The Secret World is my first MMO I bought intending to play the game as a “play to finish” MMO. Unlike even Wizard 101, which I did intend in the beginning to lightly play forever, The Secret World is the first MMO I’ve bought fully intending to be a tourist. And, I feel elated. The game might even be better, in my view, for it.
There are two parts to my impressions: content and systems. They are like twin serpents winding up a staff in The Secret World. Sometimes they intertwine perfectly. In other places they wreathe and gnash at one another. Either way I have found the game to be very entertaining. Buying The Secret World was totally worth it.
The meat of the game comes in the form of missions. There is an opening monologue by the mission giver Grand Theft Auto 3-style as I stand there mutely watching. This leads to a relevant quest chain culminating to my cell phone report to the organization. Most of the quest mechanics are refined versions of the quest mechanics we all know to love and hate, and FunCom tries to use multiple mechanics within each mission to keep things moving.
Even using the conventional quest mechanics, things feel a bit fresher since it is tightly wound within a mission. This is unlike a quest hub feeling where I would get my kill ten rats quest, my gathering quest, and my click-on-objects quest at one place, which I would then finish in one go to get my fedex quest to the next quest hub. In The Secret World it feels like my actions have a tad more meaning because I am doing one quest, even if it is a systemic lie. The overarching story for each region ties everything together in an “epic” mission that uncovers the deepest secrets of the conflict.
The lore adds a nice gloss to the missions. I’ve been doing many of the side quests as well, which are much closer in feeling to a conventional MMO’s quest in length and scope. The missions and side quests combine to paint a pretty deep picture. There are never full answers, but there are a lot of neat puzzle pieces that give a spooky and incomplete picture. For instance, mass graves have specific mob types coming out of each one, such as coal miners. The sea-monster-zombie draug watch over townie-horde zombies as they dig the mass grave. It’s just a neat vignette, and The Secret World is full of these.
I will advise most players to make good use of internet guides for dealing with the investigation missions. FunCom tries to get really clever with the puzzle missions, and if I am going to the internet anyway to look up a bible verse or a Latin translation, I might as well go to a place like Unfair.co to get the whole mission’s solution. I feel that FunCom’s developers have created some really good puzzles, but I don’t have it in me to rack my brains for a good hour on a mission to figure out whether the clue is in game, in the good book, or somewhere else in cyberspace.
Overall the content is why I would suggest picking up the game. It is worth seeing, and they continue to pump out more good stuff.
The main bullet point is that The Secret World is classless and “level”-less. Neither is totally true, but the conventional MMO systems have been flattened a bit. As experience points are gained, skill points and ability points are gained at specific intervals. Players are given the freedom to put the skill points and ability points where they want, similar in danger level to Dungeons and Dragons Online where choosing wrong can lead to a “bad” character. The “classes” are tied to one of 9 sets (3 magic, 3 melee, 3 ranged). I decided to major in blood magic and minor in blades.
As active and passive abilities are bought in the line for each set, players can build decks of cards similar to Guild Wars 1. The main difference from Guild Wars is that both active abilities (actions) and passive abilities (traits) have to be juggled to create the full build. I feel that a casual player will do fine focusing on one, perhaps two sets. It is quite useful to spend a little time looking at the various builds around the internet.
Skill points are more similar to levels in that they gate the quality level of the gear. For example, once I started getting better talismans (armor stuffs), I needed to put skill points in the various talisman lines to be able to wear them. There is danger in wasting skill points and ability points to the point where players could get “stuck” for a while. Again, sticking to one or two lines plus talismans will be safe enough.
Combat feels weird. Nearly every ability is cast-on-the-move, but it feels like my movement is not really affecting whether the monsters hit me or not unless they put down a handy area-of-effect marker for me to step or dodge out of. That active dodge has a cooldown and usually throws me out of harm’s way for a short time. Most of the time I just stand and deliver. Combat has been a decent experience, but it isn’t as smooth and refined as most other big MMOs.
I am quite happy at buying The Secret World. It can be a little rough at times (especially the first few hours), but I am enjoying my play time with the game. I’ve hit mostly quality level 3 gear, and it finally feels like I have stopped climbing a pretty steep learning curve. I am a little nervous as to the quality of the first zone versus the later game, but I already feel like I got my $30 worth. I hope FunCom can figure out how to make money selling issues of content because I think this is one MMO I will keep going back to.