The Secret World is quickly nearing its June launch, and players from around the world are eager for a taste of the conspiracy-themed MMO. Ten Ton Hammer’s Jeff “Ethec” Woleslagle, Reuben “Sardu” Waters and Phil “Ralphedelominius” Comeau sat down with Funcom’s Tor Andersen and Erling Ellingsen to discuss the intricacies of the Ability Wheel, builds, and the deck system.

So, we know about the nine weapon types and the ability wheel with…how many abilities?

Four to five hundred.

Every weapon has many different abilities, so you don’t only need to pair it with another weapon. For instance, an assault rifle is good for many types of damage--area damage, single target damage, but also leach healing, so that the more damage you do the more healing you do. But the same is true of every single weapon; they have many different abilities. So, pairing things up is more about what you want to do. Do you want to knock down enemies, do you want to hinder them, do you want to DoT them? Then you find abilities that do that.

And then there are many more types of synergies. A lot of abilities can have classifications--strike attack, burst attack, frenzy attack, stuff like that. So, then you find abilities that augment each other. You bind them together in a build so every single ability fits in that build, and then you see the results. The difference between just using random abilities and creating a build that really works is incredible. When you get it right, you can just massacre enemies that you would have had trouble with before.

The Secret World screenshot

The Ability Wheel in The Secret World.

But the point is, the content is so varied that one build that’s really great in one instance can be not good at all in another. So you need to make all sorts of builds and mix and match and try it out to see what works. Talk to the guys on the forum and in your cabal--your guild--and really explore and find out how you want to play.

Is there a training room, or some sort of training dummy system, maybe tied in with your faction so you can try out different things?

Yes. You can try out the abilities in a special room just for that. The Templars have the Crucible, for instance, inside their headquarters.

You were talking about having discussions about builds with people in your cabal. Is there a template system that lets you share builds with somebody else?

You can share it in game by showing it to them. It shows up on their character so they can see it and say, ‘Oh, look at this guy--he’s really dominating this dungeon, and this is his build.’

But there’s also a deck system. If you find 500 abilities daunting and you want some guidance, you can follow the decks. There are 10 decks for each society, and they all do specific things. Each deck describes what the build does, and they all have abilities that work well together, like Blade Master, Ninja or some sort of…what do you call it?...Exorcist, for instance. All sorts of cool stuff.

If you decide you like what the deck does and you want to follow it, in that case you’ll develop it and complete the deck, and then you get the clothes that go with it. Or perhaps you just want to learn from it. Perhaps you want to make your own build, but from the way the deck is set up you can say, ‘Ah, this is a good way to combine these abilities! Like, if I hit a lot of mobs with my sword, this is a good way to make sure that every hit also creates a DoT.’” So you can choose to follow or not. It’s up to you.

So, players can equip…

Seven active and seven passive abilities.

…and one elite?

Yes. The elites are more expensive than the other abilities, but every ability on the ability wheel is useful. So, every ability you learn on the Ability Wheel can be useful even after you’ve played for months and months. It’s the gear that makes them more powerful, so the abilities are never obsolete.

The Secret World screenshot

Anyone have a Disarm Chainsaw ability?

It’s interesting that you refer to the builds as decks. It’s got that flavor like a trading card game.

Yes! Right.

So, different cards do different things, and some cost more, but they all have value, depending on how you use them in the deck.


Is that sort of what you’re aiming for--the mix and match feel of a trading card game?

Yes, because it’s a deck you bring into combat, and you swap between the decks for different stuff you do. Perhaps you want to play a healer, and so you swap to that. Or perhaps that encounter in that dungeon requires two healers, or the next boss battle doesn’t need a healer at all. So you switch and swap as you like.

Are you looking for the system get players a feel for swapping between different roles? Some people I know like to do tank-style stuff, some like to be ranged support…

Yep. I agree.

Do you think the deck system will help facilitate trying out different roles, or do you think people will gravitate toward the abilities that will work best within the roles they’re comfortable with?

A little bit of both. Like, I like tanking, but the more I play The Secret World the more I want different kinds of builds. Because there’s also many different ways to tank. Perhaps you need more taunts in one situation, or you need to do more damage in another. And then you can also tank with blades, hammers or with chaos magic, so you can mix and match with those or you can mix and match from other abilities for more damage.

And also, in the beginning the abilities are much cheaper, so it’s easier to experiment. In the outer ring [of the ability wheel], and the more elite abilities, they get more and more expensive. So then you can experiment a lot in the beginning, and then when you progress and you want to be really good at something--to specialize--then you go for that.

The Secret World screenshot

"Seriously? No one remembers where we parked?"

So, each secret society has ten decks. Will they be mostly the same between secret societies?

They all have different roles and different names, but more than one of them are going to do air damage, and more than one of them is going to heal, but there’ll be a lot of small differences.

When you talk about story, the main story is the same for everybody. But the philosophies of each secret society, all the chapters in between, that’s different.

For the hardcore theorycrafters who love to figure out builds, what other intricacies are there with the system that those people are really going to want to factor in?

Well, a build is just one piece of the puzzle--gear is equally important. Crafting is very important in The Secret World. Every item you find--any weapons and equipment--you can break down and get components you can craft with. If you have a healer build, for instance, you want specific gear for that, so you need to craft it. A lot of the stuff you find in the world is not going to be for that healer build, you know? So then you break it down and you make the stuff you need.

When you save your build and its abilities, you also save the gear. And so you really can micromanage all these things.

How many builds can you have saved?

I don’t know if there is a limit on the system. I don’t think so. But if you have tons of useless build saves, that isn’t going to help you any.

There’s no achievement for Useless Builds…

Haha! No, no.

That sort of thing would lend itself to an equipment manager style interface. Will you be able to save your gear sets so you’re not digging through bags?

Yes. You have a lot of space, but you add bags and you can name them, so you can pick up a portion of your inventory and make another bag--‘Okay, here I’m going to have these weapons.’ And with each build, the gear goes with it, so you can swap your build and gear out of combat any time. Like between boss battles.

The Secret World screenshot

When you look up and see this guy, a "demanding boss battle" is probably imminent.

So you’re not required to run back somewhere to make a switch.

No, no.

And those boss battles are really demanding. If you screw up on the tactics, if you can’t really do what’s necessary, you’re going to fail. So you have to develop your character to really be good at what’s needed. At the beginning it’s more forgiving, but as you progress it gets quite tough.

Are there PvP-specific builds?

There are a lot of abilities that are good for movement, like Dashing. Or you throw out a chain and you catch somebody. The stuff that’s good in PvP could be very different from the stuff that’s good in a dungeon. So, yeah, there could definitely be builds designed more with PvP in mind.

We’re excited to see how The Secret World is going to shape up, and we’re intrigued by its flexibility and seemingly limitless options. There’s certainly a lot of depth, and we know that players will be constantly theorycrafting builds and changing up the meta game to keep up with the latest and greatest in combat theory. The Secret World community will be as intriguing to watch as it is to participate in.

Keep an eye on Ten Ton Hammer for more news and articles as The Secret World nears its June 19, 2012 launch.

To read the latest guides, news, and features you can visit our The Secret World Game Page.

Last Updated: Mar 29, 2016

About The Author

Karen 1
Karen is H.D.i.C. (Head Druid in Charge) at EQHammer. She likes chocolate chip pancakes, warm hugs, gaming so late that it's early, and rooting things and covering them with bees. Don't read her Ten Ton Hammer column every Tuesday. Or the EQHammer one every Thursday, either.