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The Secret World – digging the story

August 31, 2012

Having basically dropped SWTOR and Diablo 3 entirely, I am not sitting around playing this game as obsessively as I did WoW. But it keeps me coming back for more, and it’s not necessarily the combat mechanics or the quality of the graphics. Cloaked in the usual MMO tropes of quests and kill X beasties is a story I can get into. Which is not to say that there aren’t some interesting or innovative or simply clever uses of typical MMO features, and some problems too. Nevertheless, this is what I’m playing when I have some time to myself and the desire to sit at my computer instead of just watch TV or ride the bike.

The character concepts, to begin with – anyone who knows I liked White Wolf’s Mage game would understand why I like this game. The characters have powers, but not capes and masks. They use tools and plain old weapons, but the weapons don’t stay plain. They’re rather customizable, although I couldn’t get the look I was trying to get quite right…but it’s not bad. And although I am starting out by following some of their skill ‘decks’ for inspiration, there’s no need at all to do so or to stick with those ideas. And in-game shops offered some more options for clothes and such, and I understand they’re planning to add a WoW-style ‘barber shop’ or ‘tattoo parlor’ for changing the toon’s physical features. I’d like that, as I couldn’t quite get it to where I wanted.

It would be nice if I could reset my skill points and try new things, but as time passes I will finish my first character’s ‘deck,’ and from there I can start to branch out and experiment. He uses blades (swords) and elemental magic (lightning, fire). Even if I learn every blade and elemental skill (probably will, eventually) I should still be able to learn more in the future — learn everything, in time — and be able to do anything I feel like.

In the meantime, there are alts…there are always alts, not many though.

Crafting in the game…exists, and has helped, although not as much as it could. If my main character were a ‘tank’ he’d be a happy fella. So many of the random item drops I’ve gotten on him were tank items. Useless. Oh, crafting lets one disassemble them into parts for new items, but…tank items turn into tank-oriented parts. So, to make some new damage-dealing item I need to find damage-dealing items I don’t need. Those have been scarce. But even with the apparent non-randomness of the drops, still, it’s helped. As my main character has just left the second quest area, I was able to craft him a genuine upgrade using parts collected for, heh. Awhile.

Questing in the game…starts out tough, and often there are frustrating and difficult missions, where the mobs seem to pile on in ways that make it very difficult to finish things. Some missions I simply died repeatedly to finish. Lots of them, I just ran for it, often. But the variety of missions helps. It’s not all ‘kill X monsters’ or ‘gather X pieces/parts’. There’s a lot of puzzle solving and online research, facilitated by an in-game browser function, although at this point it’s often just as easy to find an online quest walkthrough as to follow the actual clues. It’s of no consequence. I puzzle-solve and investigate until it gets old or I get stuck, and that’s fine.

The voice acting…well, it’s odd in that the conversations are all one-sided. My character never speaks. He…interacts, a bit, but mainly gets talked to. It’s nice enough, although I can imagine skipping some dialogue on the second, or third run-through. Mainly I find it an immersion tool; talking to the quest givers lets you learn about them and the world you’re playing in, and at least I find the stories entertaining enough that I’m not skipping past them.

The intro story…well, it’s Lovecraftian and so it hooks me right off. I dig that sort of thing. Who knows what it’ll be like when I finish this three-zone quest area and move on — my main character has just hit zone three of that. But good so far. Landing in essentially Innsmouth right out of Lovecraft’s stories, with zombies and fishy mutated things and woods full of huge spiderish nasties, there’s more than enough monsters to go around. It’s not the ‘world of darkness,’ but having liked that setting this one’s not far off, with similarities I like and differences I don’t mind.

No vampires, yet. Not missing them. Hope they don’t sparkle, if they do show up. Although they may, if I shoot some lightning bolts at them.

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