The Secret World: a newb’s guide to the apocalypse

Friday, 6th July 2012 08:52 GMT By Brenna Hillier

MMO newb turned Secret World fanatic Brenna Hillier offers a set of hand-tips for fellow beginners and MMO veterans alike looking to get the most out of Funcom’s subversive new game.

The Secret World

Contemporary conspiracy MMO made by Funcom, published by EA.

It came out yesterday: get it here.

Charts a war waged against mysterious, evil forces by Templar, Illuminati and Dragon sects.

Weapon- and skill-based levelling system.

First impressions.

Official forums.

Press J to open the Journal

If you’re not the type to listen attentively to cutscenes and dialogue, read textual prompts, and note down clues, The Secret World is going to seem a bit baffling. There’s not a heck of a lot of handholding going on, but even so you can get around most problems by just paying attention as you go. Be patient. Listen. Read any prompts and pop ups. Look around. Hover your mouse for tool tips. Read the instructions before smashing buttons blindly.

Although there are leaps of logic you’ll have to make on your own, if you’re stuck the Journal will often solve all your problems. Check the quest tier you’ve reached – if you closed straight out of a clue, there’ll be an image of whatever it was you found, which you can check over at your leisure rather than running all the way back.

Press B to open the browser.

Why would you alt-tab out of game when your character is equipped with a smartphone? Any time you’re not in a menu, tap B to open a stripped down and pleasingly snappy browser. You can Google the solution to any quest that’s stumped you right from the game itself, with The Secret World forums in particular offering all manner of user-created hints and walkthroughs for common stumbling blocks.

Too easy for you? Well, indeed. You’ll have the most fun with the browser when you use it as your character would – piecing together simple in-game clues and real-world resources to find the password to a secure terminal, for example. There’s also a whole world of Funcom-created resources out there which will help you in main quests and fill in fine narrative and story details, which you’ll have to discover for yourself – check out for starters.

Press M to open the Map.

Kingsmouth, the first area you’ll visit in The Secret World, can be sprinted across in a couple of minutes, but it’s still pretty easy to get lost thanks to some wonderful hilly design. There’s also plenty to see off the beaten track, as sidequests and NPC dialogue in particular should have alerted you, so there’s plenty of reason to go find out just what’s around the next bend – wendigos! – and become horribly lost.

Radar blips are all very well but The Secret World keeps its HUD fairly minimal for a reason – you’re supposed to be pretending this is weally twoo. So pull out your in-game map, figure out what roads to take, and navigate old school style. The map is admirably clear and well designed and can be held open as you travel – should you not mind the risk of smashing face first into mobs. Ask your friends to meet you on the corner of Main and Elm (or whatever) and then enjoy their confusion.

Press Shift+F to open the Friends menu.

One of the coolest aspects of The Secret World is how easy it is to hook up with your friends, and for some reason, this isn’t terribly well documented. Once you have the Friends menu open, just add your mates by their nicknames – it doesn’t matter what server you and they are on, although it may take you a few tries to get the add to work.

Once you’ve got a few friends on board, click the menu icon to the left of their nicknames to expose a list of hidden options including, most importantly, “meet up” with online buddies. This quick little tool prompts your friend to accept a meeting and then warps you to their location and server, and adds player icons to your map. Since there’s no decent grouping tool yet, this is a great way to gather enough combatants to venture into tougher areas.

Press Y to open the Crafting menu.

Actually, scratch that. Go to Kingsmouth. Near the stairs leading to the roof of the sheriff’s office, you’ll find a quest giver standing at a workbench. On the table by his hand you’ll see a side quest, which is the only crafting tutorial you’ll see for quite a while.

Crafting in The Secret World isn’t terribly intuitive and the tutorial quest, like all the others, is a little obtuse. Read the instructions carefully and when you’re prompted to examine the book, note down the pattern of whatever item you’re going to make – like Minecraft, you’ve got to lay the materials out in the right way. You’ll also need a one-use kit each time you craft. You can make weapons with special properties by crafting, whereas the nearby Council of Venice vendor has only basic equipment, so this is the easiest way to acquire a decent secondary – or even primary – weapon.

Press N to open the Abilities menu

OK, look – the skill tree is circular and that is frightening to you. But it’s really not hard. It’s divided into nine sections, each representing one weapon type. Each weapon section is further divided into two initial branches, both of which must be completed to unlock higher tiers. Click on one of those initial wedges and you’ll notice a menu open on the left side of the screen – here’s where you purchase and equip new abilities using AP. You’ll need at least one ability in an equipped weapon type to use it at all.

You can purchase every ability from every tree if you like, but you can only equip two weapons at a time, plus eight active and eight passive abilities. But see that deck menu on the far left? There are suggested builds here – you’ll discover your own eventually, too – and you can use these to rapidly switch in and out of builds with the equip key.

At the top of the screen you’ll see a link to the Skills menu. It’s a good idea to keep a couple of SP on hand at all times, as you need ranks in various skills to equip more powerful items. Some early quests give talismans (armour) which require a skill rank to equip, and when you find a sweet rare weapon of your favourite type, you’ll be glad to be able to pile SP on to play with it straight away.

Press nothing to have a good look around.

Here’s something you might have missed while dashing from quest marker to quest marker: head down to the beach and watch the draugr reproduce. There’s a whole little ecosystem there which is hinted at in a main quest but many players are completely unaware of it. The many enemy types scattered around Kingsmouth are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to cool little mysteries. I nearly crapped my dacks running into what I strongly suspect was a Slender Man yesterday.

It’s a complex and somewhat unusual MMO that throws you in the deep end and largely leaves you to cope for yourself, but The Secret World’s setting and story more than make up for the initial bafflement. Take the time to learn and explore – the all-Templar VG247 crew needs you.



  1. Andytizer

    Does the game really feel like it’s weally twoo?

    Great introductory guide.. I’ve linked it from this page:

    #1 3 years ago
  2. Patrick Garratt

    @1 – Lovely. Thanks.

    #2 3 years ago
  3. mongbatstar

    I had the chance to try one of the later beta’s. The game felt a little unpolished and clunky, I liked the premise but was unsure if I should buy or not.

    I’ll give it a whirl though, it seems to be one of those games that the more you put in the more you get out.

    #3 3 years ago
  4. absolutezero

    I’m a Dragon.

    Sorry team.

    #4 3 years ago
  5. Patrick Garratt

    Unacceptable. Templar or death.

    #5 3 years ago
  6. NeoSquall

    Like Pat said, Templar or Death.

    I had preordered this game for some months, but I had to scratch it after a sudden reshuffling of my finances (looks at the G19 he’s writing on)…
    I’ll get it when the price goes a little down.

    #6 3 years ago
  7. absolutezero


    I guess im a sucker for the underdog. Theres a few of us running around on the server that I play on. Kinda sucks that I never get any of the bonus EXP things for controlling PvP areas though.

    Also chaos theory everywhere in the Dragon fluff.

    #7 3 years ago
  8. Johnny Cullen

    Fuck all your Templar bollocks. Illuminati or bust.

    #8 3 years ago
  9. OlderGamer

    “If you’re not the type to listen attentively to cutscenes and dialogue, read textual prompts, and note down clues, The Secret World is going to seem a bit baffling. There’s not a heck of a lot of handholding going on, but even so you can get around most problems by just paying attention as you go. Be patient. Listen. Read any prompts and pop ups. Look around. Hover your mouse for tool tips. Read the instructions before smashing buttons blindly.”

    Just 100% turned me off to trying this game.

    The biggest problem with too much story in a MMO, isn’t that by the time your on your third, fifth, tenth toon, your going to see those cutscene and story bit as a real pain in the ass. They turn from neat and cool to tedious and boring.

    A lot of people just don’t understand MMO and judge them on the wrong sets criteria. The actualy game, isn’t always the biggest apeal. What your toon can do in that game world and with whom you can do it with is far more important. Most people aren’t playing the game for the story. I don’t give two hoots about WoWs lore.

    But last night my two sons and I ran a couple of raids and had one hella good time. And it wasn’t the griping story.

    MMOs are about freedom, exploration, toon building, customization, and the biggest of them all social aspects. W/O the social angles you might as well play Dungeon Siege, Elder Scrolls, or The Witcher.

    I might get around to playing SW at some point, just to try it. But I doubt it is going to be my cup of tea. I enjoy Rift, EQ2, WoW, and Guild Wars alot. I don’t know, SW never apealed to me at all. Prolly for the same reasons that others are drawn to it I guess.

    #9 3 years ago
  10. Aimless

    @9 A key difference with TSW is that you don’t need to roll a new character as there aren’t any classes; you can chop and change your play style whenever you like. As such you aren’t going to be replaying that story content.

    If you don’t care for story then that’s fair enough, but the world doesn’t need yet another unsuccessful WoW clone.

    #10 3 years ago
  11. absolutezero

    The lore in WoW has been retconned and raped to death, it was never all the great in the first place.

    This game has been put togethor by some of the same people that created The Longest Journey and Dreamfall.

    The story and the world is far more of a draw to this game than most other MMOs. I would say theres easily enough room in the market to have these story driven MMOs alongside the other click through the quest text ones.

    #11 3 years ago
  12. OlderGamer

    If it doesn’t have replayablity, how will it sustain itself? For that the game will need a constant flow of new content, something even the best MMOs can’t seem to do.

    #12 3 years ago
  13. absolutezero

    Its just a depressing thought that you could replace everything in the most popular MMOs with formless blobs and it would make no difference to anything.

    Some smart arse indie dev needs to make a fractal abstract MMO where it retains the exact same structure as WoW only every quest text is “words words words words” and the NPCs are all named “NPC”.

    #13 3 years ago
  14. Aimless

    @12 Is has replayable content, but the mainline quests that demand more attention are one-time affairs.

    Every quest outside the core story or investigation missions can be taken again every 24 hours. Due to the way advancement works they can’t turn ‘grey’ on you, either: you’ll earn the same amount of progress from running early content as someone doing it for the first time.

    #14 3 years ago
  15. DSB

    Seriously, no love for the Illuminati?

    You guys are pansies.

    #15 3 years ago
  16. Brenna Hillier

    @15 red is the best colour.

    #16 3 years ago
  17. typeface

    I get the feeling this game could have the same effect that APB had on RTW. CEO leaving, shares dropping like crazy today (it’s currently blamed on the release of the game but there’s obviously multiple reasons). The story in this game and the gameplay isn’t bad but it doesn’t seem like the company is in good shape.

    #17 3 years ago
  18. DSB

    @17 I guess the silver lining is that it’s miles better than Conan. Conan really should’ve sunk the company, if anything.

    It was just laughably bad.

    #18 3 years ago
  19. NeoSquall

    @15 Now I understand many things, MANY things.

    #19 3 years ago
  20. Patrick Garratt

    Sounds like some PvP-type challenges are being made here.

    #20 3 years ago
  21. DSB

    Fuck it, I’ll sign up to make good on those :P

    #21 3 years ago
  22. Patrick Garratt

    Too easy :)

    #22 3 years ago
  23. Patrick Garratt

    If anyone wants to friend me up, I’m CrazyAsses. I’m on Grim.

    #23 3 years ago
  24. fearmonkey

    IS this game any good? I liked Conan but grew bored after awhile.

    #24 3 years ago
  25. GwynbleiddiuM

    Quick question Mr. Garratt, do you need to plan a subscription for it or when you put your game key in your account you can log in and play?

    #25 3 years ago
  26. Patrick Garratt

    @25 – I didn’t, nope. EA gave me a retail key which came with 30 days play. I didn’t have to put in any credit card details, or anything.

    #26 3 years ago
  27. GwynbleiddiuM

    @Pat Thanks :P I might join in for a month.

    #27 3 years ago
  28. Fnoros

    Templar fascists. In fact, all of the factions are pretty evil, all wanting to control humanity/the world/magic. The universe is already skewed to much towards order. Balance must be maintained.

    Hail Eris
    All Hail Discordia

    #28 3 years ago

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