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The Secret World General Article: Review In Progress - Part One

By Suzie Ford on July 05, 2012

Now that Funcom’s The Secret World has officially launched, it is time for us to begin our journey to the official MMORPG.com review. To do so, I will be writing four weekly articles chronicling my journeys through the game world.

In today’s article, I will be discussing:

  • Character Creation
  • Ambiance
  • Baby Steps
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Character Creation

It is no secret that Funcom has taken a lot of heat throughout the beta phases of The Secret World’s development when it comes to character creation. Players and media types alike have expressed dismay at the lack of choices when making one’s characters and there has been a lot of merit to those criticisms up to launch.

I have to say that Funcom has stepped up to the plate, at least partially, when it comes to character creation. Up to launch day, all characters during the beta phases looked pretty much the same except for hair color. Now, however, there are more customization options for players to choose from. Don’t get me wrong: It’s not perfect but it is livable. Players can choose options for hair color, eye color, different noses, mouth options, chin sizes, etc. Those are all fine and it’s quite possible to make a really nice looking character.

That said, however, there still isn’t a slider for body size so every character in The Secret World has the exact same body build which is kind of strange. Everyone is young and beautiful with a body that can usually only be obtained by working out 23 hours a day. That’s right: Rock hard abs, arm and shoulder muscles to die for, etc. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying this is a totally bad thing, just odd. My guess is that a body slider option will be added in sooner or later. At least I hope so.

Where characters really get a chance to shine as unique individuals is with clothing. The options at creation are pretty broad though most of the apparel is “the same thing in a different color”. Still there are tons of choices from the get-go. I dressed my girl up in a nice pair of cargo pants and a tank top with a pair of glasses and she was ready to roll. And I could have lived with that for a long time until I discovered Pangaea in London. Honestly, it’s a good thing that TSW players have a clothing store to shop in because, at least to now, I have not had a single item of clothing drop off a monster. But that’s just fine now that I have some ready cash to hit Pangaea’s. I could have spent all day there…well, I actually spent most of my day off there looking at and trying on everything. Talk about choices galore! I ended up buying a few things but am saving my money for a trench coat which just suits my overall mysteriousness in TSW.

Character creation was something I felt all along would be a make-or-break feature for TSW and I think that Funcom has done OK in this regard. It’s not perfect, but it’s not a game breaker.

Ambiance

The ambiance of The Secret World is nothing short of amazing. No matter where you turn in TSW, you are met with the right mood.

Voice acting is top notch. Characters and NPCs in The Secret World are nothing short of amazing. No two sound alike. There are those who are paranoid. Some are scared. Some are angry. Some are just down right…strange and each voice actor exemplifies who that person is supposed to be. The accents aren’t hokey either. It’s nice to hear Brits sound like Brits. Heck, partner, even the Cowboy in Kingsmouth sounds like the real deal.

The environments in TSW are another place where the ambiance of the game truly shines. Kingsmouth is packed with Halloween goodness…well, badness, I suppose. The trees show off the autumn season with brilliant orange, red and yellow leaves. No one is running around in shorts and a tank top…well, except for players. The townsfolk know that it is fall and they are dressed appropriately in light weight jackets and long pants. Even the recent dead are dressed accordingly as well.

The mood in Kingsmouth is dark and foreboding as it should be given the scope of the game.  There are creepy things around every corner from dead bodies to blood spatter to roaming hordes of zombies. Add in all the aforementioned Halloween scariness and you have the recipe for spooky.

But none of the above would seem quite as horrifying without the terrific soundtrack. The music is nothing short of amazing. Marc Canham did most of the music for The Secret World though Simon Poole added a few tracks that are pretty awesome as well. Suffice it to say that no matter where you roam in The Secret World, the music will help build the tension and ramp up emotions.

Baby Steps

New players to The Secret World will have a lot to learn both as far as the lore of the game is concerned as well as the actual game mechanics. The lore is simple and easy to get into. Talk to NPCs and accept quests. Players are treated to pretty damn good cutscenes that offer a lot of the story behind all that is happening in these Dark Days.

More difficult, however, is the vaunted Skill Wheel. The astonishingly complex skill progression system is going to cause more casual players headaches than any other game mechanic in The Secret World. With over five hundred possible choices, players can find themselves overwhelmed quite easily. It’s way too easy to make poor and ineffectual choices. Most troubling for some is the fact that Funcom chose not to include a respec option so once a skill is chosen, there is no going back. This was an intentional game design on the developers’ part as they felt it would break immersion. I suppose I can understand that but I don’t know that I agree with it. If a player makes poor choices or “experiments” and those choices result in poor or ineffective builds, not being able to respec one’s character punishes players for trying to do something unique.  Sure you can just get more XP and start a new build entirely, since you'll eventually be able to get every skill, but that can be frustrating too. In the long run, my guess is that we will see “flavor of the week” builds or lots and lots of players using the premade decks provided by the devs.

Week 1 Wrap Up

All in all, I’ve been having a great time playing The Secret World. Not only is it fun to play but it’s actually a learning experience. Funcom has chosen to break most traditional MMO traditions so the learning curve is slightly higher than normal. Interestingly, however, that just makes it more fun in addition to learning all there is to know about the lore in the game. My journey has just begun and I can’t wait for more!

What about you? What do you think of The Secret World? Let us know in the comments.

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