TSW Early Observations and Impressions

It’s day 2 of The Secret World’s official launch, and we’re settling in with the mechanics and feel of the game.  We’ve made a lot of headway into the first area of the game.  I want to share a few things we’ve learned.

Skills and Ability Builds are awesome

TSW Weapon Synergy
TSW Weapon synergy chart. Find your weapon and see what weapons have good synergy from left to right.

It’s becoming more clear to me how this system of choosing skills and abilities works.  The key is to pick weapons and abilities with good synergy  There are ‘states’ that can be exploited to your advantage.  Let’s say I have a blood ability that makes the enemy ‘afflicted’.  I want to choose other abilities that get bonuses from the enemy being afflicted.  I also want to use abilities that build points for both weapons I’m using.  So it’s advantageous to do a little research and figure out if you’re making a build that will have the greatest performance.  I’m sure you can do whatever you want and make it work, but there *are* optimal ways to spend those points.   I’m still trying to figure out if there is a limit to the total number of points I can earn (Update: There’s not).

See the chart pictured to the right.  Find the primary weapon you want to use.  The leftmost column is that weapon’s states and triggers.  Weapons with the most synergy will be listed in subsequent columns left to right.  I didn’t make the chart.

Questionable Re-playability

It dawned on me yesterday that this story is very linear.  While playing I am having a lot of fun exploring and figuring things out, but what happens if I want to go back and play again with another character?  Technically, I’ll have already figured out every puzzle, found every lore item, explored all the hidden locations, solved the mysteries, and essentially experienced all that this game has to offer.

I thought SWTOR had little replayability, but TSW is the same for all three factions.   There isn’t even the option to switch sides and do it differently.  Let’s hope once is enough.


Questing is a mixed bag.  Some of the quests are really good.  The main story quests are interesting and fun, and the sabotage quests or whatever the ones are that have you solve puzzles or do avoid/jump puzzles are really neat.  The side quests (running man graphic) and the repeatable quests (the ones you can have 3 of) are pretty boring.  If they didn’t give such good exp I wouldn’t do them at all.


System performance is horrible.  TSW isn’t optimized well.  Graev’s computer can barely run the game; Zoning takes him literally 5 minutes and he’s constantly hitching.  My computer zones quicker but has performance issues.  Nvidia beta drivers supposedly help fix some problems, but this doesn’t feel like a graphics issue;  Perhaps CPU or RAM related?  If anyone has some tweaks or tips to improve performance, shoot us a comment or an email.  I am *positive* that performance issues are hindering my enjoyment.

Customer Service / Technical Issues

Graev made his character on Cerberus, but this morning it says he’s magically on Arcadia.  Many others have experienced the same issue.  This threw a huge wrench in our ability to play.  Sure, we can technically play together since anyone from any server can group, guild, raid, etc., together, but we can’t do the Fusang Projects (open-world 24/7 PvP) together — that’s a deal breaker.  It took 20 minutes of waiting for a GM to finally move his character back — 20 minutes with the third GM after several fail conversations with GM’s.  I have no idea, nor do they, why characters are being moved or things aren’t working properly.

  • Cool thanks for the chart. Yeah that is strange about the server moves, as you know I had the same thing happen to me. I am still very iffy about the game. Funny thing to me the quest are sort of anti-groupish in a way. Going back to playing but I will reply with more later.

  • I’m playing a pure healer support character, and I thought I was making no difference to my group. Turns out they tried to play without me and died. Maybe I am useful?

  • Re-playability is going to be nill unless you really dont mind playing the same content over. The game seems to be very linear as far as what zone you hit when (unless Im missing something). If you are new or if you built your character poorly you’ll be stuck in Kingsmouth for a very long time. I’m pretty tired of the zone already but I’m stuck there until I grind out the gear/skills that will allow me to move on to The Savage Coast comfortably.

    Also, the mass PvP zone in the game is really really terrible. Talk about zergs. It makes WarHammer PvP seem like a strategic masterpiece.

    Overall the game seems worth a try as a carry you to the next great game that comes out. I can’t see myself playing this 3 months from now even if GW2 wasn’t coming out.

  • @Fergor yeah I certainly can’t see myself playing once GW2 launches. Not even sure if I will keep playing after End of Nations or Mechwarrior Online come out. Looks like TSW is yet another 30day or less MMO.

  • I am growing tired of the first zone myself. I’m ready for a change of scenery. I’ve already abandoned pistols because I didn’t get a sense of synergy at all with Blood, so now I’m Blood/Fists.

  • Impulse control is king. You can untrain your abilities if you spent the points in your faction trainings room. So save up go there spent your points and if you don’t like it untrain there.

    Buy your faction run speed upgrades. At rank 2, 4 & 8 you can buy them at your faction hq.

    Quest coins, save them don’t spent them in Kingsmouth or Savage Coast. In Blue Mountain you can buy QL 6 blue weapons for 50 coins at the trailer park.

    If you think points are a problem, nope I have unlocked 3 inner rings, 2 50 points elite skills and a full premade deck for a outfit and I am still not finish with the 3th zone, so don’t panic if you spent some points for the wrong skills.

    I don’t know why some don’t like fusang but you know you can see massive action on the map, red stars just avoid them and join the zerg only if go for a facility and yes you want to capture one for the pvp marks and for the faction pve bonus.

    Oh and you should really check out the dungeons. Minimal amount of trash mobs + some interesting boss fights from the first dungeon on…

  • In the dragon society, one of the pre-built ‘decks’ is pistols/blood. So there’s certainly synergy there, though seemingly later on in the outer skill ring.

    I loved not knowing what was going on and slowly pulling it all together. That was your entire mission after all. And just when I thought thing were starting to make sense, I get to the motel at the beginning of the Savage Coast…

  • Nice writeup. I’m really digging the skills and ability aspect too, and I’ve found the combat variations really keeping my interest so far. I can see how, even though I dont have many abilities now, the system will grow into something even more varied as I advance.

    I also just played the first dungeon a couple runs, thought it was actually really, really fun.

    I think the thing that really seals it for me though is the great atmosphere and setting work they’ve done. The writing is a notch above SWTOR for me. These stories seem much grittier, real, and just heftier than the stuff we got in SWTOR. I’m enjoying and connecting with it much more.

    I did want to comment on your performance issue. I just resolved mine by switching my dx9/dx11 setting, which I found odd since my wife’s computer is nearly identical and she had zero performance problems.

    I was having a ton of laggy, hitchy gameplay – performance was noticeably bad. At first I thought it was just the influx of new players, since I didnt seem to have the same problems in beta, but eventually I came to realize it was my machine, no matter where I was in-game. I turned off a bunch of video options and went down to a “medium” setting without improvement. However, my wife’s system had zero problems and was playing with dx11 on high settings…. it ran great.

    Our systems are nearly identical and home-built (When you get married to someone who also games, your system costs double) 🙂 These two boxes have the same mobo, CPU, RAM, OS install, game install, video card, and as far as I’ve found so far, same driver levels on everything. Our main difference is type of hard drive. Hers are a bit newer, and her boot drive is an SSD.

    I had planned to order some new drives today (and I still might), but yesterday morning I switched from dx11 to dx9 manually… and everything cleared up. Game runs without issue now. I bumped everything back up except that, played all day and quite a bit of the night like that.

  • Ran into my first real puzzle quest yesterday and I had to use Google. I did that more to see how TSW wants you to solve puzzles. Now that I understand how TSW puzzles work it will be easier hopefully. I think the main trick is you have think that TSW is the real world and you have to use resources available in the real world to solve their puzzles.

    Definitely very fun, different and interesting.

    I do agree with Keen though, this is a very linear game much like SWTOR and I don’t know how replayable it will be but I’m finding it much more entertaining than SWTOR.

  • There’s quite a bit of content if you are exploring and checking everything out. For example, the Academy School in Savage Coast kept me tied up for several hours alone yesterday afternoon (there’s a host of mission quests there). You don’t think there’s much but you keep finding things as you quest around. People that have finished the game already clearly weren’t playing the game, they were power-leveling through the main storyline.

    The way the game is built means that the ride up should be enjoyable and fun, I wouldn’t worry about replayability long-term, but that’s me. The detail in the environments/world overall is quite impressive and I like how they have completely disassociated (aside from weps) the look of your character (clothing) with the stats on your gear…you can spend pax in the clothing shops in London, unlock the decks for costumes, or, use the cash shop if you wish. Would like to see more games do this.

  • “…essentially experienced all that this game has to offer”

    And that is why I think Funcom’s going to have a serious challenge at the end of July. After 1 complete playthrough of the game, re-rolling is going to feel much less fun, and players will demand more end-game content (as players are wont to do).

    Given the awesome, unique setting and mood, and developers who have really hand-crafted a beautiful world here, and it would be a huge waste if people got bored at the end and left. Because they’ve already shown their willingness to stray from the mold, they’re already in a good place to add something creative for players after they hit the “Now What?” stage.

    The hardest part, is that Funcom simply cannot create solid, creative, full-voice-over, cutscened, mysterious missions faster than the players can consume them. The fantastic missions (and writing too) are one of the best features of the game, and it really shines. But no company can make them faster than we can experience them. And when we run out, are there enough end-game features to keep us pacified until the next expansion or patch? Is there enough motivation to re-roll?

    I know that sounds trollish, but it’s my straightforward, honest look at potential Pitfalls. Funcom has smartened up about making MMOs. If they act quickly and creatively, they’ll think of something good to fill the end-game-gap. If not, well… perhaps Arne Aas will be glad he’s no longer in the direct line of fire.

  • I would think that limited replayability in a sub game will likely adversely affect subs numbers after 30 days unless they can rapidly keep supplying new content.

  • @Machination I do not find you concerns trollish at all. I am loving the game myself and I am progressing thru content so slowly that it will be at least a few months for me before I have seen everything on my main Illuminati. That being said, going back and redoing the same missions on Dragon and Templar characters would be a bit tedious to me even with how much I enjoy TSW. I know each faction has some specific stories to experience but side missions are all the same.

    I am concerned how quickly they can create/test/release new content, though the concept of Argatha does lend itself well to new content updates.

    I think the players that will be the most left with the feeling of ‘what now’ and leave quickly will be the ones that ‘esc’ thru cut scenes, wiki solutions for puzzle missions and just generally hurry thru content.

  • Well, they could add endgame gear treadmills to keep you playing, but we don’t like those either, do we? Plus that wouldn’t fit with the game they have created anyway. The reality is that this isn’t the type of game that is going to appease the hardcores anyway, they’ll power-level through the entire game in less than a week and then complain there’s nothing to do, and then move on. I tend to think this game will appeal more to the casual crowd who aren’t as concerned about leveling speed and minmaxing, instead playing the game as it is because there’s some fatigue out there associated with high fantasy, theme park cookie-cutters. TSW with its faults is different, in a variety of ways, so I can live somewhat with the warts simply because it is at least trying some different things.

    I’m not sure we are in an era anymore where MMOs are going to keep the masses appeased for 6-12 mos paying a sub. Post-WoW, the best chance of a game doing it is GW2, but there’s no sub. And even then, I’m not sure it will keep my interest for 6 months. Keen refers to these games as three monthers, maybe TSW is a 30 dayer, I dunno, but I tend to think in more relative terms such as “Was this game worth the box price?”. Frankly, I don’t care if I only play a game for 30 days, if it was fun on the way up and then it’s over, I’m ok with that. Each of us have our own scale in terms of whether a game was a purchase mistake or whether we received an acceptable level of ROI.

    I don’t play games with any expectation or illusion that they necessarily need to keep me entertained for a long duration, I’ll leave that worry to the game’s creators in terms of whether that longevity is essential as it relates to their business model. If Funcom loses money on the deal that’s their own problem, not mine, the main thing for me is whether the game was good enough to justify the box price (+ whatever else I spend playing the game).

  • Re-playability is certainly an issue. I am 100% sold on the art direction and atmosphere but not quite as sold on the skill decks and point selection. The game seems okay enough to enjoy for the first month but like so many MMOs these days I don’t see it holding my attention for more than a month. Even more so with the other MMOs coming out in the next couple of months.

    My biggest problem is that I don’t see TSW keeping me entertained enough for a subscription when GW2 is fixing to come out. I am not quite burnt out on Kingsmouth like Keen is but at the same time while I enjoy the zone design the combat to me is falling flat. Plus mis-allication of action and skill points has gimped one of my characters. I know that I can just unlock more skill points but none the less it is still an hassle.

    I am not a hater of TSW, but I am not a huge fan either. Pretty much it goes the way of TERA for me. It tries to be different but in the end it is only different enough that it is frustrating to an extent. Just like the quest. I like that they require thought but then again if you try to group and do them either someone will go too fast through them or be too slow. If the game was a single player game then I would love the investigation side of quest, but as it is investigations are some what anti-social thus breaking up the desire to group at least to me.

  • TSW has a lot of content – if you play and enjoy the scenery, explore and immerse yourself. Yeah surely its not unlimited, but neither was any MMO unless you are willing to grind never ending gear treadmill. If treadmills and grinds are your idea of content -really should check you some Asian titles. Unlimited content there.

    TSW is an awesome game with rich world, atmosphere and charm. It has a lot more to offer than average game and its worth to purchase. It might not last forever but its better than most offerings out there.

    I personally will probably stop playing it once GW2 is out. But not because GW2 has better content(it really doesnt) . GW2 has better pvp and that what makes me playing longer than 1-3 months.

  • gw2 has more repayable content and its content layout is much better. Weather the content is better or not is hard to judge. Gw2 group oriented to the extreme while tsw is extremely single player oriented. TSW content has a lot more grit and realism to it while gw2 content seem like it just has fantasy labels thrown ontop of game mechanics.

  • Think with GW2 content -its really generic and really bland. And on top of it there isnt any background most of the time either – just walk in kill x foozles/click y nodes/escort x mobs quest appear. In TSW there is richly detailed story with almost every generic quest, often brilliantly narrated with charismatic characters. And then there are pure masterpieces like carnival quests, most investigations quests and main story line

    GW2 story line quests and “puzzles” look like a cheap bad joke in comparison

  • @max

    Could we not turn this into a gw2 vs tsw thread?

    GW2 has a rich, detailed world and all the DEs and events have background and story behind them. It’s just subtle and easy to mss if you don’t take the time to look for it. It’s set up very organically.

    TSW goes the route of throwing exposition out in front full force.

    You can think of it like a cop movie trope where the cops are trying to see if the bad guys are in their hotel room. A cop touches the hood and then tells his partner he’ s in there. GW2 is the movie where they don’t tell you why the cop thought the bad guy was there. TSW has the cop say “the engine’s still hot”. One isn’t better then the other, it’s just a different style.

    The writing in both games is about equal. Some good, some bad. When you’re writing so much stuff it’s impossible to have it all be incredible.

  • Yeh max follow the NPCs around next beta weekend. Almost everything connects and reroutes itself around. If you defend a Caravan it then goes to town and chats with the blacksmith and sells it wares.

  • I prefer games that shy away from the holy trinity way of doing things. (damage, tank, healer)

    I felt this way for a long time.
    Back in Diablo 2 everyone was having fun without the need to have a healer.
    It worked fine.

    Glad to see GW2 enables everyone to heal themselves and in a pinch heal others.
    There is still the issue of tanking though.

  • I feel the chart used is incomplete, there are more neat tricks to use then it shows.

    Chaos/ Blades shows synergy for impair and frenzy, but that’s now what I’m using at all.

    Currently when I get a penetrating hit, 2 things happen.

    1) I get a heal over time on myself.
    2) It afflicts the target.


    When ever I afflict a target, I get a stacking penetration rating buff.

    So as the fight progress, I penetrate more and more, keeping a heal on myself and an afflict on the target.

  • Is it just me or is TSW the most weirdly successful/unsuccessful launch ever? It actually reminds me of the Tabula Rasa launch…of course, I’m sure TSW doesn’t just abruptly end like TR did…but for the first couple weeks it felt the same.

    If only TSW’s marketing department was as together as whomever designed the mechanics. Is TSW pure sub based? A hybrid? A cash shop? And what does the cash shop sell?

    Those aren’t the kind of questions a potential buyer should have to ask…I should already know all of those answers.

    The wait 6 month rule is definitely applying for me on TSW. A shame, because a year ago I was sure it was a day 1 purchase. Regardless, glad the infrastructure of the game is sound. It could still be a sleeper hit.

  • @Jim: Maybe I can help some.

    Is TSW pure sub based?

    A hybrid? A cash shop?
    Like World of Warcraft, there is a cash shop.

    And what does the cash shop sell?
    Outfits (clothing), Pets, and other cosmetic items. So far nothing that offers any sort of advantage. I haven’t even seen an experience boost. Far less aggressive than Guild Wars 2’s cash shop.