The Secret World’s Issue 2 update invites players to dig deeper, but does so in the wrong places

The Secret World’s Issue 2 update invites players to dig deeper, but does so in the wrong places

The Secret World is an engaging MMO that blends reality with fantasy in quirky, sometimes hilarious ways, but it hasn’t been without troubles. Bugged quests were plentiful at launch and, in mid-August, Funcom laid off half its work force, including lead designer Martin Bruusgaard.

The Secret World‘s latest major update, titled Issue 2: Digging Deeper, is the first to be released without Brussagaard on staff, and I wonder how much that has affected its development. While Issue 2 doesn’t turn The Secret World into a bad game, it feels a bit underwhelming, like the development team is just now putting icing on the Cthulhu cake. If you’re an explorer of Ragnar Tornquist’s mad world, you might appreciate these finishing touches but, if you’re not, the changes aren’t going to convince you.

This is my boomstick

Issue 2: Digging Deeper introduces quite a bit, including the first auxiliary weapon, the rocket launcher. The rocket launcher is classified as its own weapon type, and comes with its own ability wheel, just like hammers, rifles, or magic talismans each had their own wheel, each with its own set of skills to unlock.

While standard weapons have 56 abilities to choose from on the wheel, the rocket launcher, as the first auxiliary weapon, grants only seven. Think of it like heavy weapons in Mass Effect 2, where the reliance on rare, specialized ammo prevented abuse of such weapons.

The various rocket launchers your character can acquire start out looking plain, but you’ll find better and better drops as you go along. There are rocket launchers made to look like something the armed forces might use, but there are also sci-fi themed and sinister looking ones as well. Personally, I’m a fan of showing off my red and black one, stylized to look like a demon, since it’s literally a rocket launcher from Hell.

The downside is, as awesome as rocket launchers look, they never seem to give the satisfaction of blowing things up that they should. They look big and intimidating, but when even the biggest explosion merely causes an enemy to limply crumple to the ground, the end result feels wimpy. The booms aren’t loud enough, and the force is never felt.

Tell me what you don’t like about yourself

The other big change with Issue 2 is the ability to change your character’s appearance in new ways. Ockham’s Razor in London can give you a new hairstyle or trim facial hair, while The Modern Prometheus can alter your physical appearance. Of everything in Issue 2 that stands out, The Modern Prometheus is the most interesting.

While it’s disappointing that I didn’t see any new presets or facial models while under the knife at Prometheus, the atmosphere – one of the things I love so much about The Secret World – was fully intact. This “surgeon” sets up shop in a meat locker, complete with slabs of pig meat hanging from hooks and Bach’s “Air on the G String” playing in the background. Peter Stormare, who might remember as Satan in Constantine, provides the voice of Dr. Anton Aldini and, though his lines are sparse, the performance is superb.

Ask Aldini about himself and he brags about how his great, great, great, great grandfather was the inspiration for Dr. Frankenstein, and subsequently calls Mary Shelley a “thieving bitch.” It could be hilarious and played for laughs, but Stormare, even through a think, Dracula-emulating accent, pulls it off and makes it sincere and creepy.

Nightmare mode has been added to the Hell Eternal and Facility dungeons, making an experience that was challenging on standard difficulty even more insane. I tried, but never successfully completed either of the dungeons. One group wiped on the first boss of the Facility multiple times.

A standard update to a game that should be anything but

Other than that, there’s the standard addition of quests that Funcom has been adding, which are both appreciated and simultaneously inconvenient. One new quest continues The Kingsmouth Code, a quest from the first area in the game, other than your starting city.  It’s nice that The Secret World avoids the disease of Suddenly A New Continent Appears Syndrome, but it can be a bit of a pain to find your way to all the new content the team has put in here. Since the game lacks a working fast travel system across maps, it can be a monotonous time trekking from one new quest to another.

Issue 2 was delayed several times before it went live this week, and while adding more people to a game’s development team is not a sure-fire fix, it feels like this could’ve done with some more stress testing and creative input. Future updates would do well to remember that people like The Secret World for its colorful characters and well-written story, and focus on new ways for players to experience those things.

Rocket launchers are nice, but I’d rather sit in The Modern Prometheus and just listen to Dr. Aldini talk.