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The Secret World- Tastes like Heroes.

Posted by Ozzallos Monday June 18 2012 at 12:19AM
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Now don't get me wrong, there's a lot I wanted to like about this game; namely the dark and moody conspiracy theorist atmosphere that The Secret World inspires. Surprisingly it delivers on this promise to a large extent. The voice acting is exceptional and the world environment is well rendered along the theme of things that go bump in the night or may very well damn your soul. In fact, any MMO gutsy enough to induce a tutorial stage through implied lesbian sex at very least deserves a second look, but it's after that second look is taken does the moody emo veneer wear thin.

At its core, The Secret World is another Hero game. City of Heroes, Champions Online, etc, etc. You've played them before and now you'll play them again with just enough difference to hopefully attract the eyeballs nessisary to sustain long term operations and not immeditely fail out to free to play mode.

The first sour note the aspiring player will hit is in the character generation screen, where yet another developer displays just how incompetent they are in implimenting your MMO presence. Every time I think that a dev has learned the value of first impressions, a company like Funcom rolls up to the plate and completely fucks it up with badly rendered facial models, uninsipired body characteristics and bland clothing sets. Seriously guys, the next time you're making a MMO character generation screen, do me a favor and stop for a moment, then take a hard look at those faces.0 If your character has lips that stretch longer than your office desk, you're failing at it.

Next we stumble into the gameplay, which desperately wants your attention by claiming a classless, infinitely customizable character. So in other words, you're now playing Champions Online where choosing a weapon type determines your class. You even have a baseline attack that builds 'resource points' for other attacks ala Champions. Uh-huh. Now there is something to be said in the fact that you can combine these clases any way you like two at a time (hmm... like hero powers?), but we're hardly talking about inspired gameplay here.

Besides, all of that will be restricted when this game goes free to play anyway.

Also making an appeaance is an overly complex skill point wheel system that could have been simplfied into a single, elegant screen instead of the nested skill screens that makes you scratch your head in wonder. Sure, you get used to it, but it ends up feeling like a desperate stab at relevance. It's inelegant and completely unnessisary.

The world itself... Well, once you're done marveling at the brooding atmosphere and conspiracy tie ins, it's like the first gen hero games; completely subdivided into instanced zones. Remember the giant blue walls that obviously and artifically subdivide your hero games? Same here, just not as obvious. Everybody runs around a common area and when its time to go on a real combat mission, you port to another map.

Wheee.

Combat comes down to running around until your cooldowns are up, which to be fair is most MMOs these days. Where TSW would like to set itself apart is the aformentioned unlimited-limited class structure, that allows you to combine active and passive skill sets as you see fit, but only for a limited number of slots according to you weapon type; Eight or so of each as if I recall.

As an aside, claw weapons now miraculously inspire healing abilities somehow. And here I thought the heal gun was one of the more inane concepts in gaming. What's next, the heal knife? I know, let's stab our friends back to life!

Anyway, you don't get everything you want in terms of active techniques given the slot limit but you can save builds you like for later recall, allow you to adapt to a situation. Theoretically you could skill up every tech the game has over a long period of time, but realistically you're going to specialize only a couple first. Again, this will probably be the very first thing to disappear when the game goes F2P and it doesn't lend much to the game play anyway. Sure it's nice tactical touch, but they're sprinkles on an already bland experience.

I will give the game props for mission types. Not everything you do is 'kill X of Y for Z' and some quests are better if you don't engage in that behavior. Funcom at least tried in this aspect but I don't think it will be enough to ultimately keep the game off life support. In fact, the whole secret society thing loses its appeal far too quickly in many cases. Templars, for example, just walk around to openly recruit you as if they weren't a secret society at all and more like just another intelligence agency. It's a stark contrast to the atmosphere the game seeks to create; especially when it comes to your missions. The first, most glaringly obvious example is finding the giant wolrd spanning teleportation pad, convientely located in plain sight by the bike shop just to the right of that Harry goddamn Potter's train on platform 9 and fucking 3/4ths.

If it comes up for beta again, I'll spank it further with a stick, but I'm not seeing much to pay for unless you have nothing else better to-- Oh right. You're done with Old Republic already. I guess you could give this a shot. I'd actually rate this a fraction better than TOR for the attempt at creativity alone.

Subscription Death Match - The Fall of Old Republic

Posted by Ozzallos Saturday June 16 2012 at 9:55PM
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There's a lot of us that saw this coming from day one, but I don't think any of us thought we'd see it so soon; though maybe it was inevitable. There's no way Old Republic could have lived up to its prelaunch hype, let alone the pwnsome CG movies crafted for it. The final product was polished in some ways but epically mundane in the ones that matter, contributing to early stage subscription hemmoraging. Old Republic free to play has been specualated and rumored for some time now because of these issues, but apparently there's now substance to the speculation... Offical substance.

"So we are looking at free-to-play but I can’t tell you in much detail. We have to be flexible and adapt to what is going on." -Bioware, IGN

Now this could mean anything from your first 20 levels free to a full-up cash shop model [Edit- I'm told this may be 1-15 free], but it only confirms the writing that's been on the wall for some time now. There's also something else that's worth noting beyond the ITYS aspect of this story and that's the viability of the subscription based model. Some people will see this as the inevitable failure of subscriptions in the face of the purportedly superior F2P gaming, though frankly that's a crock.

F2P is still the haven for the weak and the lame. Developers would still rather have your money up front rather than wait for you to maybe-possibly-if-you-feel-like-it-today give it to them in a cash shop. Evidence of this fact is that Bioware tried the former before considering the latter, but if Old Republic's conversion doesn't represent the innate superiority of free to play, what does it represent?

If there is one thing that the MMO gaming industry at large should take away as a lesson from Bioware's fall from grace it's that gamers are smart. They're discriminating. And most of all, they won't spend their hard earned money on half complete bullshit no matter how big your name is. Certainly Old Republic had its moments, but you can tell where they spent the money and where they just said 'Fuck it, good enough." The failure of Old Republic- yes, failure -should be a standing notice to anybody looking to develop an MMO.

Don't waste our time.

If you're not going to do a good job, don't bother. If you're going to launch with large chunks of your game incomplete, don't bother. If you're going for just good enough, don't bother. It's 2012, folks. We can get all of that in free to play games that actually look halfway decent. Developers, if you're going to ask for our money up front you have to be better than these people. You have to have a quality product that stands out. 'Good enough' isn't anymore. The lesson learned from Old Republic is that gamers are tightening their standards and that offering up a halfassed product is no longer acceptable if you're going to ask for a reoccuring monthly payment.

In other words, don't screw up and you'll do just fine.