I’ve run across The Secret World quite a few times in my desperately bored MMORPG days, but time and again found a reason not to indulge. Recently, after a few gameplay videos on YouTube and a straightforward critique from a friend that knows what sort of games I like to play, I decided thirty bucks was worth the risk. My no-specifics review of the game so far, which includes the tutorial and some of the first area, is optimistic. There is only one outstanding issue that I’ve noticed so far, and one issue that may irk perfectionists or casual players. Tallyho!

First of all, The Secret World is a third-person RPG with real-time ability/combo-centric combat and an immersive, conspiratorial plot. It’s pretty laid-back, even when you’re being bombarded by black sludge and swarmed by undead; perfect for filthy casuals such as myself. Most offensive abilities build up weapon-specific charges that are consumed by combo abilities, which serve as your nuke damage. I’ve only seen the shotgun, assault rifle, and blood magic used so far, but I think it’s safe to assume that most other weapons operate on a similar mechanic.

The Secret World

Cosmetically, the game is 11/10. The initial options for customization are more than sufficient to suit your dress-up needs, from hot pants to suit and tie, freckles to freaky vein-makeup. Better yet, you unlock outfits as rewards for completing specific quests or simply buying them in a store for in-game currency. Mind you, there is a rather large cash-shop system left over from when a monthly subscription to The Secret World was mandatory, but from what I’m seeing, that doesn’t become desired until you’ve nearly 100%’d the rest of the game.

The Secret World

The quest system is particularly unique and incredibly practical on the whole. You’re allowed one main quest, one story quest, and three side quests at any given time, and no more than that. While potentially restrictive, I feel it prevents the typical MMORPG behavior of grabbing every last quest available to you and bulk-completing them. Sure, that way is more efficient, but where’s the SOUL, bro? The quests in The Secret World are much more player-oriented, meaning you do more than go where the waypoint tells you and kill 100 monsters. Rather, you solve puzzles based on environmental or quest-given evidence. I found myself stuck trying to figure out the passcode for a hidden keypad because I was so used to being spoonfed all I needed from the get-go. It was refreshing! I have no doubt you’ll think so too!

Issues: The first is that the 1-7 ability hotkeys make mobile combat next to impossible without twisting your fingers into funny shapes that make you say “gosh darn it” while zombies eat your face and you flail desperately for your shield spell. Standing still tends to work unless an area of effect indicator pops up, in which case, dodge it before you get slapped by the incoming nuke. The second issue is that you can’t respec your character’s ability points, but that’s not a big deal because by the end of the game you’ll have acquired absolutely everything. All of it. Each skill maxed and all abilities available for every weapon. Pure 100%. COMPLETIONIST BONER. You dig?

The Secret World

Kate Cox of Kotaku found The Secret World to be almost uncomfortably different due to its capricious guidance and unorthodox ability-oriented level-up system, but enjoyed it nonetheless. If you couldn’t tell, I did too. This is an MMORPG that deserves more attention by merit of being so gosh darn engaging and different. Hell, it makes me remember those frustrating puzzle games from back in the day that really made you work for your rewards. Then a now, the feeling of completion is satisfying. Check out the longer and more detailed review here on Kotaku:  http://kotaku.com/5930694/the-secret-world-the-kotaku-review

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