So, I’ve been playing the press beta for a few weeks now and providing you with some blogs about what to expect, hopefully with not too many spoilers as to what you can expect should you decide to take the plunge. With the game due for launch on July 3rd I want this, my final wrap up piece, to give some overall thoughts about the game and to tell you how you can get involved.
The first thing that deserves plaudits is the storyline, which is a mish-mash of everything you can imagine all placed into a modern setting. I never really thought about it while playing through the press beta but, in the absence of the multi-player aspect, it actually still felt like an extremely deep and layered single player game, which you can’t really boast about many MMORPGS. I thought back to my days soloing in a few other titles and thinking about how bored I became in a short space of time only to be told “really, you need to play these games with friends”. While I’m confident that the MMO aspect of The Secret World will enhance the experience, the reality is if you just wanted to play it standalone you’d still find a huge game.
Secondly is that while it hasn’t totally reinvented the genre it has at least refined it in some aspects. Doing away with levels and classes and leaving it open to the player how you choose to specialise, what weapons and therefore what attacks you have, is something that probably should already be a genre staple by now. Instead of choosing broad archetypes leading to little separation in the game for players – you know, you’re either a tank, a healer, whatever – you have a lot more control that allows you to either conform to that or try and straddle some middle ground between the two.
This also means the way that your character looks can also be customised in any way that you like. Dotted around the world will be shops, the boutiques of Paris, the fashion high street stores of London, the futuristic garb to be found in Tokyo. Because it’s not class specific armour or whatever, it means that potentially you’re not going to come across anyone who looks like you. It sounds trivial but it matters. If you’re going to invest hours and hours into a game the least you can hope for is not having someone come along looking exactly the same as you, with the same items, equipment and abilities. It would somewhat damped the experience.
The way the game is going to be set up is going to feel episodic. Certainly that’s the impression I’ve got, that each “investigation” is going to have a clear beginning, a middle where you can explore and complete sub-quests, and then a definitive end, before you move on to the next one. These chapters are usually divided up into a series of ever increasingly difficult boss-fights, something that gives the game an almost arcade feel despite the genre and something of a throwback to the traditional gaming experience.
The one concern I would voice at this point is linearity. It’s not clear from the press beta whether or not these episodes will be completed by all players in the same or very similar order, or whether there’ll be some kind of autonomy in choosing where to go and what to do in the finished product. This isn’t abnormal for the genre by any means if it does turn out to be the case however it would be something of a missed opportunity in a world that is so vast and full of unlimited potential if every player had the same experience before arriving at the end game of dungeon runs and so forth.
Which does bring to me dungeons. The press beta came in phases and part of this was to show what people could expect from the “dungeons” in the game. Conceptually they are in keeping with the rest of the tone of the game, so after surviving the horrors of Kingsmouth what was waiting for us was an area called the Savage Coast where it just so happened that the gates of Hell themselves have opened up in a seedy looking motel.
There are many positive differences between this and a standard MMORPG dungeon run, or instance if you prefer. The first is that there are not swathes of lesser creatures to gut through before you get to one of sub-bosses. In other titles these evaporate time, sap your resources but ultimately pose little threat and require little effort to get past. Those creatures that are in the way are generally a precursor to what you will see from a boss, so in other words they show you how the boss will fight on a much easier scale so it doesn’t come as surprise when you encounter it for the first time.
This doesn’t ease the learning curve any and those who have played other titles and yawned all the way through as they make another loot run might just find the challenge they are looking for here. Again, it’s not clear how many of these there will be from launch or indeed how soon players can get stuck into them but certainly it shows that those who want to posse up in groups of friends and go out to earn some serious gear and experience aren’t going to be disappointed.
There’s lots to enjoy about The Secret World and in the few weeks I’ve been playing I’ve only scratched the surface and clearly there’s the promise of something different from what is already out there. In a few weeks you’ll be able to judge for yourselves when The Secret World becomes not so secret.
To discover The Secret World head over to The Secret World homepage and check it out for yourselves