My butchery of the English language truly knows no bounds. Yesterday I pulled together the word “troubulation”, a mixture of troubles and tribulation. Today I am either coining or stealing the term “Monthiversary”, because today is the one month anniversary of the launch of The Secret World. It has been one great month, and was capped by the release of the first of the monthly content updates: Issue #1 (patch 1.1) Unleashed.
I find it amusing that to date, I have yet to do one of my traditional “omg you have to play this” posts for the game. I think the reasoning is twofold, firstly I was informed that it has become almost stereotypical for me to say something is the “best game ever”. Looking back and my posts, and tweets and google plus ramblings… I can see the pattern. This game deserves so much more than one of my now clichéd “EHMERGAHD BORST GERM EVAH” post.
Secondly, I’ve come to the realization that it is so much harder to blog about something, when you cannot fathom stopping playing enough to actually write. For the first few weeks after release, I simply could not be bothered to stop playing the damned game long enough to put words on paper. So while I had topic after topic swirling around in my head, I’ve reached a level of obsession that I have not had since the early days of Everquest and World of Warcraft.
Never Judge a Book by it’s Author?
The Secret World has been an interesting experiment to me. Funcom is a company that I had pretty much written off based on the fact that I never really enjoyed either Anarchy Online or Age of Conan. So while all the trailers really played into all of my sci-fi/horror obsessions, I just did not want to believe that this company that had left a bad taste in my mouth, could produce a product I wanted to play. I even had friends argue with me, about how frankly stupid it was for me to judge this company based on experiences from a decade ago.
I’ve come to realize over time that I am often very wrong, and I’ve never been so happy to admit it before. After the very first open beta weekend, I knew I was hooked and would be for a long time. I wrote up my beta weekend impressions, which apparently some thought were negative, but immediately afterwards I went out to the Secret World website and ordered my lifetime subscription. The game brings something to the genre that has been sorely missing in the last few games I have played: Copious amounts of “Fluff”.
Pen and Paper Experience
Playing The Secret World, feels like playing under every great pen and paper game master. You know those GMs that take the time, to think everything through, and provide lots of handouts for the players? Ragnar Tornquist is one of those game masters, and we are together playing one of the best “modules” I have ever experienced. I know, there I go with the hyperbole again… but damnit it is true. This game reminds me of every good tabletop gaming experience I had over the years.
Funcom and The Secret World team has created this living, breathing world that we get to go adventuring in. Everything works like you think it should, you can look up addresses in the phone books, execute commands on the computer terminals, and in game references work like they would in the real world. The world and atmosphere, just feel right, and there is a constant uneasy quality to everything you do. You know you are treading in a world on the edge of oblivion, the music, the scenery, and the interactions keep you constantly aware of this fact. On top of all of this the writing and story is simply amazing.
Oh the Tales They Tell
I know I went on at length about the story telling experience behind Star Wars: The Old Republic. That game featured some of the best interactive storytelling I had experienced in a video game. The Secret World really raises that bar, while SWTOR was good for a game, some of the dialog in TSW stacks up against some of the best novels I have read. While I cared about my character and direct companions in SWTOR, I actually care about almost every character in The Secret World. You never interact with generic imperial officer number 47 here, every character has a motivation, unique mannerisms, and a story that is worth finding out about.
With the first monthly issue, they are going back and fleshing out the tale of Carter, one of the most endearing characters from the Innsmouth Academy. When I originally quested through the Savage Coast, this was one of the many characters I really wanted to learn more about and sure enough they are giving it to us. I really look forward to learning more about the characters I have come to love. There have been several nights I’ve been on mumble, with friends, discussing this or that character and what we thought of the outcome of a certain quest. Of course, keeping our thoughts and opinions bottled up until everyone in the channel had completed it, often becomes painfully difficult. But we have a firm no spoilers rule.
Proof is in the Playing
I can blather on and on about my love of this game, and of the tacos. But you won’t understand either reference completely until you’ve actually sat down and played the game. Luckily for you, in honor of their first month, and the release of their first content pack… they are allowing anyone at all to play for free this weekend. From today, August 3rd at 4PM GMT until Monday, August 6th at 7AM GMT all players with a Funcom account can download the game, log in and try it out themselves. They are hosting a meta-game this weekend as well, where you can win a special in-game t-shirt and 1200 bonus points for completing 30 missions during the event.
So if you find yourself wandering what all the excitement is about, download the game and play it for a few days. The truth of The Secret World, is that it takes probably 12 hours minimum gameplay for you to really grasp the complexity and intricacy of the game. Saying that, I know now that this game will not be for everyone. I’ve said it before, but the game is a niche game, and completely knows it is a niche. I will not hold your hand, and tell you what you should be doing. Often the developer takes an almost cruel pleasure in “trolling” the players, but behind all of this is an extremely rich gameplay experience.
You Have to Decide
I think a third reason behind me not doing a “Why you should be playing Secret World” post, is that for the first time in a long time I cannot say with any certainty that this is the game you should be playing. The Secret World is a very personal experience, and each player will find things they like and dislike about it. This is not a “shoot down the middle” and “target all the things” type game. You have to work for your fun here. If you are looking for a theme park ride, expect it to try extremely hard to kill you in the process.
What I can tell you, is that the game is extremely rich and rewarding. That the team behind it is extremely open to the community, and offers some of the best customer support I have ever seen. I’ve gotten every single ticket I have opened answered in person by game staff, and in all cases within 15 minutes. They have amazing folks supporting the community like Amber Skinner (@Morteia) and a Creative Director that constantly responds directly to tweets. While there are numerous bugs, all of this and their dedication to keep ironing things out makes the game enjoyable to experience.