Yolari and I jumped into The Secret World beta this weekend, and as I secretly suspected, my reactions were mixed. Overall I was pleasantly surprised, but as others are saying, this game is high quality but also a little sketchy in the bright lights of “primetime”–a release in a couple weeks. I’m not going to write a lot. I haven’t gotten that far.
The Secret World delivers a lot of surprises. Humor is especially present in the Illuminati intro. The Templar intro is maybe the best. The Dragon intro tries to be thought-provoking and Matrix-like. I wanted it to make sense. I’m not sure it did.
The game art is gorgeous in a creative way. The music is wonderful. The combat is fast-paced and slick, although I had fatal lagging with the double-tap dodge feature. The game was loading slowly, so on a few occasions I saw both ladies and men buck naked. These issues might be due to my underpowered CPU.
The graphics are really nice, as you’d expect for a game with steep system requirements. TSW looks a better than Rift and SWTOR on my machine. It isn’t low-end friendly. I’m working on getting a new gaming computer as of today. I do want to play this game.
The most fun I had in the beta was making a character that I liked, pictured at the above left. (I suspect she is one of those beta characters that you fall in love with, but can never quite duplicate in the actual game.) Yolari also liked her character except for the fact that she looks 30-something. There’s nothing wrong with that, but that’s not what she was going for. (See her avatar below–that’s from an un-retouched screenshot on LOW settings.)
TSW gives you a first name, last name, and nickname (handle). This is a nice feature. You can be named Joe just like a hundred other Joes if you want, while the handle is natural and immersive instead of meta like your account handle in Champions (maybe they changed that since launch–I don’t know).
There may be issues when all conceivable nicknames have been used. In the beta alone, I was unable to get my first five or six attempts at nicknames, including “Silver, “Silverangel”, “Rainie”, “Rainy”, and “Junebug”.
There were a lot of scruffy guys running about, and bikinis seemed more popular than my own lovely business attire. The clothing overall seems more Saint’s Row than Secret World to me. It was announced that the store will sell clothing. This seems like a good note to go to the negatives.
The worst part of the game in the beginning is not the cash shops to buy clothes–it’s a shortage of immersion. This is caused by three things: the NPCs, the character creator, and a lack of background.
The NPCs in TSW are actually great, and the full voice-overs are amazing. On the other hand, almost all of the NPC’s are serious, prickish intellectual types, and they tend to be forgettable. None of them are your friends. In fact, the first NPCs you meet tell you that you’ll never see them again. So. You can forget about them. They aren’t just forgettable–they are literally forgettable.
If you played Vampire: Bloodlines, you surely remember Smiling Jack. You’re a fledgling vampire in that game, and Jack is your early mentor. He smiles. He shows you the ropes. He calls you “kiddo” and makes you feel warm, fuzzy, and full of tasty blood.
The introductions in The Secret World really need Smiling Jacks. By the time I’d played through the three intros to the merging of everyone into Kingsmouth, there wasn’t a faction that felt like a happy home or like any organization I’m dying to join, and no NPC who felt like he or she cared about me. It’s better than the Age Of Conan escaped slave with amnesia, but I had no idea who I really was or who the factions really were, which leads to the next points.
Character creation is underpowered compared to Age of Conan. According to what I’ve heard, the betas have some fraction of what Funcom will offer at launch, otherwise this feature might lose more players than anything else. For example, I thought it was hard or impossible to make a very young or old-looking female or a good-looking (Asian) Dragon female. The sliders were also kind of a pain.
I also didn’t feel the intro sequences got me into my character. Like the Illuminati trainer, Director la Guardia, says–he doesn’t know how or why I have these abilities–the important thing, more or less, is to use them to kick butt. Yeah, no. I wanted to know more than this about my character and the world. A Bioware bushel more, preferably. I was called upon to jump in and start saving the world, but I didn’t know what the world was.
The Templars actually do a decent job of helping you figure out what the snap is going on, and all that with smashing British accents. Maybe I’m missing a massive in-game lorebook that I need to be reading. I click lore things and they disappear. No icon. No idea. No debuff icons on monsters either. This is a longstanding pet peeve, along with the tooltips that literally say things like “Does a lot of damage, plus a damage over time“. That’s wonderful. Is a “lot” more than a bushel, or less?
I haven’t done a lot of combat and character development yet, but as I’ve mentioned in other posts, I’m not sure seven active skills will hold interest. You use builders and finishers. I’d like to use a sword with magic like my old Vampire: Bloodlines character. This is apparently possible using the “deck” system, for example the Ninja and Gunslinger decks have both physical and magic attacks. That’s still only 7 skills to choose from in battle.
I kept having the nagging feeling while playing the Secret World beta that this game is what I’d like World of Darkness to be. Sadly, these factions are apparently vampire-haters, especially the Templars. The Templars are an arrogant, self-righteous faction who apparently look down on non-human races as abominations to be purged. The bottom image is from the Templar blade training. Yes, that’s a living creature that he’s having Yolari hack on for practice.
We’re thinking about roleplaying vampires undercover in the Illuminati–as a consolation prize for no playable vampires (that I know of). I have no idea why these otherwise civilized factions are compelled to kill each other en masse, but if you’re a Templar, the kitties will see you PvP-side. We’ll see who bleeds.