It’s tough choosing an MMO to play, especially when so many of them are becoming easier to play. There are a bunch of premium online games switching over to the free-to-play realm. Recently we saw Star Wars: The Old Republic, The Secret World, and TERA Online decide to make the switch. Just a bit ago we also had Guild Wars 2 release which is also free-to-play. Couple these titles with Star Trek Online, DC Universe Online, and Planetside 2 and you got yourself a hell of a list there.
The problem is that all of those titles offer something different and each has their own bullet point reasons for you to play them. The choice is difficult to make but I think I can help you out here with the following statement:
I cannot recommend Funcom’s The Secret World more enough. In fact, it may be the best free-to-play option out there.
Why, though? Let’s delve into the reasons.
Your destiny is yours…
In The Secret World you really only need one character. One of the coolest features of this MMO is how it handles skills and abilities. Instead of giving you a choice of eight or so classes and making your character progress the same trip you may have taken in hundreds of MMOs already, you’re given the Skill Wheel.
The Skill Wheel houses all of the options you can take for every weapon in the game, including Auxiliary Weapons and gear “allowances” .
That’s right, you get access to every weapon, skill, and tier of gear. Eventually. This all takes time and if you want to be a full access walking armory you’re going to be sinking some hours into The Secret World. However, having the ability to pick and choose how your character plays at any given time is quite a feature. This ensures that every choice you make will bring you one step further to becoming a smaller Metal Gear.
You’ll get Skill Points and Ability Points as you level and complete missions. Skill points are what you spend into weapons. The more you dump into a weapon, the more abilities you get for that weapon. Ability Points are put into your character’s skill with a weapon itself. You need to have Ability Points put into a weapon in order to equip better better.
For example: if you have 3 Ability Points into Shotgun, you can equip a Quality Level 4 Shotgun. Having a better shotgun means more damage for your shotgun abilities that you unlocked with your Skill Points.
It really isn’t too much to grasp but in case it is, for you, then Funcom has you covered. The devs have created sets of “decks” that feature two weapons and a a chain of skills and abilities to ensure you can do “something”. What “something” is depends on the deck you choose. You can be a straight up DPS – single target or multi, you can be a tank who works off of self healing or pure damage mitigation, or you can be a healer thanks to healing spells or spilling the blood of your enemies to put life force back into your party members. Whatever you feel like playing, there is a deck for you.
You can either make up your destiny as you go through the game or you can have a deck ensure you’ll reach a pre-defined character goal. The option is yours and that’s a rare thing to say about an MMO.
The darkness and you: an MMO inspired by Lovecraft…
While Lovecraft isn’t the only inspiration for the tale you uncover during your time in The Secret World, it sure is a big one. One of the best aspects of this game is its story – both main one and even the side quests.
You are essentially battling a darkness that is trying to devour the world. The world releases a power called Anima and calls on humans to take the power and defend it. You are one of the chosen and you are approached by three secret societies who each have their own agenda but are all fighting the darkness.
You have the choice of joining either:
- The Templars who wish to abolish evil completely.
- The Dragons who wish to manipulate the darkness.
- The Illuminati who wish to control the darkness.
All three choices come with their own city hub, questlines, characters, and perks. No matter your choice, you’ll be thrown into a different world with each society as they all vie for something. Either way, the faction storylines are extremely well crafted and will keep you interested in your progression.
Even the quests that don’t have anything to do with your allegiance prove to be exciting and worth looking into. Everything in The Secret World deals with the hidden, mythical, and magical. You’ll face demonic creatures and you’ll face fanatics. You’ll travel all over the world to stop the darkness from spreading and even try and fight back the Mayan prophecy of the end of the world from happening.
Needless to say, this is one MMO that keeps you wanting to play purely because of the story and the tales you come across. Questing through a small town that was rocked to its core when the townspeople began to disappear and creatures came from the ocean brings plenty of things into perspective. You talk to the townsfolk and you see the devastation that has turned these fishermen and normal citizens into gritty survivors or just corpses.
The questing in The Secret World houses some of the coolest quests I’ve ever done in an MMO and as you uncover the horrors it keeps you coming back for more. The suspense and evil nature of the darkness made me excited throughout my experience.
Eradicating evil with friends and strangers…
I already said how building your character is your own choice and eventually you could become a be-all, end-all hybrid. As you progress towards that goal, you’ll find plenty of party content to experience the game with other people.
Partying up for dungeons is a blast. While combat may not break the mold in The Secret World, going through a tough dungeon with your custom designed character is a great experience. While combat can technically feel like a tab-targeter it is still important to move and the game makes that easy to do. You don’t need to remain still for anything in The Secret World. Attacks hits targets by proximity and direction. Your shotgun blast is going to spread wherever the barrel is facing. Your sword will strike at whoever is in its way. Things like that make The Secret World a constantly mobile game. You’ll need to use your environment to your advantage and forget the sticky combat that you may be used to.
Aside from killing things you’ll find plenty of secrets hidden around dungeons. The game already is littered with lore objects that tell you more about what’s going on and you’ll find the same things in dungeons and raids. You’ll even find locked canisters, boxes, etc. If you somehow open them you’ll be rewarded.
Ultimately you’re looking for better quality gear. There are no levels in The Secret World. The only way to ensure you’re powerful enough for the next area is to have the right Quality Levels on your gear. You’ll begin at QL0 but to be effective in the Blue Mountain (third zone) you’ll need at least QL5, maybe some good 4′s. That’s how the game determines how strong you are. The better quality you have, the stronger you are. No level numbers needed.
So is it worth playing?
I find The Secret World to be incredibly unique among the competition. The Skill Wheel, Quality Level gearing, dark story, and the aspect of my own custom character without a linear class restriction makes the game extremely fun to play.
It may not have the best animations but it does have plenty of content to keep you busy, even at the beginning. The first zone can last you a long time if you stick around to complete everything. Most zones are like that and when you’re traversing a haunted house, an abandoned carnival, a half sunken ship, graveyards, and other disturbing placed you’ll find yourself wanting more and more.
That’s the one thing I have to give The Secret World. It doesn’t feel like anything I’ve played before in an MMO and manages to keep me coming back. Now with the subscription gone, the game has shot right up my MMO list as the one to play.
I’m not a hardcore horror fan nor have I read Lovecraft past the Calling of Cthulhu but I found this game to be engrossing, intriguing, and simply fun.
You owe it to yourself as either an MMO veteran or a newcomer to check out The Secret World. It certainly shakes things up and in a world that’s covered from head to toe in stand-your-ground cliche MMOs, that’s a great thing to see.
You won’t regret the time you spend downloading and installing the game to give it a test run.
The Secret World’s Official Website
A nice FAQ for new players: Yokai’s TSW FAQ