The Secret World Review

28 07 2012

To be honest, I really hadn’t followed The Secret World at all during its development. Once it had been out for a week or so I started to hear things about it. At the time I had been playing Tera Online, which had great gameplay but terrible story narrative. So needless to say I was dying to play something with an actual story.

So I promptly started to look at reviews, and once again I observed vastly different and varying reviews with stark differences in opinion. So this was something I knew I had to try for myself. Most of all it boasted an incredibly strong story.

So I bought it, and chose to make an Illuminati character. Other than the entry cinematic, the first portion of an MMO that a player gets to see is naturally the character creation screen. To be honest, I wasn’t very impressed with the character creation. The character models were odd and it took quite a bit of effort to create something that didn’t hurt your eyes to look at. Also, along with the weird character models the selections are pretty limited, at least when compared to today’s standards of options when creating a character.

I obviously did not let this dissuade me in my quest to check this game out, so I ended up creating an exotic Illuminati character and went about playing the game. I won’t go into play-by-play detail of the game itself, instead I’ll put out some of my feelings and initial first impressions after playing through the majority of the beginner area and the first to instances/dungeons.

I was greeted by a pretty strong and compelling story narrative right away, albeit a little odd and different, but I can definitely do odd. If you like Stephen King novels, you’ll love the story and visual aesthetics TSW throws at you. More or less, the main premise behind TSW is that all legends/myths/secrets/supernatural stuff is true and fair game. So pretty much like an alternate reality here on earth. The NPC’s are all fully voice acted, and do a pretty solid job of adding depth to their character. Your character does not speak however, just kind of stands there like a bump on a log, which seemed awkward to me since the NPC’s I was reacting with were conveying emotion to me. To be honest, it felt a little… how do you say.. “Half-Assed”. To go to all that work with voice acting, animation, and dialogue. Then not to even have your character speak? It definitely broke immersion for me just a little.

Getting past that, lets talk a little about the gameplay. Where the story narrative and aesthetic design of the world shine as strong points for this game, the moment-to-moment gameplay combat feels awkward. Some have described it as, “floaty”. The character animations as far as running and acting seem okay, but using abilities in combat just feels jerky and unfinished. After awhile you do get used to it, but it doesn’t feel like they were attempting an alternate style of gameplay, it feels like I said unfinished and or rushed to release. That being said, they did produce an interesting and refreshing take on leveling.

Instead of having character levels, you level your weapons. Your character can carry two weapons at any given time. There are no restrictions when you can change, or what to. As long as you put the necessary points earned from playing into those weapons so you can use them. The other interesting aspect is you are limited to a set amount of usable abilities and a set amount of passive abilities. So you have to carefully mix and match your abilities both active and passive. This creates a refreshing and creative way since you can literally build your character however you want.

The characters also do not use armor; you use talismans and jewelry to increase your base stats. This however brings up an interesting, yet somewhat problematic topic. So instead of wearing armor, you just equip whatever fashionable clothes you like on your character. I’m sure some of you see where this is going, yes that’s right, ITEM MALL EVERYBODY!!!…… oh wait you ask, doesn’t the game have an up front price WITH a subscription fee? Why yes, you would be correct!

So now that I’m done being facetious, your character can unlock clothing via completing “decks” or unlocking weapon trees to completion. While these do give you so cool looking outfits, the exotic and everyday stuff has to be purchased in game via an item mall. This, personally I think is a TERRIBLE design decision. In a free to play model, or even a regular pay up front model, this would seem okay since the clothes are purely cosmetic. However, players are paying a monthly subscription fee, on top of having already paid full price for the game. This is going to come across as nothing more than a money grab, plain and simple. I believe long run, with that business model, they will end up alienating their customers and honestly it probably turned off a lot of potential buyers when they read about it.

Last thing I’ll mention are the quests, TSW does a good job of offering more than, “Hey go here, kill that pig, get some meat and claws, then come back to me and I’ll give you some mad loot!, annnnnd repeat till level cap” style quests. The game does have a few of those, but it also incorporates its version of AGR (augmented reality) style quests, where you actually have to use the built in game browser to research a quest in order to solve it, or just look up a walkthrough. The quests can be challenging and time consuming, but when properly utilized (without cheating) you get that, aha!, moment of elation. The fully voice acted NPC’s do a great job of delivering the quests to you in audio versus assaulting your eyes with walls of text.

So in recap, The Secret World does a great job of delivering a compelling and interesting story with fleshed out NPC’s, but somewhat falls flat on its face with gameplay combat and their business model. This game appeals to those that prefer strong story narrative over enjoyable gameplay, and because of this it will probably end up being played long term by a niche group and will end up being a free to play model or without a subscription.

TSW does have more to it, good and bad, that I haven’t mentioned here. My goal was to give you a rough idea of what it is about. My advice is to seek a friend who is playing and can give you their 24 hour buddy pass, to check it out. Hopefully with time, they can patch some of the inconsistencies. However with Guild Wars 2 on the horizon, time might not be on their side.

P.S. Gonna add a couple pictures at the end because they look cool, and aesthetically speaking they were awesome! (I would have added more but kept forgetting to take screenshots)

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8 responses

29 07 2012
rainmaker97

What about the MMO aspects? Is grouping fun? I started playing SWTOR earlier this year and thought it had a great story and so-so gameplay (it was my first MMORPG, so the WoW style of combat wasn’t boring to me), but the game was always twice as fun when I was playing with other people.

29 07 2012
Randen Dunlap

Grouping is not terrible, the UI interface is a bit rough and not very intuitive. There are also some chat bugs currently (the game is fresh, so I know they are still fixing some things).

SWTOR was great, I played it as well. I only left because the population on my server almost completely died. I can’t speak to the “end game content”, but the first two instances/dungeons I ran were pretty straight forward. Classic tank/heals/dps/dps set up. Boss fights were decently creative, and loot drops were pretty decent.

As far as other little things, crafting is a straight copy from minecraft, you gather resources and place them in a design in a toolkit. Although, at earlier levels it was unnecessary because loot drops were frequent enough. I also don’t know if there was an auction house or bank yet, I certainly didn’t see any in the first couple of areas. (Doesn’t mean there wasn’t or won’t be)

Overall it’s an refreshing idea for an MMO, just some things not as refined as I would like.

30 07 2012
rainmaker97

I hear you about SWTOR. I was on a light traffic server that usually peaked at about 40 people. When they did server transfers I got switched to a heavy server and it was a hell of a lot more fun. I had a friend who was getting a new computer so we could co-op, but when that fell through, I just let my subscription run out and didn’t bother to renew. It seems like the kind of game that would be really fun to co-op from start to finish, and I can’t bear to play it through solo again.

I kinda dig the fact that the clothing in The Secret World is just typical everyday clothing. I’ve longed for an RPG that takes place in the real world using everyday gear/weapons, but I just can’t seem to find one. Something like Earthbound, but less quirky. Zombie Playground (http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/massiveblack/zombie-playground-zpg-3d-action-online-battle-rpg?ref=card) is close to what I’m looking for (kids pretending they’re in a zombie apocalypse, using baseball bats/water guns/trash can lids as weapons), but still not quite there. Ah well. Fantasy and sci-fi settings still seem to be the order of the day.

30 07 2012
Randen Dunlap

This might be the game for you then! Unfortunately there isn’t a trial, someone has to give you a buddy pass. I would give you one, but I turned my subscription off. I just wanted to try the game and get an initial review out there for people to read, since I wasn’t really impressed with the other reviews I read.

30 07 2012
rainmaker97

It’s actually free to play this weekend! I was thinking I might try it out then.

31 07 2012
Randen Dunlap

It’s definitely worth checking out, I think this is the kind of game that will appeal to specific people versus mass audiences.

10 09 2012
Swiggy

I’m not sure of ages around here, but this really reminds me of Vampire: The Masquerade – Redemption. Same sort of deal, glitchy with a strong 1 player storyline and NPC/Voice actors who make the game… Not to mention NO ONE in the MMO part of the game! Will put this one down as “only try it if a friend’s already bought it” list.

Keep up the reviews! Love ’em!

10 09 2012
Randen Dunlap

Thanks for the positive feedback! 🙂 Next review will probably be DayZ or Borderlands 2 when it comes out.

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