The Secret World has been out for five months now, allowing players to adventure in a world filled with feuding secret societies and horrific creatures bent on subjugating mankind, all wrapped in a paranoid conspiracies bow. While horror-based games have always been more of a niche, I am surprised that more people aren't playing Funcom's newest title. Personally, I love The Secret World and offer the following five reasons why you should be playing.
Lore and Setting
A good horror game is hard to make, and a horror based MMO even more so. Funcom has succeeded with The Secret World. The background details and lore that make up the game's setting are the most detailed and well-crafted that I've experienced. Meshing together the components of H.P. Lovecraft, Stephen King, urban myths, secret societies, ancient history, alternative history, conspiracy theories, and everything in between is an amazing accomplishment. What really makes the game click is that all these disparate components fit together into a natural, cohesive whole.
There are so many details and layers to what is going on inside the world of TSW, and it's sometimes the little things that grab you. I actually enjoy talking to NPCs to unearth more of their personal stories, or details about the setting. While fantastic, the world feels alive and the situations found therein, while horrific, feel realistic in this crazy, paranoid world that Funcom has concocted.
Another reason to play The Secret World is that there has been a steady release of new content. Already there have been three new content updates (and the game has only been out five months), with a fourth one recently announced.
In my opinion, you can never have too much content in a game. Issue 1: Unleashed added seven new missions and two nightmare mode dungeons. Issue 2: Digging Deeper adds more missions, lairs, and rocket launchers. Issue 3: The Cat God added more lair missions and seasonal Halloween content. While Funcom initially promised monthly content updates, I'm not going to fault them for lagging a bit. Putting out three updates in the span of four months is a lot better than most MMOs achieve. Plus, you can replay the content if you find the missions interesting.
What is fascinating in The Secret World is that the player does not choose a class. Instead, he purchases abilities using the ability wheel. The wheel is broken down into three major components: ranged weapons, magic weapons, and melee weapons. Each of these three groups has three weapons as a subset. The basic mechanic is that you spend points to buy the various abilities. Some abilities are passive while others are active. You have to purchase the preceding lower ranked abilities to get to the meatier ones.
The easiest way to explain the ability wheel is that it's similar to trading card games such as Magic: The Gathering. You buy the abilities you want, but there's a catch. You can only have seven active and seven passive abilities in play at one time. Therefore, you'll have to choose which abilities work best together to fit the play style you wish to pursue. The system is flexible and provides a lot of freedom of choice for the player.
Having so many abilities on hand makes your combat decisions very flexible (if somewhat agonizing as you have to limit yourself). Combat itself is intuitive and fun. Plus, it's great to be able to shoot while you're running. (I'm looking at you, Star Wars: The Old Republic!)
While there are a number of different mission types in The Secret World, the investigation missions stand apart and really make the game unique. Rather than relying on mindless killing or skulking around to achieve your objective, they require a serious amount of effort and patience-testing fortitude to complete. To put it bluntly, most investigation missions are ball-busters and I honestly wouldn't want them any other way. While most can be frustratingly difficult to complete, you do get an incredible sense of accomplishment for finally figuring them out.
To give you a taste of what to expect in an investigation mission, here is a breakdown on one called Crime and Punishment. In this mission, your goal is to go over some files from a rabid fan of a somewhat crazy author. To find the files, you'll have to backtrack the activities of the author back to the time he met the fan. To begin, you'll have to find the author's abandoned car after he mentions he had to leave it when the road got too narrow. Once you find the car, you'll access the GPS of the car and listen to its driving instructions. This is done in voice so you better have a pencil ready! You will then have to backtrack the car's route. Once you've done that, you'll find yourself at a gas station where you'll find a photo of the fan and the author thrown in the trash. Looking at the picture, you'll have to find the house shown on the photo. Once at the house, you will then need to discover the access code to enter the basement. To find the code, you'll have to use the game's in-game web browser to surf the fan's web page. (Yes, The Secret World has a ton of web pages created to back up the lore and missions found within the game.) You can click on the images of the books on the web site and, after some trial and error, you'll find that the code is part of the ISBN number for one of the books. Once inside, you'll have to use the browser again to find the password to the computer. The hint given on the computer is a specific book. You'll have to Google it and get the ISBN number of that particular edition. Easy, huh?
I won't bother telling you about the missions that require you to decipher Morse code or figure out mathematical sequences. Luckily for me, my buddy is an ex-Army Ranger who was able to decode the Morse code in one mission, which flashed from an abandoned van's headlights.
It's Not a WoW Clone
As you can see from the reasons given above, The Secret World isn't a WoW clone. While I understand the game might not be for everybody, it deserves a look because it didn't follow the same old cookie-cutter template that we're all used to. Funcom took quite a few design risks with The Secret World, such as going classless with abilities chosen from the ability wheel. Some of the missions are incredibly brutal, from either an execution standpoint or figuring out the clues standpoint, and that's refreshing. Plus, you have a great deal of choice in the game. If you don't like investigation missions, you don't have to do them. All of the missions are clearly marked as to what type they are. Since missions are repeatable (after a time delay), you can just play the missions you wish.
Every year, gamers moan that they're looking for a game that isn't WoW. A new game comes out with some minor differences, players check it out, but then go back to the same old thing. The Secret World really doesn't hold your hand. A friend of mine and I joined a group to play in the first dungeon after we had played for a bit. We were stunned that we kept wiping over and over again until we finally became part of a competent group that fully realized the mechanics of the boss fights in that dungeon. While we eventually realized that the mechanics weren't the hardest ever, we did have to discover them for ourselves and the entire group had to stay on their toes. However, the good thing is that when we succeeded, we felt like we were kings of the world.
I hope that the five reasons cited above piques your interest in checking out The Secret World. It's a unique and fun game that is definitely worth visiting. I wouldn't want to live in that horror-filled world, but I do love gaming there.