The Secret World – on sale for $9.99

tswboxThe Secret World is on sale at Amazon as a digital copy for $9.99 right now.  I’m not sure if this is just a 4th of July sale or what but it’s a good time to pick it up!  Patch 1.07 is sitting in the wings right now too so there will be new content to play around with soon as we prepare to head to Tokyo and punch the Orochi Group in the face.

The Secret World – still the best leveling experience in MMO’s

It’s been a while since I last played The Secret World – I had finished the main story mission previously but didn’t take the time to start grinding end-game nightmare dungeons.  TSW went free to play a while ago so I decided to go back and play through the story missions again and see the raid content that is available.  As of now I haven’t gotten through all of the elite dungeons to unlock the gatekeeper encounter and I haven’t finished the main story mission for a second time but I have to say the story is sucking me in just as much as it did the first time and it’s just excellent.  Sure there are bugs and some missions will make you want to pull your hair out (Mainframe…grrrr) but the mystery and lore makes it all worthwhile.  For instance, did you know the entire story mission for Egypt which focuses upon the struggle against the Dark Pharaoh Akhenaten and the religious cult of Aten was based upon a historical figure? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Akhenaten Pretty cool!

If you’re someone who hasn’t taken the plunge yet I’d say it’s well worth the $30.00 price of admission and you can still get most of the new content for free with the Funcom points you’re rewarded – Last Train to Cairo has been my favorite content patch so far.  It’s on sale right now on Steam for 50% off, too!

Swords/Fists build for The Secret World

I’ve put up a video discussing my current build in The Secret World, which I’ve used to solo dps up through the Shadowy Forest.

Whether it’s good or bad or I’m crazy I couldn’t say, but I don’t think it’s worse than some of the builds I’ve seen people link out there!

Actives:
Grass Cutter
Bamboo Cutter
Dancing Blade
Go for the Throat
Tear ‘Em Up
Berserk
Cauterise

Passives:
Bloodsport
Fatal Flourish
Sharp Shooter
Iron Maiden
Sharp Blades
Twist the Knife
Flight of Daggers

Basic single target rotation is Grass Cutter x1, Tear ‘Em Up, Go for the Throat, Dancing Blade then Grass Cutter x5, Tear ‘Em Up, Dancing Blade.

Basic AoE rotation is Berserk, Bamboo Cutter x5, Berserk, Bamboo Cutter x5. As noted an AoE blade finisher should be added when you don’t need a heal on your bars – Clearing the Path should be optimal.

Tweaks: Bloodsport can be traded for incision – this will be better for single target dps in most cases but possibly worse for AoE. It WILL be worse for AoE if you take Clearing the Path as a sword finisher. Follow Up could also be used in this space and may be a better option if you have very high (50%+) penetration chance.

Bloodsport, Flight of Daggers, or Sharp Shooter can be swapped out for impair abilities such as Restraint or Five Times a Charm.

Cauterize can be swapped for a blade AoE finisher or even the blade active impair ability if you want to REALLY stack impairs.

A full impair build will have Go for the Throat (30 seconds), Restraint (30 seconds), Five Times a Charm (45 Seconds), Trial By Swords (45 seconds). This allows for 20 impairs per 3 minutes, though their timing will be somewhat random.

The Secret World 1.01 update, new dimension available

Funcom has patched The Secret World up to version 1.01 today fixing an assortment of issues – most importantly fixing some quests which were holding people up.  They’ve also added a new dimension because so many of the launch dimensions were filling up.  Full patch notes can be found here.  It’s a fairly beefy 400+ megabyte patch, so hopefully they caught most of the bugs that have been niggling people since launch!

Update 1.0.1

GENERAL
Fixed the cause of some stalls in performance while in Seoul.
When you zone, you will now be returned to you original dimension (unless you are in a team, in which case you will stay in the same dimension).
Fixed a visual issue where blood effects while using magic abilities would show green or orange square textures.
You can now use the Meet up feature if you are in combat stance, but not in combat.
Reduced loudness of Radio music during a cinematic with Sophie in Besieged Farmlands.
Weapons should now behave properly in the training areas.

CLOTHING
The Athletic hoodie, blue now appears in the dressing room.
Fixed several clothing items that had the wrong visual looks compared to their descriptions.
Clothing in the item shop now matches their thumbnails.
The Neutral Faction pants and jacket should now get delivered correctly when claimed.
The Bubble Vest, blue item will now be delivered properly.
Players can no longer buy anything they already own from the clothing vendor.

PETS
Increased the size of pets.
Pets no longer collide with players.
Owl pets have had their visuals slightly improved.
All dogs now look like shown in the preview in the item store.

CHAT
Addressed an issue which could sometimes prevent players from using chat while the servers were under heavy load. We are aware that this fix will not resolve all of the current chat issues.
The officers chat in a cabal is now restricted to only those that can see it.
Fixed an issue where it was difficult to select a chat channel if you left the game via disconnecting.

COMBAT
Hammer sounds have been improved.
Updated the Striker ability to properly apply damage when the target is hindered.

CRAFTING
Fixed several issues, including one regarding incorrect tooltips on QL 3 glyphs.
Updated all mission rewards to properly decompose into dust/fire/water as appropriate.

DUNGEONS
Hell Raised Normal – Recursia: Triggerthings have had their HP reduced by 20%. Elite and Nightmare Triggerthings are unchanged.
Hell Raised Normal – Recursia: Phase 3 will now trigger at lower health. Elite and Nightmare modes are unchanged, and will continue to trigger at the previous (higher) values.
Hell Raised Nightmare – Recursia: Recursia should now successfully cast Anima Eruption at any target in the fight, regardless of range.
Hell Raised – Machine Tyrant: The Machine Tyrant should now hit his targets more consistently.
The Darkness War : Nightmare mode buff Underworld Ward now works.
Nightmare mode minibosses will now drop Nightwatch level glyph kits.
Reduced the number of unique item drops from Nightmare bosses.
Gatekeeper’s Challenge : Gatekeeper’s damage output was reduced slightly.
Minibosses in Nightmare mode dungeons will now drop QL 10 blue items with a chance of QL 10 epic Glyph crafting kits.

GUI
The particles for Immunity are no longer overwhelming and easily noticeable on the larger bosses.
All guild related events (except for someone else in the guild joining up, leaving, and changing online status) should be displayed as onscreen messages now.
Right clicking one item then left clicking another item will no longer both close the menu and pick up the item.
Sending too much money should now only give you one onscreen message.
Compose Letter is now correctly called Compose Mail
Compose Mail “To(recipient’s nickname):” text field only accepts characters, letters and hyphens, as intended.
You can now use SHIFT-TAB to jump back between textfields when composing a mail.
Mails are now marked as read properly.
After confirming the deletion of a mail item, you will no longer have to manually select another mail – the next mail will be automatically selected for you now.
Holding an item on the mouse pointer and then clicking the right arrow (next page on store and sell) no longer opens a deletion popup.
“Expand Size Limit” in the store tab now looks like Expand size in your inventory.
You will now get feedback if you try to remove funds from your Cabal bank and you are of too low a rank.
Scrolling through your mail with the scroll wheel should now work correctly.
Changed the color of the envelop asset from red to white.
The prompt given to players when deleting mail with no attachments now reflects that there are no attachments in the message.
Messages can now be sent if the message body only contains numerical characters.
Fixed an issue with the Expand size on the store tooltip.
The split item GUI should no longer misbehave when splitting a stack in the guild bank or store and sell tab.
You are no longer able drag and drop items to the Compose Mail attachment through the Postal Service windows.
Placing an item from normal inventory over the bank GUI will no longer cause the bank GUI to grab the item.
Read mails now appeared greyed out after being read.
Improved the visibility of receiving mail.
Fixed the ability to send cash without having to write a message as well.
Increased width of drop down menu components to support longer text.
Players are not able to type more than 4000 characters in the text field. Larger text pastes will be truncated. There is no visual indication that you have reached the limit.
Trying to take a mission that puts an item in the inventory when the inventory is already full now shows the message „One of the Mission Goals failed to create. Make sure you have an open slot in your inventory. „
Depositing an item in the same cabal bank slot at the same time will no longer cause the player to become unable to receive items.

NPCS
Spectres in Blue Mountain should now be a little easier to defeat.
Teeth have been fixed on several NPCs.
Lair monsters should no longer block the path to where Gravedust can be found.
City of the Sun God : Sutekh no longer walks through rocks on his daily constitutional.
New York : Fixed Charles Zurn’s hair.

MISSIONS
Players will now appear as they should in the first cinematic.
Dragon – Into Darkness : Bong Cha’s congratulatory phone call will no longer echo to bystanders.
The Haunting: Fixed an issue where one task could fail during the mission.
The end boss in the mission Too Deep, Neesh-Um, the Stalker of Nightmares, will no longer aggro the player until his adds are killed.

Kingsmouth
Media popups for gravestones in Kingsmouth town should now appear correctly.
Fixed rubberbanding issue in Kingsmouth sewers.
Ravens will now properly fly off during missions when they are supposed to.
Player can pick up the flamethrower and get the finished product when on Tier 3 of the mission Flame Away.
Dead Air : The mission should always be completeable now. The crate will respawn after the filth hulk dies and can be interacted with so long as there are players with Tier 5 active.
Dead Air : Waymarker is placed properly at the serial number location. The serial plate no longer has an empty tooltip.
Ambushes are now triggering properly, and will solve the goal on any player near the Lost Drone.
The Trapped Survivor in Kingsmouth Town should now respawn correctly after dying or completing the mission “That’ll Leave a Mark”.
That’ll Leave a Mark – Injured man will get into the fight more often, but if he manages to get to the sheriff without fighting, then the player can consider himself fortunate.
A Sacred Place : Dragging zombies into the church awards group credit.
Journey’s End can now be shared.
Adjusted the placement of the map and Beaumont’s Notes in Dawning of an Endless Night so they no longer have clipping issues with the tables they are on.
Made it more clear how to interact with the computer in Kingsmouth Code.
Horror Show – Collecting cameras now awards group credit.
Zen and the Art of Weapon Maintenance can now be shared.
The buff provided by the Siren’s Song during Dawning of an Endless Night now has a description.
The Hunger : The Voracious Wendigo is now killable.

The Savage Coast
Tolba Bay’s zombie population should now stay dead longer.
The Terrible Wendigo in Savage Coast no longer spawns right where the Council of Venice have set up shop.
Jack’s Back has had some improvements made to prevent some issues with the mission.
Monsters should no longer fight players in Nicholas Winter’s immediate vicinity.
The Urn for mission ‘The Black House’ should now always be present if you are on the right tier.
The Urn for The Black House in Savage Coast now does less damage if activated incorrectly.
The Resident Horror should now always respawn properly for the mission Life Imitating Art.
The Mud Golem encountered in ‘Theme Park Tycoon’ should now provide mission credit to all players who have engaged him.
Poltergeists during the Strange Candle event in the Black House now have a proper name for the burning effect.
Newspaper clippings for “The Black House” should now have proper subtitles.
Taking the Purple : Made improvements to this to help ensure the ambushers will always spawn during tier 2.
Increased the grace location on the telescopes so it’s more lenient about where you can solve the mission A Reasonable Man.
Hell Hath no Vacancy : Daniel Bach now has a more audible reason to appear unsettled during the cinematic.
The Player, Not the Piece should now fail and resume correctly if you disconnected during the final event.
Volatile Essence Flask inventory item now has an updated icon.
Waypoint for the second mangled corpse in mission ‘The Strange Boat House in the Mist’ now correctly points towards the goal.
The Angry Clown in the mission Theme Park Tycoon now properly wields his chainsaw.
Ak’ab should no longer be able to move the wardstones with their dash during the Savage Coast ward defense for Dawning of an Endless Night.
Added several waymarkers to mission ‘Gravity’.
Photographing monsters for Daniel Bach during “Bring it Bach” should no longer randomly award two updates for one picture taken.

The Blue Mountain
Visuals for the trail will show properly in War of the Totems.
The Filth Amendment : Subject Zero will now always spawn when all four spikes have been defeated. Spikes will recover from their wounds after 5 minutes and must thus all be defeated within that time.
Off the Menu: The zombies during the Defending the piece of meat event are now less numerous and weaker.
Homeland Insecurity – Checkmate beacon activation time has been rebalanced to take 2 seconds to activate.
Homeland Insecurity – Penumbral brood queen has had her hitpoints reduced somewhat.
Homeland Insecurity: The respawn rate of the Dreyrugr Lord for tier 2 was greatly lowered.
The Orochi Group: When the player is caught by a drone or an agent, he will no longer have to fight a Corrupted Orochi while exiting the container.
Scavengers: The difficulty of the Skeleton Crew mob spawned during the assault in Tier 1 was slightly lowered.
Dawning of an Endless Night : Fixed an issue that prevented players from completing Tier 18 if they crashed during the cinematic in Tier 17.
Dawning of an Endless Night : Disconnecting during a cutscene at the end of the mission will no longer strand you in black waters.
Population of Ak’ab at Kraken Cove and in the immediate surrounding of the Mansion has been reduced.

The Scorched Desert
“The Big Terrible Picture” in the Scorched Desert should now reset both the flames and crystals puzzles correctly.
Ammunition crates gathered during “Ten Thousand Bullets” in the Scorched Desert should now give credit to all players in a team.
The Ancient Tomb Guardian boss for “Black Sun, Red Sand” has been rebalanced to fit better with appropriate gear intended for the fight.
Map marker for “Black Sun, Red Sand” tier 4 now has been updated.

City of the Sun God
Funeral Pyre can now be shared.
Ghoul, Well done can now be shared.
Mission “Halls of Lost Records” should now be more multiplayer compatible.
The mission “Foundations” has now made it back into the City of the Sun God. The mission is given by “Tablet Piece”.
Earthrifts in Dust Devils should now be more multiplayer friendly.
The Eye of Horus ability no longer has a placeholder name.
The mission starter for “She Who Likes Silence” in the City of the Sun God has been moved slightly, making it easier to pick up the mission.
Waypoint marker for From Ashes now include all the urns.
Mission marker for tier 3 of Mummy Issues in the City of the Sun God now points to the door of the Tomb.
The Dark Places – Soul Corruptor no longer has a placeholder name for the ability that makes it take to the skies.

The Shadowy Forest
Tenebrae : Tenebrae no longer keeps attacking when reaching 0 hp, and will resolve the mission goal properly.
The siren song now plays at the end of the cinematic for “Fungal Fireworks”.

The Besieged Farmlands
Updated muzzle flash on Scarecrow shotgun to use a custom modified one that is now facing the correct way. Effects also updated to use better looking shotgun spray.

Carpathian Fangs
Tweaked collision around Dracula’s Castle in order to make the window more accessible.

Random Screenshots of The Secret World

I’ve been playing The Secret World a moderate amount of time since its release and my screenshot folder just keeps growing!  So here’s a few, just  for fun.

The Secret World: Combat Log Analyzer – the next best thing to an in-game damage meter

Since The Secret World launched a lot of people – myself included – have been waiting for a damage meter of some kind so we can begin evaluating our builds.  As of this time there are no in-game damage meters to help us out with that, but there is now a combat log parser available to use offline.

This is detailed on The Secret World forums at http://forums.thesecretworld.com/showthread.php?t=39867.  Many thanks to tippocalypse for posting about it and Martohtar for creating the TSW plugin for Advanced Combat Tracker!

To parse combat logs for The Secret World you will need to download Advanced Combat Tracker.   This is a well known combat log parser that has been used in many games.  I first ran into it when I was playing Rift for a time, but it has also been used for Age of Conan.

Age of Conan uses combat logs very similar to The Secret World so one user (Martohtar) updated the AoC plugin to support The Secret World combat logs.  You need to download the TSWParser plugin separately.  Yes, it’s a .dll.  No, it’s not a virus.  It may have some bugs at the moment with regards to shielding but it seems fairly complete otherwise.

First unzip TSWParser.dll into your ACT folder:

Then make sure the plugin is enabled in ACT:

Next you need a combat log to parse.  Play The Secret World and type “/logcombat on” in the chat window.  This will start recording EVERYTHING that happens around you in the game world.  These logs are very robust, so you don’t want to leave this on for hours at a time or it will take you hours to parse the logs.  To turn off combat logging type “/combatlog off”

From there you just load the .log file with the import/export tab and then return to the main screen to view your parse with breakdowns, graphs, and pie charts.

Now you can find out who’s slacking in your dungeon runs!  I hope it’s not you!

Crafting Gadgets in The Secret World

I recently found some info on the Something Awful forums about creating gadgets in The Secret World.  This is fortunate, because now I don’t have to sell every gadget toolkit I come across!  The items you can make are called Stimulants and Kickbacks.  They offer a significant buff to your primary or secondary stats for 20 seconds on a 2 minute cooldown.

I posted a how-to video regarding these items on youtube that includes a list of rune/material properties:

Credit goes to the goons for figuring out how to craft these swank items.

The Secret World Launch – impressions and thoughts

This weekend Funcom launched The Secret World for those who had pre-ordered with what appears to be great success.  Servers were up promptly (though early-early access for lifetime subscribers was only an extra hour or so) and things were running quite smoothly in Kingsmouth.

For myself, I played way more than I should have.  I got much further than what I did on the open betas – already I’m sitting pretty in Egypt and making good progress there with a refined and enjoyable skill loadout.  There have been highs and lows along the way, I’d like to take a moment to comment on them.First, a bit about the zones.  Kingsmouth has already been played and discussed to death but playing through it a second time was no inconvenience at all.  It still stands out as a truely masterful starting area with dense missions and lots of variety.  With the large population at the game’s launch quests were easy to help one another with, with many an impromptu group forming up and then going their seperate ways.  People were eager to jump into the first dungeon, as well.  Overall the atmosphere of the game was very good – better than what was seen in the Weekend Betas, I would say – with people being helpful to one another.

Kingsmouth was good, but The Savage Coast blows it out of the water for quest and level design.  It was good to see things continually feeling fresh with really inventive environments.  The Savage Coast serves up a Haunted Amusement Park (complete with investigation mission!), a Haunted House, a Treehouse for elementary school monster slayers, the hilariously disfunctional Innsmouth Academy, and Sam Krieg who just has to ‘drink-write-shoot-write-shoot-shoot-drink’ every day in his Lighthouse.  It’s a pleasure.Blue Mountain, by comparison, feels less polished.  It’s still a lot of fun and we see the Dawning of an Endless Night storyline come to a head here when characters from all the previous zones come together to help you in your battle with Beaumont.   The initial missions in the zone feel kind of week – those you pick up from the military detail just inside the entrance to the zone from the Savage Coast.  But once you branch out you’ll find a lot to enjoy when you run across a tribe of Sasquaches, step through a stand mirror in a haunted house back to 1904, help with the problems facing the Wabanaki tribe in their trailer park, and explore the infamous Blue Mountain Mine.  The difficulty really ramps up in this zone so you’ll want to group up when possible to run quests, but everything was soloable for me if I took enough time to be careful.  My only real gripe about the zone is that it has this half finished Indian Casino and you never really get to explore it.  My hunch is that this is where the lair boss for the zone is at, so this might not be a real criticism later on.

The final tier of Dawning of an Endless Night is one of the best written and most thoughtful sequences I’ve seen in the game.  I hope they keep things coming with this quality and it’s made me very eager to see just what choices I’ll have to make in the future.

The three dungeons I’ve run so far – the Polaris, Hell Raised, and the Darkness War – are all superb.  Polaris is quite easy when you tackle it with people who are interested in succeeding but feels just right for a first dungeon.  Hell Raised ratchets up the difficulty and really begins to punish anyone who stands in fire while rewarding those who are light on their feet and can throw interrupts at appropriate times.  The there’s the Darkness War – let’s just say that by this instance, the third instance of the game, we’re already seeing content that’s as hard as any Heroic blizzard has ever put out.  Running the Darkness War with QL5/6 gear on everyone felt like tackling Magister’s Terrace in Burning Crusade pre-nerf.  The game throws a huge number of adds at you, has constant aoe ground attacks, and many other gimmicks such as mobs you can’t get within melee range of.  It’s crazy, and it’s wonderful.

So as I’ve already said before:  The zones are great.  The quests are great.   The instances are great.  But what problems have we seen so far?

Unfortunately quite a few.  The main issue we’ve seen with this launch has been missions bugging out server-wide so that no one can progress in them.  This has happened to me in a few cases as well but seems to usually effect quests with a lot of scripting or phasing.  The biggest culprits this weekend were:  Men in Black Vans, Something Wicked, Taking the Purple, The Black House, and the Scavengers.  Ultimately it wasn’t really effecting a huge amount of the content, and often times you could complete these quests just by taking a break and coming back to them later, but because it effected such a large number of people these issues became very apparent.  Also, it led a lot of people to assume that just because they couldn’t complete a mission that it was automatically bugged.  I saw a lot of people complaining about a quest in Blue Mountain where you had to destroy an A’kab burrow saying it was bugged – but it wasn’t.  They were destroying the ‘Royal Burrow’ which is used in a later part of the quest rather than the regular ones which were further to the east.  But when it didn’t give them credit after destroying a burrow they just wrote it off as being glitched.

The game is showing a lot of potential.  I’ve moved on to Egypt and it’s a very different setting than I’ve seen so far.  And it’s bloody hard.  Hopefully Funcom can run a few patches through to squash the bugs that have crept into some of their missions.

The Secret World Beta Weekend 4 – PvP and nerfs – why oh why?

The final beta weekend for The Secret World has now come and gone and it brought with it some great new features and some disheartening changes.

Firstly, this was pegged as the PvP beta weekend and it was indeed that.  PvP was opened for the first time for testing.  How did it stack up?  PvP seemed okay but was made less interesting by the huge number of  Templars dominating the battlegrounds – because characters were carried over from the first beta weekend Templars had a much larger presence in Fusang.  As a result gameplay boiled down to running around in a large group and zerging objectives and ganking stragglers from other teams.  I did see some promise in the combat systems when you found yourself one-on-one against a rival faction.  Dashes, interrupts, and ranged abilities seemed very important to gameplay.  Sadly ranged seemed to have a large advantage over melee at this point, but I’m sure that will be somewhat ironed out when people have had more time to create more diverse pvp builds.

On the whole PvP showed promise but wasn’t very well represented in this weekend.  I’m probably not one to pass final judgment on it, anyway, as I’m not a competitive PvP player.  From all I’ve read players who want to focus on PvP as the primary reason to play an MMO will probably be disappointed with TSW and should probably check out Guild Wars 2 which is focused around end game PvP.

Secondly, Funcom did a round of nerfs on the Hell Raised dungeon by making several of the bosses much easier.  This weekend was the first time I had run Hell Raised so I didn’t get to experience the harder form of the dungeon, but after hearing how brutal it was I felt very let down.  The nerfs to dungeons already, based upon people having difficulty with low quality gear and incomplete builds, doesn’t sit well with me.  I’m sure many are happy that Funcom has been receptive to player’s criticisms during the beta weekends and implemented many changes from that feedback – active dodging, combat animations and combat text, and dungeon difficulty all saw massive changes.  But I’m not.

I hate it when companies cave to forum pressure.  Because a loud vocal minority wants to complain and badmouth a game all originality of the product is subject to homogenization to whatever standard MMO fair that minority wants to embrace.  It’s easy to find faults in games, but that doesn’t make me feel that they need to be changed to fit my exact personal tastes.  Take Diablo III for instance – I went into that game finding a lot that displeased me but I was also open minded about it and found a lot to enjoy.  I’m going into The Secret World with the same mindset – not that I demand perfection but that I want to appreciate what someone else created.

If we all expect developers to cater to the majority, to only look at the bottom line and make games designed to have the broadest of general appeal, who then shall the developers please?  There will be only one game, iterated endlessly, if developers follow that path.  I was very happy with the difficulty and the eccentricities that The Secret World’s developers had given us.  I hope that uniqueness isn’t  scoured away by a group of consumers who can never be pleased.

Which brings me to a final thought:  the game is good.  Very good.  And while I don’t know if it will be a game that I will have a multi-year love affair with, a brief one is in order.  I’ve gone ahead and pre-ordered so I’ll be seeing whoever is online when early access opens on June 29th!

Dungeons – Fast and Fun in The Secret World

The 3rd Beta Weekend is finishing up now and I really enjoyed myself.  I wasn’t able to commit as much time as I’d have liked to all of the quests on The Savage Coast but I’m actually glad that more of the content will be fresh when the game launches in July (June 29 early access!). Because I wasn’t able to really deck out my toon in QL 5+ gear I didn’t step into the second dungeon.  I did run through the first dungeon two times and wanted to comment a bit on how I felt about it.   Firstly, Polaris was obviously an entry level dungeon.  It was challenging, but a lot of the challenge came from the players not having a strong understanding of what they were doing, not knowing what boss abilities to avoid, or not understanding how their class role would fit into the group.  Although I always looked for groups as dps I would invariably wind up tanking even though I had very low HP.  This made the dungeon artificially difficult, but still a lot of fun.  The design of this dungeon couldn’t be more different from that used by WoW.  There is virtually no trash, it feels very focused.  I talked to various people who said you could run it in under fifteen minutes with a geared out group who knew the encounters.  With a group learning the encounters the first time you’re probably going to need an hour or more, particularly if you have a handicap like not having a dedicated tank.  I enjoyed the brevity of the first instance – it clearly fit the design goals that Funcom has been espousing about dungeons.  Basically they’ve said they want instances to be very fast so you can log on for 30 minutes to an hour and get a lot done with friends without feeling the need to marathon dungeons/raids for 3+ hours.  I think the design of the first dungeon meets those guidelines well and I can imagine running the ‘heroic’ version when you’re decked in QL10 gear in just the same way.   Secondly, it guides players to learn mechanics as they move through the instance.  This is another design goal that Funcom has talked about in detail and they’ve done just what they said they would.  In Polaris the learning progression goes something like this:

  • First Boss: Electrified Water
  • Second Boss: Adds, Summoned AoE Cloud
  • Third Boss: Electrified Water, Electrified Crates, Adds, Boss Centered AoE explosions , Conic Smash
  • Fourth Boss: Adds, Column Blast attacks, Boss Centered AoE
  • Fifth Boss: Player Centered AoE explosions, Adds, Conic Smash, AoE Cloud
  • Sixth Boss: Conic Smash, Boss Centered AoE explosions, Player Centered AoE explosions, Channeled AoE breath attacks, Adds, Roots Players, Destructable Line of Sight Environment

Whew!  You don’t see many ‘tank and spank’ bosses in there!  The Fifth and Sixth bosses in particular have so much going on and so many mechanics to deal with you won’t be sleeping at your keyboard mashing the ‘1’ key.  Even though there is nothing hugely difficult about the first dungeon the encounters – particularly with the final boss – feel very creative.  The final boss required my first group to basically sit down and create a strategy for beating him with smart kiting and making use of cooldowns, and even then we barely eked by because of the soft enrage built into the encounter once all of the hiding spots are destroyed.

After playing the first dungeon I feel optimistic about the quality of the PvE content Funcom is bringing to the table.  Compared to other MMO’s I’ve played I can say this instance hits all the right notes: it’s challenging, rewarding, it has an aggressive pace, and it encourages just what MMO’s need: communication.  Keep up the good work, Funcom!

There should be at least one more beta weekend before the game releases in July but I’m torn between wanting to play further and wanting to save content for launch.  For anyone who is on the fence about the game be sure to take advantage of the final Beta on June 22nd-24th to give these dungeons a whirl!

The Secret World