Flieger, grüß' mir die Sonne, grüß' mir die Sterne und grüß' mir den Mond. Dein Leben, das ist ein Schweben, durch die Ferne, die keiner bewohnt! - Hans Albers, F.P.1 antwortet nicht (Adaptation in the 80s: Extrabreit)

Friday, 5 February 2016

The Secret World

Sooo... as I had almost predicted, my forays into Star Wars: The Old Republic became boring very quickly, once that coolness of cleaving through enemies with a lightsaber has worn off and the complexity of rotating about a dozen abilities´ cooldown timer has become transparent. It is a pity to not conclude (yet) again the story of the Jedi Knight, but these days, I just follow my impulses. Like the element wind, I am here and soon somewhere else.

No one can tell me,
   Nobody knows,
Where the wind comes from,
   Where the wind goes.
It’s flying from somewhere
   As fast as it can,
I couldn’t keep up with it,
   Not if I ran.
But if I stopped holding
   The string of my kite,
It would blow with the wind
   For a day and a night.
And then when I found it,
   Wherever it blew,
I should know that the wind
   Had been going there too.
So then I could tell them
   Where the wind goes . . .
But where the wind comes from
   Nobody knows.

- A. A. Milne, “Wind on the Hill”

Enter The Secret World (TSW).

This little jewel of an MMORPG is easily one of the last remaining bastions of actual gameplay challenge, mixed with a superb moot for its setting. Well, it could have done better on a personal level, as all those game mechanics and monologues give little room for character interaction, but I consider the game´s particular style as an art. And managing those 529 skills, creating synergies which are actually direly needed in order to best the challenges which the game throws at you, is a minigame in itself. I don´t want to know how many hours I have spend the last weeks just pondering by aid of this fantastic skill planning tool, after a particular helpful community resource explained the basic principles behind it.

 - fighting IS in Egypt (well, something of a kind)

The first time I have played TSW about four years ago, I went with The Dragon, the most enigmatic faction of the three available ones. Besides, you get a blow job right in the intro.
Nowadays, it seems I am more settled as I went for The Templars righteous justice; attractive that they, at least, leave you to your own decision and just don´t simply abduct you into their ranks!

TSW has three big game locations, each of them divided into three or four big maps, which are littered with adventures, secrets and horrors. Solomon Island, New England. Marya, Egypt. Karpatians, Transylvania. Each map masterfully captures the particular sociocultural environment and mixes it with mystery and horror elements. It was a blast to go again through the storyline and all those missions. Plus, in the meanwhile, there were new issues, finally reveiling the mystery about that horror-dream you are presented with in the into: Tokio is open.

 - and, Shambala

A character in TSW has no particular class or playstyle. It is entirely up to your choice how you create it, based on said 529 skills and a choice of two out of nine available weapons, which serve as a focus of your powerful immortal magic abilities. The system is fantastic. Combat builds on a resource building-consuming concept. So called "builder" abilities do weak damage but build up to five resource points which you can use for a strong ability called "consumer". On top, there are side effects like affliction (bleeding or poisoning effects), weakening, hinder or impairing, which have their own intricate dependancies and synergies.

My character is named Adam Kadamon, based on the server Arcadia. As my first focus, the sword and blood magic served well. The former is strong in area based melee attacks, the latter dishes out formidable damage and also offers healing magic. I imagine "Adakada", as my character´s ingame nick goes, as a kind of a Blood Paladin. Sword strikes justice, drawing blood which also heals and protects. In later stages, the magic of "Exquisite Corpse" draws only two resources and builds up a medium strength protective shield in combination with a heal effect. This is my modern day paladin´s holy shield. An area effect ability called "Clearing the Path" allowed for >40% of my hits to devastatingly penetrate all afflicted targets, and my passive skills were all focusing to add damage upon afflicted targets ("Blood Sport" creates an affliction, and numerous other abilities exploit this by adding extra damage). The latter became my signature abilities, providing consistent high damage to each weak builder ability so that each rivaled a consumer ability, and by virtue of being added passive abilities, translated to all other weapon combinations later on. The beauty about this skill choice is that it does not rely on "procs", like critical or penetration his, but adds damage simply on a per hit basis.

- mysterious dreams, enigmatic missions

Another set of abilities centered around elemental magic, where also where fast available two-point consumers would allow for high damage per second, simply by virtue a rythm ("rotation")  of two builders to one consumer (instead of five builders to once consumer). This elemental magic, together with the above passive affliction-based damage skills enabled my to experiment with my secondary weapon choices, where I tried out Hammer, Chaos Magic, Shotgun. All of them added fantastic synergies in their own way. The high numerical base damage of my affliction set would for example combine nicely with a single high added percentage of damage ("Expose"). The usual way would have been to add percentage probabilities and damage, but by virtue of percentages being relative, my combination with stacked absolute damage bonuses quite overachieves.

I originally planned to do a little article series on my forays there, but I got swept away and totally swallowed by the combination of game mechanic-ing and those moody and quirky quests. If the term themeparc setting has a meaning, it is here!

However, my motivation dropped at a similar point as last time, when most of the story content was done, and the "end game grind" took over. In that stage, looking out and hunting for items usually becomes more important than both mood and story. While I am not opposed to some Nethack-Diablo-style of gameplay, I do not want this as a obligatory stage to savour more of a different game content. After finally understanding some of the equally intricate equipment (aka talsiman) mechanics and some group dungeons later, it all became the same again for me. Looking for a team is tedious, even though Funcom just has released a group finder. However, either nothing pops up at all, or the team is so overgeared that the whole mood of the dungeon is wasted. As is my time.

I still want to progress beyond the gate to Tokio, and maybe two more game sessions later I would have grinded enough of an epic equipment, but, too late, the game already lost again steam for me. And then I stumbled upon a nice gameplay video of Kerbal Space Program and some other motivation got quite kindled again...

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