One word, just one word would describe this weekend’s The Secret World beta: disappointing. Okay, maybe two words: massively disappointing.
It’s not totally fair to judge an MMO based on the beta, but The Secret World is scheduled to release on June 19 so it’s reasonable to expect a product that’s close to being released. Open betas are usually about stress testing servers and uncovering bugs. By the time a game gets to open beta there shouldn’t be huge, glaring gameplay issues. The Secret World has huge, glaring gameplay issues.
First, the good. The developers at Funcom deserve praise for creating an MMO based on the horror genre. You feel as if you’ve stepped into a world right out of the imaginations Neil Gaiman, Clive Barker and Stephen King. The Secret World has a deliciously dark atmosphere. The questing is also very good. There’s a good mix of quests and lots of different types.
Now, for the bad. There’s lots of bad. So much bad it’s hard to imagine they’re going to fix it all by the time the game is released.
The character creator blows: As mentioned a few days ago, the character creator is horrendous. Funcom says it will be improved by June 19th. There’s a lot of room for improvement and maybe they will fix it, but given its current state, they’d really have to come up with a totally new character creator just to deliver something passable.
Combat is dull: Fighting. In any MMO, you usually end up spending the majority of your time fighting, so it’s a good idea to have a fun, engaging combat system. TSW’s combat is dull, almost to the point of being tiresome. Shotguns and pistol don’t give you any kickback. The sound effects are uninspired. Combat is extremely static; mostly you just stand in one place and hack or shoot. No jumping or running about. You can, but there doesn’t seem to be much point to it.
Bugs are everywhere: Age of Conan (AoC) was so buggy at release it helped contribute to the disappointment in that game. TSW is so buggy it feels more like an alpha than a beta product.
TSW feels old: TSW just feels old. It feels as if Funcom took their gaming engine from AoC and didn’t improve it at all for TSW. The graphics look old. Characters look flat and dull. Their clothes stick to their bodies rather than sway and bounce like they do in most modern games. The papers in the streets don’t blow around. Everything feels static. The entire game is old.
While the gaming world has moved on, delivering more realistic and dynamic gaming experiences, Funcom is mired in the past. TSW might have been a passable game 5 years ago; today it’s not.
Maybe they’ll fix all this before the game releases. They say they’ll fix the combat and the character creator. But there’s so much work to be done, it’s hard to imagine they’ll do enough. Right now, it looks like a lot of gamers are going to be disappointed.
(Fighting zombies. Targets are “out of range”, but they’re right next to me.)