn’t play much after release. I couldn’t progress pass Egypt solo, and found little population to group with. On top of having maxing out my weapon skill and buying a max level weapon from another player, I also masked a skill set to go along with it, so I felt like my power did not increase with the games difficulty past around Insmouth Academy.

    • Connor

      Thank you, TJ. I’ll be putting out a longer, step-by-step piece in Secret World Legends going into more detail on the differences and discussing things like the keys, currencies, restrictions, etc. It should be out at the end of this week. I didn’t want to do a full on review right away since some parts of the game (auction house) are still disabled.