Category Archives: The Secret World

The Secret World: my favourite game I’m not playing

It’s always been that I’ve got far too many games than I can actually play. Most of the time, I’m happy just having them; one day I’ll play them, I will. However, some I really really want to get seriously into. The Secret World is one of these.

I’ve posted about it before. It’s a modern-day based horror investigative mmo from Funcom. It came out using a subscription model but now it’s gone buy2play, you buy it and then can play for free, paying for extra content and downloads with offers and free points for subscribers.

Anyhow, with my love of horror, Lovecraft and the slipstream, getting the game was a bit of a no-brainer.

But am I playing it as much as I’d. No. I’m still fighting zombies in the first zone and experimenting with my character build.  I like the way it’s done in TSM,  you can slot different skills and become healer, dps, tank or a mix according to taste or necessity on what’s called a skill wheel.

It’s frustrating. Not only is there the game content itself, but Funcom seem to be experimenting with different sorts of metagaming. In December there was an alternate reality game ( ARG) that was set in and around the Secret World called the End of Days, focussing on the predicted end of the World on December 21st. If you opted in you could visit strange websites, receive unsettling phones calls and be sent obscure e-mails. Players got together to decipher the meanings of all these on the official forum.

Now Funcom is experimenting with Twitter, the Twitterverse Experiment. Various NPCs have their own twitter feeds which interact with players, sparking new missions and mysteries within the game in partnership with gamers themselves.  It sounds closer to actual roleplaying than any other mmorpg has managed since the likes of Ultima Online and the original Star Wars Galaxies.

It reminds me of an obscure Lovecraftian roleplaying game: De Profundis that I have but haven’t run yet run (do you see a theme here). Here, two or more people communicate purely through letter-writing or other form of communication. You can be yourself, you can be anybody, you can choose your time period. Together, you build up an atmosphere and a story and shape a game world between you all. Interesting.

But anyhow, it doesn’t get me playing TSW. I’m reading the forums, I’m looking at character builds, I’m watching fanmade videos, I’ve thought about which cabals to join. It’s totally my favourite game. When I play it.

The Secret World: Iphigenia takes a bow

Well I’ve gone ahead and bought The Secret World; this weekend was early access. It’s due to launch officially tomorrow. I’ve decided to stay with the Templar faction, though I imagine I’ll have characters in all three (Templar, Dragon, Illuminati).

I’m on Arcadia. This is the official role-playing server, it’s nice to have one designated right at the start with no lobbying needed from players. Currently there are seven, including one German and one French. There are plans to open more if needed. Arcadia was originally going to be called Faerie. I suppose that Funcom decided Faerie didn’t have the right ‘ring’ to it. It would’ve been fine with me, it would’ve made the server less attractive to non-roleplayers bothered by a name like that as they randomly decided which to pick; putting off the numpty-brigade as one of my LoTRO kinmates put it.

 I don’t see TSW as becoming a big hitter in the world of mmos, not with there being so much choice in games these days, many of them f2p,  and with the forthcoming, far higher profile, launch of Guild Wars 2. I sort of hope that  TSW is aiming to make-do with a smaller, more niche, player base. That way it stands a better chance of surviving but it still needs cash coming in, may be more as a result. It’s had to lower it’s monthly subscription cost…£11.49  from £12.99, but this is still more than WoW at £8.99 ( I think) and it has a shop as well, normally a feature of f2p games, to bring in money. It’s not really a cheap game.

The launch seemed to go without a hitch, however those with older 32 bit operating systems found they had a lot of trouble running the game, experiencing numerous memory crashes (not an issue in beta). After originally suggesting only that people upgrade, Funcom are now saying that they’re working on the issue. As far as I know, they’ve been prompt at providing refunds to those affected.

So, Iphigenia Bell, hasn’t left the London starter zone yet. I’m exploring it much more than I did in beta, meeting npcs who reveal backstory as you speak to them. Previously, I’ve mentioned the various lore clues that you pick up as you play. There are Templar lore clues, here, which you find as you wander, an incentive to look around which I like.

I visited the local pub and found some nice role-playing going on; a couple of men, who had obviously just met, were wondering whether or not to chat up the npc barmaid, who happened to be a fairy; at a nearby table, some other people were complaining about the choice of beer,very authentic. Good stuff.

And have I said I love the modern day setting?  In a kitchen, I came across a Rastafarian npc, clearing the table with a fag hanging out of his mouth. Fantastic. I am so tired of the cod-medieval.

The Secret World: yay or nay

The other weekend I took a peak into The Secret World, during one of their last betas before launch. The game has interested me for a while with it’s modern day setting, hints at Lovecraftian mystery and puzzle-solving aspects that actually require real-world investigation. However, I haven’t been sure whether or not I wanted to invest in it.

I decided to start in the Templar faction. I liked the idea of starting in London, my home town, and the serious self-righteous idealism of them felt comfortable to me. I played through the Templar starter zone and spent a few hours in Kingsmouth, one of the quest areas.

So, conclusions; largely in comparison with LoTRO which is the mmo I know best, and bearing in mind TSW is still in Beta.

Graphics – alright, though not as beautiful as LoTRO can be. I was playing on Ultra-high settings. The World itself is rather static however with groups of NPCs just standing and little movement round about. There was a bus which annoyed me. It was a no. 36 bus and had the correct route on the destination board; it runs from Camberwell to Victoria, I catch it sometimes to get from work to my Monday tabletop gaming group. They’d used a Routemaster, withdrawn from the route in 2005, rather than the modern Volvo-built design but that was forgiveable; Routemasters are more symbolic of London. However, they’d got the bus, totally empty, lights off, parked at the side of the road, not even at a bus stop. I have never ever ever seen a bus like that, ever. Every time I saw it, it felt so wrong. It jarred totally. The tentacles and the gateway to an interdimensional world in the underground station were fine.

Modern no 36 Bus

no. 36 bus in The Secret World

             .

Real world no. 36 Routemaster..look lights, people, driver!

Character creation –  Choices for clothes and appearance are fairly limited. I didn’t like that you could only wear short skirts. You can’t change body size or height. Apparently there will  more more choice after launch.

Skills – it took me a while to work this out properly, but it seems flexible though all looked to be combat based. Each weapon has a particular focus e.g. the hammer is linked to survivability, so if you want a tanking build, you’ll select that and gradually find that the associated skills you build up, have a tanking aspect. You can equip any weapon, so as long as you have the action and skill points gained during play, you can have a number of builds. One thing I was less keen on, the skills are arranged in tiers, and you need to get all the skills in one tier before you can move to the next. This meant that I ended up spending points in skills I didn’t really want.

Levelling – there were no levels as such. You just gain points to put in skills. However, I noticed in chat that people, when forming groups, were asking for QL4 healers etc. This turned out to mean Quality Level of items. As you completed quests you were awarded higher QL, more powerful items.

Classes – in theory there are no pure classes, due to the flexibility of the skill system. However people were still asking for tanks, healers and dps. I couldn’t tell if it was just a case of old habits dying hard, or if classes were needed in this way. It might be, that in a premade group, there might be more flexibility and a greater ability to experiment with mixes of skills and roles.

Quests – I could only do a sample but they seemed fun and interesting, largely because of the setting I think. You select a main quest line and then a number of sub-quests which you can pick up as you move around. A fair number seemed to involve investigating and find things out; one involved finding out the number of a hymn and inputing it into a keypad to get a message. There are also scraps of lore which you find lying round which you can build up to provide more backstory. I’d say all this definately showed promise.

Crafting – there is a crafting system which allows you to create weapons and  items but I didn’t have chance to explore it.

All in all, I enjoyed it. It seemed different enough to keep my interest and has potential I think. I’m not sure if it will prove a ‘stayer’, it seems impossible to guess MMO shelflife these days, look at SWTOR, but I think it’ll be fun however long it lasts.

So, The Secret World: yay or nay

Conclusion: yay

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