Chaos Theory: Hitting a wall in The Secret World

Jef Reahard
J. Reahard|10.18.12

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Chaos Theory - Hitting a wall in The Secret World
I've hit a wall in The Secret World. This has happened at one time or another in every MMO I've ever played save one. It's not quite burnout, but it's a relative once or twice removed.

I've heard that some players hit a wall when they reach Blue Mountain, as it's the first zone that exposes poor builds and renders their users unable to progress through the waves of ak'abs and the quests that ramp up the challenge level from Kingsmouth or the Savage Coast. For whatever reason, though, I coasted through Blue Mountain. It's Egypt that has me wandering aimlessly about, scratching my head and wondering what now.

It's not even Egypt itself. That's just the zone I happen to find myself in during this mid-game-life crisis. Join me as I attempt to use Chaos Theory to figure out what's wrong and what to do about it.

If you're still reading, I assume that you're suffering a mild case of The Secret World burnout like I am. If not, pointing and laughing is acceptable too, so long as you pay me with some of those delicious page hits!

Seriously, though, it's worth asking yourself whether it's actually a mild case of MMO burnout instead of TSW burnout. In my case, I think it might be the former. I've been spending an inordinate amount of my gaming time in Skyrim of late, and frankly it's been orders of magnitude more satisfying than most of the MMOs I've played over the past year put together.

What ails me is definitely not wandering eye, either, as apart from some Aion dabbling, I haven't been playing any other MMOs this month.

Anyhow, I think the best course of action in times like these is to list out a few off-the-beaten-path activities. These aren't radical omg-I-didn't-know-you-could-do-that-in-TSW activities but more like additional avenues that may not normally register on your playstyle radar.

Love the lore
The Secret World is chock-full of lore. Well, duh, I hear some of you saying. It really is, though, and that bears repeating because most of us generally succumb to the must-progress-now mindset that has infected MMOs over the past decade. Everyone's in such a hurry to get to the endgame and be uber first that it's easy to overlook the finer details of a finely crafted world.

As I sat down to suss out this week's column, it dawned on me that I'd never really read TSW's lore codex. Sure, I've collected a ton of the little honeycomb thing-a-ma-jigs like everyone else, but I fell into the trap of glancing at the little blurb that pops up when you collect one and ignoring the full lore journal entry.

Paging through that thing was pretty fascinating, though, and I lost several hours last night doing so. Much like the cutscene and quest dialogue, the writing in each lore entry is top-notch, and it fleshes out the world and lends context to your avatar's actions in ways that aren't possible via other in-game means.

And I know, a lot of you probably skip quest text and wouldn't be caught dead reading a lore journal in an MMO, but if you ever have an inkling, The Secret World's is the cream of the crop. It also feeds back into gameplay proper by giving you plenty of achievements and lists of collectibles to complete.

Learn to theorycraft
We can debate The Secret World's merits as an MMO until the cows come home. One thing that's not debatable, though, is the game's status as a theorycrafter's dream.

An argument can in fact be made that theorycrafting makes up the majority of TSW's actual gameplay. This is subjective, of course, and it hinges on your willingness to dismiss the pervasive single-player story elements and reduce the game's mission objectives to standard MMO progression exercises.

Now that I think on it, TSW's heavy doses of theorycrafting may have something to do with my current apathy. See, I generally loathe theorycrafting. It's not why I originally signed up for MMOs (or RPGs before them), and I've always seen it as the drudgery that gets in the way of my fun time. While I wouldn't call myself a face-roller, I'd much prefer to let someone else work out the min/maxing details while I'm over here roleplaying, soaking up the lore, or coordinating a dungeon run.

If you're in the same boat, and you're willing to try something a bit outside your comfort zone, TSW's build possibilities and ability wheel will keep you busy for months at a time.

Make friends
The final thing I considered this week was my in-game friends, or more specifically, the lack of them. If you're anything like I am, you've probably game-hopped so much that being a part of the proverbial "tight-knit" online guild seems laughably impossible.

There's something to be said for company, though, even if you consider yourself a die-hard solo player. And even if your cabal is nothing more than a collection of disembodied chatroom dwellers scattered across The Secret World's progression curve, chances are you'll enjoy yourself more if you can celebrate, commiserate, and communicate with someone other than your factional NPC overlords.

And hey, maybe the ultimate answer to a mild case of burnout is to do what I did and step away for a few days. Play something else, play nothing, do whatever it takes to freshen your perspective and come back rejuvenated. MMOs are a curious hobby in this respect, as I can't really think of another one that I'd advise someone to forgo in the interests of enjoying it more.

Lastly, don't forget to be patient. MMOs are constantly evolving creatures, and you never know how a patch or an interesting new wrinkle like, say, reticle combat, might spark your slow-burning dedication into a full-blown blaze of blissful obsession.

99 channels of nothing
Yes, Jef Reahard is paid to play The Secret World. But he's not paid by Funcom; Massively leaves the bribes and the bad grammar to its imitators (it's a conspiracy!). Chaos Theory comes your way every Thursday, bringing you Gaia's latest news, guides, and commentary.
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