The Secret World Overview

Most of you probably know by now that Funcom‘s MMO The Secret World has had a payment model change. While the traditional subscription is still offered, it is no longer a requirement to jump into the game. All that is needed to play now is an initial software purchase of a box or digital copy of the game. You can purchase the MMO directly from Funcom for $29.99, catch a new copy from any of your favorite auction sites, or catch it on Steam (which seems to be running discounted pricing every few weeks on the game).

I eagerly anticipated The Secret World at launch, played the beta, and subscribed for a few months after release. I didn’t walk away from the game because it was awful, but like many, I just felt that the game didn’t warrant my subscription. My main issues at the time were the combat and the general game flow. It wasn’t a game I wanted to play everyday. Granted when I did play I spent hours in game, but everyday was a bit much for me given the occult nature of The Secret World and the overall questing style. Because of those reasons I let my subscription expire and sadly, like many others, walked away from the game.

With the buy-to-play and cash shop shift Funcom introduced in December, I jumped on the chance to get back in game. Like others, I had to spend nothing. I already owned the game. I’ve played a great deal since then and I thought it might be nice to give you some info on the current state of The Secret World.

Story

If you don’t know already, The Secret World takes place in a modern day setting. The cities and zones in this MMO look like cities and towns you either live in or have vacationed to…with the possible exception of the strange occult happenings going on at just about every turn. Three factions; The Illuminati, The Templars, and The Dragon, are all vying for more power. The player is thrown into a world of the supernatural and is assisted (or manipulated?) by the faction they choose as they rise in their own personal abilities. The core of the main story line for each player is to uncover more of the mysterious “conspiracy theories” that turn out to be true and, of course, do so faster than other factions. It’s all about the power baby!

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Graphics and Sound

While the graphics in The Secret World are not “top of the line” they suit the overall mood of the game well. Rolling fog, good music, and eerie sound effects all add to the overall ambiance. While low end computers will have a bit of a challenge with this title, most mid to high end machines should not have too many issues with decent performance.

Progression

The Secret World does not follow the traditional “gain levels to gain power” formula. Instead, you are free to progress in strength any way you wish. You are rewarded for completing quests and killing monsters with experience. When the experience bar fills to certain lengths you are awarded both Skill Points and Ability Points. Enter player choice. You are free to spend these points as you wish. Do you want to use Skill Points to open up the ability to use Shotguns and maybe some Blood Magic? Feel free. You can then use the Ability points (which accrue much faster than Skill Points) to unlock active or passive skills for those particular weapons. You can mix and match Skills and Abilities anyway you want and the more points you spend on a skill the stronger the associated abilities become. The Secret World includes “Decks” that new players or those that just want to experiment can use as well. Think of a “deck” as a template for a certain play style. Instead of experimenting with skills, you can select a deck that is suited to the way you want to play and the template will show you where to spend your points as you gain them. There are even rewards for completing decks (i.e. unlocking all the necessary abilities). Players that are dedicated and have the time can even eventually unlock every ability. Since you only equip 7 active abilities and 7 passive abilities initially, you can swap play styles for what your group requires as long as you have the points and equipment to do so!

PvE

PvE content in The Secret World comes in tweaks to common MMO practices. Questing, Instanced Dungeons, and Raids are all present. Questing options include standard fetch or “Kill 10 of X” varieties but also include Investigation Missions and Subterfuge Missions. These quest types usually involve the player being very aware of their surroundings in game (don’t forget to look up!), having to sneak around enemies, or even having to look things up online. The Secret World includes an in game browser so as to not break player immersion and Funcom has even built dummy company websites to assist in hiding relevant information. While players may be tempted to spoil a discovery mission by looking up the solutions, I would discourage this because the down side of these types of missions is that once they are solved they provide no additional challenge when played through a second time. If you spoil it for yourself once, you spoil it forever.

Dungeons and Raids (for the most part) follow the traditional pull, pull, pull, boss structure and the MMO trinity (tank, healer, DPS) is usually in full effect. MMO veterans will find a comfort factor in the way instances work and those new to MMOs will enjoy the ride and the learning curve The Secret World has for group content. Bosses have different mechanics that will involve coordination and learning on your first walkthrough.

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PvP

PvP in The Secret World comes in 3 main formats:

-Fight Clubs – Each major city in the game (New York, London, and Seoul) has a Fight Club. Here you can organize multiple match duels including 1v1, 3v3, and 10v10 matches.

-Battlefields – Three faction PvP in a 5v5v5 format. The two maps offered right now are Stonehenge and El Dorado

-Warzone – An “always on, all the time” zone dedicated to three faction PvP. Factions are free to team up against the third, but in the end a back stab is probably coming.

You’re going to want to spend some time mastering PvP if you come to The Secret World specifically for PvP. Due to some imbalance issues (namely faction population imbalance) and long queue times, PvP is sometimes challenging to jump into.

Payment Tiers, Updates and The Cash Shop

If you buy the software you have access to the entire game. The Secret World does offer a subscription option for those that wish to receive cash shop discounts and in game currency each month. Standard patches are free to all players but full new content releases (referred to a “Issues” in The Secret World) will have to be purchased by free players as they are released. Prices of these Issues will vary based on the amount of content added. The Cash Shop itself offers no statistical advantage to players who purchase items. Items for sale include costume parts (or entire outfits), cosmetic pets, Ability Points Timed Boosts (there is no Skill Point Boost though), and some beginner equipment should new players wish to have a slight stat advantage at the beginning of the game only. Barbershop and appearance modifiers are also available in the cash shop.

Conclusion

Simply, The Secret World is not a game for everyone. The environment and story are just not going to be every player’s cup of tea. The Secret World is a PvE focused game that happens to have PvP. Players that are looking for a twist on the traditional MMO should give it a try provided PvP isn’t their MAIN reason for playing the game. Having said that, players who are intrigued by the modern day world, love conspiracy theories, and are up for a good investigation puzzle are sure to enjoy the dark and macabre world set before then by Funcom in The Secret World.

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