Giving The Secret World A Fair Try

The first area in the game where we’re at is full of zombie people attacking a town. I’m confused as to how or why it’s happening.

The Secret World launches today.  I haven’t been excited for this particular MMO at all.  I even tweeted that I wouldn’t blog about the game because I didn’t like what I saw in the beta.  Well, I’m going to do a little bit of a 180 on this one.  Graev and I decided that, due to complete boredom, we needed an MMO to play AT LEAST until Guild Wars 2 launches. We debated going to EQ2, DDO, and a handful of other games, but decided to give TSW a shot since it’s new and Graev enjoys the work of Ragnar Tørnquist.

I think the reason I struggled with TSW so much is the setting.  I’m not a fan of the modern setting, and the ‘weird’ stuff is a little too weird for me… just look at those monsters.  I prefer magic, castles, knights, and the occasional Star Wars type of setting.  TSW is also very story-driven, and as a result very linear. Combat feels a little clunky and spazzy at times.  Those are some of the apparent negatives for me.

What I like about TSW is the skill system.  I like that I earn experience which earns me skill points and ability points that I can spent on weapon types.  Unlocking abilities appears, at least right now to the uninitiated like myself, to be highly customized.  I can use pistols and blood magic (which I do) and go damage or support with the pistols, and damage or healing with the blood magic… but even within that play-style I can choose different abilities.  So not only will you come across players who have different styles of play with the same weapon, but you’ll come across people with different abilities within the same style of play.

Another positive for me is the exploration factor.  I do feel, dare I say it, slightly immersed in the mystery of it all.  The unknown is appealing.  I have zero clue what’s going on in the story, and I’m constantly having to stay on my toes because I don’t want to miss any puzzles or clues to future puzzles.  Then there’s the fact that you can only have a limited number of each kind of quest (sometimes only 1), so I’m trying to keep track of what I want to do now or come back to later.  All of that and I’ve only played one day of the head-start.

I am looking forward to figuring out the scope of the game.  I see screenshots of deserts, creepy carnivals, old towns, and places I want learn about.  How big is the world?  How much is there to do?  I still have no idea how many dungeons there are, or what to expect from the progression or end-game.

I’ll keep you all updated on our progress.  If some of you are on the fence, perhaps my skeptical, yet slightly intrigued, approach will yield useful information to help you make a decision on whether or not to buy the game.

We’re playing on the Cerberus server in the Templar society.

P.S. – Can anyone, without spoilers, tell me wtf is going on in the story?  From what I can tell some black fog is turning people into monsters without any explanation of where it came from or why it’s happening.  Secret Societies like the Templars and Illuminati are not so secret anymore as they overtly combat the evil.  What is the “secret world” and why is all of this happening?  I’m so confused.

  • I am surprised you decided to give this a go after all. While I appreciate your commentary and insight on games you really must feel desperate for something to play. I tried this during beta and it reeked of mediocrity. Some of the concepts are cool on paper but the implementation seemed awful. I dunno, it’s one of the few MMOs I’ve played that I knew within 30 minutes or so I would have no interest in buying and certainly not in paying a monthly fee for.

    Regardless, I look forward to hearing more of your thoughts on the game as you spend more time with it. I also have no idea wtf is going on with the story.

  • I’m really confused, though. In the opening cinematic a bug flew into my mouth while I slept then a Templar lady knocked on my door and she’s all like, “here’s an invitation to be a Templar because you got powers and stuff.” Now they have me fighting evil and I never really got the idea that I said “sure” to any of it.

    Why is this happening to me, and what is the Secret World? I guess I’ll have to accept the confusion and hope they fill me in as I go.

  • The phrase “The Secret World” is a literary trope and is based on the idea that there are some people in on the secret who know that beneath our banal existence of 9-5 jobs and parking tickets is a Good/Evil/ultradimensional/magical conflict. A Secret Worlder is someone in on the secret. The Secret Societies recruit people in on the secret to advance their agendas. Meanwhle politicians decry lack of morality and fiscal probity, taxi drivers pick up fares and school children grumble about school dinners.

    The intro is you moving from the surface world into the secret world. Your role is to figure out what the hell is going on.

    Back in the day, Call of Cthulhu had a lovely mechanic for this – Cthulhu mythos knowledge allowed you to understand what was really going on but gave an increasingly high chance for insanity. At 100% knowledge you would be fully versed in the dark secrets underlying our apparently safe universe but would be irretrievably insane and your GM would take your character off you to use as a monster NPC.

  • The story will start to come together the farther you go, however, not to give too many spoilers:

    The bug that flew into your mouth was a bee, as the Templar lady said “Bee problem? There is a lot of that going around.” You’ve probably heard the buzzing in and around Agartha, so you can probably guess where that particular bee came from.

    A little more will be explained in part 9 or 10 of the first story quest, if I remember correctly from a couple nights ago.

  • Figuring out what is going on is the point of the game. You are investigating. Talk to the townspeople, do the quests, and bit by bit the story starts to come together. Talk to the NPCs in London, too — there are quite a few that will give you their perspective at great length and give you more understanding.

    Someone gave me a beta key a couple weeks ago, and like you I tried it out of boredom. At first I did not think much of it, but the more I played it, the better I liked it, so I went ahead and pre-ordered it. I spent almost the entire early release weekend engrossed in the story and puzzle-solving quests. I never much liked modern day settings, either, but I have found it a nice change of pace.

    I don’t expect to spend years playing it, but there should be enough to justify the cost for a few months. But perhaps I am easily amused.

  • I find TSW to be a refreshing change to the run of the mill MMO template. It is one of the first MMOs that I have played in a very long time where I do not feel this invisible pull from the game to move me on to another zone right away. Just when I think I have done every mission in Kingsmouth I stumble across a mission icon in the woods or inside a cave on a beach… and often times they add just a little more character and depth to the overall story.

    I do find it amazing that some people on the forums are already talking about ‘end game’ content and how they need more to do. I know I have spent hours watching cinematics that move the story along so I am curious how many of these players have just ESC’d thru the cinematics… and if so why?

  • I’m having to unlearn years of WoW like questing laziness. Sometimes you have to go outside the usual box when trying to complete a quest. Especially the investigation missions, they kind of remind me of early text based adventures and trying to figure out the puzzles and quest. They have decentralized quest hubs a bit, though there are some hub-like areas. But most of the quest I enjoy are the one’s just waiting to be found as you explore the world looking at and for stuff.

    I understand where the complaints about combat come from. I’m not sure what the exact cause is, it the animations and such they just don’t have a slick feel. There are some aspects of the combat that are quite engaging such as the slowly expanding aoe circles or cones and such which in their own way promote a more movement in combat, I really like that aspect of the combat so it’s not a total loss.

  • I do not plan to play this game any time soon, but what you say is a little intriguing. I had basically written this game off but the setting – as long as the writing is decent – sounds like it could be solid. I’m currently still playing D3 though and when I get sick of that I have LotRO to go back to (I’m playing through it mainly for the epic questline, which I never completed back when I played the game as p2p and is still awesome even though the cash shop is pretty awful)… then GW2.

    That said, I could see myself trying this game out if it does well over the next 6 months. The main reason why I wrote it off is the developer. Funcom is just one of the worst game devs I have ever seen — I picked up AoC at launch and watched them parley a rough start into actually making the game worse for several months before fixing it. They stabilized the game into something pretty decent and then spent the next few years systematically ruining what they achieved. Maybe they have learned, but I’ll need to see it to believe it.

    I think you can learn a great deal about the direction a game is taking from the first few months of patches post release.

  • It’s an interesting game.

    It’s bringing more to the table than GW2 ever will, and, frankly, whilst I’m not sold on it, I am deeply intrigued by it and plan to see how far it goes.

    Don’t analyse it Keen, seriously. If you do, you’ll do the game and yourself disservice. And this a game where it’s very easy to stop analysing and just go “well, damn, I’m immersed”.

    (Also, if you notice in the Templar quarter of London, the bobbies are out in force to stop plebs from getting in. You are secret; just a more overt kind of secrecy.)

  • I finally broke down and bought the game yesterday. So far it’s way more fun then I expected it to be.

    I’m not enamored with having a monthly fee and an aggressive cash shop but I don’t plan on playing more then a month or two so whatever. If the game had a better pricing model I could see myself coming back to the game over and over again. As it stands I’ll probably play until GW2 and then try it again if they go F2P in a few years.

  • As I understand it the more traditional elements, especially the combat are from a different game and were practically forced into the exploration/mystery game. So I’m hearing that the game is good when your not being constantly chased by silly monsters and forced into crappy combat.

    I’m skipping it entirely: MechWarrior Online and GuildWars 2 in August and probably PlanetSide 2 soon after means I’ve only got a month left to finish Mass Effect 3, Dead Space 2, Assassin’s Creed 2 and ready a hundred books/comics.

  • I’d just like to applaud Funcom for their bold choice in setting and mood. If they did one thing right, they chose a very interesting context for players to dink around in, and I’m tempted to play just for that setting.

    You bring up a good point in that Great Story = Extremely Linear. Where we’re at in MMOs, you can’t have your cake and eat it too. Once you’ve experienced all the scripted cutscenes and stories, I don’t think many people will have the stomach to replay the exact same game more than twice on alts.

    If I was a gambling man, I’d wager TSW is in for a fairly bug-free, surprisingly popular launch over the next month. Followed by an exceptionally sharp termination of all interest once the content runs out. What they have is pretty good. They just don’t have enough of it to last. It’ll maintain a tiny, dedicated playerbase, but largely stay under the radar.

    Serious props to funcom for trying something new. I just don’t think it has enough content to make it. More like a medium-length single-player campaign with some PvP matches thrown in.

    Time will tell.

  • Im the same. I have a certain nostalgia for Funcom, I still think AO has the most diverse and interesting characters ever (fixers, engineers, traders, crats! wooo) and the whole alien raids and tower wars were incredibly fun.

    But, their engine was terrible and I never took to AoC at all. TSW was off my radar as soon as I heard it had zombies. I hate zombies.

    However, I got into the beta for free and played a little. I hated it at first. I seemed to get 100 abilities to pick from but all were terrible, the engine felt clunky (how is this releasing so soon?), wtf is up with this questing system and the like.

    I did get a little drawn in though. It did feel really atmospheric, I actually giggled a few times when I felt isolated in a shop then all of a sudden I see one guy run past, closely followed by 10 zombies hrrrddrrring after him.

    I remade my char a few times getting better synergies, switching to Blades and realising I could use two finishers made a big difference.

    One thing struck me though, I was getting totally into it. Dicking around with builds, learning how investigation quests worked, having to pay attention to the world and story around me REALLY drew me in. There are some moments that really gave me the shivers, either of surprise or just feeling slightly haunted. This has not happened in a long time, and I think takes me back to a post you made not so long ago: I really do not know what to expect, everything feels new and different and it’s exciting!

    There is a lot of foreshadowing, it’s nice noticing some crap in the world then having it pay off a few hours later. Also, the questing system is actually really really good. At the start I was grabbing every quest trying to do them all and getting irritated having to pause all the time. But it shoiuld be treated like this: Pick up a quest and let it take you all over the map naturally. You may pick up a sidequest or two or you may not. When you get to the end, you’ll probably be at a hub, and if not then you complete a sidequest it and takes you off on another journey.

    It feels really organic, like you’re just thrown into this world and you’re stumbling about it trying to make sense of it all. You aren’t simply taking 15 quests without reading them and grinding them out as soon as possible then moving on.

    There *are* problems, the engine isn’t perfect (your friend’s framerate problems are not widespread though, something definitely going on there) and feels a bit clunky, there are some bugs (not on FCs usual level but still there).

    As for longevity, you said about playing it through i.e. rerolling but I think this game is made NOT to do this. There are no levels, you only get 3 chars, there is deck swapping on the fly and you can get every skill point in the game, rerolling seems kind of pointless.

    Will this last in the longterm? I have no idea, but right now it’s a breath of fresh air. I’m so over grinding instances and raids for months on end, TSW actually feels new and I’m already more immersed in the game than anything else Ive played for the last 5 years.