If you follow me on Twitter, you know I love Funcom’s The Secret World. I log in a few times a month and I always have a good time. TSW’s actually the game that put the freeze on my already rare blogging. I’ve played through several games since last summer, but I’ve been keeping up with TSW, watching and experiencing how it develops. I never took the time to do a Character Assessment or review about it until I learned that my unhealthy addiction to buying discounted games could be enhanced by writing reviews for the Green Man Gaming store. For every review, I can make 25¢ in store credit. Since I was already writing my thoughts about TSW on Reddit every time the game went on sale, I figured might as well cash in. Hence, Cheap Reviews.
The Secret World probably won’t be the MMORPG that gets you hopelessly addicted. It is not a game that you will feel the need to spend every waking moment playing to the dejected frowns of your loved ones. Once you start, it’s not even a game in which you’ll feel like you’re behind everybody or that’ll you need to play 5 hours a day for a month to catch up. However, The Secret World is one of the most rewarding and entertaining experiences you’ll find in any MMORPG to date. It’s an amazing game that’s worth far more than the $30 they’re charging for all the 2012-developed content. Up to May 2013, there are two additional Issues (content packs) that players can purchase if so inclined, but they’re not required and there’s more than enough game already there to justify the cost.
TSW is a modern-day, three-faction MMORRG that’s a compelling combination of adventure, action, conspiracy, and horror themes. At a basic level, it’s a theme park action-RPG where you arrive at a hub, meet an NPC, and take on missions. However, TSW elevates the routine by making almost every quest a story-based chain. Consequently, players won’t grab 10 or 20 quests and “clear the zone.” Instead, players can take on a selection of story and side quests, rarely knowing where the missions will take them or what they’ll need to do when there. In addition to conventional kill-X-many-enemies quests, TSW also gives a variety of missions that tell players to get something done without telling them exactly how. Sometimes you’ll find clues in-game and sometimes you’ll have to use google (Just be sure to add “-tsw” if you don’t want spoilers). It’s up to you to discover the clues and how to progress through the story.
The stories in TSW are the cornerstones of the game with the major arcs taking the player to present-day New England, Egypt, and Transylvania. The developers have quilted together folklore with ancient religions and urban myth. They’ve created characters who live in our world (some of them have real active Twitter accounts), but travel in circles full of magic. They are members of the secret organizations behind every major world event. A player’s own character progression gives them the power to reveal more of the tale. There are no levels, just weapon and gear ranks. Players can buy ranks and abilities for their weapons with experience. More experience is granted from quests than from farming mobs, eliminating the need for grinding. Players will need to decide on the fly if Swords and Machine Guns or Blood Magic and Pistols or Hand Claws and Elementalism will get them through their current mission or if they’ll need another weapon build altogether.
I’ve been playing The Secret World for about 10 months. I play it mostly solo while occasionally joining parties to achieve common goals and using my Cabal (guild) mostly for chat. I haven’t discussed dungeons (5-man instances), lairs (high-difficulty open-world zones), raids (large group instances), or PVP because I haven’t spent much time doing any of them. From what I see and hear in forums, podcasts, and reddit, multiplayer may be the game’s weakest point even though players can’t resist helping each other while we’re all out doing our own things. Combat also takes some getting used to, but once you match abilities that synergize optimally in your build, you’ll feel like a warrior god. Endgame is not a focus in this game and there’s no need to race to get there. There’s no urgency to get geared up to be a part of the 7% of players who see the game’s most challenging combat content. TSW has tons of combat, but also tons of unique stories waiting for all players. If you’re wanting to have the same experience that you’ve had in WoW, Guild Wars, or Tera, but in a contemporary, real world setting, TSW will disappoint you. If you want a unique, massively-multiplayer, combat-based, adventure RPG that you can take your time playing, you will not find a better game.
It’s true, I’ve been playing since August and I’m nowhere close to reaching Panoptic Core. If you’ve got any comments or suggestions about TSW or my little blog place, let me know. I’d like to make this spot more useful to more people.