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Not so Secret anymore…

This weekend was the limited beta for The Secret World letting in many eager and curious gamers to try out the newest MMO from Funcom.  I have been looking forward to this MMO now for quite a long time, I think I actually took the “which faction are you” test on the website well over a year ago so as soon as keys went out for this event I was all over it.  Thankfully I was able to secure a key for this event and spent the better part of the last three days experiencing as much as I could of the game before they close down the access, here is what I took away from it.

Funcom set out to create a very different MMO then the traditional fantasy setting and one thing I can say from the time I spent the last three days is they hit a homerun with that task.  This beta only allowed players to start in one of the three faction hubs and explore only one location, but it was the right location to use to showcase the setting of The Secret World.  The town of Kingsmouth is a traditional New England small town set along a coast line that is engulfed in a mysterious fog that has rolled in from the water… and in that fog.. lots of things that go bump in the night.

Underneath that setting those is so much more… some good and some not so good.  The much hyped skill wheel is a very unique aspect of this game and really sets it apart.  Players earn XP from completing missions and also from combat and as the XP builds AP are awarded at various milestones.  Those AP are then used to purchase skills which are located in various segments of the skill whell.  TSW does not use levels in the traditional sense but they do have a ‘ding’ moment and that is when the XP bars fills and then resets and the player is awarded a skill point, or SP.  The SP are used to purchase abilities on a separate panel that can refine your character even more.  I spent the better part of my time messing with this interface and was impressed with how it allowed me to really break a lot of the traditional MMO roles.  I started out using all my AP to purchase abilities in the two elemental groups then decided I wanted to add a sword to my style and spent some AP in blades.  Initially the wheel was not that daunting as you have to purchase abilities in ascending order in each group, but once I added a second weapon style it really started to branch out.  I should also add that this beta limited the skill wheel to only the first weapon groups and kept locked the misc abilities and outer ring of the wheel which offers up more advanced buffs and attacks.  I found the system quite involved and can only imagine how much more depth it will offer once the outer ring is unlocked.

The flip side however to the impressive skill system is that it feels almost like most of the funding went to that and the setting and whatever was leftover was spent on animations and effects.  I read for a few weeks up till this beta that the jumping animation was horrible and have to agree.  Even the basic running animations are pretty stale… it almost appears as though everyone is skating on ice.  While the skill wheel adds choice and depth to how you can approach combat, once in combat things are old school.  Like 2001 old school.  Animations are poor and repetitive.  Every hit appears like it has no impact on the target.  For a company like Funcom that has produced MMOs in the past I would have thought something as simple as animations would have been sorted out well before release, but that does not appear to be the case.

The Secret World has a lot going for it with its unique modern setting and its intensive skill system, two things that really hooked me this past weekend and have me eager to play some more.  The negatives however are weighing heavy on me.  I am hesitant to purchase at launch as I do not want my experience to be brought down with technical issues and what feels like an unfinished product as of this moment.  Of course there is still another month left before launch and I hope they can refine the game more and prove me wrong, but at this point I am thinking of allowing a month to pass and seeing how the launch goes before getting involved.


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