The Secret World stands out from other massively multiplayer online roleplaying games, in that the setting is in our present day modern world, rather than some medieval fantasy land or far in the sci-fi future.
It has an interesting story that takes you around the world, through New England, Egypt, Transylvania and Japan (and some other dimensions in-between) exploring myths, legends and conspiracies which all turn out to have some truth to them.
You get to join one of three secret societies battling for control and influence – either the Templars, Illuminati or the Dragon – and you get to fight mythical creatures, demons and Lovecraftian horrors.
Those are some of the highlights of The Secret World, and why it’s one of the main MMOs I spent my time in. However, recently after the addition of their latest new feature, I feel like people are beginning to see a different side of the game… a more grindy side.
Nose to the grindstone
Grind is no stranger to most MMOs out there. It’s doing repetitive or tedious time-consuming tasks in order to progress. It exists to keep people occupied and playing the game, sometimes even to distract people from a lack of more interesting content.
Recently, the devs of The Secret World unveiled a brand new feature to the game – The British Museum of the Occult – which is a fusion of player housing to show off your achievements, lore collection for the game’s bestiary and a sink for ability points which every character earns from playing content.
It’s a great new feature – it gives you your own personal huge museum space to explore, pimp out and show to your friends. There’s a gift shop that sells new types of consumables which function as combat pets, a feature that hasn’t been in the game before. It encourages people to explore the game and look for lore they might not have.
Where it starts to become grindy is when you look at the requirements for unlocking exhibits. Basic exhibits are quite easily obtainable with some reasonable amount of player effort – usually just find some lore, earn a small amount of ability points and pay for a basic pedestal with in-game currency.
But if you’re aiming to upgrade right up to the maximum level, the paragon exhibits, you’ll find a lot of these are locked behind a grind wall of ultra-rare item drops combined with achievements to kill ten thousand creatures.
Even if you were only casually playing, and not rushing to get the best museum displays, the prospect of actually getting some of these is daunting. Unachievable before the next decade, even? But not just that, they require grinding.
The RNG gods are not with us
Let’s take a look at the random item drops. An example is the Orochi Tank Commander’s Sword required to upgrade the centrepiece of the Orochi exhibit. This only drops from the first boss of one of the hardest dungeons in the game, and it’s rare, which means it might not show up at all on your particular dungeon run.
We tried to get one of these swords for someone who needed it, and after dozens of attempts through the dungeon, we never saw it drop. Imagine having to get one of these for every member of your circle of friends?
Then there’s drops that are only available during certain events. The golem shards required to upgrade the golem displays are only available during the anniversary event which runs for two weeks in the summer and only from random loot bags. So you can grind dozens of anniversary event bosses, but if the RNG gods are not with you, they might never pop out of your random loot bags. Then you have to wait an entire year before attempting again.
Like ten thousand spoons…
The other side of it is the “10k grind”. A lot of paragon level exhibits require you to have killed ten thousand of the particular creature being displayed.
In some cases, this is quite achievable without dedicated grinding. My zombie display shouldn’t be a problem, as during four years of playing the game I’ve killed over fifty thousand zombies through “normal” gameplay – that is, just running missions and dungeons for fun and enjoyment.
In other cases, reaching a 10k kill count on certain creatures will either take years of casual play or dedicated grinding using either exploits or loopholes. The game simply doesn’t provide enough of those creatures through regular gameplay to assist you in getting those achievements. An example being revenants, which only appear during certain missions or as very sparse open world encounters.
Looking at which of the 10k achievements I’ve managed to get and the ones I haven’t exposes areas of the game which seem to be lacking. I’ve managed to get the 10k achievements for zombies, cultists, mummies, Hell soldiers, locusts, werewolves, draug and vampires, for example. These are all creatures that appear in abundance during scenario runs. So while I’ve been working on completing my augment wheel (another grindy game system which even competes with the museum for your ability points), I’ve easily completed those without even thinking about it.
I’ve also managed to kill over forty thousand filth corrupted creatures and made a lot of progress on filth guardians, which appear during raids such as the Manhattan Exclusion Zone and Corrupted Agartha.
But for other creatures, such as Fata Padurii and Jinn, you’re going to have a much more grindy experience, as there aren’t any places in the game where rapidly spawning waves of those are going to be coming at you.
I feel like the people who want to work on their museums are becoming disparaged and bored with the game with the off-putting amount of grind they’re faced with.
For some people, racking up their creature kill counts is fun. There’s a player community called the “Badgers” that specialises in organised farming runs – they go out hunting creatures as a large group using the most efficient methods devised to get to 10k. They’ve existed for a long time, for people who desire to get those 10k achievements. But since the museum arrived, I wouldn’t be surprised if the number of people joining their farming runs as exploded.
There are also kill count leaderboards for each monster type, so some players will go for the prestige of being number one. The top player in the game for zombie kills has over two million. Props to them.
With the lack of any other new content to play, working on progressing the museum or augment wheel are some of the only things left that endgame players have to occupy their time. While I love running the only three existing raids and same ten dungeons in the game over and over again, other people might see those as a disheartening grind.
It seems that a lot of this grind could be alleviated if the game had a few more scenario types, raid encounters or large-scale events which featured some of the rarer creatures – a new scenario with waves of wendigos, a Tokyo raid filled with evolved filthy humans and kyonshi, or a “Whispering Tide” scale event that filled an instance with Jinn…
I would just like to be able to work on my museum and have it pimped out within a reasonable timescale and through playing some fun new content, rather than having to resort to mindless farming.
Perhaps one day I’ll be able to.