The Secret World: Free 2 Play Weekend

The Secret World

The supernatural MMO, The Secret World will be free to play this weekend. The offer is to celebrate the first full month of the game and will including a special in game t-shirt and bonus points for solving missions. Players will also receive 15 fireworks that they can fire off during the event. The offer is available from August 3rd at 4pm GMT to August 6th at 7am GMT.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JwQx9Ffhbhw[/youtube]

First Steps: The Secret World

The Secret World

This review talks about the first fifteen minutes of The Secret World. One of the first things that attracted me to this game was  is it leaves behind the world of dragons and magic and takes us to a new world, one that looks a lot like ours, but with a secret that we all want to discover. The idea of playing one of the Knights Templar, the Illuminati or the Dragon and fighting a war against an evil that threatens humankind is something new and exciting.

So in the Secret World the powerful groups have been fighting for control since the beginning of mankind. You begin as a character that has awakened to find strange new powers and just as you get the hang of the basics, you are visited by one of the groups and asked to join. This beginning is pretty much the same for any side you choose, the major differences here is who visits you and what they say. From there things change but for the most part you become aware of an attack in Japan and make your way to your groups meeting point.

The Secret World - Funcom - Gameplay Screenshot

Right away, you will notice you are in modern day earth, which for many MMO fans will be new. It can be refreshing or strange depending on how you feel about it. For me I thought it was refreshing just like when I played City of Heroes for the first time. So let us take a step back and talk about creating a character.

You begin by selecting the group you wish to join and then the server. So far, it appears you can only be in one group per server, which prevents issues, kind of like not having Horde and Alliance on the same PVP server. From there you can select how your character looks. Now personally, I did not like how the character faces looked, but this is a beta and it can change. You can make changes like the hair color, style, nose, chin and things like clothing, but don’t expect to make too unique of a character physically, at least not in this current beta.

Once you have your look you select your name. Something different here is you have a first and last name and your nickname. Now it is your nickname that is used for the game. This allows you to have a real sounding name and then choose something more unique for your nickname. The only issue here is many nicknames will be taken, so, if you wanted a name that matches from first to last it might be hard, or you end up with a nice first and last name and a silly nickname.

The Secret World - Funcom - Gameplay Screenshot

From there we are back to the cut-scene, which shows your leaning some of your powers and meeting your contact. For this review, I selected the Illuminati. For that group you are visited by a man who acts a lot like an pushy pompous Hollywood agent and pretty much tells you they are in control and come join us or else. Right away I was impressed by the voice acting as it sounded natural. Also, the storyline already got me interested, but it is not a surprise since it features the work of Ragnar Tørnquist, creator of the award-winning The Longest Journey.

You can see my first ten to fifteen minutes of gameplay, but to explain the game further the idea is to give you total freedom. There are no levels in The Secret World, however, you do earn points which allow you to add more skills. So say you like swords, but you want pistols and you decide you want to be good at hand-to-hand combat, well, all this is possible.

The Secret World - Funcom - Gameplay Screenshot

Now to give some context, City of Heroes, the superhero MMO, originally was going to give you the right to make your character however you wanted. The reason they did not was because they did not want one cookie cutter class that could do it all, they also did not want you to make a bad character who got its ass kicked and caused you to quit. In, The Secret World, your abilities can be changed at any time, so if you go with a gun and sword build with healing and find you need more defense you just reallocate your points.

Since the game is based on modern times and your story is you have these incredible powers it makes sense. Most of the time you will either be fighting against NPC’s or other players so the ability to change your build can be handy and keep you interested in the game and your character since you do not have to keep re-rolling new characters to try out new builds.

The Secret World - Funcom - Gameplay Screenshot

As said, the game is in modern times, so you have guns and modern weapons to use as well as swords and what we will call magic just to make it simple.  When choosing what build to make it can seem overwhelming, but you can choose premade power-sets or decks to make it easier. You can also just pick one weapon and build around it. The great thing is there are a ton of side abilities allowing for healing, better defense and speed and other things that can make almost any build viable, but the PVP min/max experts will tell you what is best soon enough I am sure.

Back on the topic of freedom, The Secret World does not force a specific progression meaning you do not have to sit grinding missions if you do not want to. There are multiple ways to improve yourself including working your way up the ladder in the organization you choose.

The Secret World - Funcom - Gameplay Screenshot

There are other aspects of The Secret World that you will not really experience in the first few moments of the game. However, you can dress how you like since the game is not dependent on gear armor or stats from gear for the most part. There are stats on relics you collect, but your main clothing does not have stats or armor levels. This allows you to have your own style and look without costing you offensive or defensive abilities. You can also dismantle anything in the game from weapons to other items you find, which is an interesting aspect.

As far as combat, not long after you begin you are tossed into combat. You begin by finding your way to your contact which allows you to explore the city you are in and get used to the controls. There is lore everywhere which you can find and click on and a lot of hidden items you won’t be able to get to until later. You will also fight in major cities like New York and London against all types of creatures of lore like Zombies, Vampires and Werewolves.

The Secret World - Funcom - Gameplay Screenshot

Once you are in combat, I will say it reminded me of Left for Dead in a good way. You start off with a shotgun and two basic attacks and get used to aiming and moving while firing. The combat felt fluid and was not boring nor easy which again, is a good thing. Very soon, you get two more powers, one that slows your enemies and a powerful attack you use on the bigger enemies. Right before the big battle you get a heal spell that you will take use off right away. This tells me the idea is to allow you to stand alone and not depend on the holy trinity of Tank, Healer, DPS.

Motions like strafing and backing away will be important in this game. You will also need to know when you slow your enemy and the best time to heal. The beginning battle also shows off destructible environments as well as cool lighting effects and the fact that it will mostly be you against the world.

The Secret World - Funcom - Gameplay Screenshot

In the first fifteen minutes, you really do not take use of your inventory or character page, but it is there and functions pretty much like any other MMO. However, in the game there currency can be used to upgrade slots for your inventory, which is good instead of the need to buy bags. You also can change your clothing on the fly, chat with friends (including Facebook connectivity) and change your skills and talents.

Once you survive the battle, you encounter something strange and then awaken ready to begin your new life in the secret world. From there is where you select your first weapons and skills and get your first mission.

The Secret World - Funcom - Gameplay Screenshot

Other cool thing that you will not see in the first few moments is the travel system. About twenty or so minutes in you discover the “Hollow Earth” that allows you to travel around the world in seconds, which is a cool concept and allows a reason behind how things work in the game world.

The Secret World - Funcom - Gameplay Screenshot

Obviously, there is much more to The Secret World than what you read in this review or saw in the screenshots and videos. However, it is a game that is worth a look at especially if you are looking to get away from Dungeons and Dragons.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JwQx9Ffhbhw[/youtube]

The ability to have freedom within a game mixed with a good storyline and voice acting is a recipe for a great game. The Secret World will be available July 3rd, you can preorder it here.

Age of Conan: Unchained

Age of Conan Unchained

The free-to-play revolution continues with Age of Conan. Gamers can now play Age of Conan for free. This applies to new subscriptions as well as old ones. Here is the official announcement.

Great change has taken place in Hyboria since you last were with us!

Age of Conan: Unchained‘ has arrived, and with this we have changed the business model of the game! ‘Age of Conan‘ offers an alternative to the Premium Membership: you can now enjoy the game free of charge!

This comes in addition to lots of new content (new dungeons, systems, render engine, optimizations and hardcore PvP server to list some) – so grasp your longsword and join us in Hyboria!

So – your account is now active, your character is available (if above level 20) and you can log in and play for FREE right now!

Screenshots

As part of the celebration, we are giving away a free item too! For each character you log in before the 21st of July, you will unlock a brand new decorative cape!

With this we have also launched an in-game store that offers a wide variety of items to help you on your journeys through Hyboria! The store has items and services for all character levels.

Click here to download the client

Click here to go to your account page

Click here to learn more about the game and recent updates.

[youtube width=”600″ height=”480″]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GESzNCBnphk[/youtube]

We plan to check it out and report back on how it is. If you have experience let us know what you think of this change.

MMO’s Coming Out In 2011 Are Already Behind The Curve

2011 sure seemed like a year that would be promising us some exciting upcoming titles in the MMORPG world. With Star Wars: The Old Republic, Rifts of Telara, and DC Universe Online it appeared at first glance that there finally would be some promising games out there which fought back against the monster known as World of Warcraft. I, for one, was in this crowd of believers looking forward to something fresh and a chance to move onto to greener fields.

Rift MMO plant
Rift MMO plant

Unfortunately, from my time playing the beta for some of these games and then also playing World of Warcraft’s latest expansion Cataclysm, I have to say that World of Warcraft has trumped the genre yet again.

But Umar, how can you say that? Those games are in beta and things always change!

Yeah, okay. People said that about Final Fantasy XIV, Age Of Conan, Warhammer Online, and Champions Online. Where are they now? Age of Conan is struggling to show some respectable numbers while being considered another tally of fuck ups by Funcom, discussions about putting FFXIV on a free to play model are on the table with Square-Enix already boasting a whopping 2 million active characters (look closely at the bolded word), Mythic is essentially dissolving with employee blogs ranting about the horribly typical EA experience they are suffering from (WAR really needs a F2P model if it’s going to stand up ever again), and Champions is already on a F2P market and is shitting bricks from the upcoming DC title.

Beta did not change those games. They have remained garbage and will never be something worth a purchase.

It’s time to take off those rosy glasses of hope and look at reality for a minute. Nothing has come to close to taking a slice of this market no matter how much you whine.
For the longest time, you’d hear me complaining about World of Warcraft and its flaws and its lack of this and that, but those were the days of Burning Crusade. The game has progressed leaps and bounds from release. I honestly have no qualms about it. What were the typical issues people had with WoW?
It’s too easy, Umar!

Okay, you nerdy Sephiroth cosplaying queer. Have you played Cataclysm? A PUG can barely clear a heroic now if most of the people you group with have downs. Oh, and don’t say “The WoW community is filled with bad players.” That’s easy to say. Most people I know that say that and then either play WoW or another MMO with me are usually just as bad as any other idiot I could PUG with.

WoW’s graphics are out of date!

Yeah, they are but it works with their art style. You need things to look pretty to have fun? Plants VS Zombies wasn’t enjoyable? Mario Kart isn’t fun? Let’s go play something pretty like Final Fantasy XIV. I’m sure that’ll be a great experience. Or let’s play Age of Conan where even the most high end computers at the time were struggling to display some of the graphics. Graphics shouldn’t be on the top of your list for playability as opposed to the actual style of the game.

I think you’re stupid and gay, Umar! Star Wars is going to be awesome!

Thanks, asshole. Enjoy Star Wars then. I’m not telling people to not play it as much as I’m saying that future upcoming MMORPGs are already behind what Cataclysm has presented. Star Wars will have what? Epic dialogue and a story? That is fantastic. Cataclysm already makes your character feel like they were part of a story, maybe not on the scale of Star Wars with all the cinematics, camera angles, and voice acting, but they did make your character more involved in the storyline.

Bioware already claimed that they won’t have much endgame and that they encourage people to roll alts to see the story from a different perspective. This is a “Choose your destiny” book in virtual form. All you’re getting is a story and not many innovative mechanics. They barely ever talk about actual gameplay and mechanics as much as they talk about the story portion of the game and the classes. “Hey guys we’ve got spaceships and Jedi! Cool shit, huh?” This is a niche game and once your story is over that’s it. Bioware isn’t known for making difficult games that require strategy and skill. Putting Mass Effect 2 on harder difficulties just meant you took more damage. Wowzers!

Rifts of Telara has already thrown in the towel by conceding the fact their game is more like Vanilla WoW than WoW in its current state. Vanilla WoW was one of the most raw and broken starts to an MMO. Gamers today are crying for innovation and polish. Not a throwback to olden times. Rifts is going to be what Vanguard was to Everquest 1. An old school reincarnation that will fall flat in the present.

The only game I think that can even grab a slice of the MMO market is DCUO. I’m not talking about a game that will take subs from World of Warcraft but a game that can fill that super hero niche that Champions failed to quench. City of Heroes is already too old school and bland even with all their amazing patches. DCUO has that opportunity to grab the market from those games and even pull in more people who cream to “Smallville” and “The Dark Knight”. It isn’t competing against the elephant in the room but against the carrion dogs roaming about.

If you don’t agree with me, that’s fine. You can think what you want and I can still think you’re a bag of dicks. What am I saying is going to come to true because my word is not only correct but absolute. These MMOs will fall flat with the exception of DCUO if Sony actually markets a game this time. Time will allow you to see the truth and your bottled-up, unbridled nerd pride will nourish me when you fail to accept my prophecy.