So the early-access to Funcom’s new Free-to-Play horror/adventure game “Secret World Legends” is beginning, and I have some thoughts about that. Most of them are negative, as you’ll see in upcoming videos and podcasts on this site, but after some reflection on the issue, I have at least come to terms with the move. I’m still not a fan of it, but I am at peace with it.
Now then, what exactly is “Secret World Legends”? Funcom describes it as a ‘shared world’ roleplaying game, based upon the storylines of their nearly five years old MMORPG “The Secret World”. That is, in fact, quite true. SWL is basically TSW, with some tweaks to combat, skills, and leveling. It is also no longer an MMORPG, allowing solo players to do the vast majority of content in the game (something I am really fine with, to be honest), but also greatly restricting the number of players who can do content together.
And here’s the rub: TSW was an MMORPG, but probably never really should have been. It has dark, moody content, that is better suited for solo play, or only a few people grouping together. If you have hundreds of players all running around in the same area, it kind of destroys the immersion and moodiness of the setting. How can you be scared by running through a zombie-filled island, when hundreds of other people are right there beside you, doing the exact same content?
SWL fixes that issue, by taking TSW backwards in regards to MMORPGs. It effectively turns the game into a Lobby Game, much like the original “Guild Wars” was. You can jump into an instanced version of Kingsmouth (said zombie-filled island), for example, and be the only person playing in that area. Or you can invite up to nine players to join you, so that the ten of you can do content together, without ruining the game’s mood and immersion. To be honest, this is a good thing, really. It is what the game needed.
But this is why this change still rubs me the wrong way: Funcom could have made these changes to “The Secret World”, and in doing so, revitalized a great game that deserved better than it got. Instead, it got put on Maintenance Mode (no further development or content to come, ever), just prior to its fifth anniversary. And to add insult to injury, Funcom puts out TSW’s replacement, “Secret World Legends”, just days before TSW’s 5th anniversary. So what should have been a great milestone and celebration for TSW becomes a funeral, while Funcom dances on their old game’s grave with SWL.
Now I get it, I really do. I am a bit attached to TSW emotionally, and as such, I take this really personally. Which is why on certain podcasts and videos coming up on this site, I am far from kind to Funcom regarding these changes. But as a longtime gamer, I can also recognize that this was probably for the best. Funcom has always said that fixing TSW would have meant a top-down rebuild of the game, because changing the combat system would have required it, and it was just easier and quicker to build a new game, instead. But what bothers me is that if this were true, why not continue to allow new players to buy into “The Secret World”, if they choose to? Even knowing it is in Maintenance Mode, giving new players to option to but into TSW would have at least given guilds in that game a chance to survive long-term. But now, the game is effectively doomed to failure, if only through attrition. Players leave, that is a fact in every MMORPG. But if players leave, and no new players are allowed to join the game in the future, then that game cannot stay open for long.
Basically, the failure of TSW becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy for Funcom. And I expect that is by design. I expect Funcom wants to force all TSW players to play SWL or GTFO, as it were. And if they don’t, Funcom will starve TSW for players until there are only a few hundred left, when they can say the game is effectively dead, and shut down the servers for good.
But why wouldn’t people want to play SWL instead TSW? I mean, it is a revamped game, fixing much of what was wrong with TSW, right? Well, for many of us, we enjoyed that MMORPG aspect of TSW, even if we chose to play solo most of the time. And since SWL is not an MMORPG in any way, shape or form, why would those player want to see their MMORPG of choice killed off, and replaced by something lesser? Even if some things are fixed or improved in SWL, it is still effectively a Lobby Game, which many of us won’t enjoy.
Ask any “Guild Wars 2” player if they would prefer GW2 to be shut down and replaced by a game with the same exact content, but using the grouping mechanics of the original “Guild Wars”, instead. I expect very few would be excited by that prospect. And that is why some are not exactly excited by this happening to TSW.
That all said, I have come to peace with this change. I may not like it, I may not agree with it, and I certainly don’t plan to reward Funcom with cash money in the future, because of it. But I have come to terms with what has happened, and will likely play SWL from time to time. Why? Because I bought a goddamn Grandmaster (lifetime) account for “The Secret World” just five years ago, and since Funcom is effectively honoring those accounts in SWL by giving us the bonuses of a subscriber for free, then why would I turn that down? Plus, I love the setting and story behind “The Secret World”, and don’t want to see it end so soon.
Nevertheless, I will still keep “The Secret World” installed on my computer, and play it from time to time, as well. Because Funcom needs to know that some of us still remember, and that we still miss our old MMORPG of choice.