I'm often amazed at the reactions to the game and wonder what would have happened if the game launched with the same buy-to-play model as Guild Wars 2. I work with a DUST bunny who's never played a subscription MMO but now that TSW has dropped the sub he's ready to go. Even the prospect of buying monthly DLCs doesn't phase him. That's because the game harkens back to the days of puzzle solving.
When I first heard of the game I thought the intellectual challenges might appeal to Eve players. I found out on Twitter that Seismic Stan loves the game and Sugar Kyle was persuaded to try it out. Yes, Sugar started a second blog for her non-Eve writings. So I do have some other opinions about the game to let me know I'm not completely crazy.
First is that I really think that The Secret World was really influenced by the design philosophy at EA, especially Star Wars: The Old Republic. The two biggest similarities between SW:TOR and TSW is the single-player feel of playing the game, at least so far, and the vast use of cut scenes. I would say that the developers in Norway looked at SW:TOR, figured story, the famed "fourth pillar" of game design, was the next big thing and decided they needed to make the game similar in order to ride the wave. Instead the wave is a tide going out to sea.
Next, I think that The Secret World is in a better position to recover from a rough start than SW:TOR. The EA/Bioware free-to-play formula more resembles a trial pushing people to subscribe while Funcom is emulating ArenaNet's business model with Guild Wars 2. I also wonder if EA and Funcom had any conflicts over the business model. I only think that because when The Secret World launched Xfire listed EA as the game's publisher and now Xfire lists Funcom as the publisher. Did something occur I don't know about?
Apart from the payment model, I also think that The Secret World is a higher quality game. On the graphics scale, TSW is closer to Eve Online while SW:TOR is closer to World of Warcraft. The Secret World is just pretty. At this point I also have to mention the cut scenes. In SW:TOR the voice acting for some gender/class combinations just led me not to play them. In TSW Funcom created "Hello Kitty" cut scenes; your avatar's lips don't move. While cut scenes can break immersion, at least I don't have an annoying voice representing me. That's a plus!
I also prefer the combat in TSW to SW:TOR. The 7 active and 7 passive attacks and abilities based on the two weapons equipped is similar to that found in Guild Wars 2. I should add that I'm equipping blade/assault rifle in TSW and I was playing smuggler/imperial agent in SW:TOR so perhaps the different combat styles account for part of this. But I've never had a mob stay standing for 2-3 seconds after I killed it in TSW like I did in SW:TOR.
The biggest draw for me is the puzzles. Star Wars: The Old Republic has jumping puzzles to get datacrons but that's really about all I saw. I'm only on Solomon Island in TSW but in addition to all the jumping puzzles to get to the honeycomb lore icons I've negotiated a booby-trapped laser maze, cracked a password on a smart phone and hacked into a computer. I currently have a mission to investigate a series of murders that requires using the Internet. Now I just need to avoid all the spoiler sites.
|Amazing what you find when you hack a computer|
I should add one additional difference that is rather important. While Star Wars: The Old Republic is pretty family friendly The Secret World has an ESRB rating of M due to "Blood, Partial Nudity, Sexual Content, Strong Language, Use of Drugs, Violence."
With the puzzles, rating and genre (modern day horror) The Secret World has all the characteristics of a niche game that will never pose a threat to the likes of World of Warcraft. But I've played Eve Online for over three years so I know that niche does not mean bad. The question now is what is Funcom's expectations for the game. Before launch I thought they expected a niche game to put up Guild Wars 2 numbers. Hopefully the change to the business model will allow TSW to last a long, long time.