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Funcom | Play Now
MMORPG | Genre:Real Life | Status:Final  (rel 07/03/12)  | Pub:Funcom
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And now for something completely differen --- TSW

TSW is not WoW. Discussion of different types of MMORPGs and games relevant to player experience and expectations.
Final Score

8.2
Great

Pros
 
 Beautiful environmental graphics
 Based heavily on real world lore
 Requires extensive background to get in-jokes
 Player imagination and knowledge is key to understanding in game events
 Tremendous range for future expansion
Cons
 
 Character graphics/animations not all that
 Based heavily on real world lore
 Requires extensive background to get in-jokes
 Player imagination and knowledge is key to understanding in game events
 Crafting and other details still need work
Disclaimer: The following article is the sole opinion of its author and does not represent MMORPG.com in its thoughts or opinions. This is not an official MMORPG.com editorial article.

This review isn't "I give the graphics an 8, the gameplay a 4, etc..." It's about the nature of the game and who is likely to enjoy it (or not). If this isn't what you're looking for, don't complain if that's not what I've written. You've been warned.

If I could, I'd give TSW two scores. One as a classic MMORPG where the goals are to smack down the mobs and get the purples, where it would fare poorly. The second is as an immersive experience in an alternate reality where interacting with the environment and pretending to be a denizen of that reality is the goal, where it fares very well.

This article is about the latter. There have already been plenty of reviews of TSW as a classic MMORPG. The animations aren't great, the character generation is rather sad, the combat can be awkward and sometimes frustrating, and gear often annoying to get. You can get stuck grinding for gear to move on or with a bad build and have to go back to rework it. If you're not a 1337 gamer, it's very easy to get trapped at a point in the story and have to backtrack to fix things. Those are the fundamental problems with TSW as a traditional MMORPG player. 'Nough said, now for the good parts ...

If you have read Lovecraft and King and Poe and Crowley and Blavatsky and ... the world is incredibly rich with lore and in-jokes. If John Carpenter, Ed Woods and George A. Romero are directors you return to time and again, you'll love TSW. This is not to mention the references to just about every occult and open world religion in one direction or another, from the side of bizarre little bits of history to completely off the hook, ungrounded speculation. (Some of this is hysterically funny.)

That is also the biggest problem with TSW. If you try to play it without at least some background in history (particularly of the occult), film/fiction horror, and yes, the Bible, too much of what's going on is only so much noise. It's possible to enjoy WoW without having ever read a single page outside of school. Even LOTRO is fun without knowing so much Tolkien lore as you can fit in three paragraphs.

The folks at Funcom didn't put the rest of the lore into the game. It isn't spoon fed to the player. If you don't have the background coming in, very little makes sense. Any more than trying to play a game of Scrabble where everyone else is not only in a different language, but using different alphabet tiles! That's no fun.

And the fun in TSW is about the journey, not the destination. I played SWTOR and WoW and EQ2 and Rift and AO and EVE and LOTRO and GW2 and GW and ... all the way back to DR and even earlier with RPGs like Wizardry (1-8) and Ultima (1-3) and Zork and Adventure. I've messed around with MUDs and MUSHes and all those antiques, where online was IRQ channels and even when people needed multiple phone lines to create chat spaces. Where folks would role play without numbers or paper or one whole heck of a lot of anything except their imaginations.

TSW actually invokes a lot of that feel, where you have to put your imagination into it, which means for many modern gamers, it's flat and lifeless. The mechanics aren't the game, but rather in TSW the mechanics support the real game, which is in the player's heads.

Stephen King made a fantastic point in On Writing. Paraphrased, "Writing is a form of telepathy. The words I put on the paper go into people's heads." TSW tries to put the images and concepts of another world into the player's heads through symbols and graphics. I think it succeeds quite admirably, but I understand the meaning behind those symbols, just as the reader has to understand the words King puts on the page to enjoy his books.

I generally tend to collect MMORPGs into two categories. 1) WoW and company, where there isn't much (if any) thought involved ,and you run around and kill stuff and collect stuff and it's fun for a diversion when between jobs or after a hard day at work. Nothing wrong with that. It's the 'after shift beer' pleasure. Your feet are tired and you just want to have fun. 2) AO, EVE and now TSW, where you have to think and plan and don't always get it right but there's always another challenge around the corner or even seeing if there's a quest you missed under some rock or on the other side of that hill over there. This is the single malt or brandy by the fire on a winter's evening with a good book. Different things.

I'd like to see crafting in TSW upped to the level it is in AO (still my favorite crafting system so far of the 'put the parts together' variety) and the animations cleaned up and the sometimes glitchy English smoothed out. But that's not a type two game for me. Their pleasure for me is in the story. WoW is slick as whale snot at this point. Rift is a dream if you want smooth, elegant, pretty and nearly bugless play. They're 'love in a canoe' beer. Of COURSE they're as close to perfectly smooth .. and tasteless, as you can get. That's the point of what I call a type one game.

So, I just hope TSW survives because I like both. Your mileage will vary. What do you want? I wouldn't call either worse or better than the other; they're different.

As a type one game, I give TSW about a 5-6 because it is glitchy, occasionally frustrating and the mechanics aren't all that spectacular. (Although the world graphics are stunning.) As a type two game, I would give it a 9. It isn't perfect, the crafting most notably needs work, but overall the level of detail and imaginative immersion are amazing. Sometimes literally. There have been times I've simply sat there and stared at something going on in awe. 

 

More The Secret World Features:

The Secret World - Bee Yourself Column added on Tuesday July 22
The Secret World - Two Years of TSW Column added on Tuesday July 08
The Secret World - Investigate This Column added on Tuesday June 24

More Features:

The RPG Files - Square Enix Crushes Fan Mod Column added on Friday July 25
Firefall - Red5's Second Shot Nails Its Target Column added on Friday July 25
 
ereyethirn writes: 

I actually really agree with this reveiw... I've never played AO so I'm not sure what the crafting you wante was but for the sort of game it is, the crafting is perfect imho. I love how it has no ties to getting better over time with levels schematics etc. And how its just 100% you can make what you want in whatever way you like as long as you have the materials. 

11/20/12 12:10:54 AM  / Report
 
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