A weekend with the secret world beta and why I am sold

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#1 Posted by zaldar (1069 posts) -

My thoughts and why this game rocks:

Stepping into the secret world you are introduced to one of the most entertaining cut scenes in recent memory. A bee flys into your mouth and suddenly you erupt your clothes into fire then pretty much your whole apartment. Given time you learn to control your powers and once that is done you receive a visitor. A visitor that tells you she comes from an organization and that all those conspiracy theories are true. As she leaves she tells you the name of her organization and that you may have heard of it...the Templars. This sets the stage wonderfully for what is a game based on a dark version of the real world where the secret societies vie for control and fight "together" a common darkness.

Then you arrive in London and are told to find a "mad" puppeteer. He starts by saying all the things you might expect, but then that he will show you through the instrument of unreliable narration (emphasis mine) that's right he uses a high level English term and he uses it correctly. This emphasizes one of the best things in the game the writing. In case you don't know these are the people that did dreamfall and its predecessor. They know their way around an engaging story. If you thought (as I did) that the story in the old republic was good...you haven't seen anything yet.

As the puppeteer talks, you fall into a swoon and are taken back in time to an event that has been talked about around you since you clicked play. They make it very obvious you are inhabiting another player...and here you step into one of the best survival horror bits in recent memory. How many mmo's in what is really a tutorial make you feel like you could actually die...and actually make you feel like you are in so deep that you are making a real difference in the world? I can't think of one...but this one did.

If you have ever read any lovecraft (or seen any bad japanese horror movies probably) you will feel right at home. Tentacle monsters abound and you better learn quick how to use the gun skills the game gives you. Soon you are separated from the npcs that start with you and for an intro that had me going "oh *&^" several times the ending well...suffice it to say it let you know quite well the stakes...and they are not low.

You wake up and can continue learning about your new secret society and get ready to travel to New England. I choose however to wander around London looking for hidden lore about my faction...something I enjoy doing generally but after reading the first few you find easily was massively hooked on. My first three hours of play I didn't kill a single thing or even use a skill.

As I was wandering around looking for lore and reading a fascinating historical description of the Templars, I stopped to talk to npcs...not to pick up quests...but just to talk...and it was worth it. Showing again there experience with adventure games talking to NPC's is rewarding simply for entertainment but it also tells you more about the world around you. One of the most memorable was a guy named Galahad who sat in a park underneath a tree with a girl beside him. Evidently he thought of himself as THE Galahad from King Arthur but he was not like the Galahad I remembered. Having a rather lustful version of courtly love, he is either crazy..or perhaps not. The game lets you decide. The girl who sits beside him is also interesting to talk to and made me laugh several times.

After wandering around London I made my way to New Hampshire and Kingsmouth and was introduced more thoroughly to the questing and combat system. With no classes I was afraid it would be to difficult to figure out what worked and what didn't and be to overwhelming. A good bit was not unlocked during the beta but what was there was somewhat overwhelming but it was actually quite enjoyable finding things that worked well together, and the possibilities were rather limitless. I stuck to elementalism but added some choas magic passives that upped my damage over time. Mixing in some shotguns also looked like it might have worked as you could have hindered creatures to keep them away from you, and then used your spells to more effect. Hammers would have allowed you to knock them down...then move back and hit with elemental spells, while swords had an interesting flash step like move that would allow you to move away again and hit with elemental spells. As you can see the possibilities with just one primary skill (elementalism) are very open..and this was with only about 30% of the skill tree available.

Read the above again. See how range is so very important? This is what makes the combat different. In every other MMO I have played I just walk up to something and string attacks. Not here...back pedaling, strafing, and JUMPING (I again haven't played an mmo where jumping is important not only to get to places but in combat is important) are all incredibly important. This isn't Terra (which I haven't played but only read about and honestly don't have any interest in) but avoiding attacks is incredibly important and works well.

Lets talk about quests. Unlike in other games you can't hold many but that lets you focus on the story of the quest you are doing..and that story is excellent. Mixed in with very well done cut scenes you always feel like you are doing something for a larger reason than just to kill creatures. You are solving mysteries, helping a town invaded by lovecraftian creatures (the fact that one of the towns streets is named lovecraft way is not unintentional). And the quests are NOT simple. Not only are the creatures tough and many require groups (this is NOT a game conducive to soloing AT ALL) completing your objectives is actually hard. One example. The quest in the eight minute vid here. You are looking for sheets of paper that will finish a report and you do have arrows pointing you in a direction...but only a very general direction. When you get into the area, there is a circle on the ground (a fairly large circle) and what you are looking is somewhere in this circle. Ok you say so just go around and look for something that is highlighted...nope won't work..remember these people did adventure games before. What you are looking for ISN'T HIGHLIGHTED. That's right..welcome to actually using your eyes to find a piece of paper on the ground...just as you would have to do if this was real. And this is one of the easier beginning quests.

Other quests have environmental puzzles where you have to avoid instant death traps (horror show being a great example) that are VERY much a change from go here kill this, go here and pick this up and deliver it. Certainly some of these quests exist but the writing and the involvement with the world make even these quests much better than average.

And these are not even the quest highlights, those are the investigation quests. Here you are given only very general clues and you have to use your brain and research outside of the game (google is very much your friend but not simply for looking for spoilers). You might be given a painters name obliquely, and a hint of a location in town again obliquely (it reads like a normal commemorative plaque...but we are dealing with secret societies here the Illuminati...nothing is as it seems) you have to do the research find out this is a real painter look at his pictures and find in the location one that looks exactly like one he painted which will have an inscription sending you on your next clue (see all the clocks in town...hmm they all say the same time...and it did mention king Solomon earlier when you talked to the priest). If the above hasn't sold you....I don't see how this can't. I was enjoying myself immensely and then I found this...and all most immediately reached for my credit card to preorder.

Lets also talk a bit about difficulty. This is not a game where you will be racing to the top of the level cap. As I said before creatures are hard to kill and stay that way as you level up. You can go anywhere, and are given only tiny references to which area is best for you. With no levels quests are either normal, hard, or very hard. Do you group up and go after a hard quest in the beginning, or do you stick to normal ones? Choice is yours their are no limitations. I did the latter but as the harder quests got to be normal as I gained access to more powers...I still had to group up to complete them. This was a beginning area really, word on the street is that after this the difficulty of combat ramps up even more.

Corpse runs also make a return, increasing the difficulty. You die you have to run back to where you died and pick up your corpse..and hope the creatures have moved on...if not you start running and probably die again but hopefully this time in an area where the creatures will leave. This makes death once again something to fear and avoid, no other penalty is necessary. Going someplace where you are going to die a lot, because the experience will be high...yeah I suppose you could do it...but I won't be.

I hope this gives you a better idea of the game. If I had to find something bad it would be the memory leaks and the crashes but I was playing it with windows seven and 2 gigs of ram which is one gig less than required. Still the game ran smoothly with very little lag and the crashes only happened after about two hours of continuous play.

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#2 Posted by Shotaro (814 posts) -

Excellent read +1 to you sir. I loved the references within the whole thing also, Lovecraft Lane, Arkham Avenue, Dufresne and sons. All over Kingsmouth were references to H.P. Lovecraft and Stephen King. Hell it's even in Maine! The combat animations were lacking for me, but after reading the forums and dev comments etc it's clear that those things are being worked on. I've heard several people obliquely reference the closed beta as being far more polished than the version we played over the weekend, I have also preordered already, and I honestly cannot wait to play it again.

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#3 Posted by Wemibelle (2397 posts) -

I LOVE the world and the dialogue but I cannot stand the combat. It is boring MMO combat and I'm tired of it.

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#4 Posted by ZoomyRamen (255 posts) -

The start for me had the opposite effect, the amount of "1 week ago" then "2 days ago" made it so boring, I just wanted to play but also like my story so I had to sit through it and i was almost turned off by then. Also, fully voicing your game and not having your character speak makes for a pretty jarring experience imo also the fact they all talk without saying your name is also kind of jarring. Game wise though it did actually seem kind of fun and if theres a free trial i might check it out again. Wouldn't pay for it though, I'm pretty disgusted that you pay monthly but you have limited character slots and funcom are making people pay even more to have more slots.

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#5 Edited by Svenzon (941 posts) -

Very good write-up and I agree with you. I can't say much about the combat, except that it's there and it works. The big draw for me was the story, the dialogue, the sense of humor and the atmosphere. I have never really played an MMO outside of 10-day Warcraft and Warhammer trials, but The Secret World might actually be the first MMO I will actively play. A few of my friends are heading into it too, so I won't be alone. :)

Edit: I did have a few annoying performance problems, mostly in the London hub. Even when I set my resolution to 720 and lowered to medium settings, the game would stutter pretty hard. When I got to Kingsmouth I could safely increase my resolution and texture detail though. Can't tell if it's due to buggy beta code, lag or the game just being very demanding.

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#6 Posted by Jrad (638 posts) -

After spending about 2 hours downloading TSW, I turned it on and started to play. Less than an hour later I'd deleted it. It's not a bad game, but I don't know what I was expecting -- it's an MMO to the core.

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#7 Posted by Christoffer (2327 posts) -

I liked it quite a bit too. The lore seems fleshed out and the story elements were interesting (something you can't say about most MMO's). I also liked the leveling system. No character levels and I can get new skills wherever I am in the world. And there's not a ton of loot so you rarely need to go back to town to sell stuff. All in all, the game moved along pretty fluidly.

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#8 Posted by owack6 (320 posts) -

@Jrad said:

After spending about 2 hours downloading TSW, I turned it on and started to play. Less than an hour later I'd deleted it. It's not a bad game, but I don't know what I was expecting -- it's an MMO to the core.

Wow you lasted a whole of a lot longer then me.

you start the game to a bunch of cut-scenes that make you out to be special bad ass in this realistic looking world, and the first thing i see when i get control of my character is 20 people that look the same as me jumping on cars and thats when i knew what i got myself into and deleted the game.

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#9 Posted by RVonE (4999 posts) -

I didn't even know this existed.

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#10 Posted by MoonlightMoth (613 posts) -

The beta just made me long for Funcom to get to work on Dreamfall Chapters. I liked the setting and atmosphere, but not so much the game.

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#11 Posted by Funkydupe (3613 posts) -
Word from a Dev: The combat
Hi guys!
First of all, thank you so much for taking the time to test our game and provide us feedback. We read everything and we really appreciate it. I've seen some discussion about the combat. Some love it, some find it trivial, and some find it difficult to get into.
I want to give you some of our thoughts behind the design of combat and on the way forward.

The base abilities:
When we fist sat down to design this we were afraid that a lot of people had not played a classless game before. Our biggest fear was that some players would buy the wrong abilities, and thereby gimp themselves. Our solution to this was to make the first two cells in every weapon into a very basic build. The result is that every weapon will have a builder, some form of single target finisher, some form of aoe, some form of extra resource giving, a self buff and a very basic crowd control elite. We did this so that we knew if a player bought a full weapon in the base abilities, they would at least be able to play the game. This is the reason why playing only with the base abilities feels a bit sameish.

The base abilities vs the advanced abilities:
It's in the advanced wheel the weapons' personalities starts to shine a bit through. Out in the advanced wheel you'll find:
  • Elemental's manifestations
  • Blood magic's different types of barriers and spreading DoTs
  • Chaos magic's invulnerability
  • Sword's teleport to target
  • Fist weapon's combo attacks
  • Hammer's knockups
  • Pistol's gunkatas
  • Shogun's traps
  • Assault rifle's Snare-backflips

While the base wheel gives a small sampler on the flavor of the weapon, it's in the advanced wheel you can specialize. Each weapon have two roles, where the one role is always damage dealing. The other role is "tanky", "healy" or "supporty". There are 3 cells per role per weapon. Some cells focuses on single target, some one AoEs and out here you also find the abilities that don't require any resources to cast. We will make more and more of these advanced cells available as we move forward in this beta phase.

Fighting in TSW
I've seen some comments that some players play like this: builder+builder+builder+builder+builder+finisher, and then repeat. It is possible to play like that, but it's not necessarily fun, and definitely not efficient. Each builder build a resource for both your weapons. That means that when you have built to 5 you can use two finishers. There are also lots of abilities which will make resource building faster, in different flavors for different weapon types. Keep in mind that already in the base, shotgun and pistols can build resources on multiple targets at the same time. After that it's just to tab+finish+tab+finish etc. Also, remember that all melee weapons start with 5 resources, and that gives a nice burst damage.
My protip to you: Get 2 weapons and two finishers as quickly as possible. You won't regret it

In conclusion
We know that combat in TSW can be a bit difficult to get into, but please look under the hood. The base abilities are what they are - basic. When we open up more of the wheel, look for trigger synergies (crit, penetration, evade, block etc) and look for state synergies (afflicted, hindered, weakened and impaired). You can make some really cool things happen

Again I want to thank you guys for your feedback. I've seen some great threads about mouse mapping and different key mappings (I use 1-4,q,e,f myself). We will look into mouse mapping going forward. I can not guarantee you that it will be in for launch, but promise we will look into it.

All the best,

Martin Bruusgaard
Lead Designer - The Secret World
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#12 Posted by Marz (6055 posts) -

I liked it and there are some quests that are kind of thought provoking and not mindless kill X number of dudes... there is some of that but there's not alot of it.    The kingsmouth code quest was brilliant but don't know how many people will go through the effort of solving the quest. 

But like others have said, the combat is pretty standard affair and kind of boring..    I got to the point in the beta where i could use 2 weapons and interchange abilities together on my hot bar and it got a little bit interesting... but even then it's the same type of combat from mmo's of the past decade.
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#13 Posted by Funkydupe (3613 posts) -

Are there any successful MMOs with "non-standard" combat?

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#14 Posted by speedracer719 (18 posts) -

vary good read

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#15 Posted by Dizzyhippos (3472 posts) -

is this a 15$ a month mmo? I am super interested in it but I dont want to buy into it to have the player base evaporate

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#16 Posted by Dizzyhippos (3472 posts) -


what do you mean by memory leaks can you elaborate a little?

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#17 Posted by Brodehouse (10827 posts) -
@Dizzyhippos yes it is a subscription game. The player base is guaranteed to evaporate, that's just what happens to MMOs two months after launch. But I got no problem buying a game and playing it for just a month or two; that's how I play basically every game.

Join the Investigation Team!

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#18 Posted by zaldar (1069 posts) -

@Dizzyhippos: During the beta I had some crashes to desktop with out of memory errors but I was using only 2 gigs and they recommend that with windows 8 which I do not have.

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#19 Edited by project343 (2895 posts) -

This game completely took me by surprise. I figured: eh, I'll pass a weekend by with this beta that I probably won't like... and I think they just sold me a copy. Will it hold up as a competent long-term MMORPG? Maybe not, but the game has some spectacular storytelling and quest design. Certainly going to play through all the questing content and enjoy myself the closest thing to Vampire: The Masquerade that I've seen in years (supernatural, deep, modern-day RPG).

@Marz said:

but even then it's the same type of combat from mmo's of the past decade.

Ya, but where would you want MMORPG combat to go? I mean, it's mostly based on the traditional party composition of older RPGs (tanks, healers, DPS, maybe a support). And even then, most RPGs use hotkey combat. It's just an entirely-too-popular argument that I can't think of a solution to. Even games like TERA fall into the same core groove after you're done worrying about the added nonsense of aiming.

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#20 Edited by bistromath (748 posts) -

Finding it really interesting myself. 
Sure, the combat is pretty bad, but the game's got some heart to it; nice little quirks scattered about. 
Also, the game actually looks fantastic when you crank everything up. Something I didn't get from watching TB's coverage.

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#21 Posted by simkas (609 posts) -

The story and settings are all really good, but the combat is just so horrible and so incredibly boring that it's not even close to being worth the full price and subscription. It'll probably end up going F2P in a couple of month, maybe then it'll be kinda worth playing.

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