Oh my god, he’s back. Quite. This post will explain why. Many of you in the Discord will already have heard my rants on this topic but I have managed to calm down long enough to make them moderately coherent.
Secret World Legends concentrates on the story. It doesn’t want you to get stuck at a point because of mechanical reasons.
That’s the ethos SWL had in mind when making the changes to its story and missions. The idea was that everyone should be able to progress along the story even if that was all they had done. Up until the tower, they had succeeded in that mission. Generally, this meant ensuring that players had clear goals to follow (older players often felt it was oversimplifying things) or making sure that you were at a certain level before you progressed further down the main story route. However, then we encountered The Tower…
In The Secret World, The Tower consisted of three separate floors. An alpha, a beta and an omega floor. After which you would arrive at the next part of the story. If you became stuck on a particular floor you could buy an item from the auction house (or if you were lucky get it as a drop from side missions) which would allow you to jump to another floor of the same level. SWL takes a completely different approach. You will visit every floor. Whether you like it or not. And until you have completed them all, you can’t progress with the story. There is no way of changing a floor or skipping it. So if you become stuck. Your journey is over. Or at least on pause until you can find someone to help you along.
I understand the urge to encourage players to experience each floor in a sequential order (unlike TSW where the selection was random). It allows for the story of each branch of Orochi to be told. However forcing players through the entire tower all at once means they will loose patience and quickly get bored with any stories presented to them. To make matters worse if they find themselves getting stuck (there is at least one floor where that is a very real possibility), they may give up entirely.
Let me explain what happened to me. I was so happy to have reached The Tower. Finally I was going to be able to get my wings back. I completed the first section easily and headed to the lobby. There I was told to take a particular group (it has been so long that I forget which one). I obliged and headed to the floor. After completing all three floors I figured I was headed to the next stage of the story. The penultimate stage. Oh no, says SWL, have another group, and another and another. Until I hit Manticore. The second Manticore floor is extremely difficult and has been known to make even the most skilled of players yell “WTF?” while throwing things at the screen. After a considerable number of attempts I decided to quit The Tower and resigned myself to not getting my wings. Numerous people offered to help me (sadly as most of them were strangers I didn’t feel able to take them up on the offer) after about a month I decided to try again and eventually got past the dreaded floor only to spend the better part of an afternoon and evening completing the follow up floors.
So what? I hear you ask. The game should be changed because Kle couldn’t get past a particular floor? Hardly. If I had artistic control we’d be looking at a very different “shared world action RPG”. The problem is that if I (a person who has experienced The Tower in TSW and SWL) found myself rage quitting and wanting to leave the story unfinished because I was forced to complete an entire building’s worth of floors and got stuck, then I dread to imagine how a more casual player will feel. By the time you are about half way through the floors you just want the torture to end. Many of the achievements are doable on your first run which leaves very little replay value and by the time you get to the penthouse you have lost almost all sense of “giving a shit” about the story.
But wait there is something worse than that. When I did finally get my wings what do you think the first thing I did was? That’s right, I went onto the emotes page and brought the showings emote as well as that I brought the black wings (I went as far as buying Aurum off the Auction House at around 50,000 Marks of Favour for 250 which is a stupidly high exchange). Unfortunately Funcom delayed me giving them money by insisting on an entire Tower run. I managed to make it. Not everyone will, some people will just give up and uninstall the game entirely. What about their money? The wings are pretty big earners, with people making the wrong choices or just wanting to show them off, blocking people’s access to those and in turn their ability to give you money is amazingly nonsensical.
So what would I do if the world was perfect and I had been in charge of The Tower project? Personally I feel that the system in TSW was not too bad. The randomisation was annoying but only having to do three floors before continuing on with your journey was much more rewarding. I would have made the story mission have you choose from any of the Orochi Subsidiaries that had three floors and then have you progress along to the next part of the story. That way you are still experiencing the story within a floor and are still interested in the main story when you have completed them. This approach reduces frustration as well as increases replayability as people will come back to complete the other floors for achievements/stories. There is the additional bonus that if you do get stuck on a floor you would be able to return to the lobby and choose from any of the other groups that had three floors.
Now that I’ve had a chance to rant tell me what you think of The Tower and it’s current layout. Are you happy with the way it’s set up or do you have a better solution to make it less of a grind?