Have You Played? is an endless stream of game recommendations. One a day, every day of the year, perhaps for all time.
Somewhere inside The Secret World is a splendid single-player RPG. Awakened to the supernatural horrors in our world, we join a secret order fighting against them – and other rival orders. Unfortunately, we do this inside an MMO. The Secret World is still quite pleasant as an MMO, one with a fab premise and an ace class-free skill system, but having started playing a few months ago I find myself wishing so often that it were simply single-player.
So, yes, supernatural things are real – monsters, ghosts, ghouls, golems, gods, ancient spirits, zombies, mythical creatures, and Lovecraftian horrors – and we have received supernatural powers to fight against them. Its main missions would make a fine skeleton of a single-player RPG, with well-written cutscenes, voiced dialogue, and some memorable characters and quests. I’m a big fan of Innsmouth Academy and its headmaster voiced by Jeffrey Combs. It’s a great setting and the The Secret World sells it well.
This paragraph is a collection of unrelated things I like. Its classless skill system has hundreds of skills to narrow down into a build of seven actives and seven passives, which I hugely enjoy refining. The world is spooky and unpleasant and delightful to explore, especially the meat beaches. Many monsters are pleasantly unsettling. Having stat items separate from your cosmetic garments is oh my gosh just such a treat (I made a cool modern-day cowboy, of course).
This paragraph is dedicated to how much I dislike its awful stealth missions: a lot.
And then it’s an MMORPG in typical modern-day MMORPG style. Oh, that doesn’t spoil everything, but it makes things tedious. It has lousy MMO AI. Areas outstay their welcome. Assets are overused. I haven’t got to tour any of the raids or dungeons I understand have big, extravagant set pieces and boss battles. I don’t understand all the weird MMORPG vendors clogging up my faction’s headquarters. The only benefit I get from it being an MMO is occasionally seeing other folks fighting monsters.
I’m clearly not very fond of MMORPGs, but every conversation I’ve had about The Secret World includes someone lamenting “It’s a shame it’s an MMO.” It is.