The Secret World…despite EA being involved at one point or another and that being a major turnoff for some is actually quite good. The game does have it faults, and a big one for me is the leveling system.
There is no level cap, and as such you never stop getting better with skills, abilities, and weapons. The way it works is that you gain AP and SP as you level-up. The AP goes mainly into skills and the SP goes primarily into weapons.
Skills are what generate damage in the game. Unlike in traditional MMORPGs, where the laws of point-and-click afford natural repetitive attack, the Secret World requires you to place abilities on a “hot bar”. For those unfamiliar, it’s the buttons marked “1” through “9” on your keyboard.
In combat you press the key corresponding to an ability, which gets tiresome after a while. Unlike many MMORPGs that include detailed tutorials, this game starts you off with only a smattering of basic know-how, before sending your very unprepared self out into the cold, zombie-rich environs.
What’s more, the opening sequences dump onto players a tremendous amount of lore to memorize. There are three vying factions, each keeping secrets from the other two, and some even from members of their own faction. There is a story about a weapon powerful enough to destroy the entire world…nothing more for now. Additionally, to move between locations you must find a giant tree in another dimension and carefully walk among its branches. It’s like having a nightmare within a dream. There’s no sugar-coating it.
The game’s community is great, as long as you define “great” as having precious few helpful members. At one point I was trying to figure out how to craft an item, so I asked around for advice. Help arrived about 30 to 40 minutes later. I was grateful, but I’d forgotten the original question by then.
Another huge issue in the game is how often you need to use Google. Knowing the Latin language is at times a must to progress through the story and side-quests. This is particularly annoying during timed events. In any case, expect to fail and die a lot.
Aside from the language barrier, there are many puzzles to solve and missions to complete that require knowledge of bible verses from the New King James testament, or song numbers from Gospel hymns. No joke…and we’re still only in Chapter 1 of the game! It’s here that we meet Men in Black, Zombies, Draugr, evil wizards, and the power to destroy the entire world…oh yes, and to slay gods.
Ultimately, does The Secret World deliver on being a vastly different MMORPG? The answer is a simple straight forward, yes. My only real issue with the game is simply you cannot download it through Steam if you have a Funcom license key, but you CAN do it the other way around. They even went as far as to integrate the Funcom servers with the Steam servers so everyone can play together.
Is The Secret World worth checking out, now that it’s “pay once, play forever”? Yes. Is the game “pay to win”? No. You can boost your AP by purchasing bonuses, but there is no real benefit in that because it can be earned as you play. Remember, too that AP simply unlocks new abilities. The amount needed to unlock every ability totals into the hundreds of dollars, if purchased.
But for the price, I would give The Secret World a try, even more so if you love puzzles and a massively multi-player online role playing experience.
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