Much of The Secret World is the same no matter which faction you chose to go with. The open world where nearly all of the game takes place is identical no matter which group you pick. If you’re a Dragon you can even team up with an Illuminati and a Templar at the same time. So the question becomes, if most of the game is the same no matter which side you join, does it really matter? I would say that yes, it very much matters and not for the reason you might be thinking.
Lets just get the big thing out of the way. PvP is all about faction. But, fundamentally all the factions are the same. Maybe in certain groups one faction is better than another at PvP but that all comes down to the individual players not so much what color they’re wearing. So, for the rest of this article lets set PvP to the side and just look at the big thing in PvE that sets the factions apart, text messages and phone calls, the voice on the phone.
At the end of every mission you report back in with headquarters. In reply you get a text message. Sometimes they’re just generic “Yeah, we got your report” messages, sometimes they’re in depth looks at what you just did from another point of view. And even further to that sometimes you get messages from the other factions. At first glance this sort of thing may seem like just a bit of seasoning. But much like the chilli I made this weekend, The Secret World would always taste the same without that seasoning.
When you first join the Dragons you get yourself a foot rub, a real nice foot rub from a lady in a red dress. You think you’ve made the right choice going with the Dragons. But no, it turns out of them all, the Dragons are the biggest jerks of the bunch. To them you’re just another cog, one that is completely and totally replaceable. What’s worse is they make sure you know it with heart-warming messages saying that they expected you to die.
Templars send you reminders of their supposed superiority any chance they get. But the messages from them also expand on the game just a bit. They offer a little more lore and backstory to the things you do.
And then there are the Illuminati. These actually feel like they’re coming from a real person rather than a soulless, uncaring organization. In a way it leads me to think that perhaps the Illuminati are the “most good” of the good guys.
The way all three of them interact with you colors how you look at the game. Play as a Dragon and you become somewhat cynical about things. You expect things to be terrible, and they always are of course. But play as an Illuminati and you’re part of something bigger, you’re important.
It is just for the reports via text message that I recommend people make three alts. Play through them one at a time and it’s like you’re playing three different games. Of course this isn’t the only way that factions add a little spice. But they are in my mind at least the most important. Which, if you think about seems a bit counter to what is typical in MMOs.
Sure, in real life if you get a text message you’re going to stop and read it. But are you really going to do that in an MMO? Especially in one where stopping at the side of the road to read a text could give a creature the opportunity it needs to reach out and grab you. While I absolutely love the flavor that they bring I always have the urge to turn things in and read them as soon as they complete. This has resulted in many untimely deaths of course. Other alternatives are don’t read them at all, which I will admit ends up happening far more often than I would like, or going somewhere safe first. End of mission text so often gets ignored in MMOs that I could easily see it being something that no one bothers to read in The Secret World. Many MMOs don’t even bother with end of mission text at all. Both things are really a shame because it is very well done and it adds so much spice to an already fantastic world.
Do you stop to read the post mission reports? If you do, how do you do it? Just right then and there or do you take it somewhere else? There isn’t really any right answer to these questions. But it’s something to think about the next time you’re in the chili pot called The Secret World.