Build to Play or Play to Build?
Character Development in the Secret World
Unlike prior MMO’s, TSW really leaves the door open on creativity and builds. In a prior guide, I talked about my philosophy towards builds. In this guide, I want to discuss an orientation towards playing TSW. I see a number of comments on the forums and in-game about getting a build wrong. These comments often boil down to:
- Wondering if there is a respec option (there isn’t)
- Believing that you have to return to Kingsmouth to get your build right
- Rolling a new character
- Perceiving the game as too hard.
A lot of this, I believe, comes from people wanting to get their build “just right” in order to enjoy the game. They build to play. When the build doesn’t work, just right, they feel like they need a full reset. The thing is, you don’t need that and you shouldn’t feel like one mistake “banishes” you back to the city of Kingsmouth.
The reality of it is that this is a game where you should play the game to develop more than one build. You shouldn’t lock yourself into one build (or even one role) and you shouldn’t consider any build in the first few days of the game as “the build.” Indeed, even the decks provided by Funcom for build guidance are really just mid-game decks and most of them aren’t remotely optimized for end-game play.
Players should always remember that mis-steps in one build are correct steps towards a different build. Virtually every pair of weapons synergize. But, they may not synergize the way you want to use them. Or, maybe the DO synergize the way you want, but not within your current AP budget. What to do? Look for something that they can do. Or, look for something in one of them that looks interesting and find a different weapon that pairs with that well.
Some guide lines for early TSW game play as I see it:
- Unless you run in a regular group, you really need a survival build. A survival build blends some healing (often passively) with moderate dps. Even those with dedicated partners may find that having a good cheap survival build speeds up their game progression. Our My First 60 buildscontain two functional and inexpensive survival builds to speed up your solo progress.
- AP progress is not linear in this game. A full night of gameplay in Kingsmouth is hard-pressed to generate enough AP to fill in an inner wheel. By contrast, a full night of gameplay in Romania can easily generate enough points to knock off most of an outer wheel. When you are changing directions with a build, keep using your best current build to play in the farthest area forward that you can. The quicker pace of AP progress will help you fix that broken build far better than a trip back to Kingsmouth will!
- Your gear matters, tremendously. You aren’t a healer if you don’t have on heal gear. Passive heals won’t scale well if you run a dps/tank gear set. Your dps will likewise suffer if you run a tank/heal gear set. Similarly, your skill level with your talisman impact some passive benefits. You really do need to invest in them to keep them advancing! Yokai has a very good breakdown on your talisman weights. According to him, your headpiece is about 25% of your gear, your major talisman are 15% each and your minor talisman are 10% each. So, equipping two minor heal talisman and all of the rest of your talisman as DPS would make you 80-20 dps/heal. You can even mix and match the three types of talisman to get quite a few combinations of dps/heal/tank.
- Glyphs matter, tremendously. Some of the gear you loot or receive from quests can be reglyphed. All crafted gear can be glyphed. Any glyphed piece of gear can have its current glyph over-written (but no glyph can ever be taken out to re-use). The same is true later on for signets. Make sure your glyph set accentuates your build.
- You can’t crit, penetrate, or trigger most of your passives if you glance. Your glance rate is a function of your offense vs. your opponents defense. You control two variables in this process. The first is the QL level of your weapon training. Having more skill points invested in a weapon passively improves your hit rate. Second, your hit rate is a function of your gear’s glyphs and your passives. Fixing your hit rate will often fix your build!
- Passives make or break a build and passives do NOT have to come from your two equipped weapons. Looking at our My First 60 builds, you will notice we have a couple of “favorite passives.” Gnosis in the chaos line is a MUST HAVE in any early game weakened oriented build. It’s a 1AP investment (literally cell one for chaos) and has a chance to proc any time you hit a weakened target. Similarly, Dark Potency and Unholy Knowledge in the Blood inner wheel are awesome passives for an afflicted build. In each case, even if you aren’t planning on using Chaos or Blood, picking up the right weakened or afflicted passive can really put some bang into your build.
- Every build will be beaten by at least one encounter out there. If a specific encounter is hard for your build, use a different build. As an example, our My First 60 tank build works nicely in many situations (albeit with a slow kill speed). But, that build is hard-pressed to beat hard solo-encounters, like the Archivist in the Dawning of the Endless Night quest. I can do it (and I have), but the fight is a ridiculous load easier using the My First 60 survival (blade/claw) build.
- Don’t get too exotic, too soon. There are some ridiculously exotic builds possible in TSW and those builds play amazingly well in end game. I know there was at least one blood/AR TANK running nightmare dungeons in closed beta. Don’t be misled, though, into thinking that you get all that flexibility right out of the box. The more exotic the build, the more you need expensive passives from multiple weapon trees. That takes a lot of AP investment, much more than a new player has available. You are better off sticking to a straight forward role build early and then getting creative later.
- The decks provided by Funcom are not all optimized for end game and sometimes don’t necessarily blend together well for a new player using the deck as a target for their initial build. In every case, the decks don’t use off-weapon passives. This means they are missing some useful perks. In other cases, taking an initial detour into a better survival build might give you faster AP gain to get to that desired deck, quicker (and with less frustration).
Try to just play TSW, don’t treat it like a leveling treadmill that requires being reset if you make a mistake. You will make some sub-optimal decisions, but don’t think of them as errors. Think of them as detours on a path towards a better suite of builds. Don’t let yourself get caught on the wrong side of the Build to Play, or Play to Build dilemma.