The Secret World is not entirely grindy

It is still possible to play this game a lot. To binge it, even. Though in Secret World this feels much less about compulsion, gilt carrots or maliciously labyrinthine design. I'd compare it to Skyrim before I would Warcraft, in that the content feels like content.

One example I've been throwing around is of Sam Krieg, a bestselling New England author who's holed up in a lighthouse while zombies ravage the little island. I found this guy, my favorite character, after saying,

"Cool lighthouse. I wonder if anything's going on there."

Then braving the weird horrors in the fog, which take inspiration from Lovecraft, Poe, and pulpier American authors. Then being rewarded with a quest I'd describe as anti-grind.

All repetitive behavior as "destructive and unreasonable"? This guy is cool. He lambastes my sexy Illuminati superheroine, saying that as a writer he's got a damn good excuse to repeat himself: it makes him millions. But what's my excuse? What's the player's excuse?

The quest takes typical grindy mechanics, then adds little twists. For instance, we kill a set number of zombies by impaling rotting corpses (irresistible zombie bait, as we all know) at the edge of a bluff. The animations aren't perfect (especially clear in the more lightly funded Egypt and Transylvania expansions) but we get to watch zombies goofily launch themselves off cliffs. The game, sometimes by adding extra little flourishes of programming, sometimes by creating riddles which require Latin Vulgate dictionaries and thoughtful deduction, pokes fun at MMOs in general. 

The combat is made interesting by a mix-n-match system. It's one of the first times I've enjoyed being the mage sort of character.

The fun of designing your own weird combat is, tragically or wonderfully (I'm really not sure), mostly a creative fun. Some of the animations get ridiculous to the point of pure comic gold, as one swirling pistol attack which should probably involve a half-empty bottle of vodka. It's just not gripping. 

The cutscenes have their share of charming moments. I get the sense the writers had carte blanche to be the best possible kind of weird. 

Hitting the paywalls in TSW isn't fun, but I didn't until about 20 hours in. Their in-game store is super basic, and not very usable. Almost like the wacky quest writers also got to label their DLC so as to make it nigh-impossible to buy anything. 

Their store is also restrictive. You can't gift DLC (like, wtf? You guys don't like money?).

Like most MMOs, once the content runs dry, what's left appears to be grindy endgame for gears (destructive and unreasonable, much?). That made a sad panda, since in so many other parts of the MMO oeuvre they'd found innovative solutions. For most sane human beings, this is going to be an awesome treat of content (actual content!), on most logins. For anyone with a history of problematic use, I don't recommend playing alone. I'm conflicted myself since the questing phase was so delightful and easy to take-or-leave. It's worth seeing, but only if you can do it strictly with friends. 

That said, right now I'm staring off the edge of a gear precipice. I look, and wonder if I've finally learned not to jump. 

No comments:

Post a Comment