The Secret World: Welcome to Happyville

I looked up and the clock said 12:15 a.m.  Not good.  I just felt like I had gotten into the game, and here it was three hours later.  I guess what I’m saying is that The Secret World is initially proving to have the “just ten more minutes” effect, and that’s a good thing.

It’s easy to be over-excited and exuberant on the first day of a game, but even so, I’ve got a special feeling about this title.  Whether it lasts a long time for me or is good for a couple months is almost irrelevant; I’m not looking for a new long-term MMO home, I just want a good game with a great story.  I think The Secret World may prove to be just that.

I rolled Sylvia “Yeti” Perkins as a Templar, which apparently 80% of the early start crowd did too (if PvP reports from guildies are to be believed).  I’ve spent maybe five hours in the game so far, and have come away charmed by a very different type of MMO experience.  I think “different” is good in TSW’s case, because even if it relegates to a permanent niche status, at least it’s hard to label as a copycat of anything else.  It’s just kind of its own beast, and it takes a large mental shift to get into the game’s desired groove.

So here’s a jumble of things I did and did not like after the first day:

Things I Liked:

  • The NPC characters and voices are, on the whole, genuinely interesting.  I have no problem just going through all the dialogue options with everyone, because they’re short stories in and of themselves.  Maybe you can argue that they’re all too colorful, but that’s part of the fun here.  I’m finding these NPCs much more interesting than the questgivers in SWTOR.
  • I don’t get the accusations that TSW’s quests are same-old, same-old.  Honestly, they feel incredibly varied and much more involved with narrative.  I like how there are different types of missions that give you widely different experiences, from straight-up fighting quests to put-on-your-thinking-cap investigative quests to stealth-and-sneakery sabotage quests.  The little intro cutscenes to each quest are much more interesting than text boxes (although you get those too).   I’ve already done such a wide variety of missions, many of which challenged me to observe and think, and that’s a major thumbs-up from me.
  • I like how you can only have a handful of quests at a time.  It really forces you to focus on a particular story or two, and keeps them from feeling like you’ve picked up a grocery list of things to get and do.  There are also plenty of objects in the world that trigger quests, and those are fun to find along the way.
  • Funcom’s definitely added character customization options so you can — with careful planning — not look hideous.  And the clothes are cool.
  • Actually, the whole contemporary setting is cool.  It’s something we connect with so much stronger than fantasy, because we have a lot more experience with it.  It’s what I liked about Fallen Earth as well — the contemporary trappings.
  • Climbing ladders was a pleasant surprise.
  • It’s definitely a dark game, and if you like a little bit of horror and edginess to your stories, TSW has it in spades.  I can’t say I’ve been creeped out or scared yet, but the opening town of Kingsmouth is definitely like Halloween a la Stephen King.
  • The ability wheel and skill point system allow for a lot of flexibility, and I like constantly earning points to spend in them.  I initially started with chaos magic, but found I disliked it.  No problem: I dumped some points into shotgun, found a weapon, and there I go.  No need to reroll or anything.
  • Because the game is divorced by levels, the only barrier to progression is just getting stronger across the board.  But since I’m not outleveling mobs (not that I can tell), I can still earn XP and keep that AP rolling in.  So I’m very much taking my time and hitting everything I can.
  • The zombie mobs look fantastic if you examine them up close.
  • I definitely want to learn more about the secret world and its lore.  Lots of stories here, and I’m ready to experience them.
  • I didn’t experience any bugs, and only had one crash to desktop when I was fiddling around with the in-game browser.
  • Nice customization of UI.  Every option I needed was right there.

Things I Disliked:

  • My goodness are some of the NPCs insanely ugly.  I’m not expecting them all to look like models or anything, but a few of their faces (especially the women) can be off-putting to behold.  Even the main character of Rose looks all duck-lipped.
  • Three magic schools, three melee weapon types, and three ranged weapon types seems… limited.  I know there’s a lot of mix-and-matching and advanced specs, but at first glance, it feels smaller than it should.
  • Mobs can go from two-shot easy to long, drawn-out fights, and I’m having a hard time putting those tougher ones down.  The jump of toughness seems a little uneven.
  • Guild/cabal roster doesn’t seem to be working.  Can’t see who’s logged in.
  • Can’t figure out how to make chat font size larger.  Maybe I’m missing it.  But it’s too small for me on this resolution.
  • There are just three main PvE areas of the game — New England, Egypt, Transylvania.  I know there are multiple zones within them and a LOT to do, but that feels very limited from what should be a world-wide jaunt.  I was hoping for many more locations.
  • Not all mobs drop loot.  Haven’t found any costume pieces yet.  Don’t really know how all the stats work or what I should be going for.
  • Being armed to the teeth and almost constantly surrounded by others really limits how scary this game can be.
  • Some of the mobs move too much and I can never get a clear look at their faces.  Small thing, but I like seeing details.
  • The in-game store was pretty borked and it took a long time to claim my pre-order items.

But all of that is, of course, very initial impressions.  Looking forward to getting some good time in with this title this weekend and bringing you back more tales.


18 thoughts on “The Secret World: Welcome to Happyville

  1. Callomac June 30, 2012 / 12:21 pm

    I agree with your assessment of the quests and atmosphere of the game; TSW is fairly different than other MMOs I have played, has pretty scenery, and was very enjoyable. I did have two problems with the game (both from last weekend’s beta; I have not played since last weekend):
    – The game failed to recognize the edge of the screen (in full-screen mode) when playing with multiple monitors (the mouse does not stop at the edge of the screen; it passes unbounded onto the second monitor). Far-too-often, in the midst of battle, I accidentally mouse-clicked on my second screen, which minimized the TSW window, causing me to die in game (since usually happened during a battle). I can, of course, turn off the second monitor when playing TSW, but they really should fix it so that the mouse is bounded by the edge of the screen when playing in full screen mode.
    – I experienced a lot of performance problems, with occasional lag and frequent frame-rate problems. I have a fairly new and relatively fast processor, and high end video card, and should have had no trouble running the game.
    But, overall, in my brief play time I found this an enjoyable entry into the MMO genre.

  2. Oneshard June 30, 2012 / 12:39 pm

    Nice write up, the weapons abilities get for diverse later on.

  3. biophazer242 June 30, 2012 / 12:57 pm

    I broke my word and decided to go with the early access and have been quite pleased with the result. I have had almost no lag, only a bit of a delay with logging in and no trouble with my pre-order items.

    I think a lot of the complaining about the quests being the same old thing are probably from people that click the quest and just skip the dialogue, just like in most other MMOs. Most quests are at their core the same old thing, but they are layered with lots of interesting content and dialogue. Anyone can stock a starter area with lots of go kill those guys quests, but to me there seems to be more depth here.

    I certainly hope the “I hate Funcom due to AOC” crowd can get past that and be more objective about this title, can only benefit them.

    Also I am curious to see how the next week goes, so far the launch has been pretty solid compared to some others we have had to endure, they deserve some credit for things being quite smooth thus far.

  4. Shadowspawnd June 30, 2012 / 12:58 pm

    Quote “The zombie mobs look fantastic if you examine them up close.”
    I am usually too busy keeping from eating my face to look at their faces. You are right that the graphics are really good. I have taken some really good screen shots of the scenery.

    I did run into a couple of bugs so far. I had some rubberbanding when I rezzed at the airport Anima Well. A quick restart fixed that though. The reason I had to rez there was the second bug. There is still and issue with the toxic water not showing distinctly enough to tell where it is to avoid damage.

  5. bhagpuss June 30, 2012 / 3:04 pm

    I was slightly concerned about the number of playable areas too, but not any more. Each of the three is split into three sub-zones and the ones I’ve seen so far are huge. They’re also immensely detailed. Moreover, there are lots of instances within them. It’s a dense, detailed and layered world.

    I’d say more but today’s the only day I have to play TSW for over a week so I’m off to do just that.

  6. Grimnir (@grimnir_) June 30, 2012 / 5:16 pm

    I’ve used CursorLock in other games that had issues running fullscreen windowed mode and keeping the mouse cursor bound to that window. Generally if it runs from a launcher, there’s a bit more work you need to do in the setup, but it works once you do. I haven’t tried this with TSW, it might work though.

  7. Werit June 30, 2012 / 7:47 pm

    I still don’t see the big deal about the skill wheel. Most actives and passives require a certain weapon type or resource from that type. Sure, it lets you change weapons, but I don’t see very much diversity when it comes to using a single weapon. I missing something?

  8. Skarbash June 30, 2012 / 8:03 pm


    Several weapons have a skill that builds resources for both weapon types which breeds the sort of diversity you were speaking of. My wife and I find the system both refreshing and a bit overwhelming given the amount of customization.

  9. Hera June 30, 2012 / 8:53 pm

    I am enjoying TSW.

    One minor point. They need to add an indication that you have actually bought and are using the Quickened Anima speed boost. There is nothing in the game at the moment that indicates when this is active. Might save people wasting 100,000 pax and accidentally re-purchasing this.

  10. sente June 30, 2012 / 9:35 pm

    A few comments (@Syp):

    * Cabal Roster – You can see who is online or offline through the Cabal tab on the Friends window (Shift-F)
    * There is a menu (cog wheel) on the chat window which you have a menu option to change the font size.
    * The tough mobs you mention are the “single dot” (e.g. Draug Impalers) ones, or the “skull” ones (the “golems” and similar)? In my experience difficulty could be quite different depending on weapon combinations when I tried a few different ones in beta weekends.

    Resoure build activities will typically build for both equipped weapons. Also depending on weapon type (ranged, melee or magic) the resoure building works a bit different.
    Various abilities also work in harmony which each other when it comes to various states and effects they either trigger or exploit.
    Also, just because you have two specific weapons equipped you are not restricted to use abilities from those two weapon types only – you can pick from any part of the wheel that you have unlocked.

  11. Ardent Defender June 30, 2012 / 11:03 pm

    Right or left click on the chat window tab brings up a list of options which does give font size options.

  12. silvertemplar July 1, 2012 / 6:12 am

    The main issues i’ve found in terms of bugs were the channels bugging out every now and then (especially /cabal) , it just disappear . The other is a few quests that seems to bug out , the annoying bit is, some of these quests have some intense puzzle solving requirements, and you never know “is it a bug” or “am i doing it wrong” . So it becomes a thin line between avoiding spoilers and knowing it is a bug.

    Either way, i’ve realised due to the lack of levels and any clear “how far am i with my character” ladder, i am actually playing this game like an ADVENTURE game and not like an MMO. I took over an hour with the Kingsmouth Code quest (making no progress while you wander aimlessly in the streets looking for anwsers) and never felt that MMO-rush-to-levelcap voice going “drop this quest, you are wasting time, move on!” . You are vaguely aware about progress in terms of gear , but you never really have a clear progress “target” funneling you from one zone to the next, which is great.

    I’d say favorite moments in terms of questing so far was having to look up (and realize the existence of) information on in-game organizations with real websites on the web (obviously made by Funcom, but the websites are there) . Also , the thrill of deciphering a riddle and realizing you have to find a real world book and look it up at said “place” in the book….

  13. Werit July 1, 2012 / 8:15 am

    @sente and Skarbash: Thanks. I figured that since I was using an Assault Rifle, I could only have 1 weapon. The Decks tab has certainly cleared up that 🙂

  14. Sylow July 2, 2012 / 9:06 am

    @Werit: while your question basically was already answered, i’d still like to add, you’re not even limited in choices to the weapons you currently use.

    As a random example: you run a pistol/blood magic build for healing damage with CC and some healing. In most other games, somebody with such a hybrid setup would be considered stupid. I have no idea if higher level equipment will enforce more strict specialisation, but up to now i haven’t heard of issues like that, so at least for “regular” gameplay, such setups seem to work fine. (I’ve done “healing duty” on one of the instances this weekend on a hybrid setup. Indeed, my damage abilities were used little when things threatened to go south, but after i learned to always let one specific DD, who didn’t feel like ever avoiding any AoE, die at the start of any bossfight, we did quite well, despite the only healer not being a pure healer. )

    Going for the mentioned setup, you can do well by only dropping AP into the two weapon types mentioned. But if you have AP spare you could also invest in different sections of the wheel and for example skill part of the inner wheel of chaos magic and slot a passive which gives additional ressources for both weapons whenever doing a critical hit, allowing you to use your finishers more often. Alternatively you could consider squad duty in the outer ring of assault rifle (although that requires way more AP to get there), which offers passives to both enhance your burst abilities (which only would make sense if you mostly use the SMG-style abilities of your pistol) and another one which boosts the healing ammount of all your direct heals, thus making your blood magic healing stronger.

    This is just one random example of many possibilities out there, time (and sufficient AP supplies) will allow us to learn more and finetune our setups even better. 🙂

    And finally, taking the example above, if you spec into AR for the passives and also bring along an AR, just in case, you can also switch to AR for the one boss with massive BPAoE, where your pistol range just isn’t enough to keep you save. A more diverse setup gives more flexibility, and i wouldn’t be surprided if we’ll at some time run into bosses with immunities to one or another kind of damage, be it ranged, magic or melee. Praised be those who then can adapt.

  15. Sylow July 2, 2012 / 3:28 pm

    Yikes. Just finally got to play the game, and saw that two synergies i pointed out are not completely correct. The pistols stuff is “focus” and thus don’t profit of burst. And the chaos magic part works when using chaos magic for fueling stuff, so the builder must be chaos magic, only the consumer can be of another kind, too.

  16. 00james July 3, 2012 / 9:38 am

    “Not all mobs drop loot. Haven’t found any costume pieces yet. Don’t really know how all the stats work or what I should be going for.”
    I haven’t seen any that drop clothing and it doesn’t seem to really fit in with the loot drops anyways. Go to London and you can find lots of clothing options at Panagea (sp?). Also, after doing most of the quests in Kingsmouth, I looked through my clothing manager and found a few items that must have been granted by completing quests!

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