As I sit before my computer I am forced to realize that something amazing has happened, I am enjoying The Secret World. It’s not just that the story is driving me forward, it’s not just that I listen to the launch trailer before I start playing every day, it’s not even that I am thrilled with the skill system and thus character development in a way I haven’t been in a long time; I am enjoying the Secret World for the sum of its parts. And what parts they are! From the undoubtedly eccentric mission system, to the unbelievable this-isn’t your-usual-MMO Dragon opening shot across the bow (Dragon 4 Life!), to the skill system that will take days to understand and years to master; The Secret World is constantly shaking the way MMOs can be played. The Secret World is unwavering in its commitment to let you go the easy way. Yes like any good spoiler you can Google things and get a bit of a cheat sheet but there are times when you are just awestruck that it even works, that you even care.
When I first started playing The Secret World I started with the Rifle. I had played a little in the various open and closed betas and I had a pleasant time with the Rifle, so it was my first weapon or skill set of choice. In The Secret World you can play with any two weapon combinations you like, there are three classes of weapons, each with three categories; melee, ranged, and magic round out the categories with a final weaponless skill set devoted to party play helping you gain or lose agro or help support your team. However, while they do have some similarities across the board they play different enough to feel unique. That uniqueness is a feeling The Secret World quickly fosters. While it may appear that the skill set is easily understood one would be in error to assume such, because they are so many choices.
I was a DPSer, strictly 9 to 5 straight up DPS with a side of AOE. Then I added a little selfheal for the boss fights and to have a better solo experience. Now I'm working on getting better damage that not only kills mobs faster but will heal me based on how much damage I do. And that's just for starters. If I go down the melee skill list I can pick up some nice damage mitigation passives. Just perusing the Rifle skillset I find myself almost halfway to a pretty good healer deck just by accident. This game allows you to play however you like, and even now I know I haven't even cracked the surface of it.
I quite quickly got disillusioned with the rifle though I was looking at other skill sets and thinking that sounds rather cool, right before I stopped progressing further I realized that I had only played lip service to my second skill set Elementalism and I wasn’t utilizing it to the fullest. I went back and thought, right around here is where I would start making alt characters in other MMOs. The new game shine has worn off a bit and now I want to play something different. Except the Secret World says not so fast, you want to switch play styles, fine do it. I could both keep playing with the Rifle skill set and garner enough action and skill points to make a quick change or I could go get a basic weapon and start from scratch. And I did, I had the benefits of some decent gear and so that helped obviously but even then the Secret World doesn’t penalize you for changing your mind or making weak decks (7 active and 7 passive skills); if you can think it up then you can make it happen. There are no cookie cutter builds, and you can play however you like.
The Secret World is adept at sound better than just about any game I’ve played in quite some time. Not only does it have hauntingly beautiful pieces in game, see ‘Siren Song’ as an example, but it has beautiful music outside the game. The launch trailer alone would win an award in any other industry. In game, music aside however, where the Secret World shines brightest is the sound of the world. When pursued by monsters, there is the rush and crescendos of the music crashing all around you, as you run for your life. When a big behemoth is merely stomping around you hear the Titan-like steps as you feel the earth rumble and shake. All of this is helped immensely by the idea that the Secret World fosters that you’re not ever safe. Even the mightiest can be brought low even in Kingsmouth, the starting area. It should feel cheap at times but in a way it feels right, the idea that while you might be a superhero in your own mind evil is always waiting for a little mistake to throw down a body slam.
As Lavar Burton once said, ‘Don’t take my word for it’; The Secret World is here and it is simply amazing. It is unabashedly everything you never thought you wanted. Yes I know you’re waiting for Guild Wars 2 to drop, its free I get it. Maybe you’re looking ahead at Blade & Soul, Elder Scrolls Online, or Wildstar; but take a quick look at The Secret World you just might not ever leave. A MMO that makes you want to keep playing, keep improving at it; maybe it really is the end of the world.