Sunday, 10 February 2013

The yin and yang of mmo's

Since quitting WoW I have played a total of 2 other mmo's. One of these games actively
tries to intrigue the player and get them involved in a dark and interesting world. The
other game is Tera. I will do a quick bit about Tera, because that is all it warrants. It
went free to play on the 5th February 2013, so I had a play. It is a gorgeous world, with
decent combat in, completely ruined by the grindy quests and monotony of play. Oh
and the characters (particularly females, including some very uncomfortable little girl
analogues) are so under-dress and sexualised that it is borderline softcore porn.

The "proper" mmo I have been playing is The Secret World, which has really grown
on me. Essentially it is set in the world we live in today, but with all the monsters from
legend and myth are real. And you play an average Joe given powers by swallowing a
magic bee (OK yes I know that bit is stupid). So you side with one of 3 factions, in my
case the Templars based in London, and off you go. I have just about finished the starting
area, which is full of zombies. I know what you are thinking, "sigh more zombies",
which is not unfair, however the game is reasonably complicated and I guess they wanted
something very accessible to start with.

So complicated then? Yeah, but in a good way. They famously say that there are no
levels in this game, which is only partly true. Your character itself never gets any
stronger or faster, however as you go through the game you pick up items that give
increases in your core stats. The other levelling aspect is that you get 2 sets of points as you play, skill points which are used to unlock active and passive abilities, of which you can have 7
of each at any time, and Ability Points which improve your effectiveness with a weapon.
It is a system that allows your character to progress in a much more organic way. There are
suggested archetypes but you have no obligation to follow then and can use any weapon
types and combinations you want (you can have skills for 2 weapons types at a time).

The starting area you travel to is call Kingsmouth, which is a New England town full of
mystery (and the aforementioned zombies), it is an attractive game, and manages the mix
of giant monster and real world very well. The environment reminds me a great deal of
Alan Wake. Some of the quests are still essentially fetch or kill quests, however many
actually ask you to complete puzzles, follow trails or even hack computers. This is the
only mmo I have played were I have found myself scribbling down notes on a piece of
paper. Special mention must be given to the voice acting. All the main quests are fully
voice acted, and it is all really well done, probably some of the best I have heard in
gaming, let alone mmo's.

I think I have really taken to it because it feels adult, like this is not a game for
everybody, like WoW or LOTRO, but for adults (and not in a Age of Conan "it's got
boobies in it" way). It feels like it has a respect for the intelligence of the player, and is
happy to let them explore. Hell most of the side quests are found on objects on the floor,
and these aren't marked on the map, you have to literally stumble over them.

Another thing I like about it, is the payment model that now exists. Like Guild Wars 2 you
buy the game and you are free to play it without a subscription (you can sub if you want).
And like GW2 I have found the item store to be unobtrusive and the game has yet to
block me off in anyway in order to get some money out of me. Unlike GW2 I am actually
considering buying some in game stuff. Because the game is set in the real world (after a fashion), and my character actually looks (a bit) like me, I feel far more inclined to buy cosmetic items for him, as clothes have not bearing on stats at all. Whereas stuff like sunglasses for a Charr in GW2 just felt wrong to me.

I still have concerns about The Secret World, will the world continue to be this interesting? Will the store continue to be as unobtrusive? What happens when you get to the "end game"? I will see, however I have always been more of a leveller and I am finding The Secret World absorbing. Incidentally I think Hex would hate it.  

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