Having severely curtailed the amount of time I spend on MMOs (partly because of recent eyestrain/headache problems, partly because I was beginning to feel even less than usual that I have NO life), I'm now free to actually focus on a single MMO and get good at it. No one should try to keep up with four MMOs; it's idiotic. But what surprises me is that of the games I had to choose from, I've chosen Funcom's The Secret World.
Yes, the game with the far less than state-of-the-art graphics, where all clothing fabric appears to have the texture of licorice. Or latex. Or injection-molded action figures. The game that inexplicably splits up teams of players for unexpected solo instances. The game where everyone runs like drunken sasquatches. The game a reader here did not inaccurately describe as "Second Life with quests."
But...it grows on you. I mean it really grows on you. Like a happy little fungus from Yuggoth. It has entirely won me over, despite the cons. Because:
A) The writing is, throughout, astoundingly good. Honestly, I've never seen a level of writing in any MMO that even comes close. It's funny and poignant and spooky. The lore you collect reads like it was actually written by, you know, a writer. And the voice acting is consistently top notch, up to the task of delivering a lot of the game's best lines.
B) This is the first genuinely smart, genuinely adult MMO I have ever encountered, which may be one reason it isn't doing better. The investigation quests alone, which send you off to the depths of the internet to solve them, are enough to drive away the WoW crowd. I'm impressed and pleased that the game presents a world where people (who look like people, not pretty models) curse and fuck (queer sex included) and generally respond to zombies and a plague of sentient black ooze as people probably would. Where the secret societies are actually, for the most part, distinct from one another. Where the word hero is, at the very best, highly subjective. For the most part, the entire concept of heroism is irrelevant to the game (no matter how the Templars may think of themselves). Chaos is truly chaotic. The machiavellian is, actually, machiavellian, and government agencies are not above board, accountable, or competent. The developers thoroughly mined pop culture, mixing everything from George Romero to The Invisibles, H. P. Lovecraft to Norse mythology. A concordance of these references and influences would be encyclopedic. There's even a rather creepy old red oak in New England...
As an example of the scary smart sophistication, this upcoming alternate world event.
C) And, finally, I've chosen The Secret World, above all else, because it's the best RP environment I've ever encountered. I encounter RP everywhere. And, most often, good RP. Sometimes, very good RP. It would be a waste, indeed, were players not to RP (though, I suspect, most do not). I've begun a Dragon cabal (which are, essentially, guilds) called Innovation Butterfly (Arcadia server), and if anyone wants to try the game and join the group, you'd certainly be welcomed. Also, there's a three-day free trial.
Anyway, I'm going on. But I do have one caveat, which might pertain to gaming in general, not just his game, though I've never noticed it quite as much. I tend to think of players as being of two general types (with some in-between, natch): "button mashers" and "min-maxers." I am proudly a button masher. Fuck the stats. So long as I hit buttons and shit dies, I'm happy. having to crunch numbers as I fight zombies is tedious and destroys any suspension of disbelief. Plus, button mashing seems to work at least as good as the obsessive min-maxing I see so many build/gear-obsessed players...obsessed with. Try this. One of the general disciplines in which I am proficient is blood magic. One of the specific abilities in blood magic is "Exsanguinate." Here's a description:
"Channeled: Every 0.5 seconds for 2.5 seconds. Consumes 5 Blood Resources. Can be powered by your own health. A channeled Focus attack that deals 123 magical damage. If the target is Impaired, it also becomes Afflicted with a damage over time effect that deals 14 magical damage every second for 10 seconds."
And...who gives a fuck? I almost fell asleep copying that down. Besides, honestly, button mashing really does work just as well. Equip your most powerful abilities. Mash buttons. Watch shit die. This frees me up to actually imagine that my character is fighting monsters.