The Secret World, recently released is one of the top MMO’s this year. It is the latest addition to Funcom’s growing stable of MMOs, joining Anarchy Online and Age of Conan. As one of the newest MMOs to arrive on the scene, Funcom’s development team promised players something different from the current crop of games complete with innovative new features and genre-altering systems. What will it be like?
Graphics – 9.0
Speaking about graphics, The Secret World is one of the prettiest games I’ve ever seen played using DirectX 11. Each zone has its own look, sound and tone created through a fluid combination of music, ambient sound and mobs of monsters that fit the setting. The main cities are filled with the typical sounds of cities and all are bustling with activity of one sort or another. Sometimes it’s nothing short of breathtaking and you find yourself standing there in awe and disbelief. The Secret World’s character creation has taken a lot of negativity over the months since the various beta phases began. Players complained that there were not enough choices to create someone that didn’t suspiciously look like everyone else’s someone. At the time of the first beta events, detractors had a point but Funcom steadily made improvements prior to launch. While not the best, not as all-encompassing as other MMOs as far as the minute details of character creation, the system is not bad at all and it’s quite possible to make a very pleasing looking character.
Add in the gigantic variety of clothing available and each character will have a terrifically unique look. If that’s not enough, Funcom has continued to show willingness to hear the complaints of those who want more customization and have promised to keep adding new ways to do so. Additionally, the UI is appropriate slick and minimal in a way that’s fitting with a modern world where less is more and Apple’s design philosophy rules the day.
Game Play – 8.0
Game play experiences of players took a hit from critics and fans alike. Many players, at least in the earliest beta days, felt that the combat system was clunky and strange. Not so much anymore. Funcom has been improving the combat system and have promised even more changes to come in the future. Much of the weird feeling to the combat system, developers explained, came from the ‘untethering’ of the avatar’s upper body in order to allow moving combat. This has been a boon for caster types. They’ve further improved the system recently to make it even more real.
What I found is that the longer I played The Secret World, the less I noticed any combat weirdness. Since movement is integral to success in battle, I quickly came to appreciate what Funcom did for my girl. As time went on, I discovered that combat was both fun and thought-provoking. It’s not enough to stand and fire. You need to get on your roller skates to bring down monsters.
I did find, however, that killing the same four monsters in every trash mob on the street to be boring. The monster models seem to have little variety so it is like killing the same critters over and over again. It’s easy to get frustrated in combat since avoiding these trash mobs is difficult due to how laughably simple it is to step into the circle of awareness and/or the way that groups are spaced out making navigating between them problematic at times. I suspect that this is a purposeful design but given how often you’re forced to fight trash mobs, it can get a bit frustrating.
PvP needs some work on it. The arena style matches aren’t very appealing. The game play during PvP is especially tiresome, your thrown into a ball metaphorically.
The crafting is also somewhat of a weird. On one hand, the notion of having to break down materials and place them strategically on a grid in an experimental fashion sounds promising. But in reality, you will just refer to an internet guide for the placement of materials on the crafting “grid”, and you’ll soon realize that no matter what you craft the best gear falls in Dungeons or is obtained through the game’s many reward vendors.
Value & Longevity – 7.0
On release, players had two purchase options: $50 for the box plus a $15 per month subscription fee; or the box plus a $200 lifetime subscription. Given the amount of content that The Secret World shipped with, players will get their money’s worth in short order. The lifetime subscription also seems like a great deal but a lot of players are nervous about spending that much at one time (and who can blame them?). It does seem that lately The Secret World may be here to stay but previously I had doubt about it. I leveled to end game fairly quickly and noticed the game kind of just stopped once your character was maxed. With all the new content approaching, I believe the game will last longer.
Social – 8.0
Building a great social environment is more than just the players in the game. TSW offers a “guild” like system known as a cabal. The cabal system uses a common mmo system. TSW recently added the group finder tool so its even easier to connect to one another. To be honest, it helped the main population but adding “prosthetic” tools to make it easier hurts the role play value.
My guess is that over time, Funcom will improve cabal management and improve the in-game chat system as well to give The Secret World an even more cohesive social environment. Plus we know they’re already working on a dungeon finder tool. It’s been mentioned in the state of the game already.
Innovation – 8.5
There is a TON of innovation in TSW. Sure, there are some things that are much like other MMOs but they don’t come across as just another tired quest. For example, MMO players often complain about “kill 10 rats” quests. TSW certainly has those too but they are couched in such a way as to not feel like that’s all that’s being done. Part of that feeling comes from the way that questing is handled in tiers.
Players are also given investigation quests, basically puzzles to solve. Most involve research on the internet about the subject at hand if not actually finding a walkthrough of the quest itself. Let’s also not forget faction quests, crafting quests, normal quests and, most importantly story quests.
Not only do developers have an aggressive plan in force for The Secret World but they are also aware of the most common criticisms that have been mentioned. The bottom line is that TSW is a very good game right now and is a great game in the making. They addressed the majority of the issues. I have a strong feeling we have a winrar.