Overall, I spent way more time downloading the clients and giving away keys for the Secret World Beta than actually playing. I have very little interest in spending time on characters that will be wiped when I have so many characters I can keep competing for my limited time. That said, now that the opportunity is past I suppose I should write what I can.
Limited time, first impressions
I really haven't bothered to watch any of the marketing info for this game, so I picked Dragon, cause A) green and B) ninjas (I think). The second conversation my character had in game consisted of a strong implication that a female NPC was performing off-camera oral sex on my female character in order to grant access to a flashback combat tutorial. I'm not so much offended as highly underwhelmed - rather than a feel for the Dragon culture, I'm left feeling that the writers are going to be simultaneously cliche and edgy because they can.
Havin gotten that over with, it was off to a dojo to test drive all of the combat styles in the game - magic, melee, or firearms. Each weapon has a damage and a utility (tank, heals, support) role, and a new character won't have enough skill points to know what all of those skills will look like, but at least it was a good opportunity to get a feel for my choices. More games need to offer this type of option, though ironically TSW has the least need to do so since you can switch weapons without re-rolling.
The first real zone was a zombie apocalypse scenario. Quest text is delivered in fully voiced cutscenes, but, unlike SWTOR, these are not interactive and your character never speaks. Not having options makes the discussions feel less interactive, even though very few conversations in SWTOR actually matter - the choices are an opportunity for your character to have a personality in a genre that often fails to flesh out its occupants. However, it was definitely as advertised, MMO mechanics in a modern setting.
I didn't get very far into the skill tree, and I unfortunately failed to take a second type of weapon when an early quest offered me an upgrade. The skill system claims to allow two weapons per skill "deck" and it would have been interesting to see how that works out in practice. I did find it a bit odd that I had to take abilities in the one weapon I used (some sort of fists, forget if they were actually called that) in a linear order, but it looked like there would be more opportunity to branch out later in the game.
One final tidbit was the game's browser integration. At one point where a normal game would have fired up a tutorial, TSW launched its browser and streamed a video off Youtube. This does not break immersion because it is a modern setting, and it allows them to reuse work they already did for their marketing campaign to spin up players on the game. I did not reach the much-discussed story puzzles that are solved via google, so my only comment there is that I eagerly await the day the Goons launch a campaign to get incorrect answers to the puzzles onto the top of the Google search results as a way to grief the playerbase.
I respect folks who think the game is innovative and want to support it on principle. The one place where they're not innovating, though, is the monthly fee, and that's pretty much a dealbreaker for me right now. What I've seen of the game is potentially interesting, but I don't feel like dropping anything I'm working on right now to make room in my crowded money and time budgets. Best of luck to those of you who are soldiering onwards to launch, and perhaps I'll join you someday.