Eurogamer are a little late to the party with their review of The Secret World, but when it comes to MMO coverage, that might be a good thing, as they've been able to give the game a more extended look. Although the game's unique modern-day, real-world theme is praised, as is its storytelling, Eurogamer are less kind to the gameplay itself, which they argue has its best parts obfuscated and hidden from players, along with its social features. The final 7/10 score seems to mirror their somewhat inconclusive thoughts.
Good solo play has been a cornerstone of successful MMOs for years, and quite right too; doing your own thing alongside a world of others is an underrated pleasure. The increasing focus on it in games like Star Wars: The Old Republic doesn't do much more harm than sound the occasional conceptual bum note. Considering that the game has both a monthly fee and a heavy focus on microtransactions, we may see the game go towards a free-to-play direction in the future, much like other MMOs, if the subscriptions don't work out.
But The Secret World's problems run deeper than that. It has the multiplayer content - dungeons climaxing in testing boss encounters (strong), a few player-versus-player game modes (sloppy) - but they're free-floating, connected to the rest of the game by umbilical strands of story but little sense of community and a lack of commitment to the massively multiplayer dream.
When you're asking players to pay a subscription of £11.49 a month, that's a big problem. It doesn't help that the launch game is quite buggy and just scraping the minimum amount of content you need to qualify as a "premium" MMO, although developer Funcom is promising monthly updates.
Is it worth trying it out for that first, free month, though? That's an altogether different question, and the answer is a qualified but encouraging 'yes'.