The Secret World

Funcom’s The Secret World is one of several MMOs that I had no interest in before release, just like Tera Online. Also like Tera Online, lots of friends and acquaintances were playing it and talking about how wonderful it was. So just like Tera, I decided to give it a shot.

I started off with a 24 hour trial key (thanks GC). For someone like me with a job and family responsibilities it’s kind of hard to get much more than four to six hours out of a 24 hour key, and frankly that’s not enough time to get a good impression of the game. I actually got about four hours of playtime in, which was enough to get through the tutorial and a few quests in the regular game, one of which was an investigation quest that the game is become well-known for. Based on that experience, I initially decided not to buy a full key. I ended up changing my mind though after about two days of near universal praise, something exceedingly rare in gaming. I thought maybe I’d just made some rookie mistakes on my initial play session, like choosing a weapon that didn’t really match my play style, and not picking up a second weapon right away.

So I ended up buying a game key and committed to trying the game for thirty days. I figured if the game hadn’t hooked my by then, it wouldn’t. Plus, I was really curious about what everyone saw in the game that I was missing.

I rerolled a new Templar character because I wasn’t happy with my original’s name from the 24 hour trial, but decided to skip the tutorial the second time around (which is a nice feature and one that most MMOs don’t include at launch). It also gave me a clean slate for skills and abilities, which wasn’t really necessary but I’m retentive that way.

Character creation is decent a little thin on customization. There just isn’t enough variety in available facial features and hair types compared to the amount of customization that can be done with clothing. Funcom has promised some improvements are coming soon, which I would normally be skeptical of, but they’ve gotten off to an impressive start with their first content patch already so I’m inclined to believe them.

The worst part of the character creation was coming up with a name. Names are made up of a nickname, a first name, and a last name. The nickname has to be unique across the entire game because of the way that players can group and guild across dimensions. In fantasy games I have no problem coming up with a good name that’s lore appropriate, but since TSW is based on the modern world I had quite a bit of trouble coming up with something I was happy with. I ended up just giving up and naming my character Bryn “Kaerr” Aev after my main in Star Trek Online. While it was a pain, I am happy that the names are unique so if Funcom decides to merge dimensions no one will lose their character names, although I would’ve preferred a Cryptic system with names unique by handle instead.

The combat system is pretty novel, although the actual combat mechanics are not. You can pick two from among various weapons (including three different types of magic). This allows for tons of combinations of weapons and skills to try to build synergies with. Even better is you’re not limited to those, if you decide to change weapons then you can put skill and ability points into as many different ones as you want so you don’t have to worry about rolling alts to try out different classes (there’s no point cap that I’m aware of). The actual combat itself though is very MMO-standard: you have an action bar and tab targeting.

The first questing area, Kingsmouth, is a Stephen King style New England town that’s under assault by zombies and Lovecraftian creatures. I spent most of the nine hours I played the game in Kingsmouth, so I can’t comment on the rest of the zones, but I can say it’s full of interesting and well-written missions. If you’re a fan of King, Lovecraft, or zombies, then it is a real treat to play in.

Unfortunately, I’m not a fan of King (except for some of his non-horror stuff) or Lovecraft and the zombie fad has really started to get old for me. Were Funcom to make a science-fiction game in the same style as TSW, I would probably be having tons of fun, but the horror genre is not something I’ve ever enjoyed.

This is a good fun game even though it’s not for me. I’m impressed with what Funcom’s done and how well they’ve been communicating and making updates. They’ve actually been reminding me of Trion, which is not a comparison I’d ever thought I would make. So if you like the idea of a modern horror setting for an MMO, I recommend you try it out.

4 Comments

  1. YeeboNo Gravatar says:

    I have to say that’s a very fair negative review. Whether the game clicks for you are not will have a lot to do with whether you dig the setting imo. It offers a lot of mechanical innovations, but those come at the cost of the game being much more challenging than the majority of MMOs and having a steep learning curve. If the setting isn’t so utterly compelling that you are delighted by each new discovery, what you are left with is a slow paced and unforgiving MMO with narratives you don’t care about.

    Me personally, it’s the best new MMO I’ve played in years. But if the setting didn’t appeal, I doubt I’d have had the patience to get as far as I have.

    • BrianNo Gravatar says:

      Thanks! I really wanted to make it obvious that I thought it was a good game, it just wasn’t a game for me. I did like a lot of the quest mechanics and the flexabiliy of the skills/abilities even though the combat itself seemed flat.

  2. Glad it sounded like you had fun while it lasted, even if the game isn’t for you. The game is fairly niche, so I find it will either hook you or it won’t.

    • BrianNo Gravatar says:

      Definitely. I think there’s a lot of similarities between TSW and EVE as far as being pretty unique games serving very specific types of players. Hopefully Funcom sees the same type of long term growth that CCP has enjoyed.