The Secret World is almost bugfree at launch, and shows a lot of promise as one of the best mmo's to date. For a project this ambitious, Funcom has surprisingly pulled it off, in this reviewers opinion (I have played closed beta, beta weekends and continue to play post launch).
Mechanically, TSW shares common grounds with TERA, and even SWTOR. But, this is where the similarities end. True to Funcoms promise, this game offers a very rewarding xp system, where there are no classes, and you can select from hundreds of abilities that you unlock with Anima Points (AP) that you receive in set intervals of earned xp. every 3 AP grants you a Skill Point (SP) that you can use to increase you skill in a weapon type of your choice (divided into offense or defence line of progression, but both are progressable), and also talismans. the higher the skill, the better the weapon and talismans you can equip.
The catch? you can only use 14 skills at a time for your build (7 active that go on the hotbar, and 7 passive that are always on and/or act as procs), with two weapons equipped that you can instantly swap between based on what skills you use at that moment on your hotbar. you can even save those builds in your gear management window for later use. You can currently save 5 builds, and buy 3 more slots for a total of 8 custom builds that you can load on the fly when out of combat. only clothing is not saved, which in this reviewers opinion should be an option that can be enabled from an rp standpoint.
The first three playfields are considered the starter areas, and provide little to moderate challenge to players. With such a small learning curve, this allows players to experiment and find builds they like very quickly, while enjoying the beautiful scenery and plethora of missions to be completed, and repeatable every 18 hours if the player enjoys the xp reward vs effort, or if the mission is just plain fun. These missions also provide you with tokens for region (ie sequin of solomon island tokens), which you can use to purchase fairly decent weapons, talismans, upgrades and other goodies. but you also loot alot of goodies as well which can be broken down or built into whatever you want; or used if they are good.
As you progress in the Secret world, your xp required to gain more AP and SP only increases slightly, if at all, allowing you to repeat missions ad nausium. The Catch? The cost of skills increases sharply as you get into the higher tier, and harder and more rewarding quests are required for speedy progression. This means you must eventually leave newbie (Solomon) Island. The upside to this means that you can rack up tons of AP and SP in later Playfields to put skills in other areas. using a shotgun and chaos magic, but want to try out hammers? save up your points and soon enough you can put them into hammers, or whatever you choose if you are bored with your current build style.
TSWs offering of PVP is bold as well. beside fight clubs that you can go to, and beat up new players that are checking them out; there are (at launch) 3 different playfields (Stone henge, El Dorado and Fu Sang Projects) that contain facilities, anima wells and droves of other players of all three factions, all fighting for control to gain global benefits for their faction. these playfields aren't your typical battlegrounds. they are constantly running and do not reset, and you can join from anywhere, simply by pressing 'P' and selecting the area you want to go to. there are even daily missions in these playfields such as "take over an anima well," or "take over a facility" and "kill 10 players." this means that not only is their faction bonuses involved with helping out in pvp, but there are xp bonuses as well. on top of that, you receive tokens that you can spend on gear.
Dungeons can also be found in almost every playfield. These dungeons require players to constantly change their builds to accomodate boss tactics and hazards. sometimes you need a tank and spank with DD to tank a boss down quickly, and then most other times you must find a tactic to overcome everything that a boss will throw at you, and then some. the xp rewards in dungeons in very nice, and the loot is often many times better than its level, but sometimes useful for more specific encounters than general use.
Lastly, the credit/money sinks in TSW are very well balanced. due to all gear being "bind on equip," and some even being "bind on pick-up," the ingame economy isnt saturated with finished gear. in contrast, the raw materials are more valuable in TSW because tradeskilling doesn't require anything but the knowledge of how the materials are arranged in the tradeskill window (think minecraft but more complex). But, I digress; people just dont have mountains of spare money to throw around. between repairing gear that gets damaged from heavy use as well as from dying, and purchasing runspeed upgrades and kits to make potions and other crazy stuff, not to mention buying clothes in London's clothing store to pimp out your character, you basically are strapped for cash a lot of the time. this is a good thing in this reviewers opinion, as too many MMOs have a ruined ingame economy due to an over-abundance of money vs. a lack of money sinks.
Overall, for a game that has just launched, TSW runs very smooth for me, and I have encountered very, very few bugs; maybe 1 visual and 4 mission related in total, but none gamebreaking at all. Because of this, I will give TSW a 9.5/10. I would give a perfect score, but I have run into a few bugged missions (out of hundreds) since launch, as well as a rare visual glitch where my character doesn't sheath/holster their weapon while in sprint mode, leaving for a very funny and cartoony run animation that can be seen by others as well. this will likely get fixed soon, but as of July 4, 2012 it is still a bug (one that I could care less about because its funny when it happens).
My advice: go play it if you love horror, humour and mystery wrapped in one. if you want to have your hand held... this game will do it for you, but only for the easy stuff. there are missions in this game that would make einsteins head spin if he were alive to attempt them.
TL;DR version: A well crafted MMO that pushes the envelope, breaks down the walls and smothers the normal grind with an abundance of variety and reward. well worth the buy in this reviewers opinion.
| Tradeskilling system
character progression and learning curve
| lower IQ individuals may struggle
doesn't hold your hand past starter island
requires a good gaming PC
massive installation size
build choices can be overwhelming at first