Hey there, and welcome back to our Noob’s Tale! Have you been wondering how my adventuring in The Secret World has been going? Let’s pick up right where we left off: my first character was in the gutter, and a new one in the making… but what to choose?
Warning: spoilers ahead! If you haven’t yet played The Secret World as a Dragon character, you might want to skip the next part.
Last week I was talking about experiencing the story missions from a different side, with a different faction. It happened; I created a character belonging to the Dragon faction and dove right in the middle of a very mysterious society seemingly based on the butterfly effect. First they kidnapped and dumped me in Seoul, and then I followed butterflies (of course) to arrive at my faction’s headquarters and receive a brilliant monologue introducing controlled chaos theory.
The Dragon society essentially directs their agents as if they were stones cast on the flat surface of a lake in order to create ripples and patterns. You are very clearly a pawn, unaware of your actual role, and made aware of it from the very beginning, along with a warning that the faction does not hesitate to throw its own to the wolves after they have fulfilled their role and exhausted their utility.
It’s no more, no less than what we would have expected out of either faction, except unlike the Templar, which navigates diplomacy with grace, the Dragon are more open about their ruthlessness. This makes me wonder how “direct” the Illuminati are, then! Oh, also, you should really watch the *almost* NSFW intro cutscene, it’s priceless… I’m really grateful for The Secret World’s character models and facial expressions, we had a hearty laugh about that one.
So what did I choose for this new character? I think I mentioned last time that I was pretty fond of melee for my usual role in MMOs, so this time I decided to go with it. It was a hard choice, as all three melee weapons have some really nice perks and functions. Hammer and Blade are tank/DPS-oriented while Fist is tank/healing. So I ended up picking Hammer and Fist because the idea to be a more solid, self-reliant tanky character was really appealing after the last mishaps.
Although I regretted not choosing Blade, it turns out that smashing things is really fun! Hammer is indeed a very effective way to both control and damage mobs. I was cautious not to get too arrogant, like last time, in spite of the fact that my character was quite solid and the self-healing options available via Fist spells were sufficient to keep me going even as I pulled larger packs.
But there are still quite a few ways in which going “tank” was not really a good idea. Why? Well, for starters, I’ve never actually been a tank in any game or MMO I played except very rarely and accidentally, in order to fill in for someone who disconnected and in any case not for major fights. Or face-tanking when aggro got lost a few times, cause that’s what melee DPS do sometimes. At most, I know a thing or two about survivability… but make no mistake, I’m not the person who always picks tank classes or characters.
This also means that I have pretty much zero experience tanking dungeons. So as soon as I tried to queue for the game’s first dungeon, the Polaris, I was confronted with the choice of role and the difficult question of whether I’d want to try it out or not. I didn’t have my friend hopping along for this one, which made me feel quite insecure – he is usually the tank, but in this case I had no way of passing on the responsibility to him.
Fortunately, my team members were more experienced and helped out with useful tips and instructions, forgiving my lack of preparation, gear or skills. But I still managed to get us killed a few times through bad positioning and late impairs, in spite of their high damage that burned down most bosses before my lack of skill got us in serious trouble.
As a sidenote, in The Secret World, timely impairs are a tank’s responsibility, so although this is generally true for all group content in all MMOs, knowing the fight proved to be more important than usual. I’ll admit, as a DPS you can get away with it sometimes, at lower levels anyway. But in this case there is no going around it, tanks simply must cast the proper impairs on time and can’t rely on other team members doing it. In Normal-level dungeons it’s not the end of the world if you miss a few (as I did), but later on it becomes pretty damn important.
The group I was with offered to take me through a few more dungeons to help me out and get me more comfortable with my new role, as they still wanted to run a few, so we friended each other, grouped up and queued together – they still have my gratitude! In fact, I should add that regardless of level, other players in The Secret World have generally been nothing but helpful and very friendly most times. It was nothing like being an unskilled noob in other MMOs or MOBAs, where most times, on average, I’d likely get shouted at.
So what other problems did I run into? I had a lot of trouble keeping aggro in spite of having all the right abilities and rotation, precisely because my team mates were pretty overgeared. Another problem was my speed, as I didn’t always manage to reach adds very quickly, so not only did everyone else pull aggro, I was also always struggling to keep up and take the adds off them. Something I never thought I’d miss was the ability to see my target’s target – this is an obvious sign I’ve never really tanked as normally I should have noticed (or missed that feature) right away. But it only hit me when I realized I wasn’t holding aggro and tried to see who was being targeted. And finally, my taunt had such a long cooldown…
All in all, my so-called tanking ended up being pretty hectic and random, and pretty much everything seemed to work against me. Partly because of my inexperience with this role, perhaps, and partly because of game features and mechanics. Since I only did Normal-level dungeons and the others burned down things easily enough, or adjusted their rotations to save us and compensate for me, it was not a matter of life and death. But overall it was really annoying, and all the inconveniences added even more to the chaos and pressure.
I also got to realize that once again I very likely messed up my skills, as I thought about ensuring an easier soloing experience for myself and didn’t consider my role in group content. Ha – I ignored my own advice indeed! I think Blade would have been a much better combination with Hammer for tanking, although more experienced players could contradict me, of course. At this point I’m not really sure of anything anymore as I seem to have gotten lost in the skill tree and ability selection – again!
I wish I could say this experience gave me the necessary courage to continue tanking. However… if anything, it just made me think I should focus on a different role and leave this to those more comfortable charging in first. I’m told everyone starts somewhere and the only way to learn is by doing. That’s true, of course, and my tank friends gave me a few tips and plenty of encouragement after I shared my thoughts… But in the end I didn’t enjoy it that much and I’m not sure I can turn it around simply by tanking more to get comfortable with it.
Considering I was still managing to breeze through solo missions quite easily, I decided to keep this character and replace the Fist skill with Blade once I acquired enough points. Normally I’d have frowned on this decision, but it is still early enough in the game to do that without significant penalties in the form of delays to progression. Unlike my first character, I decided that this one would not go to the graveyard, and I found a Hammer/Blade build that is apparently viable for DPS that I would really like to try it out at some point.
However, I’m aware that leveling my weapon skills and being efficient in dungeons will be a pretty lengthy process. Besides, being a melee among so many geared ranged DPS will probably be a disadvantage again – things will likely explode before I even reach them, as it happened when I tried tanking. Which means that… there will be a new character for me to try next week!
If you want to find out what happens next, come back next Saturday to read yet another Noob’s Tale set in The Secret World… Perhaps this time there will be a more fortunate conclusion? It would be about time!Related: A Noob's Tale, Column, Funcom, MMORPG, The Secret World