Sunday, May 13, 2012

Great Expectations

I’m playing The Secret World beta, a MMO I am rapidly falling in love with. It’s a game that doesn’t understand the concept of hand holding. Other than a small prologue area the game basically throws you in the deep end and tells you to swim. Maybe it’s not the wisest of choices for long term viability but it is rather refreshing to see a game that doesn’t assume you’re incapable of figuring things out. I have high expectations for Funcoms new MMO, and I look to be playing this for years to come.

It is a very interesting phenomenon; Secret World is one of the few MMOs of the market that don’t fall into one of two categories; the high fantasy world or the hard sci-fi world. Instead the game falls under the urban fantasy or survival horror genre. Zombies, werewolves, vampires, demons, ghosts, ghouls, spirits, Secret World has them all. Every monster from culture gets face time. Most of the time, though, you’re struck by the simple need for people to make sense of the nightmares around them and how they try to hold together the world they love even as it breaks apart.

You start off in New England, though not the northeastern U.S. that you’ve ever seen on an American history show or read about in a book. Zombies have taken over a small town and the dead are giving the living a run for their money. Enter the small town sheriff, she tasks you with finding out what happened to her town and the mystery just keeps spiraling from there. Transylvania, Egypt, Agartha, the game has some of the world’s most interesting locales, including the legendary and mythical, to choose to bring to life.

I'm afraid though that Funcom might have made things too complicated for a lot of people. Funcom has a reputation for less than stellar launches and The Secret World is not your typical MMO. From crafting and investigation missions to just simple things like skill builds; there are very few things about Secret World that are uncomplicated. I fear that people will run into things they don't understand or can't solve and will cry foul and say 'it's just buggy'. I've even read previews from game journalists that point to an astonishing lack of understanding of the game rules. Whatever people say about hand holding and the like when it comes down to it they really just want to power level to the endgame as fast as possible. Like SWTOR, in the long term, I feel that Funcom has created something very special here but I don't know that most people will stick around to figure it all out.

I quietly expect great things from Funcoms Secret World. Expectations are funny things; they can shape your perception for the better or the worse. Raise them up to meteoric proportions and you are almost always disappointed but keep a firm grasp of reality and you will rarely be disappointed. So I say this, The Secret World looks like a dark horse challenger but has all the makings of a champion; how is that for a firm grasp of reality.

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