After playing The Secret World for a little while and experimenting with several combat playstyles, I made a final decision to gear up and go into Nightmare dungeons and eventually raids. It wasn’t a tough decision, considering what I most love doing in PvE, but I found myself going against pretty much all advice by choosing to be a melee DPS.
One might ask what all the fuss around it is, but I can tell you going against the stream is not exactly a joyride. You see, being a tank is all good and welcome: everyone needs you and if you know your stuff you become an army of your own after a certain gear level. But how about that elusive beast that is The Secret World melee DPS?
The Secret World melee DPS can dish out some of the highest damage possible. However, unlike ranged players, a melee has to sometimes move away from its target to avoid AoE, or various other attacks, thus being unable to attack in the meantime aside from a couple of “throwing” abilities or DoTs. When able to stick to the boss, melee rocks, and light footwork allows nimble players to even squeeze in that extra bit of damage when it’s not exactly safe.
This will probably sound familiar to those who love being a melee, but essentially it’s all about knowing what you’re doing and you’ll be fine. So what seems to be the problem in The Secret World specifically?
For starters, group composition is a tricky part, usually. Nightmare dungeons require a few buffs that are only available by having equipped a Shotgun (Breaching Shot), Pistols (Deadly Aim), or an Elementalism focus (Short Fuse). Where does that leave a pure melee DPS? Precisely nowhere, as melee can only use certain passives to bring some advantages for the tank or team, but tanks usually already have those passives equipped.
This is a pretty bad spot for a melee DPS, which is why I was really happy to hear about the Elite Ability revamp and the new Vulnerability System that will be implemented shortly. The update is not live yet, but a description was available in the developer stream: elite abilities will provide a debuff increasing the damage of the other types of weapons. Basically, melee buffs ranged, magic buffs melee and so on.
The Developers made it quite clear that this was not a requirement to defeat bosses – and after all people have been doing quite fine without it so far – but it’s interesting to place it in the context of making different builds work together better, especially in more advanced settings like raids. The group doesn’t always have all weapons represented in its current form and having a melee DPS may give a little more usefulness depending on what the tank is using.
Is that to say that this update solves all the issue of having a melee DPS on board? Not really. Sometimes, the problem is less about mechanics and gameplay and more about… people.
As far as Nightmare dungeon groups go, quite a few people in the randomizer don’t want a melee DPS in the group. Those people are usually not the most confident in the abilities of their melee, or maybe sometimes their own. It’s only fair to mention that not everyone is used to juggling a melee DPS into their usual play, be it healers or tanks.
When group composition is an issue because important buffs are not being brought, that is a whole different matter. But if everything is covered and the third DPS happens to be melee, be warned that it’s quite disheartening to see them blamed for everything that can (and usually will) go wrong. PSA: if your tank died early, it’s just as certainly not the fault of the melee just as it would not be the ranged players’ fault.
How about being told that being a melee is hard to heal or that a certain fight is really not for melee? The secret is managing your own cleanse ability and knowing when to move out of area damage or away from the boss, and when to come back and unleash all the buffs and consumers. So if anyone tries to tell you differently, just practice your footwork and reflexes a bit more until you are 100% sure that you are always in complete control of your positioning and keeping yourself out of danger.
A more likely issue is the sort of encounters where melee is almost completely neutralized, such as the first boss in The Facility. That’s okay, you can either change spec or try to adjust and figure out when the safe moments to hit are, while also taking the two “throwing” abilities. In fact, it gets quite fun once you figure it out. The rest of the dungeon is more than doable as a melee and in fact the superior damage produced with appropriate gear is quite welcome in the dungeons considered to be more difficult.
Again, keep yourself alive as a priority. The only bad DPS is a dead DPS. But if you master the boss mechanics and figure out how to make the best out of your own ability/buff timings, you’ll be golden.
Another point that has been brought up as an argument against pure melee DPS “being a thing” is that the Gatekeeper challenge, which is meant to prepare you for the sort of experience you will have in Nightmare dungeons later, does require you to have a purging ability that is not available by equipping most pure melee weapon combos. The answer is still quite simple in this case as well, I believe.
The challenge is designed for a single person whereas dungeons are group content, however, within the challenge one person has to check off the list multiple items that will all be shared by a team later on. Let me explain it more clearly. Just because a challenge requires you to do several things in a single fight does not mean that the content it unlocks will also require you to do so if someone else in a 5-man team is already doing it.
Bosses need to be purged and impaired, debuffs needs to be cleansed, damage has to be healed (and also dished out) and so on. For the purpose of the Gatekeeper’s challenge, a single DPS does have to do multiple things on that list during several phases, but not in a Nightmare dungeon – otherwise we might argue healers are not needed either.
I completed the challenge on my first try, after acquiring the purge ability as recommended by guides. I ended up using nothing but Blade attacks, with an active healing ability thrown in just in case, and a green Elementalism focus equipped in order to have access to the purge. Have I ever needed it again? No, because the ranged are handling that in a dungeon. With specific roles and weapon combos come specific tasks, and if you’re going to swap to ranged, you better be aware and able to do it.
The only things I need to watch as a melee are staying out of bad stuff, self-cleansing once group cleanses go on cooldown, possibly impair an enemy if the tank specifically asks for it, manage my single-target vs AoE abilities, threat reductions, speed boosts, etc. All while inflicting pain and suffering.
All this to say: the Gatekeeper challenge is not that representative of what you might need, or not need, to do in a Nightmare dungeon depending on if you go in randoms or with friends who have pre-established roles. It was more challenging than dungeons in that I needed to level up and invest points into very specific abilities I may or may not use in my normal play. But avoiding damage and danger areas on the ground should be pretty standard for PvE players by now, and the Gatekeeper was just a standard encounter in that sense, as well as in the requirement to inflict sufficient damage in the least amount of time possible.
And now for the actual tips and tricks you’ve probably come looking for. Here are a few of the most important lessons I’ve learned so far while dancing around Nightmare bosses!
A few tips for The Secret World melee DPS Players
- Don’t hug the tank unless specified – you will probably catch a cleave that wasn’t meant for you.
- Don’t hug the boss if you know you’ll have to dash out of there (e.g. Machine Tyrant, the Varangian).
- Get moving faster than the others if you’re supposed to take cover (i.e. going to the pillar on NK-47 in The Slaughterhouse), don’t hesitate to invest in something like the Speed Freak ability or the Displacer Contrivance curiosity until you get used to the timing.
- Always keep your self-cleanse handy (Sleight of Hand), I’ve even made a separate build with it since it slightly changes my usual rotation by replacing one of the abilities.
- If you want to throw your weapons around a bit, squeeze in either Stone’s Throw or Sling Blade – extra useful to finish off that last explosive minion crawling unnoticed to reach Recursia in Hell Raised.
- Be familiar with the threat reduction abilities, it’s very easy to pull aggro if you are more geared and/or use hate-generating abilities like Grand Slam, Stone’s Throw or Sling Blade.
- To this day I have never been specifically asked to help impair, but if you notice your team is in dire need, be ready with an impair ability like Trial by Swords or Beatdown.
- Roll out of AoE asap but disable that keybind if you have anxious double-tapping fingers putting you at risk to fall off something and into lethal filth – say, Dr. Klein’s bridge in the Ankh.
- Do invest points in the important ranged weapons and skills, get familiar with a build and keep some weapons around in case it’s needed; you never know when It might come in handy, plus it’s polite and handy to cover that role if you find yourself in a very unprepared random group.
- Learn how to be a runner for Hell Eternal – that one’s a good tip for pretty much all DPS out there.
- Need build and rotation advice? The community has you covered: I’ll soon try out Katarina’s Hammer/Blade build after using a slightly modified version of a Hammer/Blade build from TSWDB and toying with another version I found on the forums – the same pages have good builds and advice for pretty much all weapon combos.
- Don’t be afraid to try things out until you find a style that works and that you love.
- Now go smash things, inflict the maximum amount of pain, and get worshiped for it!
You might wonder why I’ll go through all this trouble to be a melee DPS – with so many people complaining about it, thinking it’s a waste of spot, blaming everyone else’s mistakes on you, surely it would be easier to just not do it, right? I think not. Games are designed to be played within certain mechanics that limit some roles. Ranged also have their strengths and weaknesses and very different gameplay. While the technical aspect of strengthes and weaknesses is not debatable, the preference for one type of play over another certainly is.
I’d much rather enjoy my build completely rather than tapping my fingers waiting to be able to switch to what I actually want to do (unless the group really needs it, of course) or, even worse, cover a role I’m really bad at and dragging down the whole group. If you prefer – this is what I do, I’m good at it, and I can figure things out in a short amount of time. Ranged? It just never held the same appeal. Likewise, I know players who simply cannot bear not being ranged and that’s okay. We all have our preference and the way we play a game is for each and every one to decide.
Besides, I don’t find it reasonable at all to tell someone else what to play, especially on the grounds that doing things differently will be extremely difficult. As far as The Secret World goes, if it’s implemented, and there are no visible mechanical restrictions, it means it’s possible but just needs some figuring out on how to make it work, which I hope this article helped you a bit with if you’re looking to be a melee DPS.
I’m looking forward to making it into a raid and letting you know how that goes. Until then, have a smashing time!
Recent Articles Related to The Secret World
The Secret World: Places That Freaked Me Out
Dear The Secret World, Please Let Me Replay Your Main Story
The Secret World Museum of the Occult Preview and Farewell to Scrivnomancer
The Secret World Guide for Newbies