Game Review – Secret World Legends (2017)

Game Review – Secret World Legends (2017)


Martin Adil-Smith

Secret World Legends (SWL) is a free-to-play Massive Multiplayer Online game and is a re-release of Secret World, which was a PC venture developed by Funcom.

Ditching the fantasy elements of World of Warcraft and Elder Scrolls, Secret World is a blend of punk noir… and just plain weirdness. Customize your character and jump into the opening sequence and your burgeoning occult powers attract the attention of a secret society and then you’re off to fight the bad guys who range from Egyptian titans to Cthulhu clones.

SWL is far from perfect… and if you play you’ll know that by the endless patching that goes on. There are numerous glitches and bugs, which range from the familiar stuck-in-scenery to the increasingly common “my-screens-gone-black”, and on to the frustrating “I-think-I-broke-my-quest.”

However, none of these are deal breakers but rather minor annoyances that gamers have come to expect. Yet where SWL does do really badly… is that it is SINFULLY BORING. Despite the MMO tag, this really doesn’t feel massive in any sense, and there only a shred of community to it. There is very little reason to recruit other players or join a quest, and the quests become a grind of “Go there – kill that.”

Well that doesn’t look good

Initially, the character class system is limiting. At the start, you can only use two weapons, but as the game progresses you can spend valuable points on other weapon trees.

The game is very open world, and does well in this regard, with a myriad of side quests available. These can be repeated after a cool-down period, and there is the opportunity for the Developer’s Friend to raise its head… Level Grinding. However, in practice, there is no real need for it as the game has a reasonable difficulty curve.

Where the major frustrations lie are in the levelling system, the level cap, and the forging systems.

The levelling system is at best confusing and at worst ill thought out. XP is gained from kills and quest completions, and an unknown amount goes into a hidden weapon-proficiency category which may or may not improve performance. As your XP increases, you are granted certain bonuses (AP and SP points), and then once you gain a level, you gain some extra health and damage, ready to repeat the exercise again.

He had it coming

However, the level cap is set at 50 and this can be reached in under a month of play. Whilst you can continue to earn AP and SP points (critical for developing your build), there are no more health or damage bonuses. What is completely neglected in this system is the mana pool. You have two pools – one for each weapon – and when you run out of your primary, you switch to the secondary… and too often you will find yourself out of both and being tongue punched in the head by a Filthy Orochi.

The forging system is so massively under-developed, that it would seem to be an afterthought. Acquire shards from kills and completing quests to use in merging equipment with each other to form new more powerful items. Ok, so not the most original, but it’s a staple that works… except it doesn’t really in SWL. There are some five tiers of item power, and up until Level 50, you can only go up to the top of the second level. The result? You spend all the time working up to level 50 and the excess items are either sold or put in your painfully small vault (which you can pay real-world money to expand). It is frustrating and disengages the players.

For all these gripes, SWL does have many redeeming features. Graphically, it is beautiful, the controls are well thought out and are responsive, and the music is wonderful. The array of creatures and landscapes is diverse, and whilst the skill tree is flawed, that a player is forced to choose a limited number of active abilities and skills does lead to new and interesting gameplay.

Time to bug out

The few instances of co-op mode are genuinely enjoyable, although the PvP mode only has one map (a single open arena) and could do with a major overhaul.

The plot, such as it is, will keep you fairly involved up to the level cap and although you will not have finished by the time you reach it, you may struggle for motivation to continue.

Is SWL a bad game? No, far from it. But is it a great game? Sadly, despite the obvious lengthy development it has been through, the answer has to be no. At best it is average and does little to break from the pack.