5 most immersive MMOs I’ve played to date


Game immersion is perhaps one of the most subjective and indefinable qualities when it comes to MMOs. We know in our gut when we feel more drawn into one virtual world over another, yet it might be difficult if not impossible to explain why.

So instead of fiddling around with definitions, today I want to share five MMOs out of my entire resume that were the most immersive that I’ve played — and why.

Fallen Earth

There’s no doubt that Fallen Earth is a messy title that’s perhaps a little too rough around the edges. It never broke into the big time, that’s for sure. But even so, I was so in love with this game and its breathtaking ambition to create a living, breathing post-apocalyptic world. From the black humor to the mounts that stayed put where you left them to the weird factions and the vivid sunsets over the desert, I always felt drawn into this title like no other. Plus, crafting everything you end up using made those items feel more precious.

Lord of the Rings Online

One of the reasons that I stuck with LOTRO for so long was that, unlike so many other MMOs, it felt like a cohesive world that played by a predefined set of rules instead of ones that the devs made up on the fly. I’d argue that having to fit under the umbrella of a rich IP actually helped to create a world that felt “real,” so to speak. So many times I would lose myself in traversing the lands where it wasn’t just endless packs of mobs, but civilization clashing with the wild and with evil. And I can’t discount that incredible music for drawing me in as well!

The Secret World

TSW’s brilliance is not just in its storytelling (which is magnificent) but in its meticulously crafted world that bleeds over into ours. In fact, the myriad of ways that the developers blurred the line between game and reality broke down that fictional barrier in part and allowed me to believe (or at least pretend very hard) that I was actually part of what was going on on the other side of the screen.

World of Warcraft

Maybe we’re all like this with MMOs that we’ve spent so much time in, but my previous passion for World of Warcraft and the countless hours that I poured into it took my understanding of Azeroth beyond a mere game and into a much more personal space. The little details — the sounds, the animations, the locations, the music — swirled together to form a world that was vividly immersive for years. I miss feeling that way about it, I won’t lie.

Anarchy Online

I’ll probably chalk Anarchy Online’s immersive abilities up to it being one of the first MMOs that I played, even though I felt pretty lost in it at the time. It’s “alien” nature set it apart from fantasy CRPGs and made it feel other, different, and alluring. At no point was I looking beyond the immediate details of the world to number crunch or break down mechanics, which is a sign that I was pretty content just being instead of mastering.

So those are my five. What are yours?

The Park repackages The Secret World’s amusement park — and I am 100% OK with that


Yesterday Funcom announced the secret project it’s been working on — no, not another MMO, but instead a single-player horror game called The Park coming in October. A single-player horror game that is set in what looks like The Secret World’s haunted Atlantic Island Park.

It’s not my imagination, either. The page and video shows the exact same ferris wheel, rollercoaster, and “octotron” that TSW players know so very well. However, the park also looks different, more fleshed out and with a slightly different layout (a ring of water around the Octotron, for example).

The official description is definitely giving off a Silent Hill vibe: “Funcom is thrilled to announce ‘The Park’, a unique horror story and the company’s first single-player experience since its award-winning adventure ‘Dreamfall: The Longest Journey’. Releasing on the PC in October this year, ‘The Park’ puts you in the shoes of a mother whose son goes missing. When night falls and the lights go out, what follows is a short, but intense horror story set against the backdrop of an amusement park where a dark and sinister secret is just waiting to be uncovered.”

The studio said that it’s creating this game as an experiment to see what it can do with its existing properties and churning out non-MMO titles: “The Park is an experimental project meant to gauge the market and to develop the team’s ability to create different types of games, and as such the Company does not expect this game to generate significant revenues.”

Another quote from the report: “Funcom has built The Park around The Secret World IP, utilizing a location as well as characters and story elements from the MMO. Funcom’s ambition is to further explore how the Company’s established universes can be drawn upon in other projects outside the MMO space.”

I really did not expect to see any sort of TSW spin-off, ever, but I’m actually kind of excited over this. It’s funny — just a week ago I asked the MOP community if they’d like to see The Secret World preserved as a single-player game, especially in light of Funcom’s dire financial situation. My feeling was that (1) I love TSW’s unique setting and story so much that anything to preserve it in the case of a studio shutdown would be welcome and (2) TSW’s adventure game nature lends itself better to a theoretical single-player conversion than most MMOs.

And more TSW, even as a spin-off, is welcome. I think the choice of the haunted amusement park is a good one, as it’s one of the most memorable settings from the game (and that is saying something, especially for Kingsmouth). There was a lot of potential left in that area, and I would be excited to see an expanded version of the park.

Now I’m thinking that this is most likely a prequel to the events of the MMO. The description makes it sound as though the park is in active operation — after all, the mom brought her son there for a fun day — and the screenshots do not show it as decrepit as it’s become in TSW with the decades’ long shutdown and the influence of the Fog.

Another thought is the possible connection of the Bogeyman and the park’s attacks on children. Anyway, pleasantly surprised to see this coming and I can’t wait to try it out!

6 things that bug me about MMOs that I like

bugmeI think we’re always loathe to outright criticize MMOs that we really like in fear that it will push players away from games that are otherwise terrific. But if you are too scared to do so, then you gain blinders and lose perspective.

Thus, this is my small Monday morning measure of attaining balance by admitting to six things that kind of really bug me about MMOs that I like.

WildStar: For a game that has made such a big, big deal about customization (and excels in this in many areas), the fact that classes can wield one and only one type of weapon (set) vastly annoys me. In most MMOs you can choose from different weapon types and experience different visual flair and animations, but here? What you got at level 1 is the same at level 50.

The Secret World: This game’s wonderful storytelling and nuanced body language is sometimes undercut by faces that are ugly and border on the uncanny valley. The facial art style doesn’t gel for me the way that it should and serves as an irritant when I’m trying to get into the tale.

Marvel Heroes: This game’s social tools are really lacking, I’ve found. There needs to be support to join multiple supergroups, better supergroup tools, and a proper LFG tool. Fast track these, Gazillion!

Star Wars: The Old Republic: I do love that the game has housing, but coming from other MMOs like RIFT and WildStar, it can’t help but fail to live up to the industry standard. I am not a fan of the clumsy hooks and placement interface that makes sorting through one’s decor far more tedious than it should be.

RIFT: Such ugly armor. Such ugly. It makes the awesome wardrobe system weep in frustration. What is up with the armor artists in this game? Why must we all look like first drafts of a ninth grader’s fantasy portfolio?

Neverwinter: Cryptic not only failed to live up to the insanely high standard it set for character creation in City of Heroes, but failed to live up to the industry medium in this respect. I am stunned how hard it is to make good or interesting-looking characters in this game with the sub-par customization options on display. Do they even know how hair looks?

The Secret World: Orochi’s dirty laundry

or1It’s my current, gradual, long-term goal in The Secret World to experience and beat all of the floors of the Orochi Tower. I love the fact that there are so many weird floors that show off the different facets of this messed-up mega-corporation.

I love less the fact that TSW makes it a headache to methodically explore all of the floors. First of all, you can only do them in a mission that’s on an 18-hour (I think) cooldown, and each mission run allows for three floors. Eight companies, three floors apiece, that’s 24 total. But you get a random assortment of the three, so finishing up the last few will probably be annoying. I heard there are ways to cut down on the randomness, but could it have hurt Funcom to, y’know, just let us pick which three floors we wanted to do that day? Or let us do all 24 in a row?

or2What I love is that each floor usually has a story to tell with its details and events. This floor was looking into ways to develop synthetic blood and werewolf sausages for the more supernatural demographic.

Love these posters. I would totally hang these up in my office, even though they’d get me fired the next day.

or3Or, y’know, create protein bars from giant mutated locusts that are currently devouring your entire R&D staff.

The “yum!” is what makes this diagram pop.

or4If you have a computer AI in a video game, then it will have a female voice and display a svelte blue hologram. That’s video game law.

Right now I’m butting my head against the final confrontation with Orochi’s AI, Aimee. Her riddles were laughably easy, but this final fight in a cramped room has caused me to rage-quit twice now. I got pretty far on the final fight, but once there were several moving laser fields, a projection throwing lasers my way, and little healbots keeping a shield around the mainframe, I had to call it a day. As I said on Twitter, TSW needs to sell controllers so that I have something to toss across the room after some of these boss fights.

Syp’s No-Nonsense TSW Shotgun/Hammer Build

I’ve been slowly refining my general adventuring build in The Secret World, and since I’m pretty pleased with how it’s set up and works, I wanted to share it with you all. It’s a shotgun/hammer build that seeks to put out a lot of DPS (to both single and multiple targets) while containing a heavy dose of survivability. There’s a lot of ping-ponging synergy here, particularly with the focus of getting hinder on all mobs to trigger other effects.

Let’s start with the passives.


  1. Close Quarters (Elite): Slaps a hinder on any nearby mob I hit. The entire build hinges on this.
  2. Beanbag Rounds: When I apply hinder, I get +15% penetration chance.
  3. Strike Force: +7.5% penetration chance for any strike abilities. Guess what my builder and hammer consumer are?
  4. Closer: +7.5% damage for consumers. A nice DPS bump.
  5. Arterial Pulse: When I penetrate, I do an additional hit to the target AND all targets around it. This is my lazy man’s AOE skill for my single-target strike attacks.
  6. Impact Striker: +25% damage using Striker (my builder) against hindered targets. Since I’m spamming this quite a lot, it’s a no-brainer.
  7. Immortal Spirit: HoT on penetrating enemies. It’s not a ton of healing without healing gear, but I find that it’s almost always running in combat and every bit helps.
  8. Revved Up: More damage from my chainsaw shield.


  1. Striker: Even as a basic builder, this is now doing a lot — hitting hard, slapping hinders on bad guys, and penetrating a lot (doing extra DPS and healing).
  2. Stopping Power: Oh, how I do love this skill. It’s a cone attack consumer that automatically penetrates hindered targets.
  3. Haymaker: Chose this consumer because it has the strike tag and thus does extra DPS.
  4. Kneecapper: Does a nice strong cone attack and slaps hindered on everything it hits for 8 seconds. I’m experimenting with using this as an opener to get an automatic penetration bump.
  5. Turn the Tables: Call me weak, but I love having a meaty heal on demand. This is it. I use it all of the time.
  6. Flak Jacket: The three blue skills I use as often as they’re up to buff me up. This skill reduces damage by 15%.
  7. Breaching Shot: Boosts penetration by 45%. I want to be penetrating as often as possible, not just to get arterial pulse and immortal spirit, but also because such hits do extra damage. Seeing chain penetrates is awesome.
  8. Diamond Grit: I’ve always loved this chainsaw ability for its double duty. It reflects 50% of damage back to the attacker up to a certain number.

This build isn’t set in stone, as I’ve been swapping out a couple skills here and there. For example, I might want an attack that knocks a target down or purges, so Flak Jacket will usually go in that case. But it’s been working great for me and I thought it might help someone else!

The Secret Adventures: Jack O’Splatter (Blue Mountain #4)

(You can follow my complete playthrough of The Secret World on Bio Break’s projects page! WARNING: Spoilers and stories ahead!)

ja1Jack of the Lantern (action mission)

  • Each zone on Solomon Island has its own Jack O’Lantern quest, which forms a complete trilogy when completed. This here is the last of them, the big confrontation with mean ol’ Jack.
  • The bickering brothers mention a pumpkin patch near the casino site that had laughing and torches coming out of it. Time to go investigate!
  • So there’s a type of MMO quest that I particularly dislike, where you have to go kill a big bad, but every time you get close they run away, you have to chase them, and it begins anew. It draws out the fight unnecessarily. This quest type is beloved by TSW mission designers.
  • That’s pretty much what I do here: Find a pumpkin patch, attack Jack, watch Jack run away, rinse and repeat.
  • Jack does have a couple of one-liners like “Jack’s back!” and “Trick or treat!” but they’re pretty lame for a villain.
  • With Jack dead for good, Geary says that Henderson sure knew his way around curses — and grudges. Glad to have that child-killer six feet below.

ja2Open Season (action mission)

  • If you live on an island that’s infested with the entire cryptozoology textbook, what would you do? For two Wabinakis, the answer there was, “Sell hunting trips to out-of-staters.” They even hunted down sasquatches, which as we established earlier, are fairly intelligent, albeit cowards. My turn to get in on the hunt.
  • For no given reason, I start off with a 12-minute timer and instructions to kill 13 zombies in the graveyard before it runs out. What’s the rush now? Oh, never mind.
  • What’s really freaky is that the timer keeps flashing between the countdown and “4:59” over and over again. Probably a bug, but this being TSW, you never know.
  • Next up: Wendigos and Ak’abs. Sigh. It’s as though the game knew that once you moved on from the island, it wouldn’t be able to torment you with these giant locusts any longer, so it’s using any opportunity possible to get in an encore now.
  • 12 Ak’abs may not *sound* like much, but that’s a lot for a kill quest. And it’s only one tier here.
  • The last stage has me hunt down a sasquatch. I got all excited that I’d finally get to kill bigfoot, but no, the lad just serves as a sign post pointing me to a giant draug that needs killing. Sure thing, buddy! Wouldn’t want you to get your hands dirty before your weekly Shaggy Cowards Anonymous meeting!

They Are Called Darkness (side mission)

  • If you’re doing Open Season, you might as well pick up this side mission in the Ak’ab area as well, since there’s some two-for-one questing crossover.
  • Still, it’s even MORE AK’ABS. The only bright spot here is that if you rescue one of the trapped Wabinaki folk, he or she will fight with you for a little bit.

The Experiment (side mission)

  • There are a couple of dead Orochi by the bigfoot, because Orochi do not know how to exist in a “live” state. Forever picking up after others’ messes, I snag their tablet and decide to finish up their mission of injecting wednigos and zombies with strange liquids.
  • Because what could go wrong with that? Nothing, that’s what!
  • The potions have various effects on the mobs, including really upsetting them, but I calm them down with a tall glass of anima-infused bullets.
  • What made me laugh with this mission is that the Orochi tablet instructs the team not to cooperate with the CDC personnel. So what’s the final step of my mission? To enter the results into the CDC computer. Stick it to the man!

A Piece of the Road (action mission)

  • Time for a brief intermission to head back to Moose and get my motorcycle!
  • No problems getting it this time around, either. I must say that the $20 I spent on this has totally been justified. Not only did I get it on both characters, but having Sprint VI (and such a cool-looking one at that) on a lowbie is a huge boon!
  • I did get a funny text message from Moose that was probably intended for Andy. Heh, didn’t get that the first time around. I think Funcom’s having fun with the new message system.

The Secret World: Get to my choppa!

y1It has been a little while since I last played my Templar — since I finished the Orochi tower for the first (and so far, only) time. I’ve been meaning to get back on her and do more tower runs, but y’know, time gets away from us.

So I made it a point to tie up some loose ends last night, starting with a return trip to Richard at the Templar HQ. Richard was getting the living stuffing beat out of him by Pit and Pendulum, two new thugs that the game did not let me attack. Alas.

y2I guess that even within the supposed “good guys” faction, there are jerks and divisions. Richard says that the old guard is not too pleased that me — the new guard — is on the rise with my methods. Oh well, I will deal.

As an aside, I really like how cool I look with this hat and pose. I am in love with this hat.

y3Turns out that Orochi isn’t that pleased with me either, as its media arm has declared me one of the Tokyo bombers. Because that makes sense, as I wasn’t even part of the secret world when the bomb went off, but oh well.

Is it just me, or does the newscaster’s model look really off here? Like his head is too small for his body/suit? And why is he standing behind that desk instead of sitting?

Richard advises that I lay low for a while, which is Funcom’s polite fiction for “it’s gonna be a wait until we get new story content out to you.” I did get a free barbershop and plastic surgery coupon, but I’m pretty happy with how my character looks, so I’ll save those.

y4Next up on my to do list was to buy the new DLC for the motorcycle. Yes, $20 is pretty pricey and perhaps a little too much, but I don’t mind supporting The Secret World. Plus, when I consider that it unlocks across my entire account, its worth increases.

Anyway, the DLC unlocked a short mission with Moose back in Kingsmouth. Moose! Been a long time! He pontificates on how much he used to love being on the road, and he’s even started building a “frankenchopper” behind the station. Not sure why he’s doing that when there are cars, scooters, and motorcycles littering the island, but we all need hobbies!

y5Moose gives me the bike to fix up. At first it’s in really poor condition, driving slower than my character can walk, and I have to take it all the way to the scrapyard. At certain intervals, waves of zombies knock me off the bike. Of course, they’re all one-hit kills to me right now. Outta my face.

After finding some parts, the bike moves faster — and even more so when I get some nitro for it. What I love about finishing this quest is that it bumped me up from Sprint IV to VI automatically.

Gotta say, I love the bike. It’s a little weird that it’s the only vehicle in the game so far, but it feels great riding it around. Popping wheelies after jumps is pretty sweet too.

y6And yes, I had to create a new outfit for my hog. I don’t think I’ll be the only one doing this.

After the excitement of getting the bike, I had to check out another one of yesterday’s additions, which was the achievement vendor. I was pretty jazzed to have a purpose for achievement points, but when I looked at what the vendor had to offer I felt a bit let down. He’s not exactly brimming with wares, and the ones that I couldn’t buy weren’t huge incentives to grind out more points. Still, I got a couple of costume pieces and a gadget that hits enemies back when they hit me, so I’m not going to complain too much.

Back to the Orochi tower!