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Chaos Theory: The Secret World's one-month checkup

Jef Reahard

Huh, has it been a month already?

Time flies when you're having fun, I guess, and yep, I'm still having quite a bit of it in The Secret World. Yesterday brought us the big 1.1 patch, the one patch to rule them all (thus far), and the first post-launch content drop.

Funcom has famously promised updates like this on a monthly basis, and as first starts go, this was a good'un. We got seven new story missions (five of which were the meaty investigation variety), all of them chock-full of interesting stuff to do and interesting cutscenes to ogle. All of that said, the one-month mark is also when subscription MMOs find out whether they've got staying power or whether they're going to bleed, and if Funcom wants The Secret World to fall into the former category, it's still got a bit of work to do.

The Secret World - Darkness War boss
Chat bugs
So about that chat system -- yikes. At the risk of getting off on a mild rant here, I know it's only been a month, but guys, come on! Chat. In. An. MMO. It's not optional! To Funcom's credit, it seems to have fixed the issues with /say and /shout. Prior to yesterday's patch, communicating in spatial was a hit-or-miss thing (mostly miss).

For big guilds and groups of friends playing The Secret World over Ventrilo, this probably wasn't a big deal. For PUGers, solo players, or roleplayers, though, it was a huge issue.

Now that spatial is apparently fixed, the next item on the chat to-do list has to be the unsub bug. As it stands now, every time you zone in The Secret World, you lose your chat channel subscriptions. This makes it hard to keep up with cabal-specific conversations, and it's more than a little bit annoying to have to keep leaving the general channel each time you pass through a zone door.

Funcom has been attempting to work out the chat issues for a while now (and it's also done a decent job of communicating with the playerbase without going into specifics), but I do believe that this is going to cost the company some players if it doesn't right this particular ship in short order. It would be particularly unfortunate if this issue carried through to the upcoming free preview weekend, as curiosity-seekers from around the gaming world are going to be descending on The Secret World en masse, and you know what they say about first impressions.

The Secret World - Fusang center point
Fusang PvP
Try as I might, I can't really see the Fusang open-world PvP zone as anything other than an AP/SP/token farm (and a PvE-based one, at that). Yes, you'll see red names running around the projects, and sure, you might even engage them every now and again, but Fusang is largely about loading in every 30 minutes (the quests are repeatable on a half-hour timer), completing the facility capture and anima well takeover quests, and logging out. If you're really good, you can take the player-killing quest too, but I rarely do because it just takes way too long and it messes up the otherwise efficient AP grind.

Most of the time, this quest two-pack results in a quick six AP and possibly one or two SP if you're lucky. And when I say quick, I literally mean five minutes or less unless your side's zerg is particularly unorganized or understaffed.

For those who haven't partaken of the zone yet, here's how it works: There are three four (doh!) capture facilities, each protected by a giant raid boss thing and a sentry gun. The zerg runs to the nearest enemy facility and disposes of the gun/boss, and then everyone breaks off into smaller zergs and overwhelms the nearest enemy respawn point. Voila, AP/SP! And usually, little to no PvP.

On the off chance that you try to defend your side's boss, you will be shouted down by members of your own team because you're breaking the ebb and flow of the progression grind that depends on capture facilities changing hands every five minutes.

Some of these folks will tell you that this is working as intended, but I have my doubts on that, particularly when lead designer Martin Bruusgaard shows up in the PvP forums like he did yesterday and basically tells players to be patient while the kinks are ironed out:
I just wanted to assure you guys that we do read posts here, and we are working on improving the PvP experience. We have gathered a lot of data, looked at how players behave in game, and of course [are] continuously reading your feedback.

We know that PvP is a core gameplay element for a lot of you guys, and we will do our best to improve on what's there now. I believe we have a solid foundation for fantastic PvP in our game, but we can always make it better, and we will.
So as broken as Fusang is at the moment (at least if it was truly intended to be a PvP zone), it seems as if better days are coming.

The bright side
The preceding two issues aside, I continue to feel as though Funcom has made a terrific MMORPG, certainly the best one to come out in the last couple of years. There's a lot of content for those of us who aren't steamrolling through it at ludicrous speed, and the game's first monthly update added a significant amount of new stuff to the mix.

Finally this week, I'd like to call your attention to a particularly awesome thread on the official forums. A user named Vladimir traveled to Brooklyn and snapped several photos of the area that inspired The Secret World's Illuminati starting zone. As you can see, Funcom went to considerable lengths to recreate the real-world location in digital form, and I'm curious to find out whether the same is true for the London and Seoul zones.

Until next week.

Chaos Theory - John Wolf
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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