Saturday, July 07, 2012

The Secret World (2012) Funcom

I didn't know if I could write about my experience with the beta until the game came out or not since I agreed to a non-disclosure agreement.  Truth be told this was my first beta, which was kind of neat.  I had been following the press and videos for The Secret World and played the facebook game and was generally excited to play the game.

As we all know I am a pretty serious horror/dark fantasy/ghouls and ghosts kind of guy as well as generally am exhausted of damn near most "high fantasy" (elves and magic and assorted fantasy crap).  It also turns out I'm not really a fan of most Japanese or Korean MMOs or standard RPGs.  This leaves me in a strange kind of limbo where I just kind of play EVE (sometimes I think because I don't have anything else to play - which isn't true).  The Secret World is a horror game in a modern setting across the globe.  Boo-yah!  I was really happy when I got the chance to play the beta a couple of weeks ago for about a week and a half.

My happiness dissolved pretty quickly for an interesting reason: the game cannot match it's atmosphere, story (or at least elements), and quests.  It's an awesome game that handles like a box of turds on mismatched wheels.  I keep coming back to the term "counter-intuitive" when thinking or talking about The Secret World's mechanics (along with cumbersome, frustrating, and profanity-inducing).  It has one of the most crafting systems (apparently the crafting is "Minecraft"-esque) I've come across - there are no instructions on how to use crafting in-game and the forums were tits-on-a-bull useless.  You collect assembly parts and blueprints (okay) and then put them in the shape of the...item...on...a grid.  But you can't look at the blueprint/kit to see what the layout is for the item and (I think) the shape of the item changes with the type of parts you're using?  Whaaa?  I craft in games, I like crafting and collecting junk, and an extra step of think-y would have been a welcome change to the regular spam crafting of many games.  However, when combined with the mewling botched abortion of an inventory system I actually ended up yelling profanities at the computer and just threw all my supplies on the ground (after a few hours of failed crafting).  Inventory control is terrible for reasons that there are no excuse for: no auto-stack, no auto-sort, no way to change the icons or have text next to the items, and there's no way to hot-key items.  This last factor was the last straw for my playing experience.  It's a dynamic combat game (which is kind of cool) and you can't just stand and whack at stuff and spam a la most other RPGs.  Right on, however combat also requires a lot of movement (seemed like I was doing a lot of strafing and running backwards) and enemies are kind of brutal (awesome).  But when you need a health pack on the fly, you have to go into the busted ass inventory and get the right...oh fuck, you died.  This didn't happen once or twice because I'm a total cock-eyed n00b, I even tried to keep the inventory window open with the items I needed at the ready but in the time it would take to use one healy-bob I'd get my face holes gang-banged by gribblies.  I died again and again and again in some areas (and not because I was under-powered because my gear was shitty because I couldn't craft anything better...oh wait...).

Another big fuck-up is the counter-intuitive and clunky chat system.  Chat should be clean, simple, easy to use for general chat and group - right?  Maybe I was taking stupid pills for my time in The Secret World 
but I could not figure out how to chat easily to other players in my vincinity.  I kept ending up with random chat windows for areas I wasn't in and the few times I grouped I couldn't figure out how to isolate group chat in a new window whilst attempting to juggle dickhead inventory and combat.

I think a great deal of my frustration comes from the immense potential The Secret World has and the amount of love put into the game.  This was made by proper horror fans and not just Saw wanks.  The three areas I wandered around made me really happy: New England, Egypt, and Transylvania.  I spent most of my time in New England since I was too underpowered for the other areas.  One section is very Castle Rock-y with brilliant references to classic horror writers and their works.  Another is Miskatonic University and another a mining area.  The creature designs (and I didn't tangle with the big boys) are really creepy and have their own spin on themes (I particularly liked the autopsied cadavers/medical dummies).  There's a night and day cycle in game (fucking awesome). 

One thing I was overjoyed by was the game's puzzles.  Yes, a MMO with puzzles.  Proper puzzles for certain quests and a bunch of different styles.  There's no hand holding either.  You're given clues and then it's up to you to solve the puzzle (one of which I admit I felt like a fucking genius when I figured it out).  I wonder how many people are gonna just skip the puzzle quests.

After thinking about the game and writing this I realized I would pee my pants for it - if it was a single player or small group (a la Borderlands) game (or there are faction only areas).  Actually I wonder if the game wouldn't have been a much better game if it had been single player.  On the server I was on there was a great deal of bass-ackward playing, missions could be completed because players were lumped up in one area trying to complete a goal (I think a rotating group of about a dozen were swarming over this one area that was a story quest completion point for the last two days I played) and thus the goal couldn't be completed.  It's a shame really, I would have been willing to over look some of the technical flaws (e.g. toons are kind of weird looking), but as it is I ain't gonna pay for the game and then a monthly on top.  Made that mistake with WoW and SWTOR.  Check out The Secret World when it's free-to-play in a year.  

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