Chaos Theory: The joys of build-swapping in The Secret World

Chaos Theory The joys of buildswapping in The Secret World
Unless you've only ever played sandboxes, chances are you're used to wielding just one or two types of weapons in your games because access to others is restricted. As such, forethought often goes into what you play. Whether you decide on your death delivery system based on how cool it looks, playstyle (melee or ranged), or roleplay reasons, you're stuck with it unless you roll another alt. So it's understandable if you settle into a familiar routine of keeping to just two select weapons when playing The Secret World. However, if that's the case, then you are missing out on one of the key aspects that make TSW unique.

Previously, we covered how to improve your DPS build, but we focused mainly on gear and stats, only touching on swapping out abilities. This time, we're going to zero in on the ability to swap between weapons and abilities on the fly and how it can really enhance your experience.

The ultimate example of stuck in a rut!
Stuck in a rut
Having been trained up in the ways of themeparks lately, I had settled into the rut of using only my two initial weapons. We all tend to settle into routines in our gaming, just as we do in life. But routines are an enemy to discovery and innovation.

During the testing portion of my new DPS build, I moved between a melee focus with my sword and rifle combo to a ranged focus by altering which seven skills I had available on my hotbar (it was mighty effective against Norma, I might add!). As you can see, even then I kept to the same two weapons. I always intended to try others, but I never really got around to it. Besides, using whole new weapons meant spending SP for proficiencies and AP for new abilities, and it wasn't as if I had boatloads to spare yet. Oh, but that all changed with the Guardians of Gaia event! With both AP and SP to spare, I was finally able to allocate some to new weapons. And when I did, my whole (secret) world changed!

Eeny, meeny, miny, mo
As we already established, unlike most MMOs, TSW doesn't lock you into a single weapon or two. Even better, you don't have to jump through a variety of hoops in order to make use of the variety of weapons. There's no traveling to major cities or paying for each respec; changing to a different weapon configuration in this MMO/adventure hybrid is as easy as a couple of button clicks.

A look at the build menu
But wait! Don't all the different weapons have their own unique skills that need to be slotted on the hotbar in order to work? Yes, they do, so just popping a different weapon in your hand would invalidate your current hotbar setup. But you can change everything -- active skills, passives, weapons, and even accessories -- with the two button clicks.

Slayer deckSo how is it done? First, click "c" -- here you find your character page. The third selection down is called Gear Management. This little gem will become your best friend, I'm telling you! Click on it (so click #1) and it opens the management window to show a list of builds. To change builds, just select the one you want (#2) and click load. OK, so that makes three clicks. All your gear and abilities have now swapped just like... if you have the necessary items still in your bag, that is!

Now, in order to make the swap, you need something to actually switch between. Initially, the build menu is blank. To create and save your first build, you slot your chosen weapon and ability configuration, match all the appropriate major and minor talismans (i.e., match penetration skills with accessories that support penetration), and then choose "new." This will bring up a window that allows you to name your build; the one I used to finally defeat filth-infused Norma is aptly named "Norma." You can also deselect certain aspects of the build so they don't save. Then save! You can also just select "equip" from your template menu to insta-slot those abilities, but you'll have to equip your weapons and talismans by hand.

Once you have a build, you can also update it there, something that's really important if you get better equipment, else your old stuff will reslot when you change builds. You can also view, rename, share, or even upload a build. You can keep adding more, too, either with just different skill configurations (like my Norma and regular sword ones) or with completely different weapons and their respective abilities. Every toon gets five free builds, and new ones can be purchased in the faction HQ vendors for 100K pax romana.

As you can see, swapping builds takes basically no time at all. However, setting up the builds initially can be a doozy! Take your time to set up things how you want when you have a block of free time, then when out and about the changes will be fast. Builds cannot be swapped either in battle or when any ability is still on cool-down.

Why bother?
You might be wondering why you should even bother changing out builds. Trust me, I can understand that sentiment. In fact, I shared it for quite a bit. I really was still brainwashed into thinking I'd just focus on what I had already and become intimately familiar with that and in doing so become a roaring success. But that's just not really how TSW was designed; if you restrict yourself, you could be missing out on a boatload of fun, not to mention less frustration and headaches when trying to get past particularly difficult spots.

As mentioned previously, creating a special ranged build helped me to finally get past an encounter that was just impossible to do with my usual one. This really isn't an isolated case: All throughout The Secret World, there are mobs that won't be very vulnerable to certain setups but can be defeated with others. And that means builds have to be adjusted depending on the encounter. You can see an example of this in my latest adventures on Massively TV:



Using only one set of weapons can, in fact, cripple you. Besides that, you might also find that you love a weapon you didn't expect to. My recent move to include fist weapons in my adventuring has hiked up the fun factor by quite a bit. Since I am normally not much of a melee player, I usually skirt these choices. I would have never just made a character with this skill (my baby Dragon doesn't count because I never play her!), and since I am not big on playing alts, I would have missed out on a whole peck of fun. Having the opportunity to try different weapons on my main character is a big deal for me.

And you can't overlook the fact that swapping builds gives you immeasurable flexibility, not just in how you approach the mobs but in how you fit into a group. Imagine this scenario (I am sure you've run across it a time or two): You are all set to head into some dungeon, and suddenly your healer has to leave. Or maybe s/he didn't even show up at all. Do you have to scrounge for a new one? Cancel your plans? With build-swapping, players can move fluidly between their roles. A tank who wants a break to just pew pew for a while can slot a DPS build, a DPS could decide to flex his or her healing muscles, and so on.

Just do it!
Fist weapons = Wolverine look-alikeTo me, it's a big bonus that The Secret World gives players the ability to test out different roles on the character they play instead of forcing them to start all over on a powerless new toon. It takes time to build up a build repertoire, but you don't have to sacrifice all the work you've already put into your character in order to experiment.

One word of caution: If you are used to playing with only a familiar weapon and skill configuration, don't be surprised if your first few attempts at swapping out are rough. I found that my brain still tried to use certain abilities, and they weren't even a part of the new build! Once, I even had to change back just because the unfamiliarity of the other build was causing me to make too many errors in a very difficult fight. However, it was the use of an alternate build that allowed me to finally complete the Rank 6 faction mission.

If you haven't tried using alternate builds yet, I encourage you to give them a go. You might very well find more success and fun in your adventures. You'll definitely find more freedom. And it's so easy, there's really no reason not to. Be free, my friends!

Conspiracies, paranoia, secrets, and chaos -- the breakfast of champions! Feast on a bowlful with MJ and Justin every Monday as they infiltrate The Secret World to bring you the latest word on the streets of Gaia in Chaos Theory. Heard some juicy whispers or have a few leads you want followed? Send them to mj@massively.com or justin@massively.com and they'll jump on the case!

This article was originally published on Massively.