“If a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?”
This quote of unperceived existence came to mind when I began to collect my thoughts on the recent release of The Secret World (TSW). It is true that you can’t go past a gaming website without being bombarded with deceptively good looking CGI advertising for a game based off the Age of Conan engine. But this title has seemed to have lacked the hype of recent triple-A MMO titles.
Given I may have missed this hype as I’ve been confined to the chilly mountains of rural New South Wales (Australia) for the last six weeks for seemingly no other reason than cruel torture. For the purpose of this article however, let’s say it’s been pretty quiet on the Secret front. It’s the internet. Who’s going to disagree? Either way. The hype starts here!
An MMO cannot be a success without players. Does World of Warcraft have the best graphics? No. Does it provide distinguishable game play from any other MMO? No. It is not the game but the player base, heavily invested and heavily committed, that creates a good MMO. This player base allows the game to evolve, to grow and to become something great. Take Star Was: The Old Republic for example.
Star Wars received an initial explosion of players, encouraged by more hype than a new Christopher Nolan movie (OK, this is impossible, but you get the drift). Six months on and they’re already implementing free to play up to level 15 to try and draw new players in. The problem is that WoW has had almost eight years and millions of player’s monthly $15 investments to become the beast it is today. It would seem impossible for a new title (that isn’t taking the free to play route) to compete… unless they tried something different.
TSW is trying something different. Kind of. Admittedly it has the usual trappings of an MMO and is demanding your precious $15 a month. What it is doing however is trying to tell a story and bring a sense of adventure back to the genre. TSW has a story, an immersive one and it is trying to drag us in.
Unfortunately I just don’t think it will be successful. Not because of the game itself but because I fear the game is going to go the same route as Star Wars. People will initially get into the game, play for their free month, and then go crawling back to their gnome rogue. Like cocaine addict breaking out of rehab to slide back into their white washed world.
A couple of other features of TSW that stand out are its modern setting, lack of class system and quest system based of exploration and intelligent game play. I, like many I’m sure, am hesitant to give it a shot after the apathy that surrounded my adventures in an online galaxy far far away. But we have to understand that without us, the players, the games are doomed to fail whether they’re brilliant or not. Furthermore at the reasonable price of $50 (even for us folk in the land of convicts) I feel I owe TSW a chance.
Subsequently last night I caved and the game is downloading as I type. You can totally justify it to your wife, girlfriend, sock that you’ve put googly eyes on, by saying it only “really” costs $35, as the first month is free. Or you could just not tell them, which is what I’ve done. Sigh. I’m in so much trouble right now.
So put aside your endless raids and give The Secret World a shot. It won’t be that fabled WoW killer, but it may give you at least a few months of fun, and it’ll encourage potential MMO makers out there with a dream that they can succeed. The only thing that will kill WoW is WoW2, and Blizzard has at least two more soul draining expansions up its sleeves yet. Like a tree in the forest, if no one plays an MMO, does it really exist? The answer is no.
I will be providing a full review on TSW in the next couple of weeks. Stay tuned to find out if it’s truly worth your time.