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Chaos Theory: Perfecting your build in The Secret World

MJ Guthrie

After discussing last week that build creation was on the minds of many a Secret World fan, I promised to provide some hints and tips on how to better maximize your performance in game. It truly is a topic relevant to all players, even those who aren't focused on or interested in endgame. After all, even folks (like yours truly) who are in it mainly for the awesome story may find their ability to continue with said story hampered at some point by an insufficient build.

With a limit of only seven active (eight if you have an auxiliary weapon) and seven passive skills available to use at any time, creating a build in The Secret World is not quite like most other MMOs, so you can't just automatically throw on gear of a higher level and call it good. Sure, you can eventually pound your way through many things, but you can save yourself some time and frustration by understanding a bit about how the gear works together with your skills. That's where today's Chaos Theory comes in.

What better way to inform and entertain you than to open myself up for some theorycrafting by someone who has a better knack for it? Using my little Illuminati as our guinea pig, I've bared her gear for all to see and learn what can be done to improve. With that, I welcome you to the first episode of "What Not to Wear in TSW"!

For that DPS
My style guru for this episode is Infohound from the Arcadia dimension, who enjoys helping new folks all the time. For an hour he took us through what to wear and why we wear it, dishing out pointers on how to better focus on a specific role. Because I don't ever want to tank a dungeon while streaming, I selected to focus on the DPS role. You can watch the entire shebang here:

Now obviously that's more info than we can relay here in this column, but we can hit some of the highlights. Any time you need to refresh your memory on specifics that caught your ear, feel free to come back and replay that video at your leisure.

First things first: Contrary to health point systems in other games, in TSW, more health points aren't the defining benchmark of better gear in TSW. So if you defaulted to popping on gear that raised this stat, you might actually be handicapping yourself. Trust me when I say it's better to learn that now than after using all your PvP tokens to buy a full set of purple health gear (like someone I may know *blush*).

But I didn't just randomly throw on any old gear I looted just because it was a higher quality level (QL) and health. I did actually look at the secondary stats and tried to mold a specific role. Previous to this makeover, I was styled as a bit of a tank/DPS hybrid. Since I ran around mostly solo or in a duo, I thought this would help increase my survivability. Apparently, that's a common misconception. Increasing health came at a price: my ability to attack effectively. I could stand my ground and take more punishment from mobs, but I also killed much more slowly than I needed to, which in turn gave the mob more time to chip away at my health. Worse, this build was not really a good one during groups, as I couldn't fulfill my role to the best of my ability. So how did we fix it? Well, that took a few steps.

The right weapons
One of the first things I had to do was ditch my beloved sword. The reason for this is that it isn't the best weapon for a DPS role. While it works fine while solo or duo when I am running around as the tank, it really handicaps me in dungeon groups. In The Secret World's dungeons, melee DPS is not very effective. Most mobs need to be dealt with from range, and trying to melee them actually results in your quick death; I learned that the hard way. And since there is no rezzing in TSW, once you are down, you are out for the duration of the fight. Not cool for the rest of the group. Not only that, but it makes the tank's job that much harder when he or she is tripping over multiple melees.

The Secret World screenshot
For this reason, if you're focusing on DPS in a group, make your weapons ranged. As I already had an assault rifle, I just needed to choose another. Shotgun, pistols, and elemental focus are all good choices. I went with pistols.

Now if you have already built your SP up to equip one or more high QL weapons, you don't need to abandon that higher QL weapon right away. After all, what's the point of fighting a mob with a QL 8 and a QL 1? The QL 1 will just miss, and it would be as if you has only one weapon anyway. My suggestion is that you continue to adventure with your higher weapons while earning SP and AP, then spend those points in your new weapon choice until it's high enough to use on the mobs where you adventure. That or return to a lower adventure zone where your new weapon won't miss all the time.

The right accessories
No outfit is complete without the right accessories, right? (Even if said accessories are only a pair of scuffed tennis shoes.) The same is true of builds in The Secret World. Gear in this game consists only of your weapons and talismans, so tailoring your talismans to your build is crucial. We've learned that unless you are a tank, just stocking up on health isn't the way to go, so what are you looking for as DPS?

As a damage dealer, attack is the stat you want to build universally. Other areas to focus on are crit power, crit power rating, hit rating, and penetration. But there is no standard order of importance for those stats; they are intermingled and depend on your focus. For a look at your current stats, press "c" and look at character statistics and see where you want to improve.

 The Secret World screenshotAs in most games, crit is an important factor in inflicting damage. Crit rating determines critical chance, which is the percentage of how often you crit when you hit. Crit power rating determines crit power, which is the percentage of how much extra damage you do when you crit. So these are all good areas to increase when you're focusing on DPS.

However, they aren't the only stats, and which abilities you've chosen makes a difference; if you are selecting abilities that focus on penetration, you'll want to increase penetration. Penetration counters physical and magical protection (passive damage resistances). In other words, only the amount of your penetration rating over and above the enemy's protection is factored into the damage. Hit rating works the same way, but it counters the enemy's block rating.

So now you have a better idea of which "look" (stats) you want, take a gander at all your accessories and find ones that match. If you don't have any in your possession, check the broker. And don't be afraid to use lower QL talismans if they have better stats for you! Just because something is QL 10 doesn't automatically make it better than your QL 7. In fact, ditching one QL 10 talisman for a QL 6 actually cranked my attack rating and combat power way up.

Not enough money or PvP tokens to buy better gear? That's OK -- looted items can also be customized, even without an open glyph slot. Although you can't change the primary stats (so make sure they fit with what you need!), you can change out any glyphs to better suit your build. Simply open up the crafting interface by pressing "y" and drop the item and the glyph in. Presto! You have a more customized weapon or talisman.

Switching it up
One of TSW's strengths is the ability to switch between builds with only a couple of clicks. As long as you aren't in combat, you can load different saved builds (or save a favorite build) by pressing "c" and opening your gear manager. A full build is the combination of gear and abilities, so when you change builds, you change them all together at once. Using this, I can jump from my sword hybrid survivability build if I am soloing to a DPS build if I join a group. Just remember, you must keep the gear for each build in your bag or you won't have it to load!

As you may have noticed, this article covers only about half of the makeover. There's still so much more to go over, from crafting your gear to creating your own glyphs to using passives from other weapon trees, so stay tuned for more theorycrafting tips and hints in future Chaos Theory columns. In the meantime, feel free to rewatch the special "What Not to Wear in TSW" as needed.

Conspiracies, paranoia, secrets, and chaos -- the breakfast of champions! Feast on a bowlful with MJ every Monday as she infiltrates 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 and she'll jump on the case!

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