Updated Thu, Dec 13, 2012 by Shayalyn
Every gamer has one or more--the game they anticipated with the highest expectations, only to have their hopes and dreams dashed at launch. In fact, we’d bet that, before you finish reading this introduction, a title or two will have popped into your head. We’re going to share the games that broke our little staff writers’ gamer hearts. If you missed the first half of our feature, you can read part one here, then read on to see if any of our remaining picks made your list.
Heart broken: Shayalyn
It was not only my involvement in game journalism but my 17-year-old son who first got me interested in The Secret World. He hung on every word that Ragnar Tørnquist (then Game Director for TSW) uttered, and couldn’t stop talking about the game. So I started paying close attention to it and pretty soon I was drawn into its web of conspiracy, and hooked on its pervasive notion that, from the hollow earth theory to zombies to vampires, “everything is true.” The gaming industry had yet to see a good horror-themed MMO, and I was certain that The Secret World would be it.
The Secret World seemed to have a lot going for it. Tørnquist was the man behind the cult favorite, The Longest Journey, known for its great story. I love a good story, and prefer to be drawn into the quests I’m completing rather than just randomly running around racking up a kill count. The lore and ARGs (alternate reality games) leading up to TSW’s launch seemed promising. Although I worried about Funcom’s track record with its earlier MMO, Age of Conan, I figured they would have learned from their mistakes. Surely they wouldn’t make another MMO that felt as though it really should have been a single-player game. They wouldn’t try charging $15 per month for something like that again, would they?
When I was finally able to play The Secret World, I realized that I was right about the story--TSW has a great one. Not only that, but its settings are rendered in vibrant detail, and its well-executed voice acting and humor added to the story line, right from the moment I first talked to the haggard police chief in the zombie-infested New England hamlet of Kingsmouth. There were a lot of good things happening in TSW, but...with the exception of its challenging dungeons, it still felt like it would’ve made a better single-player RPG. For a game with so much visual realism, combat animations were stiff and unimpressive, and combat itself was whack-a-mole simplistic. (In fact, Age of Conan had more “thinky” combat.) The Ability Wheel was needlessly complex, and had you earning endless ability points to spend on junk abilities so that you could get to the juicier ones you really needed.
Plus, I still wasn’t willing to pay $15 a month for it. I heard the same things echoed by many gamers across the Ten Ton Hammer community and others--“cool game, for the most part, but not worth the monthly fee.” That sentiment was reflected in company-wide layoffs at Funcom not long after TSW launched and failed to achieve the success its developers had hoped for.
From the moment I played The Secret World I’d said that the game would’ve had a much better chance of success had it launched free-to-play with a cash shop. Just yesterday, Funcom announced that TSW has gone subscription-free. If you’ve already purchased the game, you can return and play with no monthly fee (although a subscription is still an option, and nets you some nice bonuses.) If you haven’t tried it, $30 will get you the client. Although I haven’t checked out the cash shop and looked into any free-to-play limitations yet, this new pricing model holds hope for the future of a game that could have been a real heartbreaker, but just might fulfill its promise after all.