I’ve been playing Secret World a lot after playing the final Guild Wars 2 beta; I’m trying to get to the final area before the first content patch drops and the inevitable nerfs and changes. I’m constantly struck by how good the characters are. Story is always something I look forward to seeing in games but the Secret World is the first MMO where the characters are even memorable. Certainly TOR had great companion characters with pretty good back story but those characters were made to be good from the ground up, aside from a few cool characters (here’s looking at you, Thana Vesh), most NPC’s were completely forgettable. Guild Wars 2 NPC’s are up in the air, but likely to be as memorable as cheap vanilla ice cream, but Secret World dares you to care.
Secret World has the quiet shop owner, who saw the outsiders coming with trouble in their wake but who was an outsider herself and didn’t know how to alert people to the danger. There are the two gay archeologists who aren’t stereotyped as absentminded professors nor used as a blunt weapon by the developers as a sign of progressiveness. They don’t know everything but for normals they have a pretty good lock on the situation and are perfectly capable of defending themselves. There is the student at the Illuminati equivalent of Hogsworth, in a school full of weird she stood out as weirdest of them all. Flanked by the brutally honest principal and the kindhearted but strict teacher who just wants to survive the horrors; they’re wonderfully memorable. There is the Indian tribe with the decade’s long rift that split a family after the murder of a loved one. The two orochi scientists who are the best of friends, both striving to keep their heads in their own separate ways in troubled waters.
If TOR did one thing wrong it was that it voiced the mundane. No matter how well written or spoken, the tenth or hundredth kill/fetch quest is still the tenth or hundredth kill/fetch quest. Secret World plays to its strength, story and quest wise. In any other MMO the answer would be ‘that quest is so bugged’, in Secret World more times than not the answer is ‘you’re not thinking hard enough or you’re missing the obvious’. In Secret World less is more, Kingsmouth has a total of just over fifty quests, a large portion of them being the green one shot variety. It all allows for a short but robust area, that lends itself well to daily quest runs if you want to over-level. In the end the strength of the voice over in Secret World lies in the fact that most of the time is spent on the characters themselves. Little clues about the quests are sometimes dropped but mostly the voice over serves no real purpose other than to flesh out each and every character. Secret World is much more concerned with substance than style, and the game is better for it; proof that a dark horse can still teach the big boys a few tricks