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The Secret World is an MMO set in modern day and comprised of three factions: The Illuminati who start in New York, the Templars who start in London and the Dragons who are based in Seoul. It was strange to start with, but the concept of The Secret World is clever, as it is the first MMO to be set in a real world, as opposed to a fantasy world in an alternate reality. I felt as though I was running around playing Grand Theft Auto on the PC with hundreds of other people.
I decided to play as an Illuminati character, whose opening story is both dark and intriguing that’s complimented by an epic, movie-like voice over which was twisted and creepy. The story seemed pretty disheveled to start, and left everything open to interpretation for the player. One morning you wake up from a strange dream with the unfamiliar ability to manipulate light energy. Shortly thereafter, an unknown agency wants to hire you to take advantage of your newly acquired ability to manipulate light. Later, my character entered an RPG virtual reality world. It was all pretty confusing to be honest, but rather than this being off-putting, it made me want to play on.
While The Secret World would be classed as a fantasy RPG, it’s far harder to categorize due to the setting of the world. Your created character is a human running around on Earth, with real life weapons, set in real life places. There are not multiple classes and races similar to other MMOs such as World of Warcraft and Star Wars: The Old Republic. What makes this game fantasy is the monsters fought, the magic used, and the superpowers you seem to just wake up with.
The Secret World features an original setting using contemporary elements as well as myths, magic, conspiracies and dark horrors. The game incorporates ancient mythologies; real and false history, urban legends, and pop culture, and ties them into an original backstory. The players will assume the roles of supernatural heroes who participate in a “future war between good and evil”, fighting dark monsters that threaten the modern world.
Although The Secret World doesn’t quite deliver on the globe-trotting premise, you spend your time in small chunks of New England, Egypt and Transylvania as well as the hub cities mentioned previously (London, Seoul and New York). Each location you visit in this game feels intimate and gorgeously crafted. There are lovely touches all around, such as the radio in the London Underground station declaring the shipping forecast. The visuals in The Secret World are simply beautiful. I would personally say that the detail in The Secret World is its hallmark. Funcom have bravely spent its world-building efforts on this granular level rather than going for sheer scale. It works.
The use of music did add a certain eerie atmosphere to the game. It would make the seriousness of the situations presented to the player feel even more epic. Apart from this, there wasn’t much music, as with any MMO. You have ambient SFX, such as the noises the enemies make in combat, NPCs talking to you during quests, and background noise such as machinery and animals.
The quality of the voice acting and dialogue is striking, or maybe I should say the monologue, as missions are delivered to your somewhat awkwardly mute character via a gallery of memorable, talkative oddballs. Sometimes these monologues feel over written and almost a bit too long, but if character dialogue is not your cup of tea then there is also a great deal of collectables such as lore snippets, posters, and mission logs for the player to hunt for to fill lore and plot holes.
As I started playing through The Secret World it felt different to any MMO I had played. Obviously that was due to the fact that it WAS different than other MMOs. The leveling system involves an intricate points chart system where the player assigns points to different aspects such as “Pistol” or “Shotgun”. The leveling felt a lot like the system used in Mass Effect, whereby once you got to level 5 of a skill, you had the choice between two different things. Well, in The Secret World you have the choice between leveling skills as Damage or Defense which help you mold your characters into a Tank, DPS or Healer.
Unfortunately, the value of the game is where it is let down. Players must pay £11.49 which is more expensive than their competitors. This poses a big problem, because for that price players would expect to get a lot more than they do in The Secret World. Since launch, the game unfortunately has also been fairly buggy. While I enjoyed the game, there didn’t feel like there was enough content to be classed as a ‘premium’ MMO. However, developer Funcom is promising monthly updates.
All in all, The Secret World makes for a great MMO. It’s alive with players, story, collectibles in-game and customization. It is let down by the price a person must pay monthly to gain a subscription, however that can easily be overlooked when you take into consideration the beauty of the game. I love how the game is set in modern day, setting apart from any other MMO, as it adds diversity to the MMO world. Players use weapons and are human characters making the game feel more realistic. I love proper fantasy games set in an unknown time in an unknown realm with make believe races such as elves in Rift and the Chiss in Star Wars: The Old Republic, but having the option to play an MMO that feels so real adds a whole different view to the way we see online gaming.