The Secret World Review
Imagine a world where every conspiracy is true, where every ghost, monster, beast, alien from supernatural stories exist. Imagine Stephen King having the power to create a world according to his more un-earthly stories. This is the setting of The Secret World. If sci-fi, urban legends and conspiracy theories are your thing, this MMO will fight right into your tastes, but be prepared to re-learn everything you know about MMORPGs in general.
Before we go on, I will remind you that Funcom games have always been made for mature audiences(i.e. Age of Conan and Anarchy Online). Brace yourselves for "flowery" language, blood, gore and topless females(yes there will be
some). With much discernment the game is all about being realistic in an unforgiving world where the boogieman exists behind your cupboard or under the bed. If you squeam at games like Silent Hill or Siren, you might want to stay away from this.
The game begins with telling a tale of your character. You choose your desired faction among the three secret societies: The Templars are you typical holy crusaders who believe in discipline and order. The Illuminati are all about greed, power and wealth, and will go through any means to achieve that. The Dragon seek to find order in chaos, and apparently have a lot of lustful desires.
Once you're done with the choices and finished designing your character with its multitude of face, hair and clothing options, you'll dive right into the game and be treated to cutscenes that introduce you to the faction you picked. Of note, the Dragon's introduction is the most mind-boggling of all. Once that is done, you'll begin in your starting city - London for the Templars, New York for the Illuminati, and Seoul for the Dragon.
Complete the tutorials masked as missions and you'll get to pick your weapon of choice. At this point, I implore you, players of The Secret World to read each ability description carefully. This is the core gameplay of The Secret World. Your combat experience and how you will play the game depends very much on this.
If you are the kind who's been pampered by the control scheme of World of Warcraft or any previous MMOs, you might have a hard time adapting to this game. If you've done tons of reading and researched every bit of information available on the web, you might stand a chance. If you've not, know that Funcom has reinvented the whole skills and abilities wheel.
For starters, there is no specific class to follow. You will be able to learn every skill in the game should you be willing to grind that much and this works like a double-edged sword. Either you are attentive enough to know how to mix and match skills, or you could end up with an ineffective set of skills. All of these choices come from the Ability Wheel.
You have about 500 options should you learn them all, and these skills are categorised into 9 different weapon types - Rifles, pistols, blood magic, elementalism, swords, maces and so on. It doesn't help that the game doesn't tell guide you in the ways of skill choosing and there is no way of resetting those skills that you've bought. Either you deal with it, or you spend Ability Points to make up for your mistakes. It's a little unforgiving and you wouldn't know whats a good build early in the game.
I've had to reroll twice just because I didn't know any better. What helped a lot somehow is the hidden option of Decks. These decks show you some of the classes you can choose to be, and it suggests a set of skills for you to mix in. Take for example a Preacher class from the Templars. It will show you the skills of a Preacher and should you equip those skills, you get rewarded with a preach clothing sent to your mail. Reward aside, these decks act as suggestions on how to build your character as you fight your way through this unforgiving world.
Skills and abilities require skill points and ability points. These two are not synonymous, because skill points upgrade the effectiveness of each category of abilities, while ability points let your purchase the ability itself. Confusing? Yes. However, once you get the hang of it, you will realise character building is extremely customizable.
To build your character, you'll have to complete a main story through each area and all of the side-quests that are available within the vicinity. Thankfully, The Secret World has a fantastic story and is filled with some of the most memorable characters. Furthermore, the feel of go-there-get-this is almost non-existant. You'll have some real world puzzle-solving, clue-finding, truth-seeking and riddle-answering.
Do note that you will not be able to collect all the quests at one go, but have to do them one at a time. This might sound annoying at first, but it is Funcom's way of saying, "Choose the quest you want to do. Not take them all." There really is a mission type for every play-style and you can repeat these missions after the cool down is over.
This is the beauty of The Secret World. There's a reason why they have a web-browser built into the game and you will find yourself using it to google out clues to finish your quest. Combat aside, the game really engages your investigative abilities, something that most MMOs have yet to accomplish.
Player vs. Player feels a bit lacking in The Secret World. The battleground is dubbed the Fusang Project and you technically gain control of certain areas on the map to get points. Points being experience points for more Ability Points and Skill Points. In a way, PvP is a very quick way to level up and also a quick way to learn if your current skill set is effective whether you decide to be a damage dealer or healer. Other than that, there isn't a lot of tangible benefits to PvP unless a rating system is out.
Dungeons on the other hand are extremely fun and challenging. The plus point comes in having very little trash mobs, and very tricky boss encounters. Not only will it test your player skills, but it will test your intelligence. Not to spoil anything, do know that the puzzles to tackle a boss are tougher than just figuring out a specific mechanic. Also, remember that the environments are out to kill you as well. I won't enve start on how the boss is able to manipulate areas to keep you on your toes. By the way, there is no resurrection ability in The Secret World, so believe me when I say staying alive is so important.
Finally, the graphics in this game is fantastic. It is also one of the rare games that allow you to have some pleasant-looking character models. The one thing that doesn't give it justice is the animations that aren't fluid specially when you compare them to the likes of Age of Conan.
If there's one thing to say about The Secret World it is different and unique. If you're wondering why some might not be too happy about it, chances are they haven't adpated to this new way of experiencing an MMO. For anyone who love sci-fi stories, urban legends and everything creepy, this is an MMO worth trying. As far as longevity goes, the game will appeal to largely to a niche audience, a very large niche audience.
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