[Review] The Secret World

The best thing I could say about The Secret World is that it makes you feel clever… or stupid, depending on whether you can solve the many clues put in your way. Sure, most people know that The Four Seasons was composed by Vivaldi, but it doesn’t make you feel any less of a genius for getting the clue and cracking the password on a computer. In the back of your mind you’re thinking to yourself that there’s some 14 (or 34) year old somewhere that has no clue. And the feeling is delicious.

TSW is the new massively multiplayer kid on the block, but instead of the excitable pre-teen we frequently see, TSW feels more like the moody goth guy who spends all his free time jamming on his bass and smoking in the toilets at recess. The game treads a tight rope between accessible gameplay and recent, more challenging games. It takes your usual MMO trappings but adds a compelling story, puzzles, some rather adult themes and clue solving. And if you’re not up to date with your 18th century composers, don’t worry,  TSW includes an in game browser. A clever feature which doesn’t break the immersion.

There’s a clue in there somewhere… yeah, I’m as lost as you are.

One of TSW‘s more divergent choices is the modern setting of the game, mixed in with a big dose of horror, held at bay by one of the three secret organisations you join. Drawing from history you can join either the Illuminati, the Templars or just for something different the Asian posse known as the Dragons. Stereotype much? Sure. But they’re all about the chaos so it looks like it’s the Dragons for me.

Once you’ve picked your faction and shotgunned your way through a decent tutorial, you’re left to your own devices along with all the other suddenly rather lost players. You pick a weapon to wreak destruction with (including blood magic and some Wolverine-esque claws) and set out for the town of Kingsmouth, accessed through a portal system running through the centre of the World and guarded by 50 foot steam punk robots, as you can see below.

I feel if we had these monstrosities on every street corner there would be rather less crime. Though probably more horrific giant robot foot crushing related fatalities.

You don’t level in the traditional manner in TSW but instead gain skill and ability points to spend on whatever your heart desires. That’s right. No levels and no traditional class system. Don’t worry – there’s no need to curl into the foetal position just yet. No matter which weapons you pick you can’t really go wrong. Well, all except for pistols which I felt were weak in practice, even if it does feel like you’re in the Matrix. I could say a lot about the ability points system but I’d rather not spoil any surprises. It really is that nifty.

The reason Star Wars: The Old Republic just wasn’t able to drag me fully back into the MMO arena was that it just felt like the same old thing. Sure there was dialogue but all the mission hubs and subsequent shopping lists of quests you’d received just felt like chores. Oh great – I have to go and slaughter another 10 aliens just trying to survive in this cruel universe? *Sigh*.

TSW steps away from this system and has quests spread throughout its ‘zones’. Sure you could just follow the main story but I actually found myself drawn towards the side quests because of their story and clever layout.

Admittedly you will sometimes just wish you could solve the problem with a hammer/rifle/book (strapping a book on my back gives me super blood powers, just accept, don’t fight it)

It’s not all singing and dancing though. The crafting system is a whole lot of meh and from what I hear PvP isn’t particularly balanced. I haven’t been able to even get into a match yet, though I think that’s because I play some whacky southern hemisphere hours. As the game grows and develops however (and I’ve had some more practice with the crafting system) I’m sure these problems will be adjusted. Future impressive updates for TSW have already been announced and the game’s producers seem very keen to keep the new material flowing.

The graphics are great and the sound effects and musical score greatly enhance the monster infested universe. The combat is smooth and interesting. I really think this MMO has a lot to offer, though unfortunately for TSW it has been unleashed upon its online audience at a rather awkward time.

With the aforementioned SW:TOR now going the way of the Death Star (though dying slowly) and Guild Wars 2 just around the corner, I’m not sure TSW will find a willing market – which is such a shame.

Deus Ex Apis…. Don’t get it? Come on. I’m trying to be clever here… sigh… Just Google it.

Verdict

If you’re looking for something a little different and don’t mind a challenge, do yourself a favour and give TSW a try. At only $50 (a steal for us backwards Australians) from the official website and the first month included free, this is a game that shouldn’t be missed. I’m personally hooked and can’t wait to invest some more time into this gem. Whether you want to wield ancient magic to defeat your foes or just smash zombie face with a hammer, TSW will entertain and enthral you.

9 / 10 stars           

I give it an impressive 9/10.

The Secret World is currently available from our affiliate GameFanShop for $39.99 Direct Download + One Month Free,  any purchases help support Non-Fiction Gaming. Chazz likes guns, tanks and zombies, check out his World of Tanks review here.