My Impressions of The Secret World
When discussing The Secret World, one must understand that everything in the game from crafting, dungeons, even building your character’s power deck, is designed around the idea of solving puzzles. It’s a clearly defined niche title that will not appeal to everyone yet has a unique soul all its own in a market dominated by generic fantasy titles.
The PVE missions (quests) are the best designed and presented of any game in the MMORPG genre so far as of 2012. There are good scenes and character dialogue. Some one deserves an award for them. The catch is that, outside of dungeons, most game missions are designed for solo play and make teaming very difficult from objective completion tripping only for one player to solo required instancing. You can replay most quests multiple times and you will need to do so in order to advance.There are very steep difficulty increases from one adventuring zone to the next and you will need to grind quests more than once to top out your gear before moving on.
There are two unique sorts of puzzle quests. There are subterfuge missions where you sneak around laser wires, cameras, and guards or deal with some physical feature in the game world and investigation missions where you use your mind to sort through a puzzle of information. Some of the investigations will lead to the occasional conversation with God be it having to decipher Morse Code, puzzle out a Roman Cypher, or read Hieroglyphics.This is both good and bad in that I like a challenge and there is an in game browser to help with such things. But, I honestly feel it will be used to look up a walk through by most players rather than for solving the puzzle themselves.
The group dungeons are well done in story presentation and atmosphere. They are tougher than those found in most other MMORPGs and you should go in expecting to wipe at least once even if you know what you are doing while progressing your character. The boss fights have puzzle like elements and require lots of movement. These fights are kind of a rail road path from one event to the next rather than requiring any degree of “lair exploration.” Hard and nightmare mode dungeon running will make up your primary end game content.
Combat is the main thing you will do in play and to be honest it’s missing something and isn’t as fun as it needs to be. Fighting the typical mob can turn into a grind where you mash one button for an ability several times to build resources and then click a finisher ability to use them. Mobs on gear level do not die fast enough so it becomes a bit mind numbing in repeating the process over and over again as their is little variation even though you end up moving around more than in some games. There is also the clunky way characters move and turn. I’ll call combat passable, if a sometimes unwanted part of getting to the fun mission runs.
Crafting is a puzzle in that you have to get the right materials in the right pattern within a UI box and use an on item level kit to create something. Its not tied to any skill level. I have found it to be a waste of time and nowhere near as useful as in most games. I feel you’re better off buying gear from Council of Venice vendors located in each adventuring zone for “sequins” earned from the various quests or spending cash on potions at HQ (which you will rarely need.)
PVP is not a strong suit of The Secret World on its own merits, if that is your main focus in play, and I see it as a means of furthering your PVE gaming through attaining factional global bonuses to missioning and the occasional bit of good gear. PVP awards are strictly from PVE like mission completion rather than from beating other players. It is not so skill biased as gear biased in spite of what some will want to claim and ability balancing is a work in progress. The two balanced team battlegrounds do not pop as often as one would wish but the open world Fusang Projects battleground is always available whenever you want in.
Character progression comes from spending skill and ability points earned from various game activities. There are no true classes but you will often have to build for a role in a group and the only levels apply to the quality of gear. After a point gear feels like the real limiting factor in what you can accomplish in game. The more expensive and deeper within a power ring an ability is does not always mean better than cheaper abilities. They often become of more specialized use instead. The key to building a good ability set (or deck) is in selecting abilities that bonus one another. For example, you can take one ability that applies a damage over time effect and another that does extra damage to someone suffering from a damage over time effect to net better results than a rote attack alone. It reminds me “a little” of RIFT with its ascended soul system but is still unique enough in its own right.
I doubt you will enjoy the game if you like to play the economy. I expect that the coming auction house feature will be little more than a convenience store used only on occasion when you just want to craft something or to skip grinding a few missions for gear.That’s because there is no real need for money in game outside of repairing gear or buying your movement speed upgrades and the odd piece of clothing, all of which you can easily afford from your mission reward take. Thus, there is no real incentive to support it or use it when compared to most games.
The community is still settling in. A lot will be revealed when the free month times out and people choose to sub or not. So, far everyone I have encountered has been nice. I have not observed any noteworthy trolling or asinine behavior. It’s taking time for people to get used to the idea of avoiding writing mission spoilers in general chat so I am careful in what I read. It’s really kind of quiet on the level of personal interaction though. I have only spoken to a couple of people. I wonder if the game’s focus on solo questing has hampered the need or desire to interact when compared to other games? My only other real concern is that over time I fear TSW may attract elitist jerks intent on requiring min-maxed builds and DPS meters by the very nature of its target audience…
If I were rating The Secret World I would give it a 7.5 out of 10. It’s a niche title not meant for everyone. This is particularly true if your soul screams for intense action combat, PVP, and straight forward quest progression. That said it is one of the more unique releases to come along in like seemingly forever. I’d like to think it will find a player base but like so many recent MMORPG releases it plays more like a single player game with cooperative play opportunities.There is nothing to invest yourself in to hold you long term and many of the things that build a solid subscriber community over time are missing. But if you like the idea of challenge and problem solving it’s worth a month or three and you might return on occasion to sample new content.