Before I begin, this is my opinion and should be taken as such. I have only been to the 3rd area of the game world and the following should be taken with a grain of salt.
**WARNING** This game is not for children and deals with adult themes, so playing this type of game while watching the kids and doing the laundry on Saturday may not be feasible. There is a bit of frontal nudity but nothing that is over the top in my opinion. With that said this article is safe for work but not the kids.
This game was going to be a distraction while I waited for Guild Wars 2 to launch in late August. I may have to ask my therapist: “If I am not expecting to have a positive experience and the end result is a positive experience, was it because I was not expecting anything and I went in with an open mind or the experience itself was genuinely positive? For the secret world I believe the latter is the case. Granted I was not expecting much but I have played the game for a week and I am having fun.
This game is not for everyone, the adult theme, the non-coddling of some of the investigative missions and the departure from traditional vertical character progression may be outside the comfort zone of a lot of players. This is what in my mind makes The Secret World refreshing and fun.
What I like:
1. Setting and Story: The Secret World is set in the modern era with the internet and cell phones. Yes the missions under the hood are run of the mill fetch this, kill that and help me do something, BUT when I am done with the mission I just use my cellphone and call in. No having to return the quest giver to turn in the mission most of the time. The story has kept me engaged, the story is that the world has gone to hell and a hand basket and I have to pay attention to the story in order to progress. In one cut scene I am receiving information about a woman’s husband and his suicide. That hit me pretty hard as I wanted to know what happened and what drove him to such extreme. I have a vested interest in the story’s progression and the The Secret World delivers on this front. The voice overs are pretty good, not the best but damn good I would say an overall B. I would also like to mention that sound plays a huge part in immersion and TSW does it well. The random single shot from a high powered rifle in the distance or the ravens squawking in the cemetery are top notch and add to the play experience.
2. Coddling is for Loveplay and Nancies: I am not sure if this was really intended by Funcom or if the damn game is just not done, but it works. I found myself in a few mission thinking to myself “What the hell and I doing here?” . I had to look back at my notes OR scour the internet for information that led me to another clue in order for me to advance. Call me masochistic, but I spent 2 hours on one mission involving Morse Code. Sure I could have looked up the solution on the internet (the game gives you an in game browser and they encourage you to use the internet) but I finally got it and I was ecstatic that I figured it out on my own. This particular mission infuriated a number of players as was evident in the chat. You will know you are not ready for the content when you are getting your face smashed by that zombie. I had to learn the hard way and taking a beating builds character.
3. The skill Wheel: If you spend enough time in The Secret World you theoretically can learn all of the skills. Don’t like melee? Switch to ranged. Buckshot got you down? Go Elemental. This vertical and horizontal character progression appeals to my min/max side and I like it. In the third area be prepared to switch your tactics and skills because certain monsters are immune to or gain a buff if you use certain skills on them. The game encourages you to try a build and if that does not work try something else. I am not just randomly running around hitting stuff you have to plan the encounter out and hope what you are bringing to the table works. If not it’s going to be a run back to your body and back to the drawing board.
4. No one is special: In games like Skyrim you are the Dragonborn and are the only person that can save the world. In TSW you are part of a faction with an agenda and you are a cog in a larger machine. An ordinary person placed in an extraordinary situation. I have no idea why but this really appeals to me. Games like COH are tough for me to play because everyone is special. I just find myself thinking “there can’t be too much crime with this many super heroes running around”.
What I don’t like:
1. Social Butterflies need not apply: I have been playing for a week and have grouped just once. As an MMO I should be interacting with people more. My therapist says I need to engage more but Funcom says NO COWBELL. The way that the content is laid out and issues with chat and Cabal interface (Guild) are compounding the issue. For an MMO that needs to build a strong community this is something Funcom needs to address quickly. Just an example I could not tell if any Hrafn were on by looking at the Cabal interface. When I tried to chat in cabal it was hit and miss. When you zone it would reset the chat interface and cut off communication with other Hrafners.
2. Technical issues: I understand that launching a MMO is a huge task but we are 2012. The chat server should not go down unless Bob the technician spills his beer on the server. Chat was down for a whole day. The User Interface has abilities that will not go off. I have to /reloadui frequently and there is no excuse for the interface to not function properly.
3. Character Animations and skills: TSW falls short here. Character animations are stiff and unnatural. Funcom has stated that they are going to address this but if they can’t get chat up within 24 hours this speaks volumes. Let us hope that the chat team is not working on the animations and spell pizazz.
4. PVP: Sorry PVPers. PVP is broken. The main issue is the population imbalance more than skill or character issues (as everyone has access to the same skills). The main issue is Fusang Projects. Large open PVP area and 1 of 3 maps. Templars have the population advantage and they are running around in a crimson wave. The kick you when you are down move is that when you control sections of Fusang you give beneficial PVE bonuses to your faction. So Templar are leveling quicker and obtaining skill points faster than the other 2 factions (Illuminati and Dragons) thus creating a vicious cycle of people getting frustrated with the lower populations factions and rolling a Templar and creating an even larger imbalance(DAOCers remember Hibernia?). The other 2 PVP maps are instances where it is 5 on 5 and 10 on 10 and seem pretty balanced and fun.
I hope that me sharing a bit of information will help a few Hrafners that are on the fence decide either way. I would love to see more Hrafn join as I would love to kill zombies with the Warband. I apologize for the wall of text.
For the Too Long Did Not Read crowd: The Secret World is refreshing and fun but not for everyone. My suggestion is friend trial to see if the game fits well before making a commitment.
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