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While I can't really say if that's what the game would have needed to be, that's certainly what the folks at GamesBeat think, arguing that the multiplayer setting detracts from the player's experience. Here's a snippet:
Basically, every time I was talking to an NPC or quest-giver or watching a cut-scene, The Secret World had me completely enthralled. The writing is excellent, the voice acting solid (if a little too "wicked-hahd" on the New England accent), and I devoured every scrap of information about the game's backstory and setting. Unfortunately, these moments made up a very small percentage of play; I spent the majority of my time wandering from quest to quest, killing and looting mobs, and engaging in other typical MMO activities.
The Secret World's narrative aspirations remind me most of one of my very favorite games of all time, Vampire: The Masquerade -- Bloodlines. That, too, was about a clandestine underworld hidden in plain sight of the real one (Los Angeles, in this case). The player character gets recruited ("embraced," in vampire parlance) in a somewhat similar fashion, and he soon discovers a vicious web of politics, power struggles, ancient factions, and apocalyptic portents. It's an incredibly immersive experience; perhaps no other game has so ensnared me in its fiction while playing.
The difference, of course, is that in Bloodlines, the fiction is the game. Or rather, the gameplay does not get in the narrative's way. Indeed, one augments the other; side with the bureaucratic Camarilla, and you'll find yourself stealthing past enemies and controlling minds to get what you need. More of a brute-force type? The Brujah-led Anarch faction is for you. You probably won't even notice the multitude of ways you could have accomplished your goals on your first playthrough, because every choice feels so natural. No game this side of Deus Ex adapts to playstyle choices as well.