[TSW] First Impressions

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.


13 thoughts on “[TSW] First Impressions”

  1. 1.) is there a monthly fee?
    2.) are there raids? I don’t like 10+ man raids which have to be organised… making schedules for a computer game.

    1. There are no monthly fees. Funcom made a big deal about dropping the subscription. There is an option to become a member, pay a monthly stipend, and get a range of perks, but that’s it.

      There’s currently one ten-man raid, set in New York. I haven’t heard plans for more, but I’d expect them to be on the way.

    2. 1) No.
      2) There is one raid currently. There are currently 8 dungeons, which are for a single 5-man team. These exist in normal, elite and nightmare mode – normal mode is for the typical progression through the zones, the other two modes for “end game” play.
      There are also “lairs”, also aimed towards more “end game” play, but perhaps more casual/smaller teams than the dungeons. There is one lair in each zone I believe.

  2. 1) No. It is similar to LOTRO in that you can get monthly VIP access, which gives you some special items/boosts, but the content is now buy-the-box.

    2) Not that I’m aware of. There are dungeons, I think 5-man? I have not delved that far at all.

  3. Your experiences/impressions are basically equal to mine. I really enjoy the game for its missions and it feels refreshingly different to the fantasy games that I usually play. It has its rough edges, especially when it comes to combat. But with its “buy-the-box” system, I think I will get my money’s worth.

    I can’t say much about the next zone, as I haven’t gotten there yet. ;) But I did see other people asking and older players saying that the later zones are just as good or better than Kingsmouth. We’ll see soon enough, I guess. ;)

  4. A few comments:

    – Moving in combat helps to avoid damage. If you do it very well, you can reduce damage taken by almost 30%, and this is before taking the “telegraphed” attacks into account. The secret behind this simply is, when enemies are forced to run after you or turn around to attack you, they do their movement animations and pause their attack animations. No attack animantion -> no damage. (They still catch up or throw in a ranged attack, so you can’t completely nullify damage, but you can reduce it by good movement. ) According to a Developer statement, this is working as intended, so if you are under attack and move smartly, you are supposed to reduce damage you take.

    – In the long run there is no “bad” character. You can earn AP and SP without limit. While SP limits the gear you are able to use and thus at the start gates which content you are able to handle, you will always have content which you can do. And no matter how far you get, the XP necessary to get one more AP or SP is always the same. So indeed, any “older” character, and we’re just speaking of a few weeks here, has all weapon and talisman skills maxed. Learning all abilities is another thing, this takes much longer, but some characters with 100% completion do exist. (And you don’t need that many abilities, after all you can only slot 7 actives and 7 passives, so even a limited selection of them allows you to do most of the content, only very few encounters might require some exotic setups and abilities. )

    – The 10 man raid does exist, but no more. There is one (rarely done) 10 man instance in the game, while all other instances are made for 5 people. The option to form a raid instead of a group is more frequently (but still rarely) used to fight lair or world bosses. Any way, i find it easy enough to find (competent) groups for Dungeons and those 10 man raids can also be found when looking for them. You definitely can play this game in a casual way and you don’t have to organize in the “this game is my second job, but eats more than my official first job” manner some other game requires. (As a sidenote: of course, i use a small trick making it easy to find groups for me: i am actually useful, i can heal. Those who absolutely refuse to be able to tank or heal of course end up in the DPS section of the LFG tool and have to accept waiting times. Supply and demand… )

    And on QL3 and stopped to climb a steep learning curve: Welcome to the Savage Coast, please be careful when heading on to Blue Mountain, the first area to check if you have a solid setup. (On the positive side: If your setup is good for Blue Mountain, it’ll probably server you well for a long time. )

  5. I’d highly recommend moving up with at least two weapons so that you have two high damage “finishing attacks” available that are activated by different resources. You don’t have to go nuts in your second line, but limiting yourself to a single weapon line will cut your maximum damage output by a fair bit. Blood with a minor in Swords should have you covered.

  6. In my opinion the second half of Blue Mountain is harder than Egypt. Egypt is certainly a lot more fun and is the only part of the world that could be described as remotely “cheerful”. At least the sun shines.

    I jumped from BM to Egypt at around QL5 as I recall and used Egypt to gear myself to QL7. (This is from memory from back in the summer – might be off by a level). I then went to Transylvania, which was too hard solo at QL7 so I did a bit more Egypt and a very little more BM, returning to Transylvania to gear up from QL8 onwards. At least that’s about how I remember it.

    By hopping around I avoided getting gear-blocked, which was happening in BM first time through. This was solo, of course, with a little bit of duo before Mrs Bhagpuss decided TSW wasn’t for her. In a group I’m sure things would go a lot more smoothly.

    One undocumented feature is that many quests will allow you to open tag mobs other people are fighting and get credit, just like in GW2. Not all quests and there’s no indication which do and don’t, but it’s the majority. I never had anyone complain about me jumping in to fight with them, either.

    I really must get back to TSW again… great game in so many ways.

  7. As far as moving around goes, it does help – you can avoid up to 1/3 of the mobs damage. But circle strafing is about the only way to get a noticeable reduction. That can be impracticable in some areas – fething akhabs.

  8. While Kingsmouth Town isn’t a bad zone, the quality of writing and storytelling honestly goes up in Savage Coast (the Innsmouth Academy quests are worth redoing just to see the cutscenes and Carter-Montag interaction, and Sam Krieg makes me want to punch both him and Steven King), and the Egypt zones have better high points as the writers got into stride.

    Note that the current prices for QL10 green items are very, very low, so pushing your Talismans and then two primary weapons to Skill 9 and buying a set asap can make the mid-game go rather more smoothly.

    Affliction-Penetration synergy from Blood-Blade does fairly well, You’re missing out on (or delaying) the automatic affliction hits like Bloodsport or Shoot ‘Em Up, but you’ve still got a lot of tools to apply an affliction within the first few hits in a fight. Clearing The Path’s penetration-on-affliction and the passive heal-on-penetration effects can get you pretty far from there.

    You’ll eventually want to pick up some sort of weakened effect before getting to Transylvania, but that’s a good hundred or more AP away, minimum.

    “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 didn’t find that one particularly bad, but there’s different lines for everyone. I managed to play WebMD and chemist-codespeaker for one Transylvanian investigation quest and felt rather proud, but a different quest in Egypt that involved translating from Arabic to Hebrew before the attacking zombies slaughtered me struck as a bit much too much and drove me to unfair.co. Still, nice to see a game developer that make more serious puzzles than jigsaw or sliding piece-style.

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