I got a chance to try the beta version of the new MMORPG The Secret World from Funcom. The game world is set in the current day, normal Earth, but of course with a twist. The main feature in this game is the “other side” that exists in parallel to everything else and sometimes spills over to our world. Opposing secret and powerful societies/orders also adds up to the mystical aura of the game.
First things first
I played the BETA version of the game, so this review is based on that experience. Hopefully I can play the release version later, to give a more full review.
There are three societies/sections/orders/fractions in the game, Illuminati, Templars and Dragons. I played two sets of characters; first I tried with a girl from the Dragon society, then I also played as a guy from the Templars.
More action than myth solving
From the looks of it, the game seems to be a lot about finding secret stuff in the world and learning more about the myths and cultures of the different fractions that try to stop the secret (or dark) side. I got a bit disappointed though, because it was mostly just missions such as “kill five zombies” or “stop the intruding monsters” and such primitive and generic tasks instead of what I had hoped for, something like “find evidence of a secret formula written on paper notes you have to look for in the run-down amusement park” or “search for the key to the holy chapel; one of the High templars have it at home”. Sure, you have to have action in games to keep them exciting, but I had high hopes that not all focus would be on action and violence for once; it can still be a good game, with dark influences, mythological ingredients and fights between the different factions and against the dark side. I got a mission actually similar to the ones I wanted (“find missing papers” more or less), but of course the game world was overrun by zombies, so I had to spend much more time shooting undead people or running from death instead of, what I had hoped for, more intelligently searching for clues and asking around for interesting details that could lead me further.
Since the game is PC based it depends heavily on your machine and setup (obviously!). I have played Crysis 2 with quite good settings on my machine but with The Secret World I experienced a lot of lag and slowdowns even on the lowest setting, which is much lower and “uglier” than I played Crysis 2 on. Another issue with speed, that I hope they improve until the release version, is Internet connectivity. Since it is an online game you have to stay online, but one or two minutes’ off-sync shouldn’t ruin a whole play session, at least not if you play on your own outside any group or mission that is logged or synchronized between many players.
The game world is well done, although it could have been a bit smoother over the edges so to speak (I again compare to that I could play Crysis 2 on my rig with quite good settings). I had to download about 30 Gb of textures and level data, so I think it could have been a bit more “nice looking”. The settings and places you visit are very well designed and give you a good feeling that you are in “real world” settings. For example, when you play as a Templar you begin in London and the environment the game drew up really gave me the feeling I was in London (or some other English city). The environments have a natural feeling to them; although, as with many 3d games that try to include too much: don’t go and check textures and not-too-important things in detail…
Sound wise it is well done with very good voice acting and the music is chosen with a good sense for what the players probably want (and don’t want) to hear. The game is not all action; you get to meet some people that talks to you and introduces you to the game, your chosen section and new areas and missions.
I didn’t play too long, maybe three hours with the Dragon girl and two hours with the Templar guy, but I got a feeling I wasn’t expecting from this new and promising MMORPG. I was hoping for a game with secrets, myths, cool skewed real world settings and some dark lurking creatures; without the need to attack enemies all the time you wanted to get around areas or getting encouraged to form groups and raid dungeons. Yes, I saw the word “dungeon” in the game! I thought that word would not seep into this seemingly real and current world setting, but it seems it is a word that is needed to describe a cool place to go with a lot of stuff to “loot”…
I haven’t lost all hope though. When the release version comes I am keeping my fingers crossed for a week / ten days free version (such as World of Warcraft have), so players can try it out for real for a while; playing more than just a few hours, with an improved graphics engine and out-sync allowance. If it turns out well, The Secret World might be about more than just killing monsters and finding upgrades to weapons; it might be about finding out about the other side, learning secrets, discovering cool areas (that are not overrun with monsters) and last but not least, give us a different MMORPG compared to most of the other ones out there.
- Platform(s): PC (Windows)
- Developer: Funcom
- Version: Beta
- Release date: 3 July 2012
- Cool, mystical world
- Great voice acting