The Secret World review
[Continued] Page 2
So I’ve gone on and on about what I loved – so what did I not like? To start with, there’s something off about the combat system. I’m not sure if it’s just because I’m spoiled after playing things like Tera, Guild Wars 2, SWTOR or even World of Warcraft, but the combat system just feels like it’s not all that responsive. Sometimes it feels like things are happening a full second after I hit the abilitiy. Which isn’t good given that The Secret World is not an easy MMO by any means. Running the game’s first instance with a group of players that are MMO veterans, we wiped no less than ten times, and our gear was decent for the level. More often than not, it felt like we died because of this skill lag – something inexcusable in modern MMOs.
Something that Funcom tried to do differently was their skill system, which I mentioned briefly before. This system works in principal: you do quests, you get points to fill up your skill wheel and talent tress. Couple this with a “no levels” philosophy and a gear treadmill that starts much earlier that many others MMOs, and you get a continual grind. Whether this is a bad thing is largely personal taste, but I’ve had more than enough grinding for gear and experience for one lifetime. Also, these quality levels make it difficult to decide at a glance how powerful someone is, meaning you have to have them come all the way to where you are so you can inspect their gear before inviting them to a group – rather than just being able to look at their level.
I wasn't entirely sold on the crafting either. The concept itself was a novel one: arrange the components for a whatever it is you were building into its shape using same item value materials (much like Minecraft). Seems simple enough and it functions well - the problem comes down to the sheer amount of materials you need - materials you mostly get through breaking down preexisting uncommon and higher quality items. These items are far and few between, and you almost always end up outpacing your crafting as you progress through the quests, since most items you recieve are upgrades, and you end up breaking down your lower quality items. At max level, this doesn't end up being as much of an issue, however, I do feel that the crafting in any MMO should always at least have the ability to be kept up with your character without having to resort to the Auction House if you don't want to.
Oh, and if you're a PvP junkie? Best stay away from this one. The game more often than not comes down to a purely numbers game. Remember earlier when I said factions don't matter? For this, it certainly does. The game's persistant battleground, Fusang Projects, is more often than not, a flowchart of "Do you have 50 people with you?" If yes, great, you zerg the base and win. If not, you lose. Horribly. Really frustrating and a definite design flaw.
If there’s one other major flaw I could name about the Secret World, its that it doesn’t have nearly enough zones for a full priced MMO of its supposed caliber. The game only launched with five true “zones”, which are subdivided into several different quest hubs. Having five different motifs to explore got boring really fast considering how long you are stuck in each – the only thing keeping me going was the great writing, and the game’s main quest line. There did end up being quite a few boring filler quests in between, though, and it was during those times that I questioned why I kept going. I guess it was mostly optimism, as Funcom promised an extremely ambitious one update per month, which would add additional instances and zones for you to explore. It’s unfortunate, however, that the game sold so poorly. This led to massive layoffs at Funcom, including the game’s Creative Director, which leads me to question this game’s future, and indeed its entire premise: with its excellent writing, should this have been a single player RPG in the vein of Dragon Age, with a more modern setting? My gut tells me yes.
The Secret World is worth a look if only for its tongue in cheek writing and as a case study as a MMO that should have been a single player game. You’ll enjoy yourself for about a week, and then will probably get bored - in other words, if you haven't already checked this out, you're safe to keep playing Guild Wars 2. The way things are going, it looks like it may go free to play anyway!
Dustin Steiner is GameZone's eSports Correspondent! Follow him on Twitter @VGHC_Deitis and check out Video Gaming Hard Corps, where he is a local tournament organizer for the S. FL. Fighting Game Community.