‘The Secret World’ is definitely worth discovering

by Cody Franklin

02_13_13_TheSecretWorld_CourtesyFuncomLovecraftian horror? Check. Egyptian pharaohs and mummies making amok of things? Yep. Vampires battling gypsies that are also vampire hunters? Most definitely. Throw in a healthy dose of encounters with many of history’s gods and prophets and you have yourself a recipe for a fantastic and unique game that goes by the name “The Secret World.” Funcom’s latest game is far from the usual formula for massively multiplayer online games these days. Indeed, the game recently went buy-to-play, dropping the required subscription that kept so many players away before. It may have some MMO staples such as the traditional hotkey-based combat, but that’s about where the similarities end.

The most distinguishing factor of “The Secret World” is just how rich the story is. I was constantly surprised by how far down the rabbit hole I continued to go as I played the game. MMOs are notorious for weak storylines, yet “The Secret World” has one of the best plots I’ve come across yet.

In Kingsmouth, I tackled many different enemies, spurred onward by the mysterious Filth that permeates the world.  I faced a zombie apocalypse, former Vikings-turned-sea-monsters invading from ocean depths, Slender Man-inspired horrors crawling from the black goo beneath the earth, demonic breaches spewing forth hellish fiends, a Loki-like immortal trying to harness the power of Excalibur to dominate the world and a Mayan-summoned giant insect swarm all in only the first third of the game. Mummies leading an Egyptian revolution, vampires armed with Soviet-era weaponry and Bane knock-offs are just a taste of what lied beyond. The story is further strengthened by almost every mission featuring cut scenes with some of the best voice acting I’ve heard yet. “Star Wars: The Old Republic” has nothing on “The Secret World.”

However, the story is also one of the game’s biggest weaknesses. With so many incredibly interesting story lines and fantastic characters, Funcom has a chronic issue with fleshing them all out. Time and time again I found myself wanting to learn more about nearly every character I encountered, only to leave them behind forever after just a quest or two. A lot of these issues seem to come from Funcom’s plans to continuously update the many different plots as time goes by. While this is great for the game’s longevity, it feels incomplete at times.

There are no traditional levels or classes in “The Secret World.” Instead, players put points into a myriad of different types of weapons and magic, creating their own unique characters and venturing forth into new zones once their character can actually survive in them. In the meantime, gamers can go back to previous zones whenever they like and repeat nearly every quest in the game to help build up power, a very refreshing take on the spread of daily quests appearing in MMOs more and more.

This lack of hand-holding is a key point of the game that I found very refreshing for a MMO. Investigative quests can take hours to complete as players try to piece together the clues left by developers. Combat, though hotkey-based, is still fun because of how challenging nearly every mob is.

This all adds up to make “The Secret World” feel much more like a great co-op game than a traditional MMO, though you can still run some of the hardest dungeons I’ve ever encountered or battle in player versus player if that fits your fancy.

However, relying too much on having another player can lead to problems. Many of the main story quests lead to solo instances, forcing players/characters to suddenly try to survive on their own. This becomes especially problematic in the last few hours of the game, when difficulty ramps up considerably. Currently, I still haven’t completed the main story because of the difficulty of the mobs I’ve come across.

Despite these minor gripes, I’ve enjoyed every minute I’ve spent in “The Secret World.” For $30, it’s very hard to find a game that offers as much story and content as Funcom’s latest. Grab a copy, grab a friend and hop into “The Secret World” before the Filth reaches out and grabs you.