The Secret World, an Urban Fantasy MMO Review

So, this weekend I spent some time gaming for about the first time in a year. I’ve been keeping an eye onThe Secret Worldfor a while since it seemed like something a bit different and, to be honest, it is. So, here’s my views on the beta which I played through some of Saturday.

The Setting: The Secret World is a Lovecraftian hidden secrets setting, modernised with liberal use of sex and violence. The violence is to be expected; this is an MMO, violence is basically what these games are about. The sex… well, also to be expected to some extent. It’s a Funcom game. Funcom pretty much sold Conan on exposed nipples, so a bit of titilation is to be expected. It’s handled with humour, but this is still a game which is probably not for the young or the prudish.

The plotline seems interesting in an apocalyptic way. The stores seem well put together and hold your interest. I could see me trying to play through the game to find out what happens.

Gameplay: I rather enjoyed the skill progression system, which features a rather more flexible mechanism than is typical among MMOs. MMOs (Computer RPGs in general) were developed by people who played first edition D&D. Pen and Paper RPGs have progressed hugely since those days, but CRPGs are still stuck in the “gain a level, increase you hit points and abilities” school. The skill progression in TSW is point-based, but there is still a level-oriented mechanism to it, which is disappointing.

Combat is positional and fairly advanced. It’s fairly fast moving too. My character kicked butt! She died exactly twice, but more of that later. (If anyone was playing and spotted Ceridwyn Brent running around the opening zones, yes, that was me, I was having trouble coming up with a name no one had grabbed.)

The Problems: The game crashed three or four times, once under circumstances which left my character to die. (Happily it’s an MMO so she just got up again.) However, the blue screen crash was more disturbing than any of the assertion failures. BSODs are not supposed to happen in production code. Beyond that, the game froze a lot. Running: game locks up. Click on an object: game locks up. Fighting: game locks up. These seemed like server-end problems too. Not infrequently the game would inform you that it had lost contact with the server and would you like to migrate to another. I’m worried that they would put in a mechanism to handle this kind of thing; it implies it happens a lot. The other character death I had was as the result of a freeze. I encountered no in-game bugs, but the code seemed unstable.

Now, this was a beta, you expect problems, but the game goes live in a week or two and I’d be hoping for more stable code than this. I seem to recall Conan was similarly flaky when they made it live.

The other big problem I have with TSW, and again it seems to be a Funcom thing, is that they just haven’t got anywhere to role-play. World of Warcraft, Lord of the Rings Online, City of Heroes, they have areas where people can meet and chatter, and they are bright enough to set up a chat system which is useful for taling to other characters. Role-players, if they like an MMO, are a wonderful thing. They take longer to finish content, they stick around even though they have run out of content, they keep paying money to play when the gamers have left for the next big thing. Funcom appear to have no idea at all about role-playing and role-players (everyone else knows about us, they just treat us like shit).

I doubt I’ll be picking up the TSW when it goes live. I’d prefer it if they fixed the bugs. If you fancy being molested by a tentacle or two, you can findThe Secret Worldon Facebook.

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One thought on “The Secret World, an Urban Fantasy MMO Review

  1. The MMO genre is one that holds little for me now. I’ve played a fair number of them, from the Korean grindfest MMOs like Ragnarok Online, to things like Guild Wars, Final Fantasy XI, World of Warcraft, EVE Online, Star Wars: The Old Republic, Champions Online, Dark Age of Camelot, Tabula Rasa, Fallen Earth, and of course, City of Heroes.

    CoH was the one that held me for longest, mostly because of the roleplaying. A modern setting with ample avenues for making characters, a great chat system, and plenty of open space away from combat for roleplaying. It wasn’t perfect, but it was better than what I’ve found in other games. (Also awesome roleplayers became excellent friends, like yourself!)

    But eventually I moved away from that too after 7 years spent heroing. I’ve decided to spend that £8.99 a month on other things. The last MMO I touched, SWTOR, disappointed me greatly with its execution and silly things that other MMOs have long since made better.

    I plan to stick with a diet of mostly indie games when I play now, and older games too, courtesy of Steam, Good Old Games, and things like the Humble Indie Bundles and Indie Royales.

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