Did not see this coming:
When The Secret World’s game director released his (hilarious) Mayan Apocalypse video blog, I thought it was hinting at an extended free trial. I did not expect his deranged rant against the game’s subscription to result in the game going buy to play.
It’s certainly good news, though. I’ve been meaning to do a big post on TSW, so I might as well do so now and explain why this is a game that deserves your love.
I’ve had a lot of trouble figuring out what to say about this game. I have very strong feelings on it — not all of them positive — and it’s difficult to collect my thoughts, but I think I’ve played long enough to produce something like a coherent review.
Je ne sais quoi:
Have you ever played a game that was more than the sum of its parts? That just made you step back and think, “OMG, this is amazing”?
The Secret World is such a game.
In some ways, it’s the big, spectacular moments that make this game so cool. This is a game that let me play a game of riddles with Odin’s ravens, defeat a Norse god in single combat, and chase a rogue Templar from Seoul to Hollow Earth to Shambala all in the course of just two days of play.
But it’s also the small things. It’s the sound of TVs leaking through the walls of local homes in Seoul. It’s the Arab pop music filtering through the air in al-Meraya. It’s walking through the graveyard in Kingsmouth on your second playthrough and noticing headstones of relatives of NPCs you won’t meet until much later in the game.
The Secret World is not without its frustrations. The game is incredibly hard for an MMO, and I can’t remember the last time I spent so much time cursing at my computer while playing a game. This is a game that will test every conceivable gaming skill you could possess, and sometimes, its sheer complexity is simply overwhelming.
It’s an acquired taste. For the first few days after resuming my sub, I wasn’t enjoying myself much, and I wondered if I’d made a mistake. But like the dark whispers of the Filth, TSW will infect your mind. It will get under your skin until you can’t concentrate on your day because you’re spending all your time thinking about new possible builds or wondering who the man in the fedora might be.
I begin by saying this because, as I say, the game is more than the sum of its parts, and just talking about its individual aspects doesn’t do it justice. But there is a lot to say about its parts, too.
Character, dialogue, and story:
One of the things I find most impressive about TSW is that each NPC you meet is a character. A real, fully fleshed-out character. There are no bland quest dispensers here. Every character has a strong backstory and a memorable personality.
The Secret World also boasts the best dialogue I’ve heard in a game since No One Lives Forever: The Operative. I’d post a video of some of it, but I don’t even know what to pick. Moose musing on zen and the art of blowing up zombies? Hayden Montag’s disturbing lectures on the history of Innsmouth Academy? Daniel Bach on how war is hell — literally? Anything ever said by Said or Nassir?
Hell, I could probably do a couple of paragraphs just on Said. I mean, he’s a suave supernatural gangster with a fedora and a charming British accent. Oh, and did I mention he’s a mummy?
The joy and the terror of the ability wheel:
The ability wheel is what The Secret World has instead of classes and levels. Over five hundred passive and active abilities across nine weapons and an ever-expanding list of auxiliary weapons.
To make things even more complicated, most passives do not require you to equip the weapon they’re tied to, so mixing and matching from multiple weapons is encouraged.
The ability wheel definitely has its downsides. The sheer volume of choice can be overwhelming, especially early on, and it’s one major contributor to TSW’s unusually steep learning curve.
Have you ever regretted your choice of class or build in a game, or wished your character was capable of more? I know I’ve always longed for the day when my WoW rogue can take archery lessons and become a ranged fighter.
I experienced something similar in the The Secret World. I found my fist/blood build lacking in AoE and survivability, and I found myself staring longingly at the tanking and area skills of the blade tree and wishing I could learn to use swords.
So I did.
It took only one day of normal play in Egypt to switch from fists/blood to swords/fists, and I lost none of my old abilities, so I can change back at any time with just a few clicks. Now I’m mowing down entire crowds and face-tanking the toughest of quest mobs.
This is the sort of freedom I’ve always wanted from an RPG. It’s just so liberating to be able to play however you want on any character you want, and to be able to change at any time for no penalty.
Another interesting thing is that the leveling curve in TSW is reversed. Instead of progressing more slowly as the game advances, your rate of leveling increases exponentially. This makes getting farther in the game feel extremely rewarding.
Why you should buy:
So, yeah, this posted ended up being rambling nonsense after all. There was other stuff I wanted to cover — such as the game’s high difficulty — but I’ll save that for some other time.
The fact is I love this game. And while I think its MMO aspects — such as endgame and PvP — are lacking, the fact is it’s more than worth the price of admission, even if you just play it as a single player RPG and never touch the dungeons, PvP, RP community, or Manhattan raid.
For that reason, I think that this is a game that’s definitely worth checking out. Its high difficulty and mature content mean it’s not for everyone, but if you’re okay with those things, this game will reward you greatly.
And with no more sub, you have more reason than ever to try The Secret World. The new business model seems one of the more reasonable I’ve seen.
All of the content currently released, including the first four issues (patches), is freely available after purchase of the game, and if you buy before the end of the month, you will also get issue 5, “The Vanishing of Tyler Freeborn,” for free. Going forward, some new content will be free, but some of the major content from issues will be sold as paid DLCs.
The DLCs are very cheap (the first is $5, and the implication is this will be the standard rate). And personally, I’d rather pay for content than convenience. If a patch doesn’t interest me, I just won’t buy it, and this incentivizes Funcom to keep producing new content.
Those who choose to continue their subscriptions will receive a monthly stipend of Funcom points to use in the item store. This will be enough to buy any DLCs and have some left over for the store’s other items. Subscribers also receive an XP accelerator and other goodies.
They’ve added a few new items to the store in addition to the old ones (which were entirely optional and cosmetic), but nothing that screams “pay to win.” They’re mostly just shortcuts to things you’d earn easily in the normal course of play.
The amazing thing is that I’m actually considering maintaining my subscription for at least a little while, despite my utter loathing of all subs. This is a game that deserves my support, and some of those store items are pretty tempting. My Templar would totally rock those steampunk outfits.
Unfortunately, it does look like they’ve removed the free trial, but the game only costs $30. I still have three buddy invites to give out, but they only allow 24 hours of play, and that’s probably not enough time to get a feel for the game.