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I know TSW doesn't get much attention these days. Heck, it looks like the last review/impression post was almost a year ago. Regardless, I'd thought I'd go ahead and share my latest experience with TSW since it's kept my attention longer than any other game I've played in a while.
Background: My first MMORPG (and addiction) was EQ back in '99. Since then, I've played or tried pretty much all of the major games (SWO, DAOC, AO, CoH, CO, AoC, EQ2, AoW, LOTRO, etc).
Current state: Like many of your, I've been following the next "shiny" new game, hoping to find one that would capture my interest for more than a week or two. Anyway, this summer, I focused on finding a new game. I had already tried WS (open Beta), NW, and AA, so I thought I'd revisit some other options: Rift, FF:ARR and TSW
TSW Experience: My first experience with TSW was back in 2012 when I briefly tried the Open Beta. At the time, it just didn't hook me. I think I was intimidated by the skill wheel, there really wasn't much guidance at the time, and (with open beta) there were so many players milling about in the starting area I think (looking back) it really took away from the atmosphere that TSW creates.
Anyway, I obtained a trial key from an MMORPG member to give the game another go. I found myself enjoying the experience so when it was available on the Steam Summer Sale for $8, I purchased. A week later, I decided to up the ante and purchase the Ultimate Edition while on sale for $42. About a month in, I decided to invest an extra $10 and (with bonus points you get for your first 30 missions), purchased the Franken Chopper plus got the 1st time purchase bonus
Skill Wheel- What was originally intimidating, is now enjoyable and refreshing. In other games, I tend to be an Altoholic. TSW has the Trinity of Tank, Healer, DPS and being able to develop builds and switch on the fly is fun. I think they must have improved how they introduce builds as I started off with selecting two weapons. Ability Points come at a good pace and, if anything, I find myself with at a surplus to experiment with vs. not having another to be viable in the area I am currently questing.
Quest Design- Of all the MMOs I've played, I have to say that TSW has the most "organic" questing system. I realize that (for the most part) I'm still doing Kill x number of mobs, go to y, or collect z number of items, but they are well integrated into story that it doesn't typically feel that way. Plus the investigative missions are also unique and fun to do.
Story/Atmosphere- Like many here, I'm typically drawn to fantasy environments, but I'm really digging TSW. I find the stories and dialog very well done. There are surprises, twists, and humor as well. I'm focused more on experiencing all the different quest stories than I am on "leveling" (which is the way I prefer to play).
Grouping- TSW dungeons actually require old school grouping (i.e. group find, invite and talk) vs. the newer norm of auto group while you still solo. There are still times where players form a group and just run through a dungeon without speaking much, but, for the most part, the groups I have been part of have been social.
Community- Most of the channels are pretty quiet, but #sanctuary is quite active with a lot of great people. I also got to experience the recent anniversary event and there were a ton of people about hunting golems, etc. It was a lot of fun.
Engine- The game is a beast. For the most part, I just keep it at Medium settings due to fps and lag
UI- Definitely an Old School UI. My biggest gripe is that I can't easily customize things like chat color (although I understand there's a way to script it). It does support add ons and I use a few of them.
Crafting- "Crafting" in TSW is very basic, but, then again, I don't tend to focus on crafting in most of the games I play.
The Other games I tried-
I really like Rift and played it heavy before I got drawn into TSW. I have not yet tried FF:ARR yet...