Cheap Reviews: The Secret World

If you follow me on Twitter, you know I love Funcom’s The Secret World. I log in a few times a month and I always have a good time. TSW’s actually the game that put the freeze on my already rare blogging. I’ve played through several games since last summer, but I’ve been keeping up with TSW, watching and experiencing how it develops. I never took the time to do a Character Assessment or review about it until I learned that my unhealthy addiction to buying discounted games could be enhanced by writing reviews for the Green Man Gaming store. For every review, I can make 25¢ in store credit. Since I was already writing my thoughts about TSW on Reddit every time the game went on sale, I figured might as well cash in. Hence, Cheap Reviews.

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tsw logo

The Secret World probably won’t be the MMORPG that gets you hopelessly addicted. It is not a game that you will feel the need to spend every waking moment playing to the dejected frowns of your loved ones. Once you start, it’s not even a game in which you’ll feel like you’re behind everybody or that’ll you need to play 5 hours a day for a month to catch up. However, The Secret World is one of the most rewarding and entertaining experiences you’ll find in any MMORPG to date. It’s an amazing game that’s worth far more than the $30 they’re charging for all the 2012-developed content. Up to May 2013, there are two additional Issues (content packs) that players can purchase if so inclined, but they’re not required and there’s more than enough game already there to justify the cost.

Relatively safe

Relatively safe

They want your blood

They want your blood

You're going to die

You’re going to die

TSW is a modern-day, three-faction MMORRG that’s a compelling combination of adventure, action, conspiracy, and horror themes. At a basic level, it’s a theme park action-RPG where you arrive at a hub, meet an NPC, and take on missions. However, TSW elevates the routine by making almost every quest a story-based chain. Consequently, players won’t grab 10 or 20 quests and “clear the zone.” Instead, players can take on a selection of story and side quests, rarely knowing where the missions will take them or what they’ll need to do when there. In addition to conventional kill-X-many-enemies quests, TSW also gives a variety of missions that tell players to get something done without telling them exactly how. Sometimes you’ll find clues in-game and sometimes you’ll have to use google (Just be sure to add “-tsw” if you don’t want spoilers). It’s up to you to discover the clues and how to progress through the story.

Take a left at the corpse

Go straight for 21 ft, then go straight at the corpse

The stories in TSW are the cornerstones of the game with the major arcs taking the player to present-day New England, Egypt, and Transylvania. The developers have quilted together folklore with ancient religions and urban myth. They’ve created characters who live in our world (some of them have real active Twitter accounts), but travel in circles full of magic. They are members of the secret organizations behind every major world event. A player’s own character progression gives them the power to reveal more of the tale. There are no levels, just weapon and gear ranks. Players can buy ranks and abilities for their weapons with experience. More experience is granted from quests than from farming mobs, eliminating the need for grinding. Players will need to decide on the fly if Swords and Machine Guns or Blood Magic and Pistols or Hand Claws and Elementalism will get them through their current mission or if they’ll need another weapon build altogether.

Yeah, bullets should do it.

Yeah, bullets should do it.

7 Active, 7 Passive Abilities

7 Active, 7 Passive Abilities

Pick a killing tool

Pick a killing tool

I’ve been playing The Secret World for about 10 months. I play it mostly solo while occasionally joining parties to achieve common goals and using my Cabal (guild) mostly for chat. I haven’t discussed dungeons (5-man instances), lairs (high-difficulty open-world zones), raids (large group instances), or PVP because I haven’t spent much time doing any of them. From what I see and hear in forums, podcasts, and reddit, multiplayer may be the game’s weakest point even though players can’t resist helping each other while we’re all out doing our own things. Combat also takes some getting used to, but once you match abilities that synergize optimally in your build, you’ll feel like a warrior god. Endgame is not a focus in this game and there’s no need to race to get there. There’s no urgency to get geared up to be a part of the 7% of players who see the game’s most challenging combat content. TSW has tons of combat, but also tons of unique stories waiting for all players. If you’re wanting to have the same experience that you’ve had in WoW, Guild Wars, or Tera, but in a contemporary, real world setting, TSW will disappoint you. If you want a unique, massively-multiplayer, combat-based, adventure RPG that you can take your time playing, you will not find a better game.

-casualslacks

It’s true, I’ve been playing since August and I’m nowhere close to reaching Panoptic Core. If you’ve got any comments or suggestions about TSW or my little blog place, let me know. I’d like to make this spot more useful to more people.

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Character Assessment #3: Global Agenda

Once upon a June 2010, I played Realtime World’s All Points Bulletin at its original launch. APB remains one of the high watermarks for character creation in MMO games. It offered players an unprecedented variety of options to shape the way their combatants appeared in the comically bullet-riddled streets and structures of San Paro. However, the Scotland-based developer had poorly managed the development and financing for APB. It was underwritten by ridiculous expectations of immediate success and subsequently went into administration (bankruptcy court) by mid-September. That same week, HiRez Studios’s Todd Harris acknowledged the loss of APB by offering a 30% limited-time discount on his sci-fi MMO-shooter, Global Agenda, hoping to funnel one community into another. I did not have the hardware specs to play the game at the time, so I passed. Twenty-one months later, APB has been relaunched as APB: Reloaded, both games are free-to-play, and my new laptop laughs at any 2 -year old game. I will revisit character creation in APB eventually, but it is time to review people-making in Global Agenda.

You’d best come at these guys from behind

As usual, this is not a review of the entire game, but a look at the tools the game gives the player to determine who they will play in the world. This game does not start off with any eye-popping cinematic, but gets right down to having the player decide their character’s class; Robotics, Medic, Recon, or Assault. The classes break down into familiar pet DPS, healer, stealth DPS, and Tank MMORPG roles respectively or, if you like, the Team Fortress 2 Engineer, Medic, Scout, and Heavy roles. A short description comes up for each class giving the player a very good idea the kind of gameplay they have in store. Though nothing about the story is revealed.

Global Agenda Is an Equal Opportunity Employer

Each class in Global Agenda has its own unchangeable models for tough males and sexy females. The armor seen on the Class Select screen is some of what the players have to look forward to as they gear up. There are also various dies throughout the games used to color armor and weapons. Players will start the game tutorial barefoot in a default skin-tight high-tech leotard. Jet packs, armor, ranged and melee weapons can all be recolored later. Once again, there is no customization for character physiques.

However, once the player gets to put their face together, the real character creation process finally begins.  I have played few other games with so many options for sculpting a head and a face. Once the player picks a class and a sex, they will be met with 18 female head presets and 23 male presets. Presets are a deceptive start, but one that allows players who want to get right into the game without futzing about over a face. Once a user double-clicks a preset, they can configure the individual elements at a basic level with a Mr. Potato Head-style selector and at an more advanced level with a slider.

Depth Perception: Null

You’re better off being female and Asian in a video game than in authentic tentacle porn.

In tribute to my wife, I made an Asian chick. In total disrespect to my wife, this creation looks nothing like her.

In case it’s too hard to see from the screen shots, here is a breakdown of the options:

Both sexes:

  • 8 basic head settings:
  • 30 hair styles
  • 8 Eyes
  • 6 Mouths
  • 10 Noses
  • 8 Ears
  • 14 Skin Tones
  • 15 Primary Hair

Females:

  • 18 advanced head settings
  • 12 advanced eye/brow settings
  • 7 advanced lip/mouth settings
  • 10 advanced nose settings
  • 4 advanced ear settings
  • 9 advanced skin/eye/makeup settings
  • 2 hair and hair accessory settings

Males:

  •  20 advanced head settings
  • 11 advanced eye/brow settings
  • 8 advanced lip/mouth settings
  • 10 advanced nose settings
  • 4 advanced ear settings
  • 3 advanced skin/eye/makeup settings
  • 1 hair and hair accessory settings

There are an insane number of combinations available for faces and players will get to see their creations on the generic bodies during normal gameplay and in cinematics whenever they remove their helmets. The tools lend themselves easily to simulating faces from pictures or crafting whatever the player finds interesting.

Two-Thirds of a Tebow

Hatless in public? What is this; the 1970s?

I made a couple of characters in Global Agenda to try out its customization tools. Characters do not have their own names, only the user name. That is one less layer of immersion. Nevertheless, I played a few levels into my character to see other players and get a taste of the character progression. Unfortunately, there is no “hide helmet” option in the game settings. Consequently, in the low level areas, I have not seen a single player ever neglect their 10% health max boost by removing their helmet. Characters gain stat boosts with levels and skill points every two levels. The skill trees remind me a lot of World of Warcraft talent trees. In fact, running around in 3rd-person with a castbar across expansive landscapes doing kill quests for NPCs travelling from quest hub to quest hub reminds me a lot of WoW.

The similarities might explain why once I started playing, I did not want to quit until I fell asleep in my chair. I had thought that Global Agenda would have more similarities with APB than WoW, but only character head creation holds that distinction. While, I would prefer the illusion complete control over character creation, Global Agenda does so much in that one major area that I can’t help but feel like I own a part of their world once I’ve shaped a face I like. So I need to water that face lest it whither.

Character Assessment Grade: B

While this review is not about gameplay, I have to say that Global Agenda is fairly engaging and I anticipate logging into it every once in a while. I do not think I’ll join a agency/guild or ever do a boss fight in it, but I would like to see what characters can do at higher levels. I’d like to know if I’ll ever get a real feeling of power as I progress. One of the biggest weaknesses of the game a lack of visceral feedback. When I fire my gun, lasers and rockets come out without recoil. When I use my melee weapon, enemies dodge around until they fall dead. When I fall from 100 feet, I hit the ground without any screen rattling impact, just a crouched landing and wave effect on the ground. There is little sense of consequence. Nevertheless, there’s some MMO crack cocaine in this game I think. If you’re curious go download the client here. Then check out the wiki here. And if you’re ready, here’s TenTonHammer’s guides. I’m CSlacks in-game.

-CasualSlacks

The Repopulation: This Game Needs to Exist

I cannot be sure where I first got wind of this game, but some time in the last 5 or 6 days, The Repopulation, by first-time indie developer Above & Beyond Technologies, got my attention. Then I forgot about it. Then a guy on Twitter posted about putting money in their Kickstarter and I began to consider doing the same. Continue reading