The Secret World Legends
Being a huge lifelong fan of luminary weird fiction author H.P. Lovecraft, I’ve often longed for a game which captured and conveyed the horror and fantasy aspects that his writings presented. H.P. Lovecraft’s works are pretty antithetical to American horror because his stories were much more subtle in delivering the many vague threats that hovered just out of sight. In that regard, in a country where subtlety is not something that is held in high regard, nor completely understood, pretty much every digital adaptation of Mr. Lovecraft’s stories have been squandered.
Funcom’s 2012 game, The Secret World, was about as close as anyone has gotten to the Cthulhu mythos in a game-form. Its backstory painted a vicious struggle between three underworld factions and the monstrous threats that they faced, all of which were widely unknown by the public. “The Secret War” could have been an equally apt title since all sorts of murky dealings and conflicts took place out of the public eye, where horrific entities waged battle with humanity. And yes, it featured creatures that looked as if they were ripped straight out of any of Lovecraft’s Cthulhu stories.
Unfortunately, The Secret World debuted right when both Blade & Soul and Guild Wars 2 came out, so it faced rather fierce competition. But The Secret World turned out to have something unique going for it—it didn’t rely on the boilerplate high fantasy tropes of GW 2, nor the hackneyed Asian fantasy stereotypes of Blade & Soul. The Secret World, although similar to these other two Massively Multiplayer Online games in terms of visuals and gameplay, had a much more unusual backstory going for it.
This pleased fans of MMO’s, who had longed for a more original game which combined many elements of weird fiction from the literary days of yore. But two main things stunted its growth, a monthly subscription fee, and a lackluster combat system that made Donkey Kong look tactical by way of comparison. As a result, The Secret World’s player-base has dwindled over the past five years. So, instead of Funcom updating the existing game, they decided to re-haul the entire thing and re-brand it as The Secret World Legends.
Let me start off by saying that The Secret World Legends is free-to-play. This has left many gamers divided. On one hand you can buy certain special items and upgrades with either real money, or in-game currency, but much of it you can earn through experience. This means that it’s not necessarily pay-to-win, but nibbles around on the fringes of it. Other aspects of the game that were overhauled were the combat system as well as its graphics.
The original game’s combat system was probably the biggest initial turn off for newer players. Those who had accepted it viewed it as a necessary evil—the price you had to pay for admission into the thrilling storyline and concept that the game offered. Quite frankly, I felt that it was clunky and very unintuitive.
Funcom explained part of the problem being that the character models themselves were “un-teathered” which meant that the characters had facing issues, since much of the combat was movement based. Therefore, if you played a character who had spell-casting or other ranged attacks as their main focus, they would move awkwardly, and wouldn’t face the threats they faced in any sort of natural way.
The newer combat system’s improvements are hard to see at first, but the more I played The Secret World Legends, the more I was able to see subtle improvements here and there. Overall, combat feels more fluid this time around, and the facing issues seem to have been dealt with. However, the character animations themselves are still a little less-than-stellar. I’m not sure if this is a problem with The Secret World Legends in particular though, since I’ve never played an MMO which featured super-smooth looking animations. Whether firing off a lightning bolt or spraying foes down with an assault rifle, games within the MMO genre as a whole have never been great in that department.
As far as the new visual, Funcom should be commended here. Everything in The Secret World Legends has been given a face-lift over the original game. The character models look much more organic this time around, and their faces and mouths move more naturally, as opposed to just featuring motionless heads with their mouths flapping open and shut. The action effects have also been bumped up considerably, so that now spells look wondrous and guns fire with gravitas.
But the really impressive improvements, visually, are in the environmental arena. The Secret World series prides itself on players being able to globetrot off to exotic, iconic locations all around the world. The original game didn’t really convey the majesty that would accompany such travels. In The Secret World Legends, however, each location has been re-imagined and now all look spectacular. I know that games shouldn’t be judged on graphics alone but in an adventure/horror setting such as this, great visuals really bolster the overall sense of immersion.
The Secret World Legends will probably inspire fans of the original to get back into it and take it for another spin, especially since new content is scheduled to be released soon. Meanwhile, Funcom hopes to attract new players with its flashier visuals and improved combat system. Only time will tell if Funcom gets a second chance with their unique gaming experience, which they are obviously passionate about. In the end, if you are a gamer who loves a mysterious storyline, ancient horrors, and puzzles that will keep you guessing, The Secret World Legends is definitely a game that is worth a try or two.
The Secret World Legends features great graphics that make its weird fiction theme come alive. However, you want to have a pretty beefy gaming PC or gaming laptop in order to play it at a decent framerate. So, you may just want to invest in a decent gaming rig:
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