The Secret World Review

Game:The Secret World
Ten Ton Hammer
Ten Ton Hammer Rating

Multiplayer - 77 / 100

Grouping in The Secret World is pretty straightforward. Although there's no Group or Dungeon Finder tool at the moment, and that's a disappointment, we're told something's coming post-launch. Even in a classless system, roles such as Tank, DPS, and Healer still exist, meaning there's no real reason not to have a mechanic for finding other players to adventure with.

The Secret World Review

You may start out on your own, but pretty soon you're going to want to make friends.


Our team enjoyed taking on dungeons in The Secret World. Not only are they fun and challenging, they cut right to the chase. TSW dungeons have very few trash mobs, and the ones you do encounter are either summoned by a bigger bad guy or essential to the lore for that particular area. While the dungeons are by no means short on content, that content comes in the form of trickier boss encounters as opposed to slogging through hordes of minions.

Make no mistake--The Secret World's dungeons will put your group to the test. But they're well designed in that most mini-boss encounters serve to prepare you for the final boss. Bosses pull out all the usual (and some unusual) tricks like summon minions, enrage, engage in DPS races, phase into and out of damage immunity, and create unique (and tricky!) area and ground effects (like massive artillery strike) to keep you on your toes. On top of that, the environment is also out to kill you. Electrified water? Flame bursts? It's all there.

Funcom has stated flat out that they expect you to die as you learn the game and the mechanics of enemy encounters. While there's no death penalty other than equipment repair costs (which can add up but aren't overly harsh), one mechanic is particularly baffling--The Secret World lacks a resurrection ability.

The Secret World Review

That's an amazing boss mob...but die during the fight and you'll have to watch the rest of it from the sidelines.

Funcom has argued that a res (in-combat or out-of-combat) makes grouped content far too easy, since the battle becomes more about keeping players "up" long enough to finish the fight, rather than winning the battle through sound tactics. In practice, I honestly find the lack of a resurrection hard to defend. For starters, when you die while grouped, the inability to resurrect means that you're going to have to recall to an anima well (The Secret World's resurrection points) and then run back, which takes you out of the game and away from your companions. Die in a dungeon, and things are even worse--you'll be sent to an anima well where you'll be able to watch your fellow groupmates fight it out until they either defeat the boss encounter or wipe, but you won't be able to rejoin the fight until it's effectively over. If the group wins the encounter, you've had to remain benched while they reaped the glory. If they're defeated, you just might feel somewhat responsible for not having been there to help. It truly is a no-win situation.


Player vs. Player (PvP) in The Secret World is a bit of a mixed bag at present. On the one hand it offers players a viable alternative for earning skill and ability points, and token rewards that allow you to upgrade weapons and talismans that are comparable to those purchased through certain PvE vendors. On the flip side, it suffers from the same fate that most PvP systems tend to when there isn’t an even playing field from day one.

Not counting the open arenas found in major cities like New York, there are three core game types players will be able to choose from. Two of them are more of a traditional arena or battleground style matchup between the three societies, with one a kind of the hill map, and the other an object based capture and hold map. The third is a massive, ongoing point capture map that players can join or leave at any time.

Along with the ability to advance your character regardless of game type selected, players will be able to earn temporary buffs for their secret society in all three game types. The genius of this is that the rewards for participation extend beyond the personal character level, and gives even non-participants a reason to care about how well their society is doing at any given point.

On the flip side, we’ve seen countless titles attempt a PvP system that doesn’t offer an even playing field in terms of starting gear and abilities, and in most cases the player frustration this invokes overshadows any potential rewards. This is certainly the case with PvP in The Secret World, especially given that time spent playing means you have a deeper pool of skills to draw upon.

Eventually a metagame will be established once a critical mass of players have the bulk of weapon skills unlocked, but in the interim the system largely favors players who have more time to spend in-game unlocking better builds. As such, PvP in The Secret World is not very friendly to new or more casual players.

A final note on PvP is that players may suffer a pretty sizable performance hit when stepping into Fusang Projects, The Secret World’s open PvP map. While I was able to play the rest of the game at max settings with an excellent frame rate, the sheer volume of players and particle effects at combat hotspots in Fusang made my PC want to crawl under the front porch to die a quiet death. Even dropping to the lowest possible settings, FPS was below optimal on that particular map.

Value - 87 / 100

The Secret World will cost your about $50. If you're unable to get your money's worth out of the box price, you're doing something wrong. There's plenty to explore and discover in this game. You're very likely to play at least for the initial launch month, and have fun doing it, unless you're easily frustrated by the complex character progression system or you're put off by the fend-for-yourself mission mechanics. (But in that case, this game wasn't likely a good fit for you in the first place.)

Lasting Appeal - 77 / 100

Whether The Secret World has lasting appeal or not sort of depends on who you're asking. There are certain types of players that this game appeals to, and they're the sort who love to theorycraft builds, enjoy missions that reward exploration, dislike hand-holding, and love the freedom a game without classes or levels provides. Those players are likely to overlook the game's flaws in favor of all the things it offers them.

And then there's the rest of us.

There are a lot of things to love about The Secret World, from its great horror setting and stunning graphics to its unique progression to its clutter-free dungeon experiences. There are also a number of frustrations, chief among them being the Ability Wheel learning curve. For those dissatisfied with that and other mechanics we've mentioned, such as the lack of a respec or resurrection ability, the game will undoubtedly be a diversion and a novelty for only a brief period unless some drastic post-launch changes occur. Unfortunately, when the 30-day trial period expires, whether The Secret World remains engaging enough to keep playing isn't necessarily a given. And those who do remain, and careening along toward the end game, will eventually face a PvP experience that still needs tuning and, at the moment, leaves something to be desired.

Pros and Cons


  • Unique setting and story--we haven't had a good horror-themed triple-A MMO yet, and this one delivers.
  • Missions that provide a great deal of variety and depth without hand-holding
  • Dungeons that are relatively free of trash mobs, and instead provide challenging and exciting boss encounters
  • Vivid and atmospheric graphics and impressive music and sound


  • In a game where it's not only possible but easy to accidentally create a bad build, there's no respec ability. If you find your build isn't viable for the kind of game you want to play, you'll have to replay a lot of content (or play a lot of PvP) to build up a new build.
  • No resurrection mechanic, which takes a huge benefit of social play out of the mix.
  • Group or Dungeon finder missing in action at launch
  • PvP currently feels imbalanced, and too daunting for the new player with fewer Ability and Skill Points to participate in


Of all the things The Secret World is, one stands out--it's unique. Funcom has colored outside the tried and true (and often dull) MMOG lines and drawn a game that's truly different from all the rest. It provides players the ability to explore intriguing missions, the mysteries of which aren't always so easy to unravel. It offers up a complex and deep character progression system that no other game has attempted on such a massive scale.

For some players, The Secret World is likely to veer just a little too far away from the comfort zone. For others, it's likely to represent a refreshing and challenging change of pace. Despite a few inherent flaws, what you take away from The Secret World truly depends on what kind of gamer you are.

Overall 84/100 - Very Good


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