I'm hard to please to new age MMO's due to my high standards I have along with the difficulty level I demand. I'm also extremely critical when it comes to simple gameplay mechanics like character movement and jumping. Also, most MMO's trying to clone WoW and failing miserably have spawned MMO's telling the public they are changing what most people view MMO's. ALL and I mean ALL MMO's have failed to this promise and none can clone WoW either. I came into this game with no previous knowledge or expectations. I came out of the weekend with a new positive outlook that finally, a new MMO has succeeded in a 5 year old promise others have tried and failed.
To start I'll say there are 3 different Factions or groups, the game refers to them as "secret" societies. Each one has a different place of home and different storyline for their specific society. They have their own colors and background to each. In my testing I went with the Illuminati. ( other 2 being The Templar's, and Dragon ) My Societies home city was New York, which look well put together and designed. Without going into too much detail each society gets a city of some sort over the world, Templar's get London, Dragons get Seoul. Yes this game puts "world" in the literal sense where your not in some made up fantasy land but instead, current times.. Earth. You can visit Egypt then 2 hours later go visit New York laundry mat. How they pulled this off was not flying on long flight paths but instead a world tree you go to via portal in every town, city, zone. They take you to the massive illuminated world tree with massive Protectors. You fast travel on the branches to visit portals to go to each zone. Now I didn't explore too much into this part but from first impressions it was a very nice alternative from the usual. While adding more lore to the game.
This game took all my understanding of MMO's and made it look new and fresh. From the NO CHARACTER LEVELS.. to the immense 525 active and passive abilities, all earned at a very nice rate that I never felt like I was grinding my progress bar at the bottom. But this is maintained due to only allowing 7 active and 7 passive up at one time giving a HUGE choice decision between fights to pick from the 525, also allows for unique builds from player to player. So goal is to find a synergy between each of the 9 weapon types. Did I mention there's 9? Broken down nicely into 3 categories: Magic, Guns, Melee weapons. You get Shotguns, Assault Rifles, Pistols; Sword, Fists, Hammer; finally Magic called Chaos, Blood, Elemental.
The unique sense of there is no classes in this game either yet they're roles still. This is a new idea that I REALLY enjoyed because I felt that I don't need to make 20 different toons just to play each aspect of the game, but I enjoy having roles and duties in a MMO because it puts a sense of responsibility on the player along with self accomplishment when you succeed. This added with on the fly gear changing meaning anyone in a group can fulfill any role in a dungeon they please between combat. Keep in mind that because there is no level cap, you can essentially unlock all 525 abilities at some point so you never feel restricted. At first I was put off at only having 7 active abilities at first because I feel like I'd have little variety. I tend to hate games that do this, or making each button a curtain "type" of spell that can only go there. These piss me off because I'm forced to have a limited number of spells in the first place but then I must... MUST use x amount of utility spells and x amount of healing spells to go along with the remaining x amount of actually usable attacks. However, with The Secret World.. I was actually happy they only allow me 7 abilities at a time.. mainly because all the active spells in each cell block for weapon type flow nicely together and I could easily become over whelmed with managing 525 abilities and only having a current number of key binds ranging in only the mid 40's I can press with just my left hand. So they get an A+ for restricting the number of spells usable at a time without making the player feel gimped or at a loss about needing other spells. It's also fairly easy to go through your massive library of spells via well put together wheel designed cell block system. Each play-style either Melee, Magic, or Ranged gets 3 weapon types to go with it. Of each weapon type gets its own slice of the wheel. Under the weapon type you start with 2 cell blocks, each have 7 abilities in it. Under that you get another 3 cell blocks for each of the original 2 cell blocks. All having their own set of more abilities. So at this point you can see the amount of variety you will get along with customization. To accompany your Ability Wheel your also given skill points. These are earned similarly to the ability points but a slower rate. They, unlike the wheel get a bar for each weapon type and 3 types of trinkets. Under each weapon type there's 2 separate bars, 1 for damage and 1 for either healing or support depending on the weapon. You put your puts under the weapons you wish to use mostly to increase its damage and effectiveness as well as its healing or supportive properties. Like its Ability Wheel friend you can eventually max these out as well, allowing you to release the full potential of your character later on in the game. This was a major relief to me considering I'm a major alt fanatic to gain and learn a class based system. This allows me to make 1 character and stick to it to the end while experiencing it all.
Some people complain about the actual combat feeling clunky or what not and no where is that more noticeable then in PvP. This I feel every MMO struggles in. That smoothness WoW is so well known for. The feeling of control over another player. And at this point I somewhat have to agree in the PvP sense. I didn't play much of it but the hour I did spend It felt like a cluster-fuck and not once did I manage a 1 on 1 fight with someone to really see how well I could perform. Now granted I only played 1 map and type of match so maybe the other 2 offer something different. This makes me nervous because anyone who has played Funcoms previous game will know Age of Conan wasn't a excellent PvP combat game. But unlike AoC I feel there is room for TSW to improve on this and really fine tune its combat mechanics. Keep in mind WoW has had MANY years of practice with this so its expected. Overall that wasn't a killer for me regardless of how much I enjoy PvP in an MMO, because the matches were still quite fun.
The quest mechanics for this game were just a breathe of fresh air for me. Most MMO's go for the kill x amount and return type of quest to keep players busy. Even though TSW had some of this element I was surprisingly unaware I was doing such things. Mainly because their kill X amount of mobs wasn't a large number like 50 .. but a more manageable 6 - 8. Include this with mob fights that aren't super faceroll and actually make it interesting every time I fight something make those types of quests... feel like quests and not farming runs for NPC's. And this I really like because I actually don't mind X mob quests, but TSW put a nice touch on an age old concept making it feel more fresh. Plus there was a verity in quest types and a different way of approaching quest chains. I personally found MUCH enjoyment in puzzle quests where you, wait did I say puzzles? YES.. YES puzzle and investigation quests!!! They are a thrill to figure out and a very unexpected show in an MMO setting. There's one to get a password for a lockbox buried out front a Church for instance. Well the game doesn't just tell you.. nor find X NPC to tell you, no instead you find a cell phone from a dead lady that shows a text that's decently long but does mention the password for it is the first song the (forgive me for my lack of knowledge on Church titles) Priest guy will sing on Sunday. You get to the box and see its not a name of a song.. but digits. I was very lost at this point and did researching around the building just to see if I could talk to some NPC or anything to help. I then found numbers, 3 digits each writing inside the church on one of the pillars. I then guessed that they must be the song number or something in the bible or some other church faring pamphlet. Turns out the first 3 digit number worked, after I tried and failed using all 3 together. This small touch to quest design no matter how basic makes it way more fulfilling once completed. There are much more and they get harder the further you get into the game (this is in the first town you start the game in). Plus some of the quests seem rather hard to do like infiltrate a base without being seen.. literally or else you get immediately captured and placed into a cell and you have to figure out how to get out. So the the hard but fun puzzles, the difficult quests it leaves me feeling the idiots will get weeded out of the game early; Not to mention its a mature game so it curses just as much as I do along with adult conversations that to us are hilarious but I feel may be over the head of most 12 yr olds. So yeah, I like it doesn't appeal to young bratty kids with half a brain.
Most may be wondering well what about crafting things! Yes there is crafting but unlike other MMO's there is no skill trainers or of the such and everyone can craft from the start of the game. It's called "Assembly" and it functions as an All-In-One crafting skill. So pretend its your gear crafter, disenchanter, item enchanter in 1 easy to please interface. Basically its like a grid you put items in to do what you want with. So throw in a hammer and you can disassemble it into parts. Disassemble a couple items, take the parts put it in the grid and combine them to make better materials. Use these materials in a pattern on grid to resemble the item you want to craft, so for instance take some parts and form it into the shape of a hammer on the grid.. click assemble and presto.. HAMMER TIME! Use it to take runes you find from mobs or purchased put them into a pattern and create a glyph for a weapon or other item. Or use it to put runes with your weapon to increase it's stats. Overall the assembly design is intuitive and very mindcraft interactive type.
You also may be wondering, well how does gear work then? Easy, every piece of gear you wear is a trinket of the sorts so you don't actually see it show on your character other then your weapons. That's right, this means you wearing clothing and not over the top gear styles. So I do find it entertaining fighting a wave of undead zombies in a black striped Tux with a samurai sword. There are item levels for your trinkets though, this corresponds to how much HP it has or the other amount of stats on it. But I found it very balanced on how i received better ilvl items. Considering mobs... RARELY.. drop item or weapons for you. But due to the crafting as said above allows you to make your own!
In the first town I can't help but say it's like Left for Dead but MMO style. Yes.. that means ZOMBIES!!!! Its a small town with close citizens that's been takin' over by zombies and unnatural beings that come out of the sea (this town is a main harbor for the island this game is set on). So there's plenty of enjoyment running into a mass of zombies eating a dead corpse equipped with a shotty or fist weapon going head first and killing them all. Plus there's a day and night system so the town dramatically feels different at night then day. In fact at night with 7.1 surround headphones its a bit scary. The zombies themselves are well done and the noises they make seem to come directly from a horror movie. Yes, I have never been "jumpy" in an MMO game before but TSW accomplished this new feeling from a 10 year vet of MMO's. Did I mention that none of the zombies really felt like a "pushover" while questing. Each mob had its challenge and I died many times due to getting gang banged by passing by zombies while I was running from a single rather larger zombie. So this element made questing always a fun challenge for me. Along with questing the game lays down these yellow markers on the ground at curtain places in the world (some difficult to get to but you see it so you think MUST HAVE) that give you lore behind the setting the game is in. When you read this eerie back story the town really feels to come alive with lore. This shows when you speak with the doc who was treating the first victims to show signs of turning into a zombie. Not giving anything away but after reading the story and questing for him you get the feel for the town.
Lastly the dungeons. Now I only did one and its the first one you can get to. I found it AWESOME. There's been thousands of bosses over the years with MMO's and most tread in similar waters for boss design. In TSW its much much better. The Dungeon is called Polaris due to the fact it has a MASSIVE cargo ship crashed on its side on an island. The first part is just getting to it, fighting the darkness mobs and zombies. The bosses getting there weren't to shabby, I died to them despite my background in PVE in MMO's. They each felt different from the last and each offered its own challenge. None felt so over the top it would push back players from wanting it, but wasn't so easy you could just roll over them. This aspect doesn't show more then the last boss in Polaris. As all instances should be like; FINAL BOSS IS THE TOUGHEST. And he was. My group wiped multiple times before finally figure out the tactic and how to fight him. This boss also put in a new type of feeling in me while in a PvE dungeon, Fear. Yes fear. He's a multi-phase boss and in his 2nd phase you must hide behind 1 of 4 massive pillars while he walks around looking for people in your group. Thing is your vision becomes impaired due to a fog the comes over the area so most of the time you only hear his massive foot steps. His eyes also glow red and if he spots you, you become frozen and then 2 seconds later blasted far far away. 95% of the time will kill you. In addition adds spawn around the room and run around trying to attack you. so you must manged the adds while hiding from the main boss. The effect of hearing these massive slow moving footsteps on 7.1 surround is insane and you get the chills when you hear it stop... then quickly rush closer to your position. Plus, sometimes he will figure out your group is running circles around a pillar so being a real boss like he is.. blows the thing up in a single swipe forcing your group to run away like little school girls. Overall first dungeon impressed me so much I did it over an over again because I enjoyed it. Not to mention the gear rewards weren't over the top and I was given a rewarding amount of experience each time so it felt worth it to come back for more.
I give this game a 8 out of 10. For its superb job at refreshing old MMO ideas while bringing it's own assortment of original and creative ideas to the table. Difficultly feel and over the top hands on crafting appeal. The combat game play in PvP could use some work but with some time I feel they can grow and improve on it.
Awesome quest design, intuitive skill earning mechanics, each person can fulfill and play the game how they want.. without needing alts, captivating dungeon level design, and finally customization. I came into this game with an open mind and left with it completely blown. I look forward each day to release so I may experience that which is The Secret World.