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It's the second Weekend Beta for The Secret World and we pick up where our intrepid Templars left off: neck-deep in lovecraftian mystery in the New England. Same characters, different server - this time one with the rest of the Kingsmouth quests unlocked. Perhaps even the 'dungeon' that's been hinted at.


GIANT SPOILER WARNING - oh you know the drill by now, a random assortment of gameplay explanations with some circumspect mission bits.

I picked up a new character to try out a different ability combo, because I figured I'd gain APs nd SPs faster at low power levels and with a headstart with another weapon type to broaden my horizons. In doing so I found out that Keybinds and Interface options (with one or two forgotten tick boxes) are account-wide, chat settings are not. My early impressions were that not much has changed in this build. A couple of quality of life adjustments for the ability wheel page and some crucible bugginess ironed out is it.

I figured out bags in this game. They aren't separate physical items: they are ways of splitting up your inventory, and tie into the part about buying additional inventory slots. They function as item bars too: if you lock them in place they'll stay open when you close your inventory and you can click on the items inside. I haven't found a way to keybind the slots though.

Given I've already gone through all of the dialogue and cut scenes from the first weekend, I was pleased to discover the Esc button skips the lot. Gear Management now works to swap out Decks (basically, loadouts of gear, actives and passive). You can't reset or unspend skill/ability points however. You can't use special characters in the names of your saved Decks either so no / or - .

My primary activity over the course of Friday evening was bug report, bug report and bug report. I reported absolutely everything that glitches or seems off. Even oviously missing Quality of Life tweaks. I want to make sure FC is aware of all the off-putting issues.

A revelation that came to me, after I'd flipped back to my 'main' to play with the newly unlocked tougher missions, are that mobs aren't universally debuffable. Not just in a sense of being immune to certain types of debuff, but in gaining power from certain effects/ Pretty evil and it encourages developing multiple decks/builds and then swapping as needed to avoid using certain abilities that would empower the mobs. There's not too many different types of status debuffs anyway. Hindered is a snare/slow, Impaired is generally a stun, Weakened reduces the damage the mob does and Afflicted means a DoT on a mob. There's plenty of abilities that can stack additional effects onto those statuses, such as defence debuff added to Weakened, but it still counts as 'Weakened' for the purposes of basically everything.

An update on my previous thoughts that difficulty is related to AP/SP earned - it isn't. It's related to the quality of your equipped talismans. That means spending SP into upping the 3 Talisman skills is rather important to equip higher quality stuff - more important than weapon skills even, given only 2 of your 9 gear slots are weapons. Your skill level in a weapon is equal to the higher of the two paths you can put points into. So if you have 1 in each you are level 1, but if you have 2 in one and none in the other you are level 2. Equipment is ranked by Quality Level, much like Anarchy Online except with fewer ranks. (AO equipment would get up to QL300 and sometimes even higher.) This is what the Gear Management window is for: you swap Decks there which switches gear loadouts as well.

The dots on the mob's nameplate show difficulty. White is roughly equal to your gear level, Yellow is harder, Orangey-Yellow is even harder and Red is pretty much death if you're solo. A skull is DANGER DANGER WILL ROBINSON! elite mob. Flags are odd and I think they signify a special mission mob. Multiple flags hints at adds. Loot drops are entirely random, with item QL tied to mob power. Awesome weapons, rare talismans and bits of rubbish runes are part of the mix.

Zone progression is based on how much of the zone's storyline missions you have finished. You have to complete the full line (for example all 18 Tiers in Kingsmouth) to progress past Kingsmouth. Other missions don't count for this progression. If a mission is not the active one, then only some parts of it will be doable, such as targeting a mob or going to a place and talking to a person. Pickups may not be visible, or if they are visible they may not be interactable.

 Final thoughts for the day

It's hard to know how much fixing and polishing FC is doing behind the scenes; how much feedback they've taken in. They're not making weekend beta client updates, which has people concerned. Given my experience with FC, there's every right to be concerned. Again, if the game releases in this state it will not be a good thing at all. The roughness of it will put a lot of people off before they get a chance to experience the awesome parts. At this rate it's looking to be a game that will only be so-so at launch, which would count as a bad launch and complete FC's trio of bad MMO launches as well as hamstring the game. Even if they sort it out later on as they did with Age of Conan, it'd be too late to allow it to have the prime time and playerbase it has the potential to acquire.

My interactions with others did affirm to me, though, that those who want their mission running/questing to be a quick 'n' easy laundry list, complete with giant shiny object to click and everything waypointed that you can skip all the dialogue and not miss anything, are not going to enjoy TSW at all.

Funny quotes of the day: anything said by the Orochi duo at the northern bridge in Kingsmouth. They're utterly socially inept to hilarious effect, and the rest of Kingsmouth is pretty sparse on humour. Not a surprise given all that the small handful of survivors have gone through.


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May 2012

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