What The Secret World Is Getting Right (And Wrong)

By John Walker on May 25th, 2012 at 1:00 pm.

Get back in your tank!

As I’ve progressed further into The Secret World‘s beta, and have cleared most of New England’s enormous territory and swathes of quests, I’m hitting that more difficult place to write about in an MMO preview. That’s partly because you obviously don’t want to know what’s going to happen 30 hours into your game, and I’d be an idiot to say. And it’s partly because being a beta I’m increasingly hitting buggy territory and slightly unfinished missions, and it’s pretty bad form to write about that since it’ll likely be gone by release. (And if it’s not, it’ll certainly get written about then.) I mean, it’s hard not to want to tell you about the time I died so hard all my clothes and my hair fell off, and I spent the next hour streaking around in a tiny pair of pants, baldy-headed with my boobs out for all to see. But that’s unlikely to be a feature in the finished game. So of course everything I’m writing about here is subject to change.

So instead, I’ve thought of the big three things I think The Secret World is really getting right, and then put together a list three things I worry it could get wrong.

What The Secret World Is Getting Right

It’s different from other MMOs

Every single MMO announces itself with this claim, and even prototypes all sorts of elaborately different ideas, before slowly capitulating and rendering themselves to be WoW. From Warhammer to The Old Republic, great promises were made, and WoW clones were produced. So Funcom’s making the same claim was reasonably assumed to be nonsense until such a time that it was proven to be nonsense. And Age Of Conan hadn’t helped. And yet, The Secret World is unquestionably unlike other MMOs, in a series of significant ways – meaningful ways. That’s not to say it’s unrecognisable within the field. For good or ill, many familiar tropes of the genre are in place, but what seems important is that what’s different isn’t just aesthetic, or perfunctory.

There are many examples, and each highlights a different aspect. Some are incredibly simple, like being able to annotate the map. That’s not just a courteous nod to RPGs of yore – it’s a necessity if you’re going to be able to usefully solve some of the tougher puzzles within. Which leads neatly on to…

Tougher puzzles? Puzzles at all is an unfamiliar notion in the MMO. Hell, the notion is barely present in solo RPGs. But here your quest text might be so damned obscure you think, “Sod that, I want to hit things with my new hammer,” before you run past a building with a sign on the side, which on closer inspection offers the name of a former resident, which rings a bell with something you were told earlier by a character back at the Academy. And you piece two things together, perhaps even Google some details and find a faked website extending the fiction further, and suddenly your new hammer is forgotten. You’re making notes. Actual notes on paper in front of you, as well as on the map. I think that action alone is unique.

The variety of mission types, the original ideas and twists put into the more normal actions, the removing of levels, the ability to create your own class, and the strong sense of a meaningful meta-narrative all make this stand out in a serious way.

Characters worth talking to

While The Old Republic looked very promising with its fully voiced quest-givers, and recurring characters in your story, they never clicked with me. Generic Star Wars po-face-itus ruled too well, and while there were certainly exceptions, much of the time the people giving the missions only slowed things down by saying the text out loud. Yes yes yes, just tell me what to kill ten of – I’ve stopped caring why. But The Secret World is bursting with characters from whom you don’t just collect quest information, but go back to chat with after. Memorable characters, with backstories, emotions, motivations. And with this, the missions – even the more generic fodder – starts to feel more meaningful. Yes, you are killing ten giant-fisted sea-zombies, but you’re doing it because the kid needs your help. (I should add, for those horrified by the thought, you can just skip all this and read the mission text if you so choose.)

You can feel the Ragnar Tørnquist in the writing here – men are a bit too often stupid or gullible, while women tend to be smart, sassy and in charge. The latter is great, but it would be nice to see a few more forthright male characters. But blooming heck – being picky about that is proof we’re in different territory here.

Each character that can give missions will not only have a cutscene for every quest on offer, detailed with personal info, meta-plot content, and often banter between those with whom they’re in relationship, but they also offer a speech bubble button. This lets you find out lots more about the person, if you want to, and the vast majority of it is well written, often very well written. They’re not dynamic conversations, as dictated by your character’s mute ways, but they’re well performed, and often packed with gags.

That I ended up caring about the family breakdown of a group of Native Americans, told in the chat between the giving of quests, is testament to TSW again being strikingly different as an MMO.

The combat lets you move

Another topic that is always extremely over-promised, and usually ends up being the same as everything else, combat in MMOs is hardly at a point recognised as satisfying. And The Secret World doesn’t quite match up to the hype it promised. Talk of all combat making contact, of fights feeling real and dynamic, haven’t really made it to being realised. And certainly other recent MMOs have swooped in and stolen the thunder a bit here. But if you’ve spent a lot of time in WoW, and have bounced off TOR, you’ll be familiar with the frustration that to fight means to stand still. Which is plain silly. Not so in TSW, where almost no conjuring of abilities is interrupted by moving. It means you can run around in mad circles while stabbing at the number keys, and sometimes for a reason.

Quite a few of the enemies have flagged attacks that can be dodged. Usually this is indicated by a chalk outline on the ground, showing you the region to try to avoid. And here, well, it works. See the cone of attack, run around behind it, and wallop. It’s only some of the time, and certainly not most of it, but its being there means combat is certainly more interesting. Plus it’s fun to run in circles for no reason. Oh, and the combat is leant toward fighting multiple enemies at once, which means the game’s slight over-propensity for aggro means you’re not constantly mobbed to death. Which is nice.

What The Secret World Should Avoid Getting Wrong

Keep up with the investigations

I have it on good authority that the beta version of the game is knowingly short on the game’s best feature – the investigation missions. These are the ones that are designed to be so tough that many won’t complete them, not because baddies hit you too hard, but because they require some extremely lateral thinking, obsessive note-taking and observation, and a desire to puzzle through some fairly opaque cryptic gobbledegook. Rather than have them all be spoiled before the game comes out, I believe the plan is to put a bunch more in for the final version, and then keep adding them. But that doesn’t stop me from worrying that they may start to fade as things go on, as the main plot becomes more thunderous, or as you’re such a high level that you’re only supposed to care about dungeons. That shouldn’t happen. While a lot about TSW still sets it apart, these really are the poster-feature that advertises something genuinely new.

That said, as I’ve been charging around the third section of New England, Blue Mountain, and missing such activities, I do keep getting satisfactorily distracted. Even though a quest may be to kill a bunch of stuff, when it involves time travelling through four different 20th century time points within the same mansion, it’s clear effort is being poured in all over to keep things interesting. But, in the end, you are just killing a bunch of stuff.

Don’t be a dick to me

Don’t have enemies put some sort of life-sapping effect on my after I’ve killed them. That sucks beyond words. It means I get to win the difficult fight, and then as a reward, drop dead for no good reason.

Don’t put res points at the bottom of unclimbable cliffs, on the other side of a river from where I died. Ghost running is a tedious part of any MMO, and it should be refined to be as innocuous as possible. Burying a resurrection as frustratingly as possible is not the way to create a mellow player – especially since the only reason they’re there at all is because they got killed, and so are likely already pretty annoyed.

Don’t have entire woodlands so densely packed with a certain enemy type that can bloody well impair movement. OH ARRRGH! It’s not even the enemies. It’s these weird sticks stuck in the ground. Get within 400 million light years of one and you’re forced into a tedious trudge until it’s far enough away, and that’s if you’re lucky enough not to get attacked by five of the same damned beast you already killed a hundred thousand times in the last fourteen missions in this area. It’s only one bit, but gosh, it’s bugged me this evening.

Don’t have mobs a squillion ‘levels’ below me constantly aggro. You’ll obviously have to run back and forth across various areas a bunch, and here I’d really like to see a lesson learned from City Of Heroes. Once you were enough levels above an enemy there, it would ignore you even as you ran through their gangs. It made a lot of sense – why would they pick a fight they knew they couldn’t win. I admit it’s hard to justify why a zombie would achieve such reasoning, but it would be less annoying than constantly batting them off.

Oh, and don’t make my bite through my own face. One of the most annoying habits of film and television is the moronic portrayal of binoculars as showing two overlapping circles of view. THEY DON’T. They show ONE circle, or they wouldn’t work! So The Secret World’s featuring a puzzle that involves looking through a TELESCOPE with a faux-binocular view is enough to have me kill the neighbour’s pets. FIX THAT!

Give me some closure

As I said above, one of the game’s biggest strengths is the characterisation, and your relationship with the people giving you the quests. That there’s a rationale to your actions, and even an emotional connection to your actions, is really very splendid. What’s not is that every single one of them ends in… nothing. A character may have three missions to give you. Each comes with its own mini story arc, and accompanying intro cutscene, and often one will lead into the next. As you go through them you build up knowledge about that character, and feel as though you’re engaging with them. And then when you’ve completed their last mission, well, sod off.

While some will then reoccur in the main quest you’re doing, perhaps showing up in some denouement, the majority of them get left behind, with nary a goodbye. And it’s a shame. Favourite characters you’ve chatted with have nothing more to say to you other than to repeat the chat you’ve already had, and entirely fail to recognise that you’ve done so much for them. Just a line to say, “Hey, thanks – you’re the greatest,” would make such a big difference. Instead, missions are closed by sending info back to your faction leader, who sends you a note back to discuss the events. I’m playing Illuminati, and that means I get the funniest sarcasm and disdain for the provincial activities I’ve gotten myself involved in, and that’s great. But, well, I want the bloke who set the task to care too. Although let me stress again, what a joyful thing to be complaining about in an MMO. “Man, these incredible calorie-free magical sweets taste incredible, but they don’t last for infinity!”

In Conclusion

My bias for what I want The Secret World to be is pretty obvious. This is the game where soloing makes sense, and teaming up with others to get through tough patches only underlines a sense of being in a shared world. It’s a game where narrative is of crucial importance, not just the wire frame over which the excuses to grind are hung. There are consequences to that. Show a narrative depth, and suddenly you’re opening yourself to a new raft of criticism, a new vulnerability that wouldn’t even be thought of if you were just running around reading signposts with instructions. And it also shines a spotlight onto the more accepted obscure themes of MMOs, as they start to look somewhat out of place in a more coherent world. Those are the big obstacles TSW has set up for itself, by trying to be different. They’ve just announced a two week delay, but it’s still out in just over a month, so soon we’ll see just how many of them it’s managed to climb. So far, it’s looking like it’s achieved the most important: to be different.

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127 Comments »

  1. Dezztroy says:

    From what I played of the beta (which admittedly wasn’t much) the game was kinda trash and definitely not something I would play outside of a F2P deal. Combat was boring, graphics nothing special, voice acting nothing to write home about.

    And yet they’re asking for a ~60€ purchase, a 15€ monthly fee and a cash shop on top of it. No thank you.

    • John Walker says:

      I’d say I’d disagree with about everything you’ve said there. It looks like no other MMO, real-world settings that actually convince. The voice acting is of a far higher standard than I hear in most games. And well, you can make arguments about the combat, but it’s not exactly sub-standard for the genre.

      • Dezztroy says:

        Heh, fair enough. I may be a bit unfair to the game as I haven’t put in a substantial amount of time, which is often required for MMOs, but I really had troubles getting it to ‘click’ with me.

        The setting is interesting and something out of the ordinary, I’ll agree on that, but the gameplay just didn’t do it for me. I may not have given it enough time to grow on me, or it may just not be the kind of game I’m into. I’ll find out if I am able to try out future betas/trials.

        • Runs With Foxes says:

          I don’t think you’re being harsh. I felt the same way after playing the beta. This is a poor quality MMO. I get that some people will like the idea of Googling for puzzle solutions, but the rest of the game (i.e. the majority of it) is standard MMO stuff, and a poor execution of it.

          I get the impression John Walker doesn’t play MMOs much, and only plays this one because it’s made by Tornquist. But this isn’t an adventure game. It’s an MMO and needs to be judged as one. Occasional investigation quests can’t disappear the other 90% of the game that consists of circle-strafing enemies hitting 1-1-1-1-2, 1-1-1-1-2 over and over. This is the same criticism that’s levelled at other MMOs: enduring 90% boring repetition for 10% somewhat interesting content.

          I think it’s telling that John on the one hand insists that The Secret World is different from all other MMOs — but then defends its poor combat by saying it’s ‘not exactly sub-standard for the genre’. (I disagree, for the record; it’s awful.)

          • Kryopsis says:

            You know, I keep thinking “wow, I am surprised so many people hate The Secret World” but when I look closer, I noticed it’s just Runs With Foxes posting in every conversation. Hello, Runs With Foxes. How are you? Don’t you have, uh, foxes to, uh, run with?

          • Lagwolf says:

            Yes not harsh at all but accurate. I really wanted this to be a good MMO and alas it as all hype/clever marketing tricks.

          • John Walker says:

            I’m not convinced I’ve defended anything. A criticism that can be levelled at WoW, one of the most successful games ever made, doesn’t seem to be too damning. And TSW *does* make improvements on it, even if it’s not the most successful feature of the game.

          • Jerakal says:

            I find that a curious statement to make, “This is an MMO, not an adventure game.”
            And why exactly can’t it be both, and judged as both?
            Because you say so? That’s a bit arrogant, don’t you think?

          • Runs With Foxes says:

            Kryopsis, I’d posted a total of 3 times in these comments at the time you posted. Hardly ‘every conversation’. If you can’t handle people sharing their opinions about something, maybe you’re the one who should go and do something else.

            Jerakal, I don’t know if you’ve played the game, but as I said, the majority of the game is very much MMO-like. I’m not saying the adventure game type bits should be ignored, but would you pay $15 a month to play an adventure game?

      • Contrafibularity says:

        Reading this has rekindled my interest in TSW. After SWTOR I’m reasonably convinced MMO’s are not for me but as a fan of The Longest Journey ‘series’ I’ve been watching this one closely, hoping it’d be a better game, and it strikes me TSW focuses more on actual questing-adventuring than it does on grind-combat, which is excellent news (please someone tell me why MMOs focus on their horrible combat mechanics by forcing you to grind grind grind while clearly combat is the weakest part of any MMO?).
        The fact you have to actually follow clues and annotate maps and whatnot sounds so much, much more enticing than grinding “kill 50 enemies” quests or bonus quests. Could Funcom have done what I’d secretly hoped for, create a (Massively Multiplayer) Adventure Game? (or rather, massively single player co-op adventure game.. or whatever).

        Now if only they would drop the subscription stuff, I could play this at my own pace instead of rushing through it like an MMO-hater with 10 days left on their timecard :p

        • jrodman says:

          So if combat is the weak part of MMOs, what is the good part?

          It’s a serious question. I played only WOW at any notable length, so I may be missing out.

          I know what I *wanted* the games to be about. I wanted to be exploring, finding things and places, providing meaningful assistance in-game to real life friends and game-found friends beyond simply fighting on the same team as them. But I don’t think you can design a game to offer that.

          What do you think their strengths are?

          • Contrafibularity says:

            Excellent question, not sure I have a satisfactory answer but I can give you mine. I got SWTOR to bridge the 3 month gap between my current PC and new one (which I’m going to build in the coming weeks) – you know that point where you’ve replaced failing hardware but you’re still not entirely sure which part is going to fail next (not, for example, great circumstances to be playing Portal 2, Mafia 2 but equally Gemini Rue and Machinarium etc.) – and secondly to try out this whole “MMO” thang there’s been so much hubbub about (the only previous one I tried was like some very early first-person cyberpunk MMO beta thing more than a decade ago, by, I think, NCSoft or somesuch – I didn’t get far). I’m also looking to get into game development myself so it was a mix of personal reasons, circumstance and professional curiosity. And not to be too harsh on TOR, but I figured I could live with it if my mobo or GPU crapped out mid-way through the game (as opposed to mid-way through a ‘proper’ game) :p

            Putting aside I wasn’t that eager but was looking to waste time in a non-horrible way, I do remember some of the reasons I thought it might be ‘nice’ were that it might indeed play somewhat like KOTOR 1&2 if I squinted my eyes enough, that it would involve stories, plenty of explorable locales, etc. and since I enjoyed Mass Effect I thought BioWare might be on to something, with the multiplayer-dialogue and stuff (have not got round to completing Mass Effect, incidentally, let alone the trilogy, as the game decided,.. wait for it.. mid-way through the game that it suddenly didn’t like my on-board sound chip anymore and after resolving the issue after multiple hours-long attempts only to see it return again I gave up.. anyway). Long story short I was hoping there was a real game in there somewhere, and as a bonus it might look something like what I imagined MMOs to be in the 1990s growing up and reading about the promise of these virtual worlds populated with other players. Of course it turns out to be somewhat more like the time-grinder themepark I feared it would and less like the virtual world, but in this regard that’s my fault for expecting as much to be honest. It’s not completely horrible I should add, in between all the grindy bits (some of which you can, and should, avoid, avoidable enemies, crafting for the most part, etc.) there’s a sub-par KOTOR game there, although nothing like “KOTOR 3″ (let alone the “KOTOR 3-9″ or whatever they said). The game environments also need (potentially a lot of) work, they’re not really as fun to explore as I thought (nor anything as big, there’s just much of it, on numerous planets, but the scope feels limited, there’s that feeling of everything being just a series of overlapping corridors on most planets, Tatooine and Hoth being an exception). That said it can be frustrating, but mostly tiring, how you can almost literally TASTE the grind in so much of the game – so many enemies you have to slaughter to progress, which respawn on your way back (unless you use a magically invisible shuttle service ie quick-travel, with a 30 min cooldown). So much of it is intent on stretching out the game, and to keep you playing entirely longer than is necessary, which seriously affects the rhythm and flow of the story. It’s both slightly better and worse when you’re playing with friends because on the one hand, the grinding takes slightly less time, but on the other, you can’t dial your brain to Zzzz (which is pretty much the only viable strategy to get through hordes of unavoidable enemies) because you’re chatting, deciding which route to take (I would say decide on strategies but 99% of the time it’s: kill kill, rinse repeat etc).

            But to answer your question; from playing I’ve learned the promise of MMOs still exceeds execution by a few orders of magnitude (which I mostly knew up front). Those virtual worlds we read about in the 90s probably won’t exist for decades, or possibly ever (in that they might just be a paradox, or nothing more than a figment of futurists’ and gamers’ imaginations). On the other hand, Day Z (and Dark Souls etc.) have proven there are some interesting bits you can implement in games. I won’t hide the fact that I hope TSW is secretly an adventure game at its heart, and will be playing it as such (and of course co-op what I must and find fun) when I do a beta weekend or trial. So I’m probably the last person you should be asking that question. And to elaborate on what I mean by adventure; more free-form, less stratified types of stories which give the player that adventure gamey experience of unravelling and experiencing a story themselves, instead of moving from set-piece to set-piece interspersed with 40-100 enemies as seems currently the case. In SWTOR, the story is too much slave to the MMO and RPG-mechanics, in fact, virtually everything is in service to those mechanics (in short everything is so mechanical). I hope that in TSW, the stories will not just be a means but an end in itself (and as such gain some semblance of subtlety, nuance, mystery, and NON-gung-ho-kill-everything-ness), and hopefully find some of what made The Longest Journey great (imaginative characters, stories, puzzles, interesting game world(s) etc.). I don’t know if it can live up to the expectations I have after reading this article now though, but it seems it might even be worth the occasional grind (if it’s nothing close to ubiquitous – RPG auto-aim is bad enough, I’ve had my non-twitch gaming fill for a lifetime after SWTOR..), not sure if it’ll be worth a subscription though (I’m not sure ANY game deserves a monthly recurring fee) but I look forward to trying it out now.

          • jrodman says:

            Well, not to poo on your interesting reply, which I read, but it sounds like you don’t know what their strengths are even after sinking considerable time into one.

            I mean, that’s a reasonable takeaway, but it doesn’t really support the “don’t focus on combat” aspect.

            IMO, WOW was definitely at its strongest when players were undertaking group-focused combat-intensive activities, such as a 5 man dungeon near skill/gear ability, a smaller battleground with a well functioning team, or raiding. All of these things can have problems too, and suffer from over-repetition, (how do you remove that from endgame?). However, the mechanics and design of the game really shine in these situations. The “ho hum” combat becomes entirely satisfying when you have to think about all the stuff you’re doing, all the stuff your friends are doing, and all the stuff that may happen in the next few seconds from this boss you haven’t got on zzz farm yet. That is, it’s the right amount of complexity for adding a lot of additional things to think about on top of it.

            It’s pretty unsatisfying solo though, and that’s where most players are going to spend their first 100 hours, barring brief interludes.

            There might be other places you can excel, but variations on combat seems to be where everyone’s succeeded (by dint of focus) so far.

      • wodin says:

        I hadn’t played an MMO before, and I have to say if the combat in the others is worse than this I’m so glad I never bothered. Really didn’t enjoy it at all. Also all immersion is broken I feel in these games as you see others running all over the place bouncing around and it loses all atmosphere.

    • Lobotomist says:

      I feel you are being way to harsh to them. TSW is not that bad. Actually its probably pretty good representative of a dying genre : subscription MMOs.

      There is absolutely no reason why should anyone want to pay subscription to a themepark MMO anymore.

      It will fail just because of that. Same direction SWTOR and TERA are heading for.

      • Pardoz says:

        There’s no reason to pay for tickets to a concert when you could hear the same performance for free in your local pub. Sure, the acoustics won’t be as good, and they haven’t fixed the sound system since it broke in 1978 (not that it really matters since you wouldn’t be able to hear anything over the group of loudmouthed drunks at the next table whooping obscenities at everybody in earshot), the waitress is getting up in your face every three minutes trying to sell you a watered-down beer for a month’s wages and the gigantic bouncer with the ’88′ tatoos will toss you out the door if you don’t order at least five an hour, but hey! It’s free.

        • Vorphalack says:

          That’s not really a fair metaphor. Subscribing to MMOs these days feels like having membership at a major concert venue. Every few months you might get to see one of your favorite bands live, but most of the time you are stuck with bands that you have no real interest in. Yeah, music might be happening, but you know that money could be better re-purposed elsewhere. What’s worse, in the case of the Secret World, is that despite your venue membership you still have to pay extra for a standing ticket.

          • joel4565 says:

            That is a great comparison. When I still played Wow a few years ago it was that exact same feeling.

            It was a great night of fun raiding here and there or an epic pvp battle, but normally filled with doing the same daily quests/dungeons/farm raids as usual.

            So you might have a few hours of true fun a month in between dozens of hours of filler. Its sad to look back now and realize how much time I spend in the game getting ready to have fun: Oh I am going to spend 2 hours getting stuff ready (potions, fish meals, enchantments/gem check, etc) to raid tonight.

        • quarpec says:

          Your metaphor is about as horrible as your local pub seems to be.

      • Foosnark says:

        More likely: it will fail because that’s what 90% of MMOs do.

        No doubt it was expensive to develop, and certainly risky. Where else have we heard that before?

        I worked for a company that had a couple of successful text-based subscription MMOs — one of which has been running since 1989 and is still quite alive and making money, though certainly a small fish in a sea that has grown vastly larger. One of its products was a detective game, with unique content written by actual mystery authors. The problem is the content was unique and written by actual mystery authors. That sort of thing doesn’t scale and costs more to keep producing than it brings in. The game still exists, with a player base of dozens who use it as a virtual chat room, and no active development for the past decade.

        I fear this will be The Secret World’s fate as well. There’ll be this limited number of really cool puzzles and interesting quests and awesome NPCs and then… you run out of content. The developers scramble to put in PvP or generic grindy endgame content in an attempt to keep people around.

      • Runs With Foxes says:

        Now there’s a box quote for them.

        “The Secret World: it’s not that bad!” – Lobotomist, RPS comments

        • Tssha says:

          Now THAT’S an out of context, misrepresented quote if I ever saw one!

          It’s funny how the way you quote him makes him sound like he’s saying the exact opposite of what he’s actually saying, which is also what you’re saying. You should work for Fox News.

          • Runs With Foxes says:

            Yeah it almost reads like I was joking or something.

      • Odog4ever says:

        If your bar for failure is that an MMO doesn’t pull in WOW-level subs then yes every MMO is a failure… failures that went free-to-play and haven’t shut their servers down yet… and make enough money to keep the lights/servers on and pay developers to create new content for their games…that are enjoyed by their player base.

        The post WOW biz-model for MMOs has been to charge subs at first, get some cash up front to pay bills/devs while they transition to a free-to-play model were it will take a while for income to be steady.

        See: Star Trek Online, Age of Conan, LOTRO, D&D Online, Champions Online, etc (Not to mention the Chinese/Korean MMOs). Unless some shy billionaire is supporting all these games/development studios then your definition of failure doesn’t mean a whole lot.

    • joel4565 says:

      I can’t speak to the gameplay or graphics having not played the beta, but I do agree with the pricing.

      I just can’t buy into the concept of $60 usd + 15/month subscriptions anymore. For instance I would have tried The Old Republic if I could just pay 15/month or buy the game outright like Guild Wars, but not both.

      As for cash shops…I think most cash shops are a horrible idea and a plague on gaming. The only cash shops I think are okay are things like the quest packs in Lord of the Rings Online and maybe certain vanity items, but I think even those should be able to be found/bought/crafted in game.

      • Ragnar says:

        I thought the voice acting and writing were rather good, certainly better than most other games.

        The world alternates between awesome and generic. There are parts that are really mysterious, immersive, and interesting, and there are parts that are generic, lifeless, and boring.

        The graphics were pretty terrible until I went into the settings and manually adjusted the textures to the highest level. That gave me sharp, readable text throughout the world, which made it so much better. Still nothing really special, but good enough.

        The gameplay was kind of meh. I thought the combat was better here than in TERA, but it’s still mmo combat and nothing exciting. I can see the legions of mobs everywhere getting rather annoying when you just want to get on with your quest and not be interrupted. Though I’ve tolerated worse combat before to experience the story (Witcher comes to mind). I liked that quests such as “Zombies are coming, defend this outpost” would give credit to everyone who helped defend the outpost without requiring everyone to form a group or some such. And I’m glad you can turn in quests as soon as you finish them, but don’t understand why some quests limit you to only accepting one at a time.

        The investigations are very different, and certainly cool if you’re into that. There’s so little given to get you started that it’s easy to get lost, confused, or frustrated. And a lot requires guessing, googling, external knowledge, etc. If you like puzzles, adventure games, etc, and don’t mind being stumped, you’ll love it.

        That said, I just can’t see paying a subscription fee for it. I didn’t see any benefit to it being an MMO versus an online co-op game like Borderlands. Having tried a weekend of SWTOR, GW2, TERA, and TSW, the only one that really gripped me and made me want to play more was SWTOR (due to interactive quests, ability to roleplay via dialog choices, and the polish). I understand subscription MMOs are appealing to make because every 4 months is like another full-price sale, but in turn results in them being saddled with mmo bullshit, and I’m no longer willing to pay a monthly fee to put up with mmo bullshit.

    • Quarex says:

      Are you sure you played the Secret World? The game looks stylish and pretty by basically any standard, and as already said, the voice acting is seriously high-quality. Obviously fun versus boredom is far more subjective, sure, but yeah, I do not know how it could seem boring unless you never even made it past the starting city.

  2. vee41 says:

    The feeling I came away with from my short stint with TSW was: Why is this MMO instead of singleplayer? I didn’t feel like MMO setting offered anything special for the game.

    Take away all your usual subscription MMO time sinks, make investigation focus of the game. I’d play dat.

    • mjig says:

      Yeah, seems odd that there are not more single player games that mix real and virtual worlds. I recall a couple of adventure games from the early to mid 2000s doing it, but nothing else.

      ARGs are more popular and well designed than ever, everybody has the internet, and you’ve got a lot more options for telling your story, yet nobody has stepped up to the plate. I know it sounds gimmicky, but this sounded gimmicky to me in TSW as well, and apparently it worked. Why not give it a try? It would be especially fun in the opening weeks of the games launch, discussing puzzles and whatnot on various gaming forums. Would be almost like the old days, where faqs were not magically available 8 hours after the game launched.

    • Tacroy says:

      I really wish it was single-player, I can’t justify paying $5-$15 a month for a game.

    • Ragnar says:

      Or, better yet, a game supporting co-op like Borderlands. Investigations are a lot more fun to work together with your friends to figure out, and you can still play it by yourself if you want. I love playing with my friends. I hate having a subscription fee hanging over my head, making me feel like I need to play all the time to maximize my investment.

  3. trjp says:

    Can I just say that almost everyone who’s written a preview of an MMO before has said something like

    “These things are wrong but it’s a beta and we trust that they’ll be fixed in the final product”

    and EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THEM has been proven wrong – every last man-jack of em – all of them – the lot of em – never once did that turn out to be true.

    Beta – in MMO terms – is about the server hardware and the unforeseen massive crash bugs caused by players doing weird stuff/with weird PCs – minor problems will still be in there 6 months after launch (actually – this is Funcom – they’re a fixture!!).

    Be more realistic please :)

    • John Walker says:

      I’m talking about missing text, unfinished cutscenes, etc. If that stuff isn’t complete in the final game, it would be remarkably unusual.

      I’m talking about bugs, not major features.

      • Lord of the Fungi says:

        I hope they fix it, but remembering Age of Conan, I’ll rather wait with buying TSW after people can confirm that it is fixed (and that there is content beyond what was in beta).

      • trjp says:

        I’m going out on a limb here and guessing you never played Anarchy Online

        That launched with most of the game missing – same people – don’t be surprised if there are still holes when this ‘releases’…

        • Jerakal says:

          You can thank EA for kicking these games out the door before they’re finished, they have a bit of a track record with rushing the MMOs they help publish and then being dumbfounded when people get pissed about it.

    • Belsameth says:

      It might be fixed, it might not be. But torching them for bugs while in beta is pretty premature. There’s plenty of time for that when the game is released (if needed). Mr Walker even aluded to that himself and, knowing RPS, they will.

  4. Maldomel says:

    And here I thought the bald boob stuff was made up.

  5. Wodge says:

    So, another MMO which is crowbarring some Single Player into it. Just release an Solo RPG and don’t bolt on some multiplayer as an excuse to charge a monthly fee.

    • Scarecroww says:

      Playing this with a friend who loves these kinds of puzzles and riddles as much as I do is some of the most fun I’ve had in gaming in a while. Especially on some of the harder puzzles where you really need to bounce some crazy ideas between eachother trying to figure it out, it’s just amazing. It might not have had to be an MMO, but singleplayer for this is a big no-no for me.

      • Vexing Vision says:

        Yes, this. Played through the beta with my wife and a friend on Skype. Solving the “Kingsmouth Code” was AMAZING, seriously hoping there’s a lot more like those quests.

        And I got to show off my bible knowledge, which gave me some very odd comments from both of them.

        • Ragnar says:

          I agree, co-op is great for this, and I love playing with the wife and friends. That’s how I played Titans Quest, Sanctum, and Borderlands, and how I’ll play Diablo 3, Borderlands 2, etc. Notice that none of those were MMOs, or had a subscription fee, or made you put up with MMO bullshit. And if TSW was designed for 1-4 (6, 8) player co-op, I’d be playing it that way too.

          I loved the time I spent in WoW, and loved raiding, but by the end I wanted to log in to hang out with my friends, but I didn’t want to log in because I found everything outside of raiding boring. And leading a raid guild eventually became a second job and source of stress I didn’t need. I’m done with that now, no desire to repeat it. Now I want games I can play with friends that don’t come with commitments.

      • joel4565 says:

        Then why not make it a single player/2-4 Coop game? I agree that many games can be a blast with a few friends in Coop mode, but that doesn’t mean they need to be a full MMO. I

        Heck look at even the biggest MMO’s like WoW. World of Warcraft could easily be a single player game with 5 player coop, and let the monsters/loot scale like Diablo 3. Or even better yet, imagine if WoW cut about 1/2 -2/3 of the crappy quests and let you play it as a Dragon Age Origins style gameplay (maybe with drop-in/out coop if you could get the AI and Coop to play nicely).

  6. hemmingjay says:

    I love how the comments admit to not playing much but still say it’s nothing special. Seriously, it’s bad enough hearing so many educated opinions on the internet without adding uneducated ones as well.

    The game isn’t like any MMO you have played before. Graphics, voice acting, combat are all less of a focus than all other MMORPGs. This game is attempting something different by focusing on lore, investigation and exploration. Sure there is still combat(not very good) and crafting but the showcase, the soul, is in the investigations. Don’t judge it compared to other games or traditional merits of MMORPGs, judge it based on an open mind and a new experience.

    I have played the game in closed beta for 2 months with 24/7 access and the game is still an enigma. It took me weeks to get over the awful combat and animations, but someone opened my mind to the nature of the game and it has been a pleasure since. It’s a niche game, a game for thinkers. Even if you don’t like it, you have to respect them for delivering something different.

    • Runs With Foxes says:

      Here’s the problem: it’s an MMO. With a subscription fee. They need long term players.

      If the ‘soul’ of the game is in investigation quests that are only fun the first time you play them (because you have all the answers the next time around), what happens after you’ve played through the storyline? Cancel your subscription, presumably. Or play group instances and tolerate the awful combat while looking forward to the expansion?

      If you get a few dozen hours of fun for the box price, I’m happy for you. But whatever way you look at this, a subscription fee for this game is a terrible idea.

    • Gilmir says:

      “I love how the comments admit to not playing much but still say it’s nothing special. Seriously, it’s bad enough hearing so many educated opinions on the internet without adding uneducated ones as well.”

      The problem is – this game piles so much bad stuff from the beginning that you don’t have to play it for long to have reasons to dislike (or even hate) it with good reasons.
      Just a few points brought together from several posts (and my own short (sic) experience with a beta weekend):
      - bad character animation kick you in the face already in the overly long intro (and keep doing it in every conversation afterwards)
      - extremely long dialog sequences (even if they are written above standard) can’t be sped up. You have to listen to them entirely, or miss them entirely. No clicking through for fast readers. If I want to enjoy a well acted conversation, I watch a good movie, not listen to a badly animated puppet. Even if the voice over acting is good, it should be optional, not a chore to endure
      - skill descriptions – from level one (oops there “are no levels”) you get flooded with ultra nerdy skill descriptions that might come from a wet dream of a hardcore number cruncher but look like complete gibberish to any normal person. The skill system might be great (can’t tell as I didn’t even try to understand it – too much effort for a beta weekend) but sure as hell it tries its best to hide it behind a firewall of blah
      - Combat is totally chaotic. numbers flash up and disappear before you have a chance to think about their meaning. And guns don’t feel like guns as you get into (effectively) close combat in two to three seconds anyway. Zombies are awfully fast in this game.
      - Artificial limit of quests you can start at the same time. Just a BAD decision. Or give me ONE reason why it’s good.
      - It’s practically impossible to tell the strength of your enemy before actually either pulverizing them or getting swatted. In a levelless game it might have been an opportunity to use some other indicators. Kind of “realistic” ones. For example – if it’s twice your size, it’s probably STRONG. Well it isn’t. I had one mob that looked like a house that droppped in ten seconds and firemen zombies that needed thirty to get killed and god forbid you aggro more then one.

      So my point is – it’s perfectly OK to say the game is rubbish after playing for two hours. Maybe it shines after twenty. But why would I want to keep playing it if it punishes me so severly before giving me any fun?

      • Lemming says:

        Everything you’ve listed sounds like stuff you expect from a beta, though (I’m talking about an actual beta here, not the popularised term for ‘early access to game to see if I hate it’).

        • Gilmir says:

          The point is, in MMOs this beta stage (public pre testing on a large scale – practically “open”, even if it theoretically isn’t) tends to showcase the actual product, so the problems I wrote about are design decisions and probably not subject to change. Of course not bad animation (obviously it’s not a “choice” to let something look that crappy), but I don’t believe this will change before the release, either.
          Other problems are either fundamental design problems (eg the uber nerdy skill descriptions / system or the way combat feels), or design choices that are supposed to artificially stretch the time you need to consume what content is made available. If you could fastforward dialogue or take on an unlimited (or much less limited) number of quests, you’d need less time to play through the available content. So, it’s a fun / time decision. Let the player have less fun (not able to set your own pace) but let the same content be stretched over longer time. That’s the same basically with eg. long resurrection trecks (that even get a quite big mention in the article). Or with way too many enemies you have to fight that directly clash with the scenario.
          For all it tries to “do differently” it sure does a lot of “exactly the same or partly worse” then your average “honest” grind MMO. Or which other MMO limits your quests or doesn’t let you accelerate dialogue to your reading pace?

      • sinister agent says:

        A month later, and I’ve tried this on the last of the beta weekends (which focusses on PvP anyway), and I agree fully with everything you’ve said (except for the animations – I didn’t notice those and am largely indifferent to them). I read about the skill concepts on here months ago and it sounded interesting, but then I played and went into the skill wheel screen thing, and jesus christ. I’d have more chance of deciphering a bloody nuclear physics essay written in Swahili. They’ve managed to make the description for “fire the fucking rifle, please” into incomprehensible gibberish.

        They will not get anyone playing this who isn’t already an established MMO fan, and they will all just go back to WoW or whatever after a couple of weeks. The changes they’ve made are great – the setting, idea, faction concepts, etc. But it’s just not enough while all the other standard MMO flaws are still there.

  7. frightlever says:

    Puzzlingly, RPS has had a bunch of generally very positive articles about The Secret World, but the more I hear the less interested I become.

    Besides I have Warhammer Online if I want to confuse myself with conundrums. Conundrums like, why am I still playing Warhammer Online?

    • caddyB says:

      You still play warhammer online? I’d like to play again, but I’m afraid of not meeting anyone. Please tell me about it?

  8. MiniMatt says:

    Is the lady with the disturbingly yellow nipples an indication that this is another “all ladies wear steel plated bikinis to deflect dragon claws” game?

    • JackShandy says:

      Honestly I’m relieved to see any nipples at all. You know how many video game ladies actually have those?

      • MiniMatt says:

        Oh darn good point, there an awful lot of Ken and Barbies out there in video game land.

        Perhaps I’m just turning prudish in my old age. Perhaps it’s a fear that the more “mature” aspects in a game, the less mature behaviour you often see (god that does sound prudish and judgemental). Dunno – give people dangly bits and bouncy bits and you can be damn sure they’ll be dancing nekkid on the mailbox waving their dangly bouncy bits around :o)

        • Ragnar says:

          Rest assured, there are no chainmail bikinis in the game (it’s not TERA). All the clothing is realistic, like what you would see people wearing out on the streets, though that does allow for some trashy outfits: http://elmundotech.files.wordpress.com/2010/03/cowgirl-outfit.jpg

          I don’t think anything’s stopping you from taking your clothes off and running around topless in a thong, but from the weekend I spent with the game I didn’t run into a single person doing so. I don’t know if that’s because the lack of obvious fan service attracts a more mature group, or merely makes the players act more mature, but I found that despite the potential to have everyone running around looking like strippers, TSW had the least amount of skin on display of any recent MMO, (a)RPG, or action game with a female lead.

          • JerreyRough says:

            Its because nobody has any idea how to remove your clothing. You can only take it off if by replacing it with something else. Or as John found, via enough deaths.

      • BooleanBob says:

        Didn’t you know? The whole industry is in the pocket of Big Powdered Milk.

    • RedViv says:

      It’s more of a “This cthonian entity will rip through my very soul, so I might as well wear my track suit to battle.” deal in this game.

    • John Walker says:

      No – the nipples have been painted over by yellow smiley faces. I can only assume this is an in-joke at Funcom.

      • Vorphalack says:

        That’s probably to avoid a PEGI 18 rating. You can show as much boob as you want without much complaint, but show a naked nipple and the hybrid torch-forks are handed out to the mob : |

        • Vander says:

          I will never understand why people find more offensive a pair of nipples (especially if they are female) than violence. In medias i mean.

          • Ragnar says:

            Because we need to protect our children. And conclusive research shows that children can shrug off gore and violence like it was nothing, but seeing nipples will instantly plunge them into a vicious circle of porn, sex, and prostitution, until they eventually end up part of an underground sex ring.

            Seeing topless women without nipples, however, triggers such revulsion at the debased female form that it instantly destroys any thoughts of sex, and causes children to stay in school, get jobs, and become productive members of society.

          • drewski says:

            Weird. I always thought people did those things because they *wanted* to have sex.

    • Flocraft says:

      They’re smilies; http://cloud-2.steampowered.com/ugc/578956687631701141/59F4C7013EF6D9195EDF2DB6CB9C56D8319CDEA1/

      The biggest riddle tSW currently offers is -why- they’re smilies.

      In all seriousness though, there is some ‘sexy’ clothing available from the get-go and in shops, but not anything I’d really go out of my way and call enticing or risque. Compared to say, Tera, you look downright boring. Its all jeans, jackets, sportshoes and shirts with the odd Mexican Poncho and pink diving goggles.

  9. Lord of the Fungi says:

    I do not exactly agree with ‘good points’ number 2 and 3. Yes, conversations are quite decent, but not significantly better than those in SW:TOR. Both games will in the end send you to kill x mobs or bring n items. Some of TSW dialogs can be funnier, by getting a bit meta, but SW:TOR conversations often have a nice Star Warsy feel to them, so it’s basically what the player prefers. I did not appreciate the fact that your character is mute, making conversations monologues – point for TOR here.
    And combat is fresher, yes, and I liked the skill tree idea, but the feel of the combat is not so different from any WoW-clone. Yes, you can run if you want, but I do not agree there is much reason to do so. Yes, you have to avoid some strong attacks or AoE, but that is really nothing new, while many areas are chock full of mobs, and running around will only make you pull another group or two. Ranged characters are in a better situation, but that still nothing new.

    Very much liked the puzzles and investigation missions, though. But like with SW:TOR, I got a feeling that the game would work better in single-player, even more true in Secret World as the secret society and horror themes really does clash with the usual MMO crowd behaviour.

    • Arglebargle says:

      Counterpoint to the voicing argument: Wasn’t completely impressed by the SWTOR voicing of the main characters. There were classes that I’d avoid playing because I couldn’t stand the sound of their voices. Talking about you, Wolverine wannabe Bubba Fet fanboy bounty hunter. Though I must give them credit for sometimes hitting home runs. I’d marry the voice actor for the female Inquisitor, just to hear her talk.

      I know I am perfectly capable of imagining my character voice. Voicing a character nails that down, making their vocal take the defining note. When I’m playing a Dragon initiate as a California beach bum who wants to ‘Surf the Chaos, man!’, the wrong voice coming out from my character just kills the vibe, dude…

    • Ragnar says:

      The writing in TSW is good, and it made me laugh more than 90% of comedies, but the voice acting seemed out of place at times. For example, why do the police of a New England town all sound like they’re from the Mid-West? This isn’t Fargo. (On a side note, I now understand how RPS felt about the Penguin’s voice in Batman AC.)

      I found SWTOR’s dialog and voice acting (as an Imperial Agent) to be good too, and the ability to interact during the dialog, to actually have a conversation as opposed to a monologue, greatly increased my immersion and interest. In SWTOR, I built a character in my head, then shaped her through the choices she made to the decisions she faced. In TSW, I built a character in my head, then ran around like a puppet, listening to people far more interesting then myself, and obediently accepting everything that was asked of me.

      I never felt confined by SWTOR’s combat, as being an Imperial Agent it made sense that I would dodge to cover, then remain there while blasting with my rifle. But the plethora of skills in SWTOR is the kind of MMO bullshit that I don’t want or need. By lvl 11 I already had more skills than I could comfortably reach. It’s no wonder there are so many MMO mice, keyboards, and other peripherals out there – they’re practically required if you want to play without contorting your hand.

      I think SWTOR would work better as a singleplayer game, but I felt TSW really calls for small scale (2-8 player) co-op. Neither needed to be an MMO.

  10. weego says:

    The problem i see with this is unless they have some kind of incredibly clever dynamic generation of parts of the investigations people will just google for the answers or the howto, brainlessly go through everything in no time rather than play the game how it is intended and then bitch about how little content there is.

    • John Walker says:

      Yes, but that’s okay. Being able to cheat is not an obligation to cheat, and in cases like this only negatively impacts upon the cheater. That’s not something that should trouble developers.

      • Scarecroww says:

        I’d assume (hope?) that the people who stick with the game are the people who appreciate this kind of stuff and are not just seeing these quests as standard MMO exp dispensers.

      • CheesyJelly says:

        The trouble I had with the investigation missions in the beta weekend was that if I googled a phrase from a mission clue, the top hits would be for threads in the TSW forum about that mission. Which is a shame for a game with novel and exciting augmented-reality stuff. The only fix I can think of would be for them to censor the in-game browser to stop it showing up the official website/forum. This might allow the game to maintain its self-awareness of reality and other fiction without reminding you “THIS IS A GAME”.

        • Ragnar says:

          I believe they said that was their intent, and part of the reason for the in-game browser. I don’t know if that’s still the plan, or if they found it too difficult to pull off.

      • sinister agent says:

        No, but there will be people doing that with their heads so far up their collective arse that they don’t realise other people do7n’t want them to blurt out all the answers in global chat. Day Z already has people doing that, and it’s not even about puzzles.

      • wuwul says:

        Are you kidding?

        MMOs are competitive games, so you MUST cheat if you can, or you’ll just fall back in progression compared to others, and thus look bad, get kicked from groups, etc.

        That’s part of why it’s hard to make fun MMOs, since people will always spoil themselves as much as possible, rush and exploit the game as much as possible, while they generally don’t do that in single-player.

        • gwathdring says:

          Not all MMOs have PvP, and quite a few separate PvP and non-PvP portions of the game. Guild Wars, for example, had separate characters for each and all PvP characters were the same level. Not all MMOs that HAVE PvP cultivate the same level of competitive atmosphere, either. City of Heroes comes to mind; a lot of players just wandered about punching the environment and teaming up for interesting missions. No one seemed to be in a rush to be better than everyone else. Perhaps I simply wasn’t paying attention.

        • g1ngerfreak says:

          Crappy, isn’t it? If you want endless backpats for being the most uber of all the ubers, you play clickety-click social games. Personally I want story, and surprises, but all informed and affected by what I choose to do and how I play.

      • jrodman says:

        But how am I going to google for the fake website without encountering the solution posted 20 times?

  11. kaffis says:

    The notion of puzzles in an MMO is fun, and all; and the idea of including information in ARG websites in the real world is nice — but the entire concept seems to come crashing down once you inject players into the mix and spoiler sites pop up.

    So, let’s assume, for a moment, that the mix of quality/fun of the puzzles and the player’s temperment itself means that Johnny Player doesn’t immediately just look up a spoiler for the puzzle/quest. Now, the game has inserted information that seems Google-able to help solve the puzzle, as you’ve indicated. Assuming this isn’t launch week, what are the chances that Johnny’s Googling for the designer-inserted puzzle supplemental information yields, instead, 3 spoiler sites first?

    • d34thm0nk3y says:

      Yup, seems like this will sadly all come down crashing on itself. Or you just need to complete the quests before the entire internets :S

    • MondSemmel says:

      I think I recall someone mentioning this issue in another RPS post on the game. The developers are apparently trying to implement an in-game browser that could filter out all the spoiler stuff.
      Also, it would solve the separate but related issue of having to constantly tab out of a game, which is a bit stupid and sounds immersion-breaking. (Having said that, I haven’t tried TSW yet.)

      • kaffis says:

        It’s at least encouraging to hear that the developers have thought of that hole in their plans, and think they can implement a solution. Hopefully, the solution won’t be too heavy-handed — it would be kind of silly to have ONLY clue-related sites, for instance, show up in the in-game browser, since then you lose the thrill of the hunt, as it were.

        All that said, I don’t think the rest of the game looks compelling enough to wrest a subscription from me. The setting just doesn’t scratch any itches I have. I’m all for wishing people who want to not be just-another-WoW and want to encourage the exploration puzzly bits well, though.

        • Ragnar says:

          The in-game browser opened up direct to Google, and found all the things that Google would normally find. I assume they would apply a filter to that, to block their forum and game guide sites, such that you’d see Google results as if those sites didn’t exist.

      • jrodman says:

        Why not just.. you know.. put the internet in the game.

        If people are going to have to search ‘the internet’ for clues, make a pretend internet with a game interface.. in the game. That you can research things on.

        I mean it’s not like we have to go to real new england or whatever. I don’t see what benefit you have for using actual google here, other than reducing the possible shelf life of the game and increasing developer costs.

    • diamondmx says:

      This was already becoming a problem during the first beta weekend I played. When googling some details about one of the quests, one of the first sites I came across was pretty clearly TSW spoilers.

      I wonder if games like these (where spoilers kinda shit the game up) should write a browser addon that allows you to enable/disable search hiding for all the known spoiler sites?

  12. MSJ says:

    Giant enemy something something weak spot something massive damage.

  13. Jackablade says:

    The “weird sticks stuck in the ground” could use a little more explanation. What’s that all about?

  14. d34thm0nk3y says:

    I’m still against MMO’s trying to make me out to be some special person in a multiplayer game where everyone else is doing the same next to me and I’m queueing to kill the quest monsters. MMOs need to realise that the fun comes from the emergent gameplay of being with other players and write narrative that properly incorporates the fact that I’m not the only one doing the quests.

    I still think that the Secret World has done something cool with it’s investigation quests though, I just wish there was a way for the answers to not be plastered all across the internet. I really enjoy exploring and discovery in my games and the internet is my bane when it comes to this :P

    • Pardoz says:

      Actually TSW’s pretty good about making it clear right off the bat that you aren’t the Sole Unique Chosen One (queue forms to the left) – you’re just some poor git who ate a bee (don’t ask) and got drafted as a footsoldier.

    • Ragnar says:

      Right, in TSW, you’re a pawn. Yes, you’re special, and unique, but those that let it get to their head just end up dead. Yes, you’ve got special powers, and have joined a secret society, but you’re the “new guy”, you’ve got the entry level position, you have to go out and do the field work.

      You’re like a biochemist graduate – yes, you have special knowledge and skills that most people don’t, but you’re still fresh and inexperienced compared to those already established in the field.

    • John Walker says:

      As others have said, the game goes out of its way to make it clear that you’re *not* special, and that you’re one of many doing the same as you. And yet despite this, it still manages to make things feel personal. I’d say that’s one of its bigger achievements.

  15. KaelWolfcry says:

    This pretty much summed up my feelings on the game. The fact that it actually is doing something apologetically different in the ways that matter is the breath of fresh air that the MMO genre desperately needs…though admittedly some of the tropes still gnaw on you.

    I would add that, for me at least, the immensely wooden animation of the PC’s during dialogue is jarring as hell, and is further compounded by the insistence of your avatar to keep his mouth shut like he’s in Japanese public transport. I’m being talked to by a guy with a barnacle arm and a hand that looks like it’s designed by a hentai fan, and my guy stares at him like some stoned guppy. It’s incredibly hard to connect with this secret world as a mannequin.

    With some mechanical improvement (the load times are freaking astronomical, bugs touched on above) and a heavy bit of polish, this game could build an immense niche. The sense that the devs aren’t trying to unseat WoW and would rather make their own great game is probably the best change of all.

    • Ragnar says:

      I agree in that the game needs polish. If you’re going to have an NPC kiss the PC, make sure you account for clothing and equipment. An NPC clipping through my jacket’s collar was the most jarring thing I’ve seen since getting kissed through my helmet in Mass Effect 2 (In fact, WTF were they thinking with helmets in ME2? Why am I the only one wearing them? How am I supposed to take the situation seriously when we’re all sitting around, having a pleasant conversation, and yet I’m wearing a full-face helmet designed for orbital welding?).

      The problem is that the game is out in a month, and looks like it could use about 3-6 months of polish.

  16. Surlywombat says:

    I played a weekend, and I decided to cancel my pre-order. It just didn’t click with me, which was disappointing because I found the premise really interesting.

    I also very strongly believe that it is free-to-play waiting to happen.

  17. neofit says:

    I’ve played 13 hours during the first beta week-end on the 11th, tried very hard to love it, but failed.

    First of all, the narrative. Yes, there is a lot of it, yes, you can skip it, but only the WHOLE conversation, and then you don’t even see what was supposed to be said in any chat box. All the other games that were so heavy on the chit-chat had the decency to allow one to skip each sentence as soon as you’ve read the subtitles, not so in TSW. And in a post-Skyrim world, looking at badly animated and not lip-synched NPCs is excruciating.

    Then, the combat. So what’s new? It is EQ1 combat, with one less hotkey. A step back from even AoC. And since you “real-world settings that actually convince”, sorry, but since it’s the world we are living in that is represented here, imagine this: you look outside and there is a zombie outbreak; what are you rushing to: the decorative katana on your wall, the hammer in your toolbox, the book of ancient legends on your shelf, or a freaking gun? Sorry, when one is trying to represent our modern world, I can only think in terms of guns when it comes to weapons. And that is the worst part of combat. Not only it’s old EQ1 “lock and hit 1-3 keys” type of combat, but they managed to add a delay to the main assault rifle skills, including the main resource-builder.

    And sure, technically you can move during combat. Not move, mind you, but crawl. And since you are constantly spamming the 1s-delayed main AR resource builder, you cannot really fight and move with the AR. MMORPG gun combat was properly done in many games, without becoming too FPS-y: from the top of my head, Fallen Earth, Tabula Rasa, heck, post-NGE SWG, and even SWTOR who bored me within 2 weeks (but not because of the combat). In these games I felt I was using a gun. In TSW, it’s like a cattle-prod, one that requires a charging time to boot.

    Thanks the their facebook game, I got into the beta without pre-ordering. After the 13 hours I’ve lost any desire to “beta” any further. In my book they haven’t done *anything* better.

  18. Foosnark says:

    ” streaking around in a tiny pair of pants, baldy-headed with my boobs out for all to see”

    Otherwise known as “Saturday afternoon.”

  19. Icyicy9999 says:

    I didn’t like the combat gameplay at all, it’s not just because of GW2 and Tera being on the market.
    Even WoW’s fluid, fast paced combat felt much better than TSW’s in the beta, and it’s not because of the small amount of skills.

    If I can’t enjoy the gameplay, I can’t enjoy the game no matter how good the atmosphere and the music is.

  20. Cooper says:

    I absolutely adored everything about the beta weekend I spent there. Except the combat.

    Bar a bit of positioning that it was absolutely no bloody different from the kind of combat I already have an aversion to. Whatsmore, the abilities currently come with tooltips that are in such arcane MMO-speak.

    Afflicted, Hindered? Impeeded? Weakened? Jinx token? What?
    AoE? DoT? HoT?

    I guess some people enjoy that style of gameplay. Well, clearly lots of people do; but I assume their people who are firmly ‘in’ to MMOs. I have never come across such an unwieldy skill system before. All tied into the same old press 5, then 4, then 1 and two then 3 and back to 5.

    TSW is not alone in this style, not by a very long shot. But it is the most obtuse, arcane and impenetrable implementation of this gamestyle I have ever come across.

    It’s like they’ve taken the kinds of theory crafting nonsense from forums I ignore whilst I just get on and play the game, but plugged it straight into the skill system…

  21. squareking says:

    That is a cavalcade of icons on the left side there.

  22. jonfitt says:

    Oh crap, you’re totally right about binoculars, that makes total sense! How could I have been so deluded all these years. TV and video games have a lot to answer for.

  23. floweringmind says:

    Can someone please explain what is so terrible about the combat in detail?? I hear people keep bitching about this but don’t see anyone explain what the problem is. I personally didn’t have any issue with it.

    • Cooper says:

      Many people hate the standard MMO combat design. I know I do. TSW does abso-bloody-lutely nothing different on that front.

      It’s not TSW’s implementation per se, but rather a sense of weariness that it’s just more of the same.

    • Ragnar says:

      The combat works like this (I played with a shotgun):
      You activate a skill – maybe a snare or a long (6 sec) cooldown opener – then you hit other skills to build up to 5 charges on the mob, then activate your skill that consumes all those charges to do extra damage, then activate your cooldown skill again, then repeat until mobs are dead.

      Most skills are are instant, or 1 sec casting time (which becomes effectively instant if you pre-queue it), so you’re constantly activating skills rather than waiting for cooldowns (like in TERA), so it feels more action-y, and being able to move while doing so (at normal speed, unless you’re backing up) adds to the action feel. Compared to WoW, SWTOR, GW2, and TERA, TSW felt to me the most action-y.

      That said, some games give you great skill feedback (Diablo 3), so that when you hit a monster, you really know you hit them. TSW has some of the worst skill feedback, so that there’s no visible difference to the player between hitting a mob with your light attack vs your heavy attack. And the skills themselves are needlessly complicated and confusing, even to MMO veterans (This skill does more damage to Afflicted mobs. Ok. What skills cause Affliction? Oh, my current skills only Hinder? But I have a passive where if I hit a Hindered mob with this skill, it becomes Indisposed? What does that mean? Why do I care? Where’s the skill that causes Affliction?)

      The worst part of the combat is that there are so many mobs everywhere, and thus combat gets boring through too much repetition.

      • floweringmind says:

        I didn’t find that problem with magic. I had a spell that brought down a huge hammer and did a ton of damage so I found the skill feedback good. I didn’t try shotgun so it must be a different feel. I wonder what it will be like when we open up the 2nd tier of skills.

        Personally it doesn’t matter what game I have played all of them are boring when it comes to combat with one exception, Guild Wars 2. Tera is a good example of lots of eye candy, but damn that game is super boring. There is nothing to it except combat.

        • Ragnar says:

          I used the shotgun and katana, and neither had good skill feedback. I actually found TERA’s and Guild Wars 2′s combat much more boring, though maybe it was because of the classes I played.

          In TERA I tried the Slayer, melee burst dps, and it felt like I spent more time waiting for cooldowns to end than actually using skills. I briefly tried playing a Priest, and that felt a more exciting and interactive.

          And in Guild Wars 2 I tried the Elementalist, and found the combat to be really slow, repetitive, and boring. I really disliked the GW2 Elementalist combat. I briefly tried a Rogue, and that seemed more fun.

  24. Bluerps says:

    I wish this game were F2P or single-player. It sounds amazing, but I really don’t like subscriptions.

  25. Xardas Kane says:

    My biggest problem with this game is that Tornquist is working on it, which keeps him from making Dreamfall Chapters. And oh, I so hate him for it…

    There, now that I got that off my chest, I am kind of on the line here. There are certain things that really appeal to me In the game like its setting (even if the original 1920′s Lovecraftian inspired setting does sound a lot better), the emphasis on story and puzzle solving. But the thing is, all of these are elements that don’t need a MMO around built around them and I don’t want to pay 15 bucks a month to play a single player MMO. That’s why TOR failed and I really hope they actually have something in the game to warrant it being a MMO aside from borig dungeons and raids. So far, from all the MMOs I have played, and they are a lot, only Dark Age of Camelot, Ultima Online and EVE Online actually took advantage of what MMOs have to offer compared to single-player games.

    PvE shouldn’t be the central theme of any MMO in my opinion. That’s what single-player RPGs are for and they will always do it better.

  26. Radiant says:

    I really wanted to like this when I played the demo/beta.
    An mmo that’s seemed aimed at non mmo players like myself?
    Sign me up!

    Unfortunately the game is a big pile of mmo shite.

    The combat is god awful.
    How accepting of mmo bs do you have to be to over look something as simple as good combat controls?

    I have to take my hands off the movement keys to shoot. [wasd controls and number keys to shoot].

    Have these people never played Witcher 2?

    Movement is floaty. Sliding around and jumping around like your using the moon’s gravity is fine for an fps but when it’s 3rd person you need solidity!

    Even the wonderful surrounding world is marred by people running around and jumping randomly in seemingly aimless directions.

    Try to talk to a fellow player?
    Just once i would like to click on someone and ask them where they are going rather then global chatting to the ether.

    So much bullshit overlooked because ‘it’s how it’s done in an mmo’. fuck me.

  27. lexoneir says:

    This looks like it would make a great single player game. But you haven’t really told us why it makes a good MMO.

  28. wuwul says:

    Really?

    Based on the game, the only really original thing this game has is the setting.

    The combat etc. seemed like a WoW/Rift clone, with skill progression taken from Skyrim.

  29. innociv says:

    It’s an amazing game. Best MMO since Guild Wars, if you count GW as an MMO.

    But I won’t be subscribing. If it was a $50 box, and I got to play it all I want with no subscription, I’d have preordered right away.

    No game is worth $50+$180 a year.
    Don’t try and tell me it’s because of the server costs. It costs penny per person per month, not $15.

    I’m sure the game will become F2P eventually, or soon even, but by the time that comes I won’t be quite as interested and most likely won’t drop money on it then, either. This is especially true since F2P will probably increase the grind, and make the game worse.

  30. Brise Bonbons says:

    I just filled out the beta survey for Funcom, because I do hope they succeed with this one. But I won’t be playing it after my beta experience.

    The dialog and characters were good, maybe great – but the pacing was sloppy. This is a sort of subjective thing, I don’t like passively watching people talk, and that’s my taste. But I think I can objectively say the game is burdened with dialog, and would be more effective with some fat trimmed.

    I think the combat is godawful. If they have better skills hidden higher up, they need to get them the hell down here now before I fall asleep. There is also little sense of impact to the skills, and very little sense of horror or power from the monsters. They are too weak, too numerous, just standing around in the world. I’ll get back to this.

    I think the balance of investigation to combat is totally wrong, especially given the quality of the combat. It totally ruins the atmosphere they seem to be trying for. This is not the real world invaded by monsters, but a fantasy MMO world which happens to have a modern day skin on it.

    There is a terrible dissonance between what TSW says it is giving you and your minute-to-minute play experience. The horror aspects are undermined by the fact that monsters are impotent, numerous, and idling everywhere. The “real world” logic is destroyed by ill considered MMO tropes copy/pasted into the middle of modern day settings, sticking out like giant boss monsters picking their nose on the sidewalk. The amazing investigative bits are swamped by generic combat quests.

    I think TSW is fine as an MMO, but I think making it a generic MMO that spends so much energy on combat (i.e. Why do none of my skills help me in investigations?) was a terrible misstep. If it was a MMOadventure game, I would probably pay a monthly fee for it – but I won’t sink that much time and money into another terrible combat game that happens to have some amazing puzzles strapped on.

  31. derella says:

    I want desperately to like TSW. I’ve been following it since it was announced, and hoping that it would be something I liked. I love the setting, found the dialogue to be above average(though a bit silly — the geographical slang they tried to include in London and New England made my eyes roll), and think the investigations will be a lot of fun…

    But the combat(aka what you’re doing 90% of the time) felt awful to me… My character awkwardly slashed the air frantically, at an enemy that never seemed to notice it was being hit in the face with a sword. The non-combat animations are quite terrible too. Running with a my chaos magic “unsheathed” made my character look like she was begging people to slash her wrists… literally!

    Add the weirdness of character faces(try making a Caucasian woman that doesn’t look like an aging zombie prostitute), and it just makes the game unpleasant to play for me.

    A setting with that much atmosphere shouldn’t be populated with characters that have no style.

  32. Lacero says:

    I played the beta, the conversation was amazing, way better than SWTOR, and some really interesting characters rather than quite boring stereotypes I met in SWTOR.

    There was a point in the puzzle quest where it felt like I was playing something like myst and not an mmo at all. Definitely the best bit.

    Still, not sure if I’ll buy it or not. Too many little annoying things, like the run speed being too slow for a game where you run around to other places so much. And it has corpse runs which are a stupid idea from everquest which should just die. And combat is just irritating, I really dislike cooldown clicks buttons or hotkeys.

  33. noodlecake says:

    I don’t really mind the way that women and men were portrayed in The Longest Journey and Dreamfall. I really njoyed both games. I had the misfortune of wading through some David Eddings novels where all the men are really nice but a bit slow and very submissive and the women are all selfish manipulative bitches who end up getting all the male characters to do whatever they want. I found it infuriating, especially considering that you know that those female characters are intended to be likeable.

  34. DeathPig says:

    This monster thing looks a lot like Davy Jones, don’t know if it has been mentioned. Just saying.

  35. Janus says:

    Once again Walker gets dazzled by the window dressing and somehow eludes the fact that, functionally speaking, this is exactly like every other MMO ever – essentially an amusement park where the rides consist of arbitrary grinding. In fact, this is actually worse than every MMO ever, because it requires you to traipse through even more gameplay-irrelevant exposition in order to actually play the damn thing. And given its paramount “narrative” focus, it doesn’t facilitate any kind of agency within the player-base. How can you honestly laud this thing as progressive? It’s backwards in every respect, and unless you’re one of those people who thinks Joss Whedon is the height of Literature I find it hard to understand how you could praise TSW’s glib, adolescent dialogue.

    If you want to play an MMO that is actually progressive and maximises the potential of the genre (that is, huge numbers of players interacting with each other) play Haven & Hearth. Or Salem. Or, hell, DayZ. Somehow I doubt Walker would touch any of those with a ten-foot pole, though. He’d decry the lack of Emotional Narrative Cinematic Experiences.

  36. Erithtotl says:

    This sounds like its trying to do what TOR did, slap single player RPG mechanisms on top of a generic MMO framework.

    Ultimately you just end up asking the question ‘Why I playing something that is both worse than a single player RPG and an MMO?’

    Sandbox MMOs have to be the wave of the future. It’s the only way to take advantage of the MM part of the name.

  37. Hardmood says:

    for me the really weakpoints in mmos (or in general in any computergame) r dresses and “armor” i can see in reallife or tv the whole day long… boring like hell.

    feels like playin secondlife with some weird “cool” attitude. nah not interested…
    sad enough, couldve been a nice setting…and worth a try.
    after the first 12 month of betatesting after release hahaha

  38. Moxer says:

    After having played for some time in the closed beta, without discussing details, I can only agree with the article. This is the first MMO in a long time I’m actually excited about playing. Love the characters, setting, puzzles etc. It really is a game that’s greater than the sum of its parts. Yeah, combat isn’t the most thrilling, but nor is as bland as SWTOR.

  39. kud13 says:

    +1 for the “I’d buy it in a heartbeat if it was single-player”

    I don’t like MMOs. I refuse to pay subscription for any game, because i’m a firm believer in “games as product, not service” (cue the “it’s where the industry is going” apologists)

    The current day setting, the investigation metagames, focus on lore, and conspiracy-based story are all things I love. Combat is usually my least favourite part of any RPG. but i won’t be getting this, because I want it as single-player.

  40. rock294 says:

    If it is true that the TSW went lay off then it is possible that very soon this will be in F2P faster than SW:TOR…. :)
    tsw gold

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