I have to admit I was a bit skeptical when I first heard about this title a few years back. Given the rough launches Funcom had with previous titles, and given the unusual setting and theme of this game, I had my doubts it could “work” as an MMORPG.

That being said, I am more than pleased to report that not only is this game suprisingly fun and not only does it “work”, but it has succeeded in a way that most MMORPGs have been unable to do thus far since World of Warcraft dominated the scene (and ushered in numerous clones) – It has done something entirely “different” with the genre.

Now let me be clear, there are parts of the game, UI, look and feel, mechanics, etc, etc that have been built upon from previous games and successes, no doubt about it. Most successful MMOs (including WoW) did this, and it is a natural progression to build upon successful elements from other games both in and out of your genre that came before. But in the same way that WoW innovated beyond the norms when it launched – so has TSW innovated out of the box with its release.

Controls remain mostly true to the established standards, with WASD movement, hotkey binding, mouse wheen camera zoom, standard mouse controls, and more. You will not have a problem understanding control if you have played other games like this. The UI, however, is a very slick and polished new take on interface. The Ability and Skill pages are extremely clean, and function prefectly for min maxing builds and clearly seeing everything you need to. The minimalistic UI, without “frills” or unneeded graphics taking up real estate is responsive and unobtrusive, leaving your eyes free to absorb the creepy game world.

The game world itself is visually very attractive (what I mean is it looks very fitting for the setting of the game). Sound quality is high, with perfectly somber music and monster effects that make the game feel very creepy as you delve into its mysteries. The zones you play in are masterfully crafted, full of interactive content all over the place. This combined with the level of polish and freeform skill/ability progression helps to hide the “theme-park” nature of the game world, and makes it feel much more like an exploration based game with content you encounter, rather than are guided to.

Where this game truly exceeds expectations however, is simply in the successful execution of a horror genre as an MMO, and I truly feel like an occult investigator and have some very creepy moments as I play through the game. Questing is detailed and deep, and while I can’t say I’m a huge fan of having to use out-of-game resources to solve some quests (looking up bible verses, translating morse code, visiting referenced websites, and more), the build in browser makes it easy enough. The game is also HARD.

Let me emphasize that again. The game is actually HARD!

No, I don’t mean just the dungeons or whatever end-game content awaits. I mean just moving through zones, exploring, and solving puzzles, events, and other mysteries. I have been stumped by a few puzzles, and combat gets intense as you move out of the starting areas and into more complex parts of the game world. The first few dungeons I have encountered and cleared (each zone seems to have a 5 player dungeon) have been well crafted, and paced to be exciting and not drag on. They have been quite polished, and provided fun boss fights with entertaining mechanics.

As you can see, there is little I can do to downtalk this title. From the near-flawless launch, to the polish on the game itself, this is truly a success in my eyes from a company that many had probably written off, and were not considering. I personally have convinced multiple gaming buddies to try this title, and not one of them has been dissapointed in their purchase. I have even heard comments from some of them that they may not be returning to the next WoW expansion, as they are so drawn into this title. That to me speaks volumes, and it is nice to see an MMO break the mold, and do it with such success.

I cannot recommend this game enough to die hard MMO vets looking for something new, that reinvigorates old-school gaming style and passions. This game will challenge you and rock your world.

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Jerry Paxton

A long-time fan and reveler of all things Geek, I am also the Editor-in-Chief and Founder of GamingShogun.com