The Secret World is a fairly new MMO released by Funcom, the same chaps who gave us Age of Conan but I had resisted the urge to buy it. I am very rarely tempted to buy any new MMO these days, partly because of the unfinished and often bug and lag ridden nature of some MMO’s upon their release, but mostly because I don’t want to spend £40+ on a game which may have all the playability of a sack of old potatoes. But when Origin held a Halloween sale selling The Secret World plus one month’s free game time for £12.50 it was an offer I couldn’t refuse especially when I knew it had both your friends and mine, zombies in it.
Most MMO’s tend to follow a swords and magic approach, they’re set in a fantasy world where you can be a warrior or a mage, you fight orcs and other monsters, you venture into old crypts or dungeons etc. The Secret World is different and to be honest it was one of the main reasons, after the cost that I decided to give it a try.
The character creation in The Secret World is not as advanced as some games, but there are enough options for you to be able to create what you want. Your first choice is to choose one of the three factions, the Illuminati which is a corrupt corporation; The Templars who are the religious zealots or the Dragon an oriental cult who worships Chaos Theory. Once you’ve selected you enter the creation screen. Your character in The Secret World can be either male or female (obviously) with a number of eye, nose, and lip types. You can choose their hair colour and style and their clothes from a rather limited number of options. It’s quick and rather basic but it’s all you need. After all your character is just a simple boring old human, so why would you need a huge amount of options?
Once you start the game, you are shown the basics of the gameplay by way of a tutorial. It’s impossible to die in the tutorial as it is a memory of the past, but once you’ve got through that bit, you’re sent to choose your weapon. In The Secret World you can learn one, some or all weapon types. There are three schools of magic; elemental, blood and chaos, a selection of melee weapons, swords, hammers plus handguns, shotguns, and assault rifles. You can try out all the weapons before you decide on one, once you do you are sent to a sleepy American town called Kingsmouth to investigate some strange goings on.
Strange is right, the entire town has been overrun with the living dead, and these weird humanoid slug like things that walked from the sea.
I was surprised at how fun the starter quests were. Even though they were similar to the standard type of collect 3 of this or kill 10 of that type quests they felt different, they felt as if they hung together better so that it wasn’t obvious that that was all you’re doing. The starter quests make you run round the town, finding various objects or people, defending areas from the undead. At one point I had to steal and redeploy four video cameras around a settlement. It doesn’t seem overly exciting but you do get the feeling that your actions are actually for a purpose.
There are a number of different types of quest. There are the main storyline quests that drive you down your factions storyline, there are sideline quests, and dungeon quests. Some quests will send you into a solo instance area, where you must solve puzzles dodge hazards and defeat enemies. The solo instance quests are another way that The Secret World helps to immerse you into the world.
The combat in The Secret World is not that different from other MMO’s, you defeat enemies by clicking a number of buttons on your action bar, but within this simple mechanic Funcom have deviated from the norm.
Secondly, and as an experienced World of Warcraft player, this one is still taking me some time to get used to. You can use all of your skills while you move and jump. That’s right, you’re not pointlessly rooted to the spot attacking, your feet rooted to the floor as you attack. You’re expected to do both things simultaneously. This is a useful skill, mainly because of this…
Finally, many enemies will use attacks that have an area of effect. The exact area to be hit will show as a white shape that gradually fills up. You have to get your ass out of that shape before the skill has finished charging.
Adding all that up, the combat in The Secret World is a lot more action-orientated than other MMO’s. There’s no auto-attack, and you have to keep moving.
Your character in the Secret World will not gain levels. I know, I know. It’s almost unheard of these days, but yes once again your character does not have a level. Instead, as you fight and gain experience you gain both SP and AP points.
AP stands for ability points. These points, as you can probably imagine are used to buy stronger and more powerful skills for your character. The AP are not weapon specific, so just because you gathered the points using swords it doesn’t mean you can’t spend them on shotgun skills.
SP stands for skill points. Skill points are put into the weapon skills. Each weapon skill has two distinct areas to develop, although one of them is always combat. The more points you put into a weapon skill the more effective you are with that weapon. Easy.
Ah, my least favourite aspect of any MMO. Seriously, it’s just not for me. I haven’t found any PvP game in any MMO that I don’t find to be a complete waste of time and energy However, in the interest of a complete review I figured I should at least play one match and get the general feel for how it works in The Secret World.
I started my PvP mission and picked up a few quests to do while I was there, such as taking out various facilities. My first clue that I may be a little out of my league was when I saw that the quest ratings were ‘Devastating’ but I persevered after all they were probably devastating if I did the quest by myself but this is PvP so there’d be loads of people online to help me. Errrr no.
I entered the map and saw that I had been given a buff which claimed to raise me to the same gear level as everyone else. Filled with confidence, I ran to where my quest indicator told me the facility was. I poked my head out into the open and saw a target, a little one on one. I couldn’t see any one else, no other players so just assumed they were elsewhere. I opened fire, and my target did not like that. Not that he was injured, no not at all. I just think he was bothered that he had to stop what he was doing to take a second to kill me. I rezzed and thought he was likely a twink, so figured I’d avid him in future. I made it all the way to the facility this time, still not seeing any other player. Bang bang bang and yeah I was dead again, from someone… another pointless quick kill. I left.
Instances and Dungeons
This bit is unfortunately going to be rather short as I haven’t had chance to run through any instances yet, but if they are anything like the solo dungeons I’ve done then they will be fun.
Rating out of 5?
Well, a hard 3.
Honestly, The Secret World is a nice enough game. I got it for a very cheap price and the free month means that I can guarantee at least one month of playtime. After which, all bets are off. At this stage, it’s a nice change but it’s difficult to think it will become anything more. With a Free to Play model I could find myself coming back every so often but would I keep paying a subscription for this?
That aside, what Funcom have provided feels new and original, even though the building blocks are the standard ones used in most MMO’s. The quests are well thought out, and don’t feel like the standard grind. Without character levels the game feels more fluid.
Oh, but finally your character has no voice. This isn’t a major thing in the grand scheme of things but all the characters in the cut-scenes are fully voice acted, but not you. They just talk at you, and make the occasional remark about you not talking much while you stand there mute looking rather stupid. Not a game breaker but if you were going to go to all the trouble of voice acting everyone else in The Secret World why not get a couple down for the main character. I just can’t figure it…
Anyway, if you do play the Secret World and you think I have been grossly unfair throw a comment below. I’m new to the game and am always looking for advice.