WoW! Thoughts! — on Why Success is Not a Secret to the World of Warcraft
July 19, 2012
Playing through The Secret World, I find it amusing how chat is constantly full of people comparing it to WoW. While The Secret World gets some features right, I still find myself pining for Azeroth more than I do Agartha.
The most prevalent comment in chat is that people are enjoying the questing so much more than in WoW. Admittedly, the questing is more involved and features a minimal number of fetch quests. If anything, TSW‘s quests feel like the evolution of questing from WoW through The Old Republic. TOR tried to integrate story into the quests, but at the end of the day, the mechanics were the same. TSW gives alot of ‘kill x number of zombies’ quests, but it also has a lot of simple ‘go to x location’ quests. It can get away with this because quests advance through stages as soon as you complete an objective without having to return to the source of the quest.
It’s similar to how WoW has quests that, upon completion, immediately open another quest without requiring you to go back to the quest giver. But where those are used sparingly in WoW, it is the norm for TSW. Also, quests can be completed by sending a report from your phone instead of having to trek back to the quest giver. The whole experience flows smoothly and means you never have to worry about not being able to take a new quest because your queue is full of turn-ins. However, not all comparisons favor TSW positively. While running around Kingsmouth staring all the other new Secret Worlders in the face, something a little unsatisfying occurred to me: This is all there is.
Kingsmouth in The Secret World is a big zone. Size can be an asset, but also a burden. It’s a peninsula of zombies and draug (TSW’s version of kvaldir). Kingsmouth is interesting, but it is one steady theme and the amount of effort required before moving on to the next zone has been pushing my tolerance for staying put. This is exacerbated by the layout of the quests. Some quests have a linear structure that takes you from quest hub to quest hub, as is typical in WoW, but other quests have you running quite literally all over the zone. (The Vision, for example.)
As someone who finds himself tiring of the zone, the last thing I want to do is literally run to the corners of the zone and back again (and of course, since there are no mounts, I am literally running). WoW usually has players queue up a bunch of quests for a spot and then sends players off to fetch whatever is there while killing the wildlife, return to the quest giver, and move on to a new spot. TSW‘s quests are a bit more involving, but at the loss of convenience. Eventually, the zone just becomes a blur of grey zombie-scapes to run through.
To alleviate this, I rolled a character of a different faction. To my disappointment, I had the exact same introductory experience. The cutscenes and characters met varied slightly, but every player in The Secret World has the exact same origin story. The tutorial stage is the exact same. Upon completion, you are dumped into the exact same Kingsmouth. I tried to escape getting bored in the setting I was in, only to wind up in that very setting. I suppose it’s good that all the new players are funneled through one location – once the population dwindles, it will keep everyone together so new players won’t find the world so empty. But I want to taste more of what The Secret World has to offer, and all I ever do is find myself holed up in the sheriff’s makeshift fort.
WoW, on the otherhand, has thirteen different starting experiences, with another coming in Mists of Pandaria. Even at launch, there were six zones to choose from. I never got bored from leveling my Tauren in Mulgore, but I did get curious about the rest of the world. Consequently, I rolled a Forsaken and checked out Tirisfal Glades. WoW has so many zones, each with a different flavor, that you can’t see everything and go everywhere as you level unless you intentionally take a break from advancing. As they’ve eased the leveling requirements for the earliers zones, it only means there’s more content one won’t get to see on the first playthrough. Even leveling through Outland and Northrend can be done while only seeing about half the zones, and the first choice of Cataclysm is between Hyjal or Vashj’ir. Also, while I’ve rolled some Alliance alts and played the highest to just over level 20, the only Alliance zone I’ve seen to any real degree is Darkshore. There are entire zones that I’ve never personally experienced (I’m extremely curious about Westfall), despite my Loremaster title.
Furthermore, in WoW, the difference between choosing factions is much more than some slight changes to the starting experience. You are completely segregated from the other characters to the point where you can’t chat with them. The Secret World doesn’t quite have the same luxury since they are restricted to one race, but they even botch the tutorial in that regard by showing members of the various factions banding together as a group to escape a crisis. Imagine if all new characters spawned at the same place, and Thrall and Jaina were the first two quest givers who would walk players through a tutorial attacking the Twilight Cult. It would ruin the concept of warring factions from the start, and The Secret World suffers for this.
Blizzard is lucky, though. It knows it will have enough players that it can offer multiple paths through content, and it doesn’t have to worry about splitting up the population because the population is large enough to handle the split. (The population drops in higher-level zones will be remedied by cross-realm instancing.) A less established game like The Secret World may not be able to make that choice. As it is, I’m still interested in The Secret World and I’ll keep playing it, but it doesn’t have my attention like early WoW did. WoW has managed to make a fictional world like Azeroth feel huge and vibrant and alive; The Secret World has taken the real world and made it feel monotonous and flat. Maybe the real Secret is that it’s a small World after all.
Mists of Pandaria will offer 48 opportunities for daily quests. I can do two per hour and never stop questing! http://eu.battle.net/wow/en/forum/topic/4848026490#8
Ghostcrawler talks about rage generation for warriors. Interesting, but I’d rather hear Kimbra’s thoughts on Warriors. http://us.battle.net/wow/en/forum/topic/5978458015?page=18#350