Rants tag

Rants, ruminations, and rambling reports from the front lines* of the Massively Multiplayer Multiverse.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Templars and Dragons and Zombies, Oh My! The Secret World Preview

The Secret World early access starts tomorrow! I will not be part of it for nongaming reasons, though I do plan to purchase the game soon and dive in. This preview will probably be more brief and less detailed than I originaly intended, since I'm writing it four days after the last time I played the game. I also wish I had screenshots of my own play time, but the snapshot function didn't work for me.
There's a lot of negativity about the game based on the weekend beta. Ten Tentacles had some issues with the client that I did not encounter, and also the clunkiness of the game controls and graphics. Buhallin, on Syp's poll whether people will be playing, echoed the "clunky" sentiment and went on to say the story is lacking. Thade played in the closed beta and also didn't like it. Scarybooster posted two lists of what he read from various sources:
What [Scarybooster] mainly noticed from weekend beta testers were these statements:
1. Clunky
2. Poor character customization
3. Lacking graphics
4. Dated combat
5. Too niche
On the other hand, these are the things [Scarybooster] heard from closed beta testers after the NDA dropped:
1. Beautiful world and setting is perfect
2. Refreshing complex quests
3. Wonderful developer feedback
4. Very fluid questing
5. Amazing story
I'm really interested in playing a bit of GW2 (hopefully tonight) since Ten Tentacles compared it favorably with TSW's controls. Maybe I'm not critical enough of the current batch of MMOs, but the interface mechanics all seem pretty much the same to me: click on a target hit/click some buttons on the action bar, rinse, repeat. I haven't played a game that didn't feel essentially the same as WoW with nuanced differences. Often, the differences were a detriment to the "new" game. So I'd like more explanation from people who say this or that game is clunky.

As far as the character graphics go: hmmm, they're certainly different. I'd say from a basic art design perspective, I like Rift's female characters and Bahmi males the best, with SWTOR having done a better job with the (average) male characters. But from and animation standpoint WoW engine seems to be the most natural to me, after all these years. Other games just don't quite have that down, IMHO, though SWTOR comes close. Having said that, I am not too concerned with TSW's character animations, as some other folk are. It's a matter of taste, I think. Could they be improved? Certainly, but the game is already kinda creepy, so the "uncanny valley" stuff just adds to it.
I would like some prettier faces in the character customization screen. Oh! and along those lines, can a game besides WoW PLEASE enable graphics settings adjustment BEFORE I get to the character screen? Characters that seem too fat end up looking like sticks, because the default settings assume I'm on a 600x800 screen. (Maybe TSW has settings available and I just didn't see them.) [EDIT: Yes they do have video and and settings available at the login screen.]

Dated combat? Compared to what? I'll admit the moment to moment combat is similar to pretty much all the games I've played. AoC combat was very much based on position, and STO's space combat feels different enough. But a lot of games have some abilities that have a chance to hit as long you're "facing" the target, no need to aim, and other games have AoE and Cone effect spells. What more modern combat system did I miss? Don't tell me Tera, because, just no. I happen to like the combat mechanics in TSW and SWTOR and WoW, etc. I don't like FPS games. I don't think it's a matter of modernity, but preference.

[ADDED] The skill system is new and different, "classless," in that given the time and effort, you can gain all the skills available in the game. Right now there are no respecs, partly for that reason. This was seen as a problem by Thade, but I disagree. He thought he would have to grind the initial quest region in order to gain points to spend in a different school of combat. I figure I could just continue on, spending points to transition while still keeping the skills I have already gained in the meantime. But then, having played multiple classes in multiple games, I don't really worry about the specific way I am causing or healing damage, only that I am.

In The Secret World, your decisions matter, but they aren't crippling. I had an IRL friend concerned that so much choice would lead to vaporlock. However, the decks (essentially suggested builds) give you some goal to work toward, and involve abilities deep in the schools covered. I would say once you've picked a weapon you like, work toward filling out that school of combat completely, only putting some abilities in a secondary school if you want to mix it up a bit. Much like the Soul system in Rift, TSW's wheel takes some getting used to. But I like something different than a talent system that I've seen in every game, locking my character into a certain role unless the devs see fit to let me dual spec or something. [/ADDED]

I loved the clue-based Investigation quests. I liked that, although some quests seemed to be of the simple "Kill x Ys" variety, there was more to it. There were always clues to learn about how the World I had stepped into works. I liked the modern pop culture references from the first Dan Brown joke, references that fit the world instead of reminding me how clever the devs are. Yes, I love WoW's pop culture references, but they are silly. TSW's are organic to the game premise that this is our world, I've just discovered a new, terrifying aspect of it.

I loved that one of the first NPCs I met reassured me that I was a nobody, a cog in the wheel that was simply more aware of the machine. I loved that I had to look up information on the internet, not to figure out how to get to the datacron, but who that composer from the early 18th century was. (I thought I knew, but was mistaken.) I'm glad I knew about how church services work, but I still had to go back and actually read the clue again; because, yeah, it's not all there in the quest log. I want to spend the time necessary to really get to know this world. Ragnar Tørnquist and his team have done a wonderful job detailing it.

TSW will be a niche game. Niche is not a four-letter word, folks. There will be many who "get" this game; there are many who don't. And that's OK. It's not for everyone. Heck! WoW isn't for everyone, even though Blizzard tries, oh so hard. When Guild Wars 2 comes out in late August, people will flock to it. And that's great. I'm excited for it. Others won't like it or don't care.

TL;DR

The Secret World drew me in, just like games I have enjoyed in the past: WoW, STO, Rift, SWTOR. I don't know how longI'll play but I will play as long as it stays interesting. After maybe 12 hours of gameplay this past weekend, I had one character barely into the second area (and another barely started), and had not done everything I could in the first area. I haven't stopped thinking about it since: names for characters, backstories, mysteries. I've discussed it with several others who've played, read reviews, trying to figure out why some people like it, and others don't. Like many other things, it has little to do flaws in the game, and everything to do with personal preferences and priorities.

I'm very excited for the chance I'll have to get into The Secret World, when I do get that chance.

7 comments:

  1. I agree with that summation, pretty much. This weekend's beta testers were a really cranky bunch, much more so than both the previous weekends I did. I think a lot of keys went around and there were plenty of people taking a look with no real intention of playing at launch. There seemed to be a lot of looking to find something to be outraged by and then noisily quitting going on.

    I'm going to get two days of headstart then I have to be elsewhere for a week so I won't really get started until the week after next. Very annoying. And the GW2 launch date has pretty much capped my first run on TSW to 2 months. There's no way I will be maintaining a TSW subscription for the first few months after GW2 goes live, but then I fully anticipate TSW will have gone F2P by the time I get back to it, which I inevitably will.

    Nice to have so many great choices.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I may be getting sooner rather than later. I've really caught the TSW bug, but it will still be midmonth before I do, at the earliest. Glad you liked the game and the review.

      Delete
  2. I completely agree with your post, it sums up really well what I liked about the betas I as in. I also agree with Bhagpuss, this game will do nothing to convince the "FFA PvP or give me death"/ "Sanbox or Die"/ "Force me to group or just don't bother"/ "Innovation is it's own end, damn playablity" crowd that it's a worthy new entry. The cranks won't give it a chance, and many of those that do give it a chance still won't get it.

    For example, the different approach to questing (each quest is more of step in a storyline than a task) is subtly different from what we have seen before, and that subtle difference will be lost on a lot of players that either try to play TSW like WoW (they will come away stymied) or want a pure contentless sandbox.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's a post in and of itself. I've been thinking a lot about the flow of negativity against all games. No matter what a game to be the same or try to innovate somebody somewhere will not be happy about it. But it's rarely actaully the same people complaining about all those different things. (Not saying you said that.) :)

      Delete
    2. I guess I'd define a crank as someone that sees all new MMOs through an idiosyncratic filter that generally doesn't allow them to appreciate whatever a given developer is trying to bring to the table (unless of course the game happens to cater to their particular fetish, in which case they will hail it as the second coming). Certainly, I'd guess that the "things were better when we were forced to get a full group of tank/ healer/ DPS/ CC just to grind mobs safely" crowd doesn't overlap a lot with the "FFA full loot PvP or give me death" crowd :-)

      Delete
  3. I solved my first puzzle or investigation quest or whatever it is last night! It was so simple but still so exhilarating when I did it. It just feels so different, and I liked having completed the quest with patience, reading and thinking. I felt like I was in a horror-mystery movie. The experience of it left me pretty pumped for the game, and I look forward to the more challenging puzzles. Those who will rush through this game by heading straight to google without even trying will be missing out, but then again, TSW probably wouldn't be their game.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I had a a longer response to this, but it turned into something I'd rather make a post of than a comment. I'm glad you're enjoying the puzzles and such. I'm liking the quests, too. You're right, there are people who will want guides on the internet. This game isn't for them. Ironically, the game is set up so you can easily go search the web for answers.

      Delete