Updated Thu, May 24, 2012 by ricoxg
Characters in The Secret World aren’t limited to a single weapon; they can equip a second weapon and gain access to skills in another cluster. As you’ll see later when we discuss conditions, this becomes a large advantage because it allows the player to diversify their ability options and choose abilities in other clusters that complement those in their primary cluster. One of the central mechanics to this is the Resources concept, which builds a charge on either the character or the target. Most good abilities consume these Resources when activated. This advantage isn’t obvious at first, so let’s go for another example:
Our Elemental Mage picks up a Shotgun as his secondary weapon, allowing him to utilize abilities from the new ability cluster. His base attack (Shock) does damage and builds one resource for each equipped weapon (which is why it’s called a Builder.) This means the single attack gives him one Elemental Resource on himself, and a Shotgun Resource on the target. After five attacks with Shock, he can then attack with Thor’s [Ten Ton] Hammer for massive amounts of damage, which consumes all of his Elemental Resources in the process. (This skill would be called a Consumer or Finisher.) The Elemental Resources are gone, but not the Shotgun Resources, so he could then attack with any one of several shotgun abilities that require the Shotgun Resources to activate, or get extra damage from them, like Buckshot, for instance, which does half again as much damage if the target has five Shotgun Resources on it. If you’re not sure which combinations give you the best advantages, take a look through the Decks. You should find some solid hints on what abilities pair well together and why.
Now let’s look at how The Secret World handles something called Skills. Skills, like Abilities, are purchased. In this case, you would use Skill Points (SP), which are gained in the same way as APs are. I’m not totally sold on calling them Skills, though. While there is a set of them that have to be bought up to allow you to equip better gear, for the most part, they just add subtle bonuses to your abilities and stats.
Skills are divided up similarly to abilities. You have Firearms, Melee, and Magic. Elemental, Chaos, and Blood under Magic, just as you’d expect. Each sub-category has two skills that can be upgraded, Damage and Support under Elemental Magic for instance. This is where you further refine your character’s approach to using abilities. If I wanted to be straight damage, I’d focus on that skill under Elemental for instance, or go Support if I wanted to buff allies allowing them to do more damage themselves.
There is another group under skill that we haven’t discussed yet, and that leads us to the second function of skills. Skills are also used to determine what level of items you can equip and use. Weapon skills for the weapons of course, and then the Talismans skill set (Head, Major, and Minor) for all the other things you wear.
Unlike with the weapons, the Talisman sub-groups have one skill each, adding a minor bonus and allowing you to equip higher level items covered by that group. Having the third rank in Minor Talismans would give you a bonus to Physical Protection and allow you to equip up to level 3 Waist, Occult, and Luck items, for example. One note of caution with respect to weapons, though. You might think that because you have two skills per weapon they might combine, but that’s not true. Having level three in Damage and level one in Support under Elemental Magic, only allows you to equip a level three item. The system works off the highest level skill in a group and doesn’t add them together like some might expect.
Now you’re just about to jump up and take off thinking you’ve got all you need, but hold on just a minute there, Hoss. You’re missing one of the key mechanics of The Secret World, and it’s an important one. Now, we’re going to talk about conditions. You’ve read above about how some abilities create, modify, or trigger off conditions, but let’s talk about that in a little more detail now. The reason this is important is because a group of players who have coordinated their abilities to play off of each other’s conditions is a juggernaut on the battlefield.
Afflicted, Hindered, Weakened, and Impaired are all Conditions which can be applied to hostile targets. Afflicted is a damage over time, Hindered is a rooted or snared condition, Weakened equates to being debuffed in some way, and when a target is stunned or knocked back, they’re considered to be Impaired. There are abilities in each sub cluster that will apply at least one of these, and typically an ability that gets an extra effect based on whether the condition exists on the target or not. This is where good groups tend to pull away from other groups.
So a quick scenario to demonstrate: Rico attacks the zombie with Molten Earth, which does damage and applies a Hindered condition to the target. Rico also has a passive ability (Toxic Earth) which applies Afflicted to any target he applies the Hindered condition to. Chorizo attacks with his shotgun ability, Powder Burn, which does additional damage to Hindered targets. Lastly, Zorro attacks with Trigger Happy, a rifle ability that does damage and then applies Afflicted to a target that’s been Hindered. So three attacks all do damage, apply a snare and two damage over time effects, and one of the attacks get extra damage. Behold the power of conditions.
So that pretty well wraps up this rough run-through of the abilities and skills of The Secret World, and I hope it helps. The game is complex in a lot of ways, and adding to the difficulty are the subtleties in how everything works and plays off of everything else.
One thing Funcom is becoming known for is their tweaking of abilities and combat, and I think you have to give them a cheer for stepping out on a limb and trying something different in a market saturated with generic solutions. I think the new approach is interesting enough to keep my attention. I hope you find yourselves well served by this humble guide, and enjoy a good start to the game. Now get out there and teach that Filth what Sun Tzu meant by Fatal Terrain.