Welcome back to the fourth and last episode of The Secret World noob diary! To pick up right where we left off, I was facing a serious dilemma concerning my weapons and, inherently, role and gameplay. Having had a bit of time to consider it and test both melee and ranged, with various weapons and styles, I think this time I’ve got the good one. And the winner is… Blade/Hammer!
So how did I come to this decision? It was actually quite simple. As previously stated, I’ve always loved being a melee class in pretty much any RPG or MMO. In a way, it’s difficult for me to understand ranged or relate to its particular style, while melee gameplay simply falls into place, and with most of the pressure off my shoulders, I’m suddenly having way more fun. That’s what sliding in the right role will do for you.
Another reason I chose to revert to my “usual” role is that being in close range of the boss keeps people on their toes – as far as I’m concerned, it always motivates me to learn fights better. And in The Secret World, melee has some interesting aspects that challenge me a lot, which can be both good and bad. On the one hand, it’s quite difficult to get away from certain mechanics and timely positioning is key, as there aren’t many possibilities to boost your normal running speed. On the other hand, simply preparing beforehand eliminates a lot of concerns, as you then know what to look out for and adapt. Not to mention that playing on autopilot without any challenge is just plain boring.
Was this final choice that simple to put into practice, though? Not really! I went about it in a pretty twisted way, using the same character that had started on Assault Rifle and Blood magic, for the simple reason that it was already equipped with some epic gear with correct stats, fit for DPSing, and was somewhat more advanced in resources. I hate grinding as much as anyone else, so I didn’t really want to do more than half the work I’d done so far all over again. But there was still a good amount of chores left to accomplish.
For starters, I had to go back to questing areas, namely Transylvania, where I had skipped most of the action in favor of the main story mission. I needed more ability and skill points to make my new build work, but also to invest in auxiliary weapons. Auxiliaries were not my main priority because the abilities I was trying to reach in my main weapons were quite advanced and thus I needed to unlock several parts of the outer ring almost fully. However, by changing to melee I also got to switch auxiliary from Rocket Launcher, which led me to obtain a Chainsaw through a rather funny and gory quest in New York.
Another target that required a lot of points, and thus questing, was beating the Gatekeeper’s challenge. The Gatekeeper’s purpose is similar to the Proving Grounds challenge in World of Warcraft, except it is only available once (you can’t go back to it once you defeat it), and the role in which it is beaten has no implication on your progression. Winning this encounter is the only way to unlock Nightmare difficulty for dungeons, and it is supposed to give players a taste of what’s to come. Needless to say, good coordination, fast movement and appropriate abilities are essential.
When I first tried the Gatekeeper last weekend, I had no idea what I’d need to complete it. So I gloriously fell on my nose once again, without really understanding why. I was doing more than enough damage, and I was dodging the circles on the floor, yet I seemed to hit an invisible enrage timer of sorts… What to do?
A guide, broken down in phases, showed me where I went wrong and that there was no point to try again without unlocking Purging abilities first. The bosses in Nightmare dungeons, and thus the Gatekeeper, require Purging, and this mechanic is only present in abilities from a couple of specs, neither of which I had picked: Shotgun and Chaos magic. It’s safe to say that from now on, whenever someone asks why I always want to read guides and spoilers beforehand, I’ll just point at The Secret World. It may not the most difficult game, but there are so many things going on in your own character sheet, as well as with enemies and mechanics, that a newcomer can easily become overwhelmed and confused.
To be honest, I was a bit thrown by the need to unlock so many passives in other weapons, although I had been doing it for damage purposes. But this challenge showed me that builds would probably never be focused 100% on just damage, mitigation or healing. Everyone needed to be ready to equip and use something beneficial for the group, increasing in my opinion the versatility but also the complexity of roles, because some abilities were mandatory for certain encounters.
All in all, my “leveling,” or point grinding task, if you prefer, is a lengthy project that is still not completely finished at the time of writing this. I’m still missing the abilities required to defeat the Gatekeeper, as well as the passive for my auxiliary weapon and a couple of costly, end-level abilities from the Blade talent tree. As a project for the more distant future, I believe I will also need to unlock even more passives from other weapons as part of an efficient raid or Nightmare dungeoneering build, but one step at a time.
Overall, I’m already feeling stronger and I’m having more fun after switching to melee, so it’s quite interesting to go in more challenging areas, relearn my rotation and test my capacity to survive. If anything, I believe melee gives me more of both base and burst damage, so that’s already a reason to enjoy it more, but it’s also a tool for survival if I burn down mobs (especially groups) before they manage to kill me. I had a bit of trouble adjusting my abilities in order to make the best use of stuns and self-heals, and choosing between single-target and area-of-effect abilities could be tricky, but I found that having a mix of both was the easiest for questing, and just single-target was usually the only setup for dungeons.
The next part of my lengthy “shopping list” is gear. Now that I’ve spent quite a bit of time in-game and online, reading a pretty massive amount of information, I’d say I started grasping the essentials of end-game gearing in The Secret World. I’m not saying I’m not a noob anymore at all, in fact questions arise every time I encounter a new phase of my progress. In the case of gear, the answers to my gear-related questions left me even more confused for a while.
Just like World of Warcraft and other MMOs, The Secret World allows you to “glyph” or “rune” your gear to enhance it with customized stats and effects beneficial to your role and weapons or play style. The one difference I might note, though, is that the epic equipment that players buy to prepare for the most difficult content is upgradeable and not actually as inferior to drops as one might imagine. The only difficult part is figuring out what stat you want to place in which item and in what proportion, then another long grind follows in order to buy upgrades, as each item and its stat rune can be upgraded individually 10 times, each of those upgrades costing around 250 Black Bullion.
So, surprise surprise, I started queuing for PvP again! The upgrades for the epic gear are bought with a currency that is easily obtainable by queuing for the short PvP battleground that I mentioned briefly last weekend. Completing a match in Shambhala offers 25 Black Bullion regardless of winning or losing, and the matches don’t usually last for longer than 2-4 minutes. Missions and dungeons award much less of this currency per completion and take longer to complete, so the winning method to acquire currency according to these ratios is a no-brainer.
This is the point where my time spent in-game had to be broken down in a sort of schedule, structured around priorities and the degree of benefit that a certain time of the day might have. Basically I started keeping track of the following things: how many ability points I have, how close I am to unlocking another ability, how much black bullion I have, what is the price of the next upgrade I need the most, what time of the day it is, and what the daily/weekly challenges are.
Shambhala queues are very fast pretty much all night long, regardless of it being a weekday or a weekend. Therefore, if I am playing in the afternoon or in the morning I prioritize questing and don’t even queue for PvP because it takes quite a long time to get in a match and it would just interrupt me in the middle of killing a group of mobs or a rare enemy. But if it’s evening, especially if I’m a bit tired and unwilling to focus much, spamming Shambhala is the best pastime, as all I have to do is exit the spawn point and do my best to take out a few people before I’m dead; it’s over in a couple of minutes anyway. During “Shambhala rush hour,” getting minimum 2-3 upgrades in a single sitting is very possible if you are willing to go through that long enough. Completing challenges also awards extra rewards, so I started paying more attention to that journal.
Where does all of this leave me at the end of my noobish adventures in The Secret World? I have a somewhat hybrid main character focused on melee DPS but also capable of ranged DPS/off-healing/support, and I am almost fully geared, although not completely upgraded and “socketed,” for the end-game instances.
On my to-do list: I have yet to complete my roster of imperative must-have abilities, as well as defeating the Gatekeeper challenge and progressing into Nightmare dungeons, raids, and the mission area Tokyo. Aside from that, I’m also missing the last 3 DLCs, so there is quite a lot of content I have yet to explore in the future, which makes me believe I’ll be very well-entertained until Legion, and even beyond.
Do I feel less of a noob? Not really. As I was saying just a bit earlier, each step comes with more unknown elements, so I often find myself scanning the official forums or just googling a question. Besides, grinding points and currency doesn’t mean I’m actually learning something new, even if I’m trying to optimize my build for the type of activity I’m doing and I do know much more than I did a month ago.
However, learning new things almost every time I login by discovering something I had no idea was there does carry an odd feeling of satisfaction that manages to even out the tediousness of the grinding. If anything, being reminded that I don’t know everything yet, or even less than I imagined, makes me see the richness of the game world and that I can still explore many things. So for me, it is impossible to think of the game as “finished” just because I’m in the process of grinding to get into the most difficult instances.
On this note, I bid you farewell for now, and hope you have enjoyed hearing about a beginner’s adventures in The Secret World. If you have any remarks or want to share your own beginner’s experiences, don’t hesitate to leave a comment or contact us!
Related: A Noob's Tale, Column, Funcom, MMORPG, The Secret World