Funcom's MMO: The Secret World!

Funcom’s MMO: The Secret World!

The Secret World is a buy-to-play horror themed themepark MMO made by Funcom, boasting some of the most interactive and mind-boggling quests in the business. Released in July of 2012, The Secret World has since released many mini-expansions (known as issues) and has undergone many changes, such as the recent enhanced player experience. The Secret World is set in a modern day world much like our own, but rife with conspiracies, magic, the occult and unspeakable horrors; much so that TSW’s motto is “Everything is true.”

A new player starts off by creating a character and choosing one of three factions: the Templar, the Illuminati, or the Dragon. At least two of these should be familiar; the Templar stem from the Knights Templar, and the Illuminati are a corporate themed recreation of the infamous conspiracy theorist scapegoat. The Dragon are an organization based in South Korea, but as the other organizations, span worldwide in reach and power. The Dragon thrive off of chaos theory, and make it their goal to predict and manipulate events using it. However, the Dragon feel kind of shoehorned in just to have a third faction; this may stem mostly from having no real-world equivalent. Whatever choice the player makes, it won’t stop them from playing with others of different factions; faction choice currently only affects a player’s story (and thus, some missions), guilds, and their PvP team. All three factions have a common foe, and thus work together to some degree during most of the game.

Choose your faction wisely... or just try them all with alts.

Choose your faction wisely… or just try them all with alts.

TSW’s combat is much more action oriented than many other MMOs. Mobility is key and the ability to dodge is paramount to completing more difficult content. The basics of combat involve building “resources” for your weapons by using a basic attack a number of times, and then using those resources to do a “consumer” attack, that does much more damage than basic attacks. Some find this system tedious; but as someone who has had a lifetime subscription since beta, I must say that this problem typically lies with the player, not the game. Players in TSW can literally learn every ability in the game, and customize their “deck” (Specifically, 7 active abilities and 7 passive abilities, plus an auxiliary weapon.) with two weapons; given that there are hundreds of abilities and thousands of combinations, how one decides to play is largely limited by the imagination.

There are a lot of abilities in TSW. And auxiliary abilties. And skills. And augments. And...

There are a lot of abilities in TSW. And auxiliary abilties. And skills. And augments. And…

TSW features missions (quests) that range from kill 10 of these, to some of the most complex Da Vinci Code shit you’ve ever seen in a video game. These investigation missions require one to do some serious fact finding and puzzle piecing – that is unless you just look up spoilers. In fact, spoilers are so problematic, that when you search for information to complete these, I advise adding the search terms -tsw and -unfair to hide most if not all spoilers. Research is such a necessity that TSW has an in-game browser, and you’ll be using it to visit fabricated websites made just for in-game missions, looking up random historical facts, or porn. Probably porn. TSW is the only game that has had me call European numbers for clues, or scour my Bible for an answer to a riddle. If this isn’t your kind of thing, all investigation missions are optional, and one can easily look up the answers for easy experience. However, you’re really missing out on an amazing and unique experience if you choose to do so.

TSW’s investigation missions are truly worth trying at least once.

To add to the amazing story and investigations, TSW boasts the best in-game cinematics and voice acting in the business. Every mission but the lowliest of side quests are accompanied by a cinematic, and there are some performances that I still look up on YouTube occasionally just to re-experience. The player’s character always plays the silent type in these cinematics, which some may see as a flaw. However, after playing Star Wars: The Old Republic, and having my character speak and act in manners I wouldn’t want him to, I much prefer TSW’s take on it. The mind fills in the blanks much easier than erasing missteps. There’s not much more I can add to about the cinematics, so I’ll just leave you one below. But be warned, spoiler alert!

TSW has a number of dungeons, lairs, a raid, and a lair raid to constitute its endgame. These dungeons and raids require quite a bit of skill to complete on nightmare difficulty; a good team is absolutely crucial. All but the lairs are very sparse on trash mobs, the majority of the time spent in a dungeon is fighting the bosses, many of which have unique and devastating tactics. However, one of TSW’s biggest faults is that the end-game basically consists of repeating these dungeons ad nauseam, and to make it worse, there are lockout timers that punish one for failed attempts. PvP is an option too, however it seems to be a forgotten feature that occasionally tossed a bone by the developers. All of these options except for lairs give one a pathway to getting the end-game gear; and for those who only like open-world gameplay, some of this gear can be earned by completing various issues.

To sum it up, TSW is a graphically beautiful game that can provide a great experience just through the story alone; a boast that few MMOs can make. If there is one major fault that I would give this game, is that there isn’t enough. There are many like me who have done everything in the game and want more, but the developers can only develop so fast. Due to the story driven focus of the game, once one has finished everything and has had a fill of grinding dungeons, there isn’t much to keep one around but for monthly check-ins.

Good Ole Score: 8 out of 10.

Good Ole Score: 8 out of 10.

Pros:

  • Amazing story. Even the most basic of missions can elucidate key aspects of the story.
  • Investigation missions. The scope and depth of these missions are only backed by their writing and interactivity.
  • Great graphics. They are by no means top of the line, but they fit the game’s theme will and look better than many other MMOs.
  • Classless progression. Players can change roles on the fly, making the need to reroll obsolete for all but experiencing the story in a different way.
  • Amazing cinematics. The voice acting in these blow all other games out of the water.
  • Action combat. If you don’t think it’s action-y enough, try tanking Machine Tyrant on Nightmare mode. ‘Nuff said.
  • Server integration. It doesn’t matter what server you pick, you can play with any player from any other server.

Meh:

  • Performance. While my PC runs it beautifully, there are many that meet the requirements but still can’t quite cut it.
  • Faction choice doesn’t matter. While it does affect PvP, guilds and some story content, I would like to see factions mean more.

Cons:

  • Content. Or not enough of it. If you take your time, it will take you a few months to play through everything TSW has to offer, but after that, it’s a waiting game.
  • PvP. It’s practically a forgotten feature, though it does get updates sometimes.