We've seen a lot of press regarding The Secret World, an MMO developed by FunCom and distributed by EA. We've even had the chance to play the game and see some advanced battles, some of the progression, cutscenes and dialogue that the average player might encounter in their first few days playing the game. Our first impressions are not what you might call good news.
I started playing as a Illuminati as it seemed to fit my play style and archetype more so than the other two choices. I was then given the chance to modify my character but I never felt as though I was truly changing the appearance that much at all, the character editor's choices are thinly veiled and don't have much effect on the look of the player character. Once I'd created my best attempt at a "Grant" I moved into the world and experienced what I can only assume was a representation of your avatar discovering that it has supernatural powers. By "representation" I mean I was shown a seemingly radioactive fly entering my mouth while I lay dormant in my shitty apartment and then over the course of a week my living space got progressively messier while I discovered the extent of what powers this fly imparted on me. Then comes a knock on my door, a random and hip character whom I feel as though I should know brings me up to speed by telling me I'm a superhero now and that I should be looking for the Illuminati to guide me further.
Let's pause here for a moment. Each of the cutscenes I've been shown are bassist at best. They represent the lowest rung of what can be accomplished with in-game animation and competent voice acting. The writing is horrible with each set of lines predictably leading to campy lines mugged towards the camera and blustering feints thrown towards the viewer. I almost felt as though I was watching scenes from a game much much older than something intended for release in the coming months.
I will mention that what I was experiencing is Beta footage and not on par with might be released but from accounts I've heard from experiences months prior to mine things haven't gotten better they just remain the same.
We've had a few MMO launches recently that one should take note of to gain a "watermark" of what The Secret World has to live up to. Let's start with Aion, it succeeded mildly and had a long run before going free-to-play. APB failed as a FPS MMO so epicly that it has been crowned the king of quick failures by much of the internet, it later went free-to-play after a long delay to convert the game. Star Wars The Old Republic succeeded in the short run but lost a significant number of subscribers and now faces a dwindling population, server transfers and thoughts of going free-to-play. Guild Wars 2 is starting free-to-play and has a strong fanbase waiting to experience their content. So what does that leave The Secret World with? Well from what I've seen recently I believe they will launch and quickly scramble to enact a free-to-play mentality. There are no dynamics that can currently support that kind of infrastructure in the gameplay but even a few weeks after the game's release I believe they will be moving to replace the retail/subscription model with something more...dynamic and open.
The game just isn't up to par, there are no strong competitors to face World of Warcraft besides Guild Wars 2. The Secret World needed to be a blockbuster to take any sizeable portion of the player base of MMO games away from competitors. As it stands it isn't a blockbuster and more of a block-bluster. It has horribly VO acting, odd and wonky animation, simple and tried textures, uninspiring music, and a transparent storyline with no drive. The Secret World has a lot on its plate that needs addressing...here's hoping they find their footing and they can diversify the MMO market while bringing a fresh setting to the RPG world.