This is not your worldThe Secret World is a fascinating game filled with secret societies, magic, and everything that goes bump-in-the-night; and that’s just in the first ten minutes of the game.

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Core Components

The Secret World by Funcom is a Massively Multiplayer Online (MMO) game that is available for the PC.  Amidst a sea of MMO’s that usually take place in a science fiction or fantasy setting, The Secret World offers a nice change of place in that it takes place in the modern day world.  Although, this is not the world we know, but the “Secret World” where “every myth, conspiracy theory, and legend” is true.  You as a player join one of three secret societies: The Dragons, The Illuminati, or The Templar; and then head into The Secret World to fight the things that go bump in the night, as well as one another.  Players will use  not only modern day weapons, but also magic to make the world a better place; at least for their faction.

Average Price

The Game is available for $49.99 USD at the time of this review in both Download and Physical forms.  The game also has a monthly subscription of $14.99 USD or  €14.99 incl. VAT.  If you subscribe for multiple months you will discounted prices on the monthly fee, which is pretty standard with most MMO subscriptions.

System Requirements

REQUIRED 512 KBPS OR FASTER INTERNET CONNECTION
OS WINDOWS XP (SP 1)/VISTA (SP 1)/WINDOWS 7 (SP 1)
PROCESSOR 2.6 GHZ INTEL CORE 2 DUO OR EQUIVALENT AMD CPU
MEMORY AT LEAST 2GB RAM FOR WINDOWS XP / 3GB RAM FOR WINDOWS VISTA AND WINDOWS 7 *
HARD DRIVE AT LEAST 30GB OF FREE SPACE
DVD-ROM 8X OR FASTER DVD DRIVE**
VIDEO CARD NVIDIA 8800 SERIES 512 VRAM/RADEON HD3850 512MB OR BETTER
DIRECTX DIRECTX 9.0C COMPATIBLE
INPUT KEYBOARD & MOUSE
*2GB RAM FOR WINDOWS XP / 3GB RAM FOR WINDOWS VISTA AND WINDOWS 7
**DVD ROM REQUIRED FOR INSTALLATION ONLY

High Points

What I like the most about The Secret world is its setting allowed me to have an immediate immersion into the world.  Being able to walk around fictionalized versions of the modern-day world really brought me into the game on a fairly deep level and that’s a serious “win” as far as I’m concerned.  Sure, you’re in a world where areas are being ripped apart by hordes of monsters, but nothing’s perfect.

I’ve enjoyed the variety of missions within the game.  While there are the standard “go look here for this” and “go collect this” type of missions, there is a unique category of mission called Investigation Missions which require you to pay attention not only to your surroundings, but to the real world.  For example, one of the earlier missions required me to search Google for some real-life information on a musical composer.  Fear not though, the game doesn’t require you to “Tab-out” of the game for this information as there is an in-game browser that players can bring up at the touch of a keystroke.

Playing a game that is based on skill levels rather than character levels is another refreshing change of pace from other MMO’s that I’ve been playing lately.  I found myself concentrating more on missions than on levels.  Even when I ran out of skill points (which are used to advance your character) I didn’t concentrate on “leveling” because there aren’t any levels to worry about.  It takes off a certain amount of “pressure” that I feel when playing a game like World of Warcraft or Lord of the Rings Online.

Low Points

Now, while I do love Investigation Mission, I find the mission system as a whole a little awkward and frankly a bit constraining as well.  First, it took me awhile to realize that The Secret World has different categories for the missions within the game. Why does that matter?  Because you can only accept a certain amount of each category at one time.  For example, if a player finds themselves on a story mission, they can’t accept any other story missions unless they cancel their current mission; because they can only have one in their mission log at a time.  The same goes for side-missions, dungeon missions, and so on.  I found this to be a little frustrating because I had to keep note of random missions that I found in my exploration since I couldn’t accept them at that particular moment. Ultimately, even though the “mission tracker” is a nice feature (since it allows for a waypoint to be placed on your screen with the next objective) I found that some of the missions had no waypoints which left me confused; especially if the mission description for my next objective  was too vague for me to understand.

The Ability WheelThe skill system was another hurdle that I felt had to be overcome before I really started to enjoy the game.  Granted, I didn’t do any research going into the game, but I thought that the in-game system would be explained to a greater degree than it actually was.  I would really like to see Funcom do a better job at explaining this system in the introductory areas, especially if they want to win over players who have had skill trees ingrained into their minds from other MMO’s.  They do have some in-game videos, but they’re very generic in their explanation of the system and although they’re a very nice touch they were ultimately too nonspecific.  However, the system did win me over in the end after I researched it a bit online, but again it’s something that was completely foreign to me and it needed a bit more explaining.

Last, but not least I feel like I have to say something about the character models.  Mainly that they’re ugly.  I really disliked most of the physical cosmetic options (face, nose, hair, etc.) that I had when I was creating my character.  I just think Funcom missed the mark when it came to character bodies.  To me they seem awkward, ugly, and a bit stiff.   I don’t really think that the character action animations are all that great either.

Combat looks cooler in screenshotsIn-between:

The combat in the game is something I’m on-the-fence about.  While there are plenty of options for customization and for skill development, you can only have a limited amount of skills active at once.  While this ensures that a player has plenty of opportunities for variety, I am used to games having a little more variety when it comes to how these skills are carried out.  For example, when I was using my assault rifle, there were only a few action animations that felt “special” to me.  The rest were me shooting a rifle; which is fine on one hand because there really aren’t very many ways to effectively shoot a rifle in real life.  But this isn’t real life; it’s a game.  So while combat in the game is “fun” to a degree I’d personally like to have see a little less reality and a little more “John Woo” style presentation when it came to the weapons that I chose to use.

Grouping in this game seems to be fairly standard.  Although I myself didn’t get a chance to group I constantly saw people looking for groups for dungeons.  While I would have liked to have seen some of these areas, I felt that I was personally drawn towards going through the storyline.  While there was a little bit of me that felt that I was missing out a little bit on what the game has to offer, I think there will be plenty of time for grouping further down the line.  For right now though, I’m pretty engrossed in the story that Funcom has presented to me.

Side Note: 

This is neither a plus nor a minus, but players should be aware that The Secret World  is a “very” adult game.  There is plentiful cursing, sex, and of course violence.  This is definitely not a game that I would recommended for younger players.  It has a “Mature” rating and Funcom has done a very good job of earning it.  If this might pose a problem for you as an individual, then this is not the game for you.

Little Things That I Liked:

Despite the lows, there were a number of “little” touches in the game that I thought were well done.  It’s the little things that keep you both interested in a game and coming back.

  1. I liked the swarm mentality of some of the zombies.  I thought that it manifested some real “oh crap” moments for me when I first got into the game and it really made me wary when travelling around.  Which is a good thing for something for a game that really takes advantage of zombies!
  2. The cosmetics for people are really good.  I think that a lot of people enjoy making their characters look “just so” using clothes that they could usually find in real life.  Plus there are so many that can be purchased and earned within the game.  I think this adds a lot of fun to a really good game.
  3. I really like the genre.  It’s refreshing to play something that’s “Urban Fantasy” rather than “Hyper-” or “High” fantasy.  It’s a much needed break for me and for MMO’s in general.

Conclusion:

The Secret World is a good game, but it’s definitely a game that needs a bit more work.  But it’s the first game that’s had me thinking about purchasing a multi-month subscription; something that hasn’t happened since my days of World of Warcraft (three years ago).  While it’s better than 90% of MMO’s are upon their initial release (or even years after their release), there are some problems that keep me from giving it a perfect score.  If you’re looking for a change of pace from the sword and sorcery scene or you like the idea of being in the midst of an urban  fantasy, then I recommend checking it out.

Rating:

3/4 – Hit

Our Ratings:

1 out of 4 – Miss: Disappointing, just like rolling a 1 to hit

2 out of 4 – Glancing Blow: A good attempt that doesn’t quite connect

3 out of 4 – Hit: Solid, but falls short of greatness

4 out of 4 – Critical Hit: So awesome it makes us want to /dance