Average User Score: 3.9Jul 5, 2012The newest installment in a short but well-beloved franchise sacrifices the largest part of what made D2 a thoroughly enjoyable, even addictive, experience upon the altars of more revenue through RMAH. (Oflline/LAN-mode, total randomness of items/drops with random items surpasing the shockingly scarce sets and even legendaries, joke bosses, no tuning at all with regards to random champs/elites who are totally interchangeable and basically consists of a selection of affixes (special abilities) randomly assorted and repeated ad nauseam, developing and shaping your character regardless of cookie cutter specs (I never considered myself "forced" and played what I enjoyed in D2 despite the grief some people gave you, and I did reasonably well)...)… Expand
Average User Score: 8.2Jul 5, 2012The game has its shortcomings: Animations are edgy and in general inferior to the older AoC, missions are bugged frequently, the character design has preciously few options for a modern-day MMO.
However, they pale when compared to what the game offers - a truly unique themepark gameplay experience in a genre long thought to be stale and essentially trying to stay alive by perpetually copying itself with merely a few minor aesthetics upgrades.
TSW deviates from the formula of success that World of Warcraft introduced to the world, the one formula that spawned a (felt) billion of poorly disguised carbon copies.
First of all, the character - not restricted by classes, you can literally learn every skill there is (sadly, these skills are exclusively combat-related, but combat is the game's heart - the one point where it does not deviate from traditional MMOs), and there are plenty. There is no boring and ultimately chalengeless grind to maxlevel, consequently. Usually, MMOs exercise considerable effort not to frustrate even the lowest common denominator, for a frustrated customer is usually not a paying one. As early as the second area (and definitely once you reach the Blue Mountains), TSW ehaves noticeably different - it is relentless, unforgiving, and punishes mistakes swiftly and without mercy. It might even kill your puppy dog without remorse if given half a chance. Baseline: It is HARD. An example: Halfway through the second map, you are met with a soloboss that has the following abilities on top of normal attacks: A channeled PBAoE that hurts anything further away than 8 metres, a channeles PBAoE that hurts anything closer than 8 metres, a mine-spawning mode with a lot of quickly exploding large-area-mines, a casted cone attack (oneshots people), and a casted Area-insta-kill (have to LOS that one).
With that arsenal, in other MMOs, you'd be a runner-up for instance boss at the least, possibly expansion boss - here, it's a single player fight. ;)
Then, there's the lore and storytelling which is, frankly, awesome. You pick up a book, you usually don't get a simple quest text but a beautiful rendering of a page (sometimes, handwritten), you get postcards, kid's scribbling, photographs...then there's the audio and graphics that mesh together nicely to create an at time chilling experience. A haunted house with ephemeral mad cackle that turns to sobs and back to cackling in one go, a blackouted underground parking where the only source of illumination is your helmlight (the cone of light bobs and weaves with your character's movements), a corroded funpark with a hood-wearing, chainsaw-wielding clown...
About dungeons - they are HARD. I admit that the very first instance (if you are not overpowering it) for me was harder than WoW's Yogg-Saron encounter. You have to know exactly what you are doing there.
Then, there's the investigation quests - if you like WELL thought out puzzles, mind games, browsing the internet for research (the game encourages to you - there are even some sites set up specially for the game like www.kingsmouth.com) and wracking your mind, you'll have a blast.
I fear that it will not be a huge commercial success - rather, it caters to a very specific audience of more mature gamers and distances itself from today's usual fast-food MMO recipe of style over substance. Already, channels are overflowing with "how do I beat X" and "where do I find Y?", and a lot of people are feeling frustrated. It will not be long before they depart and return to their comfort zone where everyone is a hero with minimal effort and almost no chance of failure.
I could talk about this game for pages, really, but I will leave it at that - if you are a passionate gamer, relish a challenge, don't approve of the age-old formula of the endgame grind and itemization spiral, plus you can connect to a weird, contemporary horror setting reminiscent of Lovecraft, King & Co., give it a try. At the very least, the game makes for a rock-solid solo title with a more than decent playthrough time.
Normally, I would give it a score of 9, maybe even 8 (There are shortcomings, though most of them are fixable - if they WILL be fixed is the question, given the developing studio's track record :) ), but for the courage, in this day, time and market, to risk publishing something that creative, that different, that caters to me and people like me (nerds who enjoy being challenged and who crave the sense of accomplishment after completing a hard task following hours of excruciating failure), I'll give it a 10.
Well done, Funcom. After AoC, I never thought you'd pull THAT one off.
Rarely have I been as glad to be proven wrong.