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.
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.