Wot I Think: The Secret World

By Adam Smith on July 3rd, 2012 at 2:00 pm.

I’ve been exploring The Secret World for a good while now, so even though Funcom have only just released it into our own unenigmatic land, I’m ready to tell you wot I think. Of course, given the nature of the game, I’ll be continuing to play, revisiting and reporting back, but I’ve already seen a great deal of the content and so I’m going to do this the only way I know how. Words, ordered into sentences, conveying ideas.

The Secret World is an excellent, intelligent and literate pop song with a thudding, repetitive ear-worm of a chorus. It’s also an MMO designed by Funcom but indulge me.

When I first saw footage from the game I was, if not quite dismayed, somewhat disappointed. All the talk of a modern, recognisable world, the emphasis on engagement and storytelling rather than repetitious combat, all of that seemed to vanish the moment I saw a gang of avatars circling a giant monster, firing energy beams from shotguns, casting buffs on their friends.

At best, I figured, there would be exposure to all the mysteries and dialogue sequences I’d hoped for, but there would be another game alongside that exploration and investigation, and it looked like a game I had very little interest in playing. The Secret World would be a wide-ranging and intriguing adventure punctuated with button-punching combat and awkward stitching together of complex skills.

That would be the easy version. Two games Frankensteined together; one indebted to traditional MMO mechanics, the other indebted to Ragnar Tornquist’s creative vision. The easy version, as is often the case, is wrong.

The Secret World isn’t two games uneasily co-existing, it isn’t just a story interrupted by the need for mechanical progression, the actual experience is more like verses and choruses, lyrics and melodies. Let’s talk about the verses first, the words and the meaning, the variations on a theme.

It’s quite the epic, this song, thick with references, playfully allusive and borrowing from history and myth alike. The most important thing about The Secret World is that anything is possible and everything is real, which leads to a hugely impressive variety in terms of opponents to face and people to meet. For the first few hours of play you’re talking to the beleaguered and haunted townsfolk of the blighted Lovecraftian town of Kingsmouth, dealing death to zombies and creatures from the depths. Then you find a doorway to another realm, a shimmering gateway to the past, a reason to walk with and talk to the dead. Hours later you’re in a lost Egyptian valley, communing with things that may have been gods, crushing death cults, quipping with corpses.

Your character doesn’t have a voice, which leads to some odd mannerisms during the often long conversations he/she is party to. At times I was convinced my Irish Illuminati renegade, Patrick O’Patrick, didn’t actually understand anything that was being said to him. He just half-nodded, tried to look interested and then ran away, crowds of monsters following him as he went. That’s fine, in the end, because he’s not the most important player on this stage, not by a long shot.

The conversations and the characters are almost universally excellent, the quality there, as with everything else, thankfully maintained beyond the early areas. In fact, I reckon some of the strongest moments are later, when the individual threads start to intertwine and the scale of the catastrophe becomes apparent. It seems big, always, but, blimey, it’s massive. On the way there, it can be distracting that such an epic adventure has a meaningless mob bunny-hopping through it, particularly when the atmosphere is at its most bleak and unforgiving. The world, our world, is at breaking point and while there is a great deal of humour and humanity, there’s sorrow and doom in almost every individual tale.

The game’s greatest triumph may well be the world itself, which is recognisable despite the beasties, magic and dimensional rifts that are tearing it apart. Small touches remind of the world outside the screen: the detailed menus in a café that will never serve another customer, the fact that almost every individual you meet not only has a place but a purpose, even if it’s just to survive. The story isn’t told through the scattered lore icons – they are far weirder, brilliantly so, than the encyclopaedia entries you might expect – but through the tales of the people you meet. Whether a magician hunting for a powerful artefact or a biker who spends his time making explosives, not just to fight back, but to protect the deputy sheriff, a man he will grudgingly admit he has fallen for.

It’s a mark of the quality and breadth of the human cast that there’s room for that relationship to have a voice, not loud and insistent but simply present, in among the necromancers, the thrillseekers and the dangerously deranged. At times the monologues are natural, believable, but there’s a Whedonesque or even Tornquistian current which makes these seem like witty, often hyper-literate approximations of people. They’re an entertaining bunch to spend time with though and anyone who fell in love with The Longest Journey will most likely be smitten by the abundance of words and wordplay.

That brings me to the best bits; the investigation missions. You’ve probably heard about them already – quests that rely on knowledge, observation and attention to detail rather than abstract conjuring abilities. Along with the contemporary setting, they are the heart of the game and the addition that allows it to stake its claim as a truly fascinating experience, an adventure-MMO hybrid.

Most work brilliantly, although when external knowledge of the real world is required the in-game browser already leads to forum discussions of the solutions in many instances. You can just skip past those like you would any spoiler though and figure things out for yourself, discussing with a friend, solving things together and feeling as smart as a whip. There are riddles to solve, puzzles to overcome and mysteries to uncover. That’s all part of life in The Secret World.

But what about death, causing it and suffering from it? That’s the chorus. All those verses, distinct and meaningful, are broken up by a sound you’ll hear again and again, and have probably already heard so many times before. It’s the rattle of your number keys, the clicking of your mouse, the swish, biff, roar, stab, stomp, shazam of MMO combat.

Despite the lack of levels and classes, at first it’s hard to see how this melody differs from any other. The rhythm is familiar, the moves almost rote by now, and at first I thought the fighting would be something to endure, a perhaps necessary interruption before something exciting could happen again, before the world and the game could move forward. Although I admired the enormous skill wheel and the ability to change my character’s proficiencies at will, I was also intimidated by its mathematical descriptions and it took a while before I was convinced it offered anything new.

It does though, eventually, although it can be a slog to fully realise what those offerings are. Essentially, the aim is to choose skills that complement one another, so if my hammer causes a certain effect on an enemy when I bop him on the head with it, it’d be quite nice if my shotgun could piggyback on that effect, causing more damage in conjunction with it. Simple.

What complicates matters is the sheer number of abilities available and the fact that each are tied to a specific weapon type, of which you can equip two at any time. That doesn’t mean you won’t find blade skills that you might want though, even if you’ve never so much as sliced a loaf of bread. What if the shotgun blast would actually work more efficiently alongside a dodge attack, pulling you out of danger while also inflicting an attacker with something unpleasant and allowing you to whittle away his health more effectively. Grab a sword, equip it, try it out.

Now, maybe that dodge attack is only useful when you’re fighting an enemy who has a slowly building area attack, the kind of thing you can see coming and move away from. That’s usually the big bad devil-things, although it might just be an exploding zombie. There’s nothing to stop you from switching between your speedy, dodgy, stabby self and hammer time, provided you have the equipment and are willing to unlock abilities. Take things slow, as I am now that I’m playing the full release, trying to clear every quest and hear every line of dialogue, and you can be an expert with a weapon of choice fairly quickly, or you can be a multi-tasker, which is handy when the time comes to team up.

You’ll have to eventually. Even if you want to do everything on your own, and the vast majority of the game can be experienced solo, there are ‘dungeons’, which include stricken ships, circles of hell and laboratories brimming over with mad science. In those dark corners, you’ll need a group and you’ll be warned of that before entering.

The reason isn’t just the difficulty of the areas, it’s the unique challenges they contain. Whether environmental hazards or tricky bosses, dungeons tend to be filled with things that require intelligent use of space. Maybe you’ll need two damage-dealing rifle-wielding maniacs to take on an abominable star spawn while a lumbering tank of a Templar entices it to chase him around in circles. Some kind of herd control is handy too, as there are often smaller unpleasantries to deal with during the showdown. You’ll definitely need a healer. I hear John’s available.

I’ve had no problems finding groups, usually hanging around the entrance to a dungeon and looking nervous. I did have an embarrassing moment when I offered to join up with four strangers only to lead a huge mob of hell-faced angry-beasts around the corner as I arrived. We died before we even opened the dungeon door and, funnily enough, I wasn’t invited back when I respawned. Sorry, guys!

Apart from the dungeons, I work alone. I’ll occasionally notice someone following the same route as me, clearly undertaking the same quest at the same time, but I stay out of their way, only helping if they’re in trouble. After all, if it’s a monster-slaying quest, helping can be hindering as you steal kills, grinning like a buffoon, believing you’re a hero when you’re really just a pest.

So, yes, it’s mostly possible to play alone, taking more interest in the population that Funcom have written than the population running around looking for trading opportunities and hints about everything under the sun. There are an extraordinary number of people complaining that quests are bugged when, in fact, they’re just difficult in unexpected ways, requiring thought rather than the application of steadily increasing numbers. I don’t know if that reaction will cause an outbreak of merriment or anguish at Funcom, but it’s certainly evidence that they’ve thrown a blinder of a curveball.

There’s PvP as well, with the factions pitted against one another, although they work together in all other areas. If your faction controls PvP points you’ll receive a buff so there’s an incentive to jump in and the ongoing 24/7 Warzone is a great deal of fun. PvP isn’t really my thing but the option is there, without directly intruding on the rest of the game, and it’s a good space to test out alternative builds as much as anything else. Maybe I’ll write more about it later but for now, most of my fighting has been against the non-living.

The combat can seem rote, the rhythms borrowed, the hooks captivating but a little tedious, but eventually it clicks and the subtle variations stand out more and more. Crucially, it isn’t necessary to grind, although you can, because there’s always something else to do, a staggering variety of options at almost every moment. Yes, it’s annoying to run through the desert being chased by crowds of monsters that you’d really just rather ignore, but eventually they become nothing more than background noise.

This world has been part of my life for a few months now and if the subscription model does allow Funcom to keep their staff and continue to grow the narrative, I’ll be sticking around for a good while. The lack of classes and levels isn’t the innovation here, it’s the crafting of a world worth experiencing, packed with stories worth pursuing. Like all the best songs, it’s one you want to share with everyone around you and, Lord knows, I’ve been wittering on about my exploits to anyone who’ll listen.

The low points, the gaminess exemplified by those trains of monsters following me, well they’ve made me roll my eyes, they’ve made me curse them for ruining the atmosphere, but they’ve also become so ridiculous to me now that they make me laugh and occasionally I’ll just rage on a group of them for a while. It’s cathartic. Eventually, they’re less of an annoyance and more of an absurdity, more apparent than ever given the detail of the real world setting, but absurdity I can deal with.

As for the high points, the investigations and exploring the quality of the world, they’re the best times I’ve ever spent in an MMO. I have three character slots, which is fine given the ability to perform every function with any character, and now I’m thinking there’s one for each faction. I plan to play through the story three times, just for the different texture that the faction-specific missions, dialogue and text provide.

Obviously, this is an ongoing project and not a finished object so I’ll continue to share the good, the bad and the ugly and, in the meantime, maybe I’ll see you in hell. But if I look like I’m soloing, seriously, just leave me to it. Patrick O’Patrick fights his own war, unless his health bar is really low in which case, thank you very much.

The Secret World is available now.

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155 Comments »

  1. wu wei says:

    I struggled throughout the open weekend with the controls and they never felt anything other than painfully awkward. The skill system has the sort of complexity that grabs me in an RPG but translated into pretty floaty and disconnected combat, I found.

    But the world itself was so compelling that I’ll grab it in a few months time when it’s past its initial teething phase.

    • BobTheNPC says:

      I don’t understand why people are having such problems with the controls. They’re no worse than most MMOs I’ve played.

      First of all, mouse aim, *always* mouse aim. Then you put your frequently used skills on 1-5 (so you can reach them while moving) and heals, buffs and other seldomly used stuff on 5-7. Because the game can auto-target, tab-cycling isn’t even necessary.

      Also, make sure you have some form of melee attacks. As combat is highly positional (standing still like in WoW means you just melt), ranged-only characters need to kite every single battle. And that sucks. … which is why you don’t go ranged-only.

      • Kdansky says:

        Yeah, see, the game asks me to tape down my right mouse button if I want decent control. Or I could play it more akin to WoW (and not bother much about the dodging and running), and then that’s its own problem. It’s clunky. It’s not horrible, but clunky.

        If they add a “mouse-look toggle” button (such as Right click instead of holding it down) and a crosshair for enemy selection on left click, I’m game. That would be the control scheme of a 3PS, which is okay.

        • BobTheNPC says:

          Except, if you stand still like you do in WoW, you just melt to even the weakest of enemies (if the basic zombies in the first zone are allowed to surround you, you die in seconds), not to mention, spend half the time slowly turning to face your enemy so you can attack it.

          You need constantly move around in TSW to avoid unnecessary damage, and the only way you can do that is with mouse aim.

          • bansdvb says:

            In my case, I was pretty sure the quest Men in Black Vans was not functioning correctly because the correct steps in the last tier seemed obvious based on prior cues, but no combination of fiddling with those steps produced any reaction, much less solved the quest. And sure enough, it was bugged and they fixed it in the most recent patch. http://storefront.steampowered.com/v/?gpdata=gift,new,90

          • Tacroy says:

            Wow, those spambots are getting sneaky. The url doesn’t go where it says it goes!

          • Contrafibularity says:

            The spambots, I’ve noticed, seem to copy genuine RPS posts and then re-post them elsewhere, perhaps according to thematic correlation.

            Also, this game is excellent but I’d rather go back to playing it than describe why, which would be redundant with this great WIT anyway.

        • monkeyface says:

          Solution: Mouselook Toggle (Autohotkey)

          http://forums.thesecretworld.com/showthread.php?t=39891

      • wu wei says:

        That’s the thing, I’ve never played any WOW-like MMO, so I have no habit for this kind of control system.

        But the thing that frustrated me was having to hold the right mouse button in all of the time. I searched for some way of toggling it so it was on by default, but couldn’t find anything. If I’m spending 98% of the game holding down a key and 2% not doing that, I really don’t understand why those two states couldn’t have been swapped around.

        • Dare_Wreck says:

          Good grief, that sounds awful. For those of us that have no intention of playing the game but are incredibly curious, what does the right mouse button actually do??

          • elfbarf says:

            Holding down your right mouse button allows you to move your camera/the direction your character is facing. When not held down, your mouse cursor is used to interact with the UI (though you perform most actions via keybinds). Generally you hold down the right mouse button and use WASD to move forward, backwards, and strafe (or Q/E for strafing without it held down). There’s also the option to “keyboard turn” though this is highly frowned upon in MMOs as it takes far longer to turn around/move away from things that you need to dodge. You’re also unable to move your camera around to see your surroundings as you’re most likely clicking the abilities on your bars as well (which is much slower than using keybinds).

            The controls are pretty standard for an MMO and aren’t nearly as clunky as say LOTRO, they’ve definitely improved it (and the combat overall due to the addition of active dodging) since the first beta weekend. At this point it’s pretty similar to Guild Wars 2 but with worse animations.

          • mire says:

            Left mouse = control camera, right mouse = control character (FPS-style). The control scheme is straight out of WoW, and they actually work quite well. The other bit that nobody’s mentioned is that Q and E are used to strafe, S and D to turn when the right button’s not down, which makes it a lot more usable. I can only assume people complaining about it were the ones who stood in the fire a lot in that game. That’s actually what I love about this – legitimate difficulty, forcing you to learn the controls, your skills, and MMO positioning tactics right from the beginning!

          • wu wei says:

            Yes, the modal changes to WASD depending on what mouse key was held down really helped with picking up the control system.

          • Quarex says:

            I have literally noticed no difference between how this game controls, at a fundamental level, and how 95% of all other third-person/first-person RPG-style games control. I have no idea what the complaint can possibly be about.

          • eclipse mattaru says:

            @Quarex: You’re saying you don’t see any difference between the controls of TSW and, say, The Witcher 2? Or Skyrim? Hell, even Dungeon Siege III, a game you can otherwise criticize all you want for a million faults, is ten times more comfortable to play. I appreciate that you like this game, I mean, more power to you, many happy playings and whatnot; but you can’t say that with a straight face.

    • Lagwolf says:

      Pretty much what I experienced through combat. I had a beta-pass for the last weekend & couldn’t move myself to play. It is a shame this game had so much promise but the clunky nature of it all just leaves me cold. Not sure what I was expecting but it sure ain’t it.

      And third person melee combat doesn’t have to stink… I played Rune Classic & realized how good it could be both solo & in multi.

  2. pakoito says:

    tl;dr It doesn’t suck as much as expected.

    • Splotch says:

      Thank you. I just didn’t care enough about the game to read the article but still wanted to know oh oh owayeee oh oh oh owayee ohhhh… i still wanted to knoooow!!!

    • elfbarf says:

      It doesn’t really suck at all to be honest. The combat is pretty similar to Guild Wars 2 though you still have pretty standard group composition (tank/healer/3 dps).

      • Tyrain says:

        Yeah, it doesn’t remotely suck. If you can handle some slightly janky animations and visual presentation, it is a top notch MMO.

        This is my favorite MMO to date. I’ve played: UO, AO, EQ, SB, DaoC, WoW, STO, CoX, CO, Eve, SWTOR & Tera, among others. To suggest it merely passes the mark is a sad understatement for a game that deserves serious recognition.

        • ScorpionWasp says:

          That’s the problem, see. “It doesn’t suck as bad for an MMO” is akin to “It doesn’t smell as bad for a clogged latrine”.

          I tried the free beta weekend because even though I won’t touch MMOs with a 10 feet pole, RPS was making a big fuss about how great and “different” this thing was and stuff. But the MMO antics just get in the way too much, they crush your suspension of disbelief, they look pointless and vastly disconnected from anything resembling real world physics and euclidean geometry (zombies taking blast after blast after blast from a shotgun that never requires reloading, without even flinching… it’s almost as if they lifted the combat engine from a (bad) sword-play setting wholesale and just changed the graphics). I couldn’t stomach it. MMOs are Zynga’s “hardcore” counterpart, but nobody will admit it.

          • Quarex says:

            Please acknowledge that MMORPGs came first if you are going to claim social games as their counterpart.

            Also, MMORPGs are no different than RPGs, other than the way they cannot as easily “hide” the obvious flaws in the game logic, be they respawning enemies or unrealistic damage thresholds necessitated by multiple players attacking the same enemies.

            This game is better than at least a handful of single-player RPGs I have picked up over the past few years, and THAT is high praise for a MMORPG.

          • Tyrain says:

            My point was ‘TSW doesn’t suck for an MMO’ is almost like saying ‘Icecream doesn’t suck for a dessert’. TSW is a very good game and rivals the best MMOs. It’s true that the MMO trappings (which TSW does a fine job of minimizing) will turn off many people, but it’s an amazing MMO and a great RPG.

            Fortunately I’m not the type who is hindered from enjoying a game just because there is a lack of suspension of disbelief. I see a game as a game and play it as such. I guess there’s an amount of mental compartmentalization going on here. The story is separate and engrossing, the combat is mechanical and dynamic, the puzzles are cerebral and challenging, the skill wheel is strategic and engaging. All these things speak to my nature as a gamer and no amount of bunny hopping, infinite ammo guns or jagged geometry climbing will take away from the deep quality this offers in game mechanics.

            As I play, I know I’m sitting at a chess board, while reading a great book, while analyzing numbers, while completing a crossword puzzle — and I’m loving every minute of it.

            I’m dont want to knock anyone who doesn’t take that perspective. We all have different gaming tastes. I am disappointed to know such an enjoyable game will put off a large number of players for those reasons.

            I love games that offer a convincing suspension of disbelief, but first and foremost, I love games, even if their mechanics are completely exposed or not all that realistic.

            Oh, and zombies do flinch now that the game is live:) Every shotgun blast has some satisfying punch, even if it takes multiple shots of my infinite clip to take down those meat sacks.

          • Ragnar says:

            That’s good to hear. I tried the first beta weekend, and found the combat to be terrible due to the lack of feedback. It was the worst part of what was otherwise a good game, and I’m glad it was improved upon.

            I hope they also reduced the monster density, there were way too many mobs around for my liking.

  3. Ultra Superior says:

    A homosexual biker falling for a deputy sheriff?

    Secret world indeed.

  4. Some_Guy says:

    Think that ill jump in on this, was fun for the beta and i trust rps.

  5. Paxeh says:

    The beta was rusty and the game has it’s fair share of start up bugs.

    But I love it. So very much. It’s the whole atmosphere and the narrative that makes this game for me.

  6. Rightlov says:

    A very good write-up, thank you!

    TSW just released their launch trailer today, to your information; I think it’d fit very well in to your article :)
    Here’s the link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7yMIcKmsbzk&feature=youtu.be&hd=1

  7. Flukie says:

    So Guild Wars 2 next month folks?

    *high five* (Don’t leave me hanging)

    • Shockpaddles says:

      *high five*

      so stoked about GW2 release :D

    • McDan says:

      *and another high five* though I was looking forward to this. But it’s the lack of money that means I can’t afford a subscription MMO. Guildwars 2 here I come!

    • djbriandamage says:

      How on earth can any subscription-based MMO have a hope in H2 2012 with GW2 on the way?

      • dazman76 says:

        By providing things that GW2 doesn’t :) I also own GW2, and I’m looking forward to release – but the two games are very different. “F2P” isn’t the deal-maker for everyone :)

        • Xzi says:

          See, that’s just it. It’s my understanding that TSW has a microtransaction shop in addition to a monthly fee, correct? So unless it blows Guild Wars 2 completely out of the water in every aspect of its gameplay, it’s not going to be worth it for most people. And it doesn’t do that. In fact it’s a little worse than GW2 in a lot of ways.

          • malkav11 says:

            It has a microtransaction shop, sure. (Although the expenses aren’t really micro, as far as I can tell.) And in it they sell: pieces of fictional clothing, and titles. What’s that? You don’t have a deepseated need to play dress-up doll with your avatar in a modern day world of conspiracies and secret occult horror? Or, if you do, you’re content with the pages and pages of options available at creation or the in-game clothing store that uses game cash instead of real cash? Well, then you can safely ignore it.

          • Xzi says:

            Then they shouldn’t have put it in at all. It’s not worth the negative word-of-mouth that it causes. Throwing microtransactions into an already subscription-based game just screams, “well, let’s see exactly how much money we can shake out of these suckers before we end up needing to switch to F2P.”

          • malkav11 says:

            I’m not saying I think it was a good idea. I’m just saying it’s really trivial and not worth getting upset over the way some people seem to be. I think it makes more sense to get one’s knickers in a twist over the upgrade packages (which are ludicrously overpriced and, in addition to some cosmetic stuff, include actual game equipment. Quickly outclassed game equipment that just makes the early game a little easier, but still.), if one must get upset at all.

    • SanguineAngel says:

      *High Five* *High Five* (Both hands!) I am very excited!! I need to commune with the RPSers and get social in GW2 I think

    • Chris D says:

      *High five* There’s gonna be an RPS guild, right?

    • apocraphyn says:

      *high five*

      WAR GUILDS…! Ahem. Yes, looking very much forward to it. Only MMO I’m interested in currently, (sorry TSW).

    • soco says:

      *high five*

      GW2 has me very interested, if for nothing else the lack of a subscription.

      I was in the beta for Secret World and while there was nothing terrible about the game, it didn’t feel like a game price, plus subscription, plus microtransactions worthy title…at least not to me.

      I hope the game does well, but I have a feeling Secret World has an uphill climb ahead of it.

    • Xzi says:

      High fizzive. GW2 was so much fun that I had to stop myself from playing and avoid certain classes to save more content for launch.

  8. Shockpaddles says:

    im really up for this game but £11.50 a month is a little ‘ouch’!! , think i will wait to see what happens with it :)

    • ShrikeMalakim says:

      Monthly subscription fee PLUS pre-order bonuses including combat-affecting items either not available any other way or available later in the cash shop PLUS cash shop itself.

      The other thing that annoys me specifically is only having 3 character slots per server, with $10 per additional slot.

      I was really looking forward to this game, and I really enjoyed the beta, until they revealed their extortionate pricing scheme.

      • Tyrain says:

        There is very little reason to have more than 3 character slots. The way this game works, you can complete everything on a single character – acquire all the abilities, master all weapons, do all the quests, see the entire game.

        Three slots is the perfect number as it allows you to make one character for each faction to enjoy the differences they offer. However you can spend a good lifetime enjoying a single character. I am loving it, despite being a notorious alt-aholic (25 characters in CoH).

        I don’t see how this pricing scheme is all that different than most traditional MMOs pricing models. Yes, they added a cash shop for cosmetic items. But if that helps them earn money and stay in business and continue to produce such amazing story content, all the more power to them. Let the people with disposable income dress fancy and keep the game running.

        MMO’s are expensive to make and run. Everyone calling this a money grab or extortion are failing to grasp just how hard it is to break even. When I play TSW, I see a labor of love. Sure it’s pricey, but the amount of content and depth you are getting for the price really is a legitimate and fair purchase.

      • nearly says:

        WoW requires a subscription, will charge you a fair chunk of change for any character modifications, and has a cash shop that does not fall under “microtransactions” because of how expensive everything is. these guys are offering content for subscription, and a few cosmetic items on the side if that sort of thing interests you. there’s no extortion unless you just NEED to have that pair of designer jeans.

  9. SteamTrout says:

    My experience from the beta:
    1) Awful animations (I think they have one “bear hug” animation for casting and that’s it)
    2) Bad-ish performance
    3) Decent looking but sometimes bland world
    4) Awesome quests
    5) Awful boring snorefest combat. Yes, I find it even more boring then other MMOs mostly because you see you character use the same animation over and over and over and over and over and over and over again

    If it didn’t have a subscription it would’ve definitely been worth a try. Sadly it does so wait until it goes F2P or gets discounted.

    • Quarex says:

      1. Probably!
      2. In what way? Frames-per-second? There are certainly some areas that tend to slow down even on high-powered systems, though many others run smooth as silk.
      3. I am not entirely sure what game you are talking about here, as this game looks more compelling than basically anything else on the market, from its unique take on the modern world with a supernatural overlay.
      4. Agreed!
      5. No. The mere fact that you can jump and dodge like a lunatic makes the combat instantly more fun than any other MMORPG, with the possible exception of Age of Conan or Ultima Online, but both of those games have their own significant flaws that Secret World avoids (“more-of-the-same-fantasy-MMORPGitis” and “being 15 years old,” respectively).

    • Ragnar says:

      1) Yes.
      2) Yes, on my C2D @ 2.9GHz + GTX 470. However, high textures is the only thing you really need. Turn textures up to 4, everything else down to 2, and it looks sharp and works well.
      3) Manually set textures to the highest setting. Suddenly that bland world is full of store signs, street signs, advertisements, names, places, etc. It turns a blurry world into one full of text and detail, and really makes it better.
      4) Yes
      5) Sadly, yes. I found it better than Tera, but worse than SWTOR. However, a large part of it was due to terrible combat feedback, which I’ve been told has been fixed since the beta.

  10. f1x says:

    Looks nice, but I wonder if its not gonna suffer from the same flaws that SW:TOR had,
    I mean, is it actually good as an MMO?
    or simply good as a solo experience with maybe groups touches from time to time

  11. Lacero says:

    Adam, the quests are definitely bugged. Or were, one big one was fixed in the last patch.

    I guess you were in open beta to play so much, turns out with more people not all the quest scripts work well. Too many people arriving at once and messing up state machines or something.

    Still, it is fun. I’m not sure whether to love or hate them for forcing you to sit and listen to the vo in conversations.

    • Adam Smith says:

      A couple at the junkyard were causing problems that were legitimate (maybe some raven-related stuff too although I didn’t manage to test that for myself) but there were people crying foul about things before testing alternative solutions.

      But, yeah, I didn’t mean to imply there weren’t any bugs at all and you’re right, I think it’s the number of people causing scripting errors. I’ll have my beady eye on the situation and see if things continue to get fixed promptly.

      • Lacero says:

        And I didn’t mean to imply all the cries of “bugs” are based in fact, some are people not understanding and some sometimes work and sometimes fail leading to arguments.

        As a good little dragon the confusion in the main chat warms my heart.

      • dazman76 says:

        I think the “raven problem” just comes down to rough presentation. The things disappear without any kind of warning or effect – and since most people are looking up when it happens (like 3 seconds after starting the quest), they do not see (or even expect) the next ravens, which are incredibly close by. I must have tried it four times before accidentally discovering the second raven, almost right in front of me :)

        If there was some kind of *poof* or sign that they should actually be disappearing, it would be better. Also, the first step is “follow THE raven”, and he’s the one that disappears too quickly. It isn’t until you’ve actually stumbled across the next trigger point, that the objective changes to “find GROUPS of ravens”. So yeah – basically it isn’t 100% clear, and could use just a bit of polished. It certainly isn’t broken – but I can absolutely see why people think it is. The detection “bubble” around the second raven is tiny too, which doesn’t help.

        • Lacero says:

          There’s another quest (or, lots more) with ravens. It’s one of the others I think, but if you know where to go you can just go straight there even when they don’t fly.

          Also I found another bugged one today :( Bugged in a really annoying way that makes it sort of easier up to the point where you have to have done things the right way and you’re left with no idea you’ve missed a step as everything is working so well. Investigation quests really do rely on things working properly :(

      • malkav11 says:

        The thing that gets me – and Tom Chick touched on this in today’s QT3 Games Podcast – is that because the investigation quests in particular (but other quests to a lesser degree) are much more complex than usual for MMOs, often are clued fairly sparsely, and can involve lateral thinking or use of tools you aren’t necessary aware you have, it can be really hard to tell if something is actually bugged or you’re just not doing what you’re supposed to do.

        In my case, I was pretty sure the quest Men in Black Vans was not functioning correctly because the correct steps in the last tier seemed obvious based on prior cues, but no combination of fiddling with those steps produced any reaction, much less solved the quest. And sure enough, it was bugged and they fixed it in the most recent patch.

  12. the_nell_87 says:

    I loved playing during the beta weekends, and I’ve been loving it since launch. For those complaining about poor performance, animations, bugs etc from beta, there have been a lot of improvements even in just the last few weeks. Heck, the other day (about 48 hours after early access launch) they released a pretty big patch fixing a whole ton of launch issues. I’ve been really impressed with Funcom on this one.

    For me, the biggest plus by far of this game is that I can keep the one character, and have tank, healer and DPS builds as I please. Eventually, I’m able to have every single skill unlocked, and try out a ton of really wacky builds!

  13. djbriandamage says:

    I enjoyed most parts of the beta but not the combat. “Borrowed rhythms” is a fair description, and it’s a frequent drumbeat. Too frequent. I want this to be a non-combat game. The dialogue, narration and lore popups are all so well written and intriguing that the very average combat got in the way of my enjoyment of the beta. I’m enjoying WoW enough that I won’t abide inferior combat in a game that relies on it so heavily.

    I will certainly drop a few bucks on this when it goes free to play in the presumably near future, but there are other things I’d rather spend $50 on right now. Between Anarchy Online and Age of Conan I know Funcom is a highly skilled MMO developer but I’m going sit this launch out this time.

    I hate to say it but sometimes I wish Ragnar Tornquist wrote books instead of games. I wouldn’t have to endure distractions before returning to his writing.

    • Brise Bonbons says:

      I just want him to make games that don’t use mediocre-to-miserable combat as filler, as TSW seemed to do based on my beta experience. TSW could have been a perfectly engaging and rewarding experience with 1/10th the amount of combat, or none at all. Hell, I would probably buy it and subscribe if the combat was dialed back. But as it is, I absolutely refuse to sink dozens of hours into something I’m just not interested in to see the stuff I am. There are just too many games that respect my time that I’d rather support, not to mention other hobbies and responsibilities in my life.

      I mean hell, look at EvE online, there are people who play that game and probably never fly a ship with a weapon mounted. Ostensibly you can level from 1-80 in GW2 simply by crafting. Why couldn’t TSW support people who just wanted to investigate all the time?

      • djbriandamage says:

        Yeah, poor Ragnar has been lumped with assy combat since Dreamfall. Damn you, mandatory back-of-box bullet points!

      • malkav11 says:

        I was originally a naysayer on the combat, but it turns out to have a surprising amount of depth, and between the ability to move while charging attacks and a variety of rather nasty enemy abilities that can be dodged or escaped if correctly anticipated, can be pretty frantic and exciting, too.

    • Cooper says:

      This seems to be a common refrain.

      Those that love MMOs may get something out of it, but the MMO aspect seems pretty laughable otherwise

      I adored the investigation and non-combat quests in the beta. But the awkward combat and MMO-ness of the enemies just grated too much. And there weren’t enough non-combat options, nor enough non-combat areas in the game to just simply avoid it.

      • Ragnar says:

        I feel like a lot of it could be fixed by making the mobs not aggro onto you, like in Tera (at least the first dozen levels of Tera). This way the monsters are there if you want / need to fight them, but they’re not in your way if you just want to get on with the actual fun stuff of the game.

  14. sinister agent says:

    I’m glad you got some fun out of it. I loved the setting and the ideas, and the factions seemed really well drawn and their rivalry was neatly described – plausible as it’s basically down to ideology and selfishness, rather than tedious good vs evil crap.

    But! It’s still as MMO as any other MMO. I was swearing in frustration at the controls before I’d even picked up a weapon (have they added any help text yet for people who aren’t already big MMO fans? If not, say goodbye to any chance of getting new players in), and then it came to combat, and ugh. I gave up after trying three times before the other players destroying the atmosphere even became an issue. If they’d made this anything other than an MMO, they wouldn’t have made the combat and controls so godawful, and I’d be probably be playing it every day.

    Still, good luck to them, I suppose. Someone really needs to make an MMO that does away with the rest of the standard MMO tropes, but … well, baby steps.

  15. Kitsunin says:

    I’m wondering how, aside from moar places to go, the full game has improved over the beta? The beta was pretty fun while it had many flaws, and I am worried that those flaws may have been fixed and people (Myself included, until I get some more cash) won’t try it under the assumption, that, like many games, the only thing we’re seeing after beta is more stuffs.

    • thegrieve says:

      A good number of the bugs that were annoying me in that last beta weekend were fixed before I got in on the early access this weekend. Not all of them of course.

      I’ve found most of the cries of BUGGED in chat were unfounded. Quests that many others had solved, and quests the bug-criers themselves solved when they stopped whinging.

      That doesn’t mean there aren’t bugged quests. I’m sure anyone who is playing it has smashed their head against the wall on Men In Black Vans.

  16. Dominic White says:

    This sounds like it would make an awesome point-and-click adventure, or an even better singleplayer RPG with turn-based combat, but as an MMO? It just doesn’t seem to mesh. Especially if they go the same way as every other subscription MMO, and add endless padding in-between genuinely interesting bits of story and quest content. Funcom have already burnt us once and badly with Age of Conan (remember how Tortage was great? And then everything after that was World of Warcaft, but worse?), so I’m not exactly high on faith here.

    • LionsPhil says:

      Indeed. The thought I take away from this WIT is “shame it’s an MMO”.

    • Brise Bonbons says:

      Pretty much. I find it problematic that this review, while being almost entirely positive in tone, basically paints every element of the game that actually makes it an MMO as mediocre or “bad, but absurdly bad, so I can deal with it by laughing”, while the stuff that is (rightly) lauded as unique and amazing could basically be describing an adventure game of any other technology (i.e. not-MMO; point and click, SP RPG…).

      While the review’s desired message is “this game is great”, the impression I come away with is of a game that is deeply uncomfortable in its own skin, and I am not left wanting to play that game at all. Which I think is a shame, because the stuff that sounds good sounds really really good.

      • Ragnar says:

        That’s the same exact problem that SWTOR had, a great single-player / co-op RPG trapped inside an MMO. The review makes it obvious that the MMO part adds absolutely nothing to this game, but instead detracts from it in every way.

        Let’s face it, we’ve changed. Back when WoW came out, which was the first taste of MMO for most people, we were all like “Wow, this is awesome! MMOs are great!” But that was 7 years ago, and we’ve moved on, but MMOs have stayed the same. MMOs are the old ex that keeps coming back saying, “Look at me, I’ve changed. I’m different now.” to which we have to reply “No, you haven’t. You’re still too needy, too frustrating, you still have issues. You’ll still end up wasting much of our time while giving little back in return.”

  17. mcwill says:

    It’s gotten to the point where it doesn’t actually matter what you say about an MMO that doesn’t have some giant license attached, you get the same responses. “Might give it a go when it goes F2P.”

    I blame a decade of shitty half-assed WoW clones.

  18. AmateurScience says:

    So is there any compelling gameplay or narrative reason for this to be an MMO with a subscription rather than a SP offline pay once deal? Because I don’t see any.

    • Ragnar says:

      The investigation quests are more fun to tackle together with your friends. Which means this should have been an SP / Co-op title, like Borderlands.

  19. Runs With Foxes says:

    It’s kinda disappointing to see Adam praising a massively multiplayer game that’s best played solo, like so many of them are nowadays. There’s something so farcical about that. This is a limp MMO interspersed with that ‘Whedonesque’ storywank.

    • thegrieve says:

      Aside from the crazed beast that is Eve Online, I’ve found nearly all ORPGs to be lacking a compelling MM aspect, and any I have played, I’ve played solo or with one or two friends.

      • Runs With Foxes says:

        That’s what’s farcical about it. The entire genre is fucked, with the only interesting stuff happening in small niche titles. Minecraft is a better MMO than the ones that have tens of millions of dollars spent on them. The mainstream MMO space is dominated by people playing dress-up dolls and killing a million whatevers.

        • thegrieve says:

          Indeed, this was my impression when I was finally pressed into playing WoW. I had already been an Eve player and this just struck me as loads of people playing a not-very-good single player RPG adjacent to each other.

          This is more of the same in that regard, but it’s breaking parts of the mould in other ways. Although the combat can be clunky, I enjoy it immensely. The builds feel intelligent, I feel I have to be tactical to max out my efficacy in different situations. Unlike WoW and it’s invariable “best” builds, I can draw a slight parallel to my beloved Eve here, with regards to fittings/decks/loadouts.

          This “MMO” isn’t doing anything to help the single-players-adjacent issue, but it’s certainly doing good things for MMO’s in other directions.

          • Brise Bonbons says:

            It’s sad. For me at least, all it needed was a “non-combat” option, like trading/mining in EvE or the crafting guy from the MMOs of yesteryear. Hell, having some characters be very good at investigating but inept at combat would also mean there would be a reason to group up outside dungeons. But of course, that’s a no-no in modern play-together-but-alone MMOs…

            If there’s one thing I avoid more than derivative products that have no unique vision, it’s products that have a unique vision, but fail to realize it – instead winding up mired striving to be “acceptable” or to match genre conventions. Not that I don’t respect the effort and mourn the lost potential, I just find such projects too depressing to contemplate long.

          • thegrieve says:

            Now you’ve made me depressed. :’(

          • Ragnar says:

            The thing that was great about WoW for me was that I could play together with my friends all the time. Previously, that only happened with occasional LAN games of UT, Diablo, NWN, or Warcraft. But here was this compelling game which most of my friends were playing, so I could always hop on and play with them.

            Then there was the raiding, which some people hate, but I found that taking a group of 60 people who didn’t know what they were doing and molding them into a successful raid guild exciting. Walking 40 people through a strategy, then seeing it executed successfully, was an exhilarating experience. I was team captain, coach, and general during the raids, CEO and president outside of them. I would recruit a player here, give advice to improve a player there, put out some fires, create strategies…, and the success of my leadership was evident with every new boss we took down.

            But I did that for 4 years, and I retired after I realized that I no longer wanted to deal with all the drama or maintain a 4-nights-a-week obligation. I’m glad I did it, but I have no desire to repeat it again. Now that I’ve gotten it out of my system, it’s easy to see MMOs for what they are, and there are far more compelling games out there that don’t waste my time. I miss being able to play with and talk with all my friends all the time, but not the gameplay designed to monopolize your time by wasting it.

    • elfbarf says:

      I wouldn’t say it’s best played solo at all, though it’s entirely possible (aside from dungeons/bosses/some difficult areas) and it seems as if Adam is more fond of that. Working with other people to figure things out is much more fun than getting stuck and having it solved for yourself on the forums/a fansite.

    • Tyrain says:

      This MMO is not best played solo. It can be played very well solo, but it happens to be the most grouping-friction-free MMO I have ever encountered. Here are some reasons:

      1) Meet-up.
      a. You can warp to the spawn point nearest your friend. Be together in matter of a few minutes, from anywhere in the world.
      2) Repeatable Content, full rewards.
      a. Most quests are repeatable every 18 hours making it incredibly easy to join a lower level friend while continuing to benefit yourself.
      3) Easy access Quests thanks to very limited quest gating.
      a. You never need to grind through lower quests to unlock other content. At worst, you need to do a single pre-req to access the content your friend wants to do.
      4) One Server.
      a. You can play with anyone who owns the game. You might reside in a different dimension, but ‘meet-up’ saves the day again.
      5) Highly shared progress.
      a. Most quest goals are shared, not just with your group, but any other groups taking part. It was interesting that Adam was worried about kill stealing. In my experience, every time I’ve helped someone kill something, we both received quest progress. It’s awesome.
      b. Exp, money and loot are all generously balanced within a group. Never feel like you are losing out by grouping.
      6) Content is easy to acquire and consume.
      a. The ‘startup’ and organization time typical to MMOs is almost negligible in TSW. You are together and doing something shortly after logging in.
      b. By the time you reach the second area, you have a vast amount of content to choose from. More importantly, there are a wide variety of quest goals: explore, gather, puzzles, wave defense, stalk/track a foe, kill enemies, escort (blah), investigate, and combinations thereof.
      7) Skill system & synergy
      a. As Adam mentioned, skills can play off each other’s applied effects. This works for groups too. Plan a team with skills that trigger each other’s effects.
      b. The lack of player levels makes joining up with less or more advanced players a non-issue.
      8) Interesting Dungeons
      a. I’ve only done the first dungeon, but it was a fantastic grouping experience. I hope it continues.

      After enjoying a few weekend betas, I pre-ordered. Now I am pondering taking the ‘lifetime’ leap despite the inevitable F2P change over. I’ve played dozens of MMOs and this is by far the best grouping experience I’ve had. Yes it is a bit rough around the edges, but the game has a quality core that will only get better over time. I haven’t even touched on the actual mechanics I enjoy, but the WIT covers them fairly well.

      -wish my formatting had turned out prettier:)

      • malkav11 says:

        I entirely agree. Unfortunately, my friends either played a couple hours and wrote the game off completely (“floaty” combat, whatever that means), or said “I would love this as a singleplayer game but I’m not paying $50 plus subscription for it”.

      • Runs With Foxes says:

        The trouble is that The Secret World’s main selling points (the setting, story, etc) are best done solo so you can take your time and not feel rushed through, and so you can take your time with investigations and solve them yourself instead of having group members spoil them for you. If you have people to play with who are equally interested in that stuff, that’s good for you, but MMOs are filled with people who just want to rush through content. If your group members get frustrated because you want to stop and read some lore text and think about how it all fits together, it won’t be fun for anyone.

        All that stuff about easy grouping sounds good until you notice the spectre of Guild Wars 2 standing over it, because GW2 does all of that better.

        • malkav11 says:

          Well. Except that GW2 has servers.

        • TariqOne says:

          Except GW2 also has a bog-standard, cliched Korean-lite fantasy setting and a risible background lore/IP that includes cute and playable gerbilgnomes.

          How it’s viewed as some sort of groundbreaking genre-saver is beyond me.

          • Runs With Foxes says:

            Because first of all that’s not really true (GW lore is fairly diverse and extensive), and second, there’s more to an MMO than just the setting. I’m sure Secret World fans will want to deny that, since setting is all TSW has going for it, but MMOs survive in the long run if they actually offer a reason to keep playing. TSW doesn’t have one once you’ve finished the story because the MMO part is really badly done.

            Guild Wars 2 is kind of sickly sweet, but it’s actually fun to play moment to moment, and that’s a rare thing in an MMO. Still a theme park, but probably the best one that’s been made so far.

  20. wodin says:

    Sounds like a great single player game..ruined by MMO combat mechanics and endless streams of bunny hoping players..

    • Moraven says:

      Always on DRM!

    • Tyrain says:

      If you loathe all things multi-player and cooperative, perhaps it’s ruined. But my experience has only been improved by being able to freely and easily play with friends.

      Working together to solve some of the more maddening puzzles has been fantastic. Struggling through dire boss fights in dungeons is a blast. And the casual, day-to-day questing is actually fresh and enjoyable, as well as rewarding. Add in the way skills trigger effects between group members and combat is actually enjoyable too — nothing amazing, but 50 hours later, I still regularly stop to shoot zombies when it’s not necessary.

      • wodin says:

        My feeling is this…if you want multi player and play with your mates…go out clubbing…or play football…or go to the pub…or Art center if thats your thing..

        I don;t mind abit of RO2 or something everynow and again, but on the whole the best multiplayer is going outside and doing something with your mates..computer games used to be for those who like their own company or fancy staying in and getting immersed in a world without other people getting involved.

        It used to be the hobby for geeks…those who hated the word “social” or human interactions…now even games that would have been made for the geek have a social multiplayer element…why on earth do people feel the need to have to be in some sort of contact with other people 24/7! Even in games.

        As I said nothing beats actually going out with your mates in real life having a laugh…. For me that is multiplayer…gaming is singleplayer.

        • Tyrain says:

          I’m exactly opposite. Co-op gaming experiences occupy the better part of my free time and are always a blast. I’m very happy the industry is moving more and more towards offering these.

          I still want to see deep single player games. Many of my favorite games are solo and captivate me with up late into the night, one more turn or chapter experiences. I just can’t imagine a world where that’s all games can or should be.

          Plus most of my mates live a couple thousand miles in different directions now. So firing up some steam multi-chat and playing together is our best option. Though I have to admit when I fly out to see them, we do spend alot of time playing games together, now just in the same room ;)

          Anyway, I hope to see more of both game types to satisfy our different tastes – though I’ll play both! And while the secret world is an outstanding co-op experience, it’s possible to go it alone, close the chat window entirely and ignore the weirdos running around while you experience a pretty sweet RPG.

  21. BooleanBob says:

    Ah, my old nemesis, the Extended Musical Metaphor. I see you’ve been cultivating your moustache.

  22. neonordnance says:

    Anarchy Online was the first MMO i legitimately enjoyed, albeit for only about twenty levels, but that’s normally how far I get in this type of game. This one sounds different though, with enough new content to keep things fresh. I’m tempted to give Funcom the benefit of the doubt due to my positive experience with AO.

    But the problem is the pricing model. Spending $50 on a boxed game, then having to shell out for a subscription… it’s too much money. I’m not a cheap gamer. I’ll shell out if I really want something. I dropped $95 on BF3 with all the DLC because I love the hell out of it and I know I’m going to get my money’s worth.

    But when you have a new IP, or even a new take on an old IP, I’m not willing to drop that money without trying it. I knew BF3 was great because I loved all the previous Battlefield titles, and because I was an Alpha and Beta tester after avidly playing BC2. But I’m not going to drop that dough on a game without getting a chance to really experience it. I’m talking about chunky, sizeable content, by the way. The first five levels don’t cut it, especially with the glut of front-loaded MMO’s that don’t evolve at all as you progress. I’ve been burned by these games in the past (ST:O, Fallen Earth) and I’ve ended up feeling like I’ve wasted my money, dropping cash not only for the boxed game, but also for the three or four months of subscription it took me to realize it wasn’t going anywhere.

    And that’s the real problem. Now that I’ve cancelled my subscriptions, I have pretty much nothing to show for it except a couple of unique items. Both games are F2P. That substantial investment– in the case of ST:O, $95, the same I paid for BF3– I really have nothing to show for it. I don’t even have a game I can resintall and play. What did I get for my money? For BF3, I got hundreds of hours of gameplay, including some awesome games with friends, a steady drip of new content, and a game I can fire up and play again at any time. For ST:O, I’ve got a red matter capacitor and a borge bridge officer, both of which I could’ve bought in the C-Store for a fraction of the total that I paid.

    Maybe using Star Trek Online is a bad example. That game burned me bad. I was looking forwards to it for years, lured in by the promise of player-run ships with each player acting as a bridge officer. I couldn’t wait for an accurately rendered, lore friendly depiction of my favorite science fiction universe. I pre-ordered the collector’s edition and I was a beta tester, and during the beta I found the space combat to be enjoyable and the interesting ground missions acceptable.

    But when it came out, the game was an abomination. Nothing like Star Trek, it was a cookie-cutter MMO of the highest order. The scale on everything was wrong, the depiction of the universe was a far cry from the show, there was precious little diplomacy, and the beloved star trek uniforms and weapons were supplanted with terrible-looking generic sci-fi equipment. The promises of respecting the lore and reflecting the source material were bold faced lies, and my $95 went down the drain after the third month, when I quit at the disgusted realization that it was not, infact, going to get better.

    I know I’m not the only one to get burned. Seeing the internet’s overwhelmingly negative reaction to Elder Scrolls Online, a game which also clearly has little respect for the source material, and instead is attempting to shoehorn a beloeved IP into an MMO package, was encouraging. I fear that SWOTOR makes similar work of the classic KOTOR series, though I would still like to try it. Whether it’s a trial until level 15, or free-to-play, I need to try it before I invest. And no, a free weekend isn’t nearly long enough.

    But what it basically boils down to is this: I am simply not going to shell out such a large amount of money for limited access to a game that I don’t know if I will like.

    • HorzaEdeo says:

      Neonordnance, in re SWTOR. There’ll be free to play up to level 15 this month, apparently. http://www.eurogamer.net/articles/2012-06-04-swtor-level-cap-going-up-free-trial-announced

      There’ve been mutterings about free to play as well, so if you like it you may well be able to go that route soon™.

    • soco says:

      100% agreed.

      I completely identify with getting burned by ST:O as well, and Champions Online. Hell if I am going to put one red cent into the Neverwinter MMO because of Cryptic’s track record. (And I LOVED Neverwinter Nights to the point of possible slight problem that would require 12-step meetings).

      But I’ve sidetracked myself from why I was going to reply. While I make no excuses for ST:O and it is not a great game, it has gotten better since release. I had only played the first two months and quit, but a friend pulled me in recently (since it is now Free to Play I said why not) and while nothing is perfect there have been improvements.

      I think the Duty Officer system does a good bit to adding to the feeling of being a starship captain and is a non-combat way of progression. Maybe give it a look, see what you think. I bet your Borg bridge officer would like to see you.

      • neonordnance says:

        I had a go a couple of months ago and it has improved vastly. The bridge officer system is basically a facebook game but it’s quite addictive, and they have made vast improvements to stability, crafting, and even ground combat. It still shits all over the source material (is it really so hard to make a decent star trek game?), but as a star trek-themed mmo it’s not half bad.

        Cryptic has done some really scummy things lately with the mystery boxes, however. The drop rate on good loot is FAR too small, and the number of ‘locked crate’ style loot drops is too high. I may play ST:O from time to time, but i’ll be buggered if they get a dime of my money.

        • soco says:

          I don’t think I could have matched sentiment more closely.

          The Doff system is glorified Farmville, but damn if I can’t stop…which probably just reinforces the comparison to Farmville.

          And yeah, ST:O is not the Trek game that we should have, but it is what we have for now. And it is so much better if you are able to ignore lockboxes and resign yourself to the fact you won’t get the super shiny toys as they aren’t worth the money.

  23. Sard says:

    Secret World is the closest thing to “Ragnar Tørnquist’s next game” I can have in nearest future, so I enjoyed it as such.

    MMOish part of it is tolerable. I even find joy in it when was able to kill mobs twice quicker just rearranged already opened skills.

    Setting and peoples monologues are very cool. Investigation missions are awesome, it first game in about 10 ears which make me use pen and paper. I missed this.

    It reminds me Dreamfall – great game with sometimes clunky gameplay.

  24. AmateurScience says:

    It’s increasingly hard to justify a ‘standard’ box price as well as a ~$10 monthly subscription.

    Remember when the lions share of your sub was justified by infrastructure and maintenance? Hardly seems necessary now considering how hard moderm ‘MM’Os work to avoid having more than 10 people in the same place at the same time – that’s a level of connectivity that most gamers have (justifiably) come to expect as part of the box price: imagine paying a sub for Borderlands, or Diablo 3 (I BET Blizzard imagine that quite hard). As for content, how many subscription games add the equivalent of a substantial piece of DLC in as content every month or even every other month? I can’t think of any.

    • BobTheNPC says:

      TSW is for adults. It’s rated M, 17+ (and they make full use of that rating, not only in the demon-boobs way, but in terms of a dark and complex story). This means the player base has significantly more spending money than the PG13-players that constitute a large portion of the WoW market, and they can charge more for it.

      • soco says:

        I don’t think that the cost should be associated with the maturity level, nor do I think this is the reason they have their prices set where they do.

        1. It has the same cost as any other AAA MMO with a sub. None, or very few of the others would be rated as M for Mature.

        2. Kiddies playing WoW or any other MMO aren’t the ones paying for it…their parents are. Parents could just as easily pay for Secret World, or on the other hand there are plenty of adults playing other games.

        • elfbarf says:

          I doubt too many parents would be willing to pay for their children to play The Secret World after seeing some of the countless topless demon/undead women (with jiggle physics of course).

          • soco says:

            Ah, but you are assuming that they have spent enough time and effort investigating what their kids want.

            “What’s that you say? You want a new game? Hmm…oh, so it’s like Warcraft. Ok.”

  25. Quatlo says:

    So, this is basically less sucky SWTOR with better writing? I’d play it, if I weren’t done with mmo’s

  26. nrvsNRG says:

    i’m giving it a go based on this WIT.
    …damnitt, did i just sign up for another mmo? yes,yes i did :S

  27. Shooop says:

    So to summarize: great narrative, story, and settings, but unfairly shoe-horned into boring, typical MMO gameplay?

    • BobTheNPC says:

      It has MMO mechanics, but a fairly different gameplay. There’s no grinding in TSW, for example. Even the filler quests are full of lore and story that make you want to do them.

  28. Jimmy Z says:

    So, it’s an fairly shoddy MMO with great puzzle quests. However, the puzzles offer zero replayability, so what is left after you’re done with them? A shoddy MMO that wants you to keep paying 11 monnies per month. Anyone else see a problem in this equation?

  29. BobTheNPC says:

    I played this game in the last beta, and enjoyed it so much I life’d after a couple of hours of playing it (although I arguably have more money than sense). It is a really good game. Combat takes some getting used to, but it’s not bad by MMO standards. There are some pit-falls you can fall into that make combat frustrating (like having no melee attacks, which turns every battle into a dreary kite-fest that refuses to end), but changing that is as easy as putting some skill points into a melee weapon and using it — the way the game is designed, you neither can, nor need to ever respec.

    Unlike 90% of MMOs released the last few years, this is not a shallow WoW clone, it does something that hasn’t been done in any other MMO (and succeeds).

    It wasn’t released 1 year too early like STO was, and it isn’t full of huge, soulless areas like SWTOR was. The people that populate the world are all original, and have their own agenda (which may or may not align with yours). It feels so much more like a real place than any other MMO I’ve played.

    The whole mindset is different. You don’t grind to get to the end game where exciting things supposedly happen. Gameplay isn’t some chore you have to suffer through. It’s made to be enjoyable from the start, and it’s the journey that’s the enjoyable part, and nobody gives a fuck about eventually reaching the end-game.

    I’ve played the last beta, and the early access, and I can easily say this is the most I’ve ever enjoyed an MMO. It even beats a fair chunk of single player RPGs if you ask me. I can’t quite put my finger on what’s doing it, but sometimes it feels a bit like a kick-back to old-school computer-rpgs like Baldur’s Gate 2 or Fallout 1.

  30. Universal Quitter says:

    Am I the only one that eschews MMOs because the combat is almost always invariably stupid? Sadly, the ones that may have been interesting (Age of Conan) drop the ball in every other department.

    • Brise Bonbons says:

      Nope, me too. The real crux of it for me is that the combat is both bad, and pretty much the only “real” thing to do. There is usually a boring crafting system that somehow doesn’t contribute to character progression (GW2 at least fixes the last part), and a linear “story” which isn’t a game at all (TSW at least fixes the last part), but the game logic makes clear that the fighting is the only part that actually matters. After all, 95% of the skills your character knows are related to combat, almost every item you care about only impacts combat (TSW’s vanity clothes are a refreshing change to this, but still divorced from the gameplay), and usually the only way to progress your character is by killing things.

      Virtual worlds such as EvE and DayZ are so fascinating and engaging because you do so much that isn’t combat related, and those non-combat tasks are just as important – if not more so – than the killing. In the TSW beta, I found myself wondering why, if investigations were so crucial to the game, none of my character’s skills were investigation related. I feel like TSW desperately needs skills like “read NPC thoughts”, “speak with the dead”, “find hidden”, and “turn undead”…

    • wodin says:

      And me..Secret World beta is the only MMO I’ve played and I couldn’t get over the combat..I was trying to fight like in a first or third person shooter…then I realised you have to click on the action icons..then I realised I hated the combat…then I saw loads of characters bunny hopping up and down the street even though they where supposed to be in secret organisations..then I realsied I hate MMO’s.

    • sinister agent says:

      You are certainly not alone. Combat in MMOs is invariably infuriating to me. TSW is sadly no exception.

    • eclipse mattaru says:

      Count me in too. In fact, I always hated MMOs as a concept, but I had never played one. Then I decided to try one of the betas for TSW, because Ragnar Tornquist, reasons, etc.; and for the longest time I was sure I had to be doing something wrong –there was no way the combat (and all things related to controls/animations in general, really) were so scrotum-tearingly awful. Then I asked a friend who plays MMOs regularly, and yeah, as it turns out, all that stuff is standard fare for the genre. For the life of me, I can’t understand how anyone can even stand such jerky, floaty, inaccurate controls for more than 10 seconds –let alone pay a monthly subscription for the privilege (?).

  31. Billzor says:

    Can we get someone who actually likes grouping and pvp to do a WIT?

    • lexoneir says:

      Someone who likes the massively multiplayer part of MMOs reviewing an MMO? That’s crazy talk.

      No, but in all honesty games like TSW are clearly designed to cater to people who like to ‘play by themselves with other people’ so to speak. They comically miss the point of MMOs, but it doesn’t stop developers from seeking their money.

  32. brat-sampson says:

    This makes me really sad.

    It sounds great. I love puzzles/lore and all that jazz not to mention loved TLJ and Dreamfall.

    But.

    But after the demo/beta, the combat still felt basically like a chore. Also I’m against MMOs as I haven’t really the time to invest in such a story without at least some hope they can nail the landing and considering such titles are *deliberately* open ended, by their very nature, that’s also a turnoff.

    Finally, £39.99 + a monthly fee…

    So it’s a no. Sorry, but… no.

  33. Yosharian says:

    It’s a great game ruined by being an MMO, there is NOTHING here which warrants this being an MMO game. Certainly not gonna pay for a sub game with, as others have said, GW2 round the corner.

  34. porps says:

    none the wiser after this review.
    Whats the combat like?
    Whats the pvp like?
    Would it be a good purchase for those of us who want a game from our games and prefer to find stories in books or movies?
    Yknow.. some actual info about the GAME?
    too much to ask?

    • derbefrier says:

      so this is another single player MMO? does it have PvP, raids, instances? I mean it sounds like a decent single player game but what about the MMO part? whats the crafting like, is there any sort of endgame are people encouraged to group together at all?

      • lexoneir says:

        People who like this kind of MMO, which seems to include the author of this post, don’t like those kind of things. I know, I know, they are the central part of an MMO, and the thing that makes it an MMO, but they don’t seem to understand this, and will angrily defend their belief that it ‘doesn’t have to be this way’.

      • malkav11 says:

        Combat:
        You have seven active ability slots and seven passive ability slots. Active abilities come in three basic forms: builders, which are basic attacks (which still have various properties) that do relatively light damage but typically build one weapon resource for each of the two weapons you have equipped (with a maximum of five per weapon). Finishers do larger and more spectacular things and damage, but consume a particular weapon resource to some degree. There are also skills that operate independently from the resource mechanic but typically have significant cooldowns. These are things like utility skills, stuns, roots, etc. Passive abilities modify this. They might add effects to particular skills, reduce their costs or cooldowns, trigger additional effects based on things like critical hits, stunning, rooting, landing a DoT, etc.

        Enemies will use skills as well, and most enemies have at least one attack that involves a windup and some sort of danger zone that you need to get out of in a specified time, or will drop effects in areas on the ground itself that may persist for the duration of combat.

        PvP:
        I hate PvP so I know basically nothing about this other than that it exists, and it doesn’t happen in the main questing areas but in specific PvP zones (I think two of them are roughly equivalent to battlegrounds and the third is a persistent area with some basic PvP quests and control points to fight over). There are no PvP servers.

        Instances:
        Yup, there are instances. I haven’t played them because the only concession to finding groups for them they’ve made is a Looking For Group channel, which is the least efficient possible system devised for such things short of just not having anything at all. Also, they still very much go by the holy trinity system of tank/heal/dps, and since there are no defined classes and no levels per se, plus DPS is clearly the way to go for soloing, I am really leery of trying to find an appropriately structured PUG. I assume there is some sort of endgame raidish type content, but I’ve only hit the second zone, so dunno.

        Crafting:
        There is an assembly window. You can put items into this to disassemble them into the base material used in them. If you have the appropriate type of toolkit (mostly a random drop, in my experience), you can use this plus appropriate quality material (which in my experience you have to convert from item disassembly at a 5:1 ratio – or worse for higher quality material – from the base quality that’s all I’ve ever gotten) arranged in a particular item-specific shape in the assembly window to craft a given item of a given quality level. Some items will also have “glyph slots”, in which case if you find or craft a glyph (they’re made from runes that drop off enemies, but I’ve never found a glyph toolkit) you can put that item and the glyph into assembly and merge ‘em. It’s not really very well explained in game despite a couple of tutorial quests, and I find getting toolkits and appropriate materials so random that it would be frustrating if I were actually trying to focus on it at all instead of occasionally piecing together a minor equipment upgrade when the stars align.

        RE: whether you would like this if you’re not into the story and puzzling:
        Probably not. The story, setting, worldbuilding, and investigation are huge parts of the draw. Y’never know, though, I suppose. There must be people somewhere who really like MMO gameplay and would appreciate the innovations The Secret World brings to the table. To me, MMO gameplay’s always been pretty…lackluster, at best. The Secret World improves on some aspects of the experience and I’m definitely enjoying it, but, like I say…story, setting, worldbuilding, investigation. That’s what I’m here for.

  35. Sisco says:

    Everytime I read about this game my mouth opens in awe. The concept and all sounds really amazing. But when I then see it in motion and action, my brain-boner immediately goes limp. :/

  36. zapatapon says:

    This sounds like a very beautiful and interesting game I’ll never play, because I don’t have the time necessary for MMOs.

    Also, I am seriously concerned that this game — like other MMOs before it trying something atypical — will not find its public. My theory is that as soon as it deviates too much from the pretty skinner box model and tries to engage more elevated brain functions, an MMO will fail because with the diminished addiction, its players will then be able realize far quicker that investing that amount of time and money in this activity is ultimately unreasonable.

  37. Bhazor says:

    Sorry this sounds like it would have been perfect for me. But it’s an MMO.

    Because when I’m enjoying a story theres nothing I like more than a large text box filled with Americans calling me a faggot or wandering an exotic town filled with the same three default character types standing motionless and saying “LFG LFG LFG LFG”.

    • Tyrain says:

      None of that remotely happens in TSW. And should that behavior start up, you can filter out the public channels and enjoy your own solo play-through of the plot. I tend to have all the public channels turned off. Then I focus on communicating with a few friends or interacting with random people I encounter on the same quests.

      There may be other reasons you don’t enjoy the MMO format (subscription, lots of people, some immersion break on respawning bosses you just defeated, etc), but the ones you listed shouldn’t hold you back from giving this game a shot.

  38. Paul B says:

    Another great review from Adam, and almost makes me want to sign up for a Secret World subscription… now. However, MMO-fatigue is getting in the way – after spending too long playing WoW and Lotro (before it went F2P) I fear playing another MMO would send me over the edge. Which is a shame, as Secret World doesn’t look like your typical (WoW-clone) MMO, and at least seems to attempt something different.

  39. SPG says:

    Its stunning and blows anything else out of the water. Its not for the WOW kids thankfully.

    The sub is perfect. Sorry but F2P just ends up being retard communities who come and go like the wind. I would happily pay £15 a month.

    As mentioned before if you stand still 9/10 you die, so binding your keys is critical. Movement takes some getting used and some finger gymnastics is required but for me its the best game in the past 5 years if not more.

    Anarchy online was great, AOC was great till the Khitai expansion and TSW is there crowning jewel.

    Well done Funcom.

    The only thing i could give a minor downer on is the cash shop for vanity items is a little expensive, but a small price to pay for something so amazing.

    • Tyrain says:

      Completely agree.

      Regarding the finger gymnastics, I’ve reduced the strain by using a Naga mouse. I strafe/dodge/walk/jump with WASD (actually ESDF) and activate all abilities using my mouse. The naga has 12 buttons on the side, which easily fits the 7 abilities and has room for toggling sprint, the loot all key, and jump. I do hold RMB to look around and steer during combat. I will probably look into the game’s options for things that might reduce that part.

      In the end, firing abilities on the mouse hand leaves my other hand completely free for moving and positioning myself outside of harm’s way.

  40. realitysconcierge says:

    I’m surprised no one has taken complete issue with the business model presented by funcom. Not only are they charging full price for the game, they are charging a monthly subscription and including a cash shop in game as well. You can read about it and all the reasons why this is terrible here: http://forums.thesecretworld.com/showthread.php?t=20339

    This post in the forum sums up how I feel perfectly.

    http://forums.thesecretworld.com/showpost.php?p=523808&postcount=27

    • malkav11 says:

      There is an ingame currency cosmetic item store that has more content than the cash shop and by many accounts better stuff too.

      Also, while I admit the cash shop rubs me the wrong way on a pay game, I don’t understand skipping an excellent game because there are fictional T-shirts you can’t buy with game currency.

  41. malkav11 says:

    Also, can I just say that if other MMOs copy -nothing- else from The Secret World (and there’s plenty to copy, imho), they should really, really, really, really, really steal their server tech? Being able to chat, join guilds, and group cross-server without even blinking is fricking amazing and instantly kills one of my longstanding problems with MMOs stone dead. (That is to say, the way I can never seem to play with my friends even when they’re playing the same game because everyone lands on seven different servers and nobody’s willing to move because they don’t want to roll a whole new character and character transfers cost an arm and a leg if you can even do them.)

  42. alilsneaky says:

    Looking at the boring generic action bar global cooldown skill rotation gameplay (why make an mmo with guns if the guns don’t shoot aimed projectiles but are just a placeholder for the handwaving when you cast in wow) and the “holy shit I can’t believe they are this bad” animations I’m betting f2p in 3 months, wittle down to a sad death a year or maybe two later.

  43. internisus says:

    1) $50 up-front boxed game price
    2) $15/mo subscripton fee
    3) real-money transactions

    PICK ONE

    Maybe I’ve been spoiled by the sheer reasonableness of EVE Online and Guild Wars, but every time an MMO pops up and asks for a full-priced game purchase plus a monthly subscription I feel outraged. And now we have The Secret World, which not only asks for too much money just to play it but then has the nerve to offer items and weapons and pets and character slots and all kinds of crap in a real-money store?! You’ve got some damned nerve, Mr. Tørnquist & co.!

    The ongoing suggestion by almost all free-to-play titles that a couple of fake shirts and an assault rifle reskin are worth fully 1/4 of a big game’s retail price at launch is bad enough; asking for a substantial (or any) amount of money for quick-start XP bonuses and other catch-me-ups is ludicrous when anyone with half a head can work out that the cost and effort to provide such a thing is barely north of zero. And now The Secret World offers us a $200 all-digital SKU to put all of this crap together, bald-facedly admitting that the game plus the subscription plus some store items costs you a ridiculous amount of money.

    The arrogance is staggering. If I made enough money to pay for this nonsense, statistically speaking it’s highly unlikely that I would also have the time to actually enjoy it! I can only surmise that The Secret World is a product targeted only to the elite multinational corporation CEOs who quietly lead the Illuminati. Wow; do you suppose that the game’s release is itself a part of its own lore?

  44. Sparkasaurusmex says:

    An MMO that isn’t free to play? Welcome to 2010

  45. sellswordassasin says:

    The story in this game looks amazing.

    The single server great.

    The ability wheel amazing.

    The clunky animation and combat unacceptable!

    The business model is laughable.

    This would have been a top tier MMO this year if not for the clunky combat…And then you wish to charge top dollar for the box and sub and have an ingame cash store… No thanks, maybe ill give the game a shot after its F2P, and ill be sure to not put a penny into the ingame cash store. This is like taking home a 300 pound hooker with a great personality and afterwards she tries to charge you top dollar and a premium. No b!$%^ get a stair master and shape up then we can talk.

  46. Melf_Himself says:

    Call me when it’s free to play.

  47. Classicgamer says:

    I think that COS is a welcome addition to the current mundane market of MMO gaming.

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