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The Secret World: still sucking us in six months on

Tuesday, 22 January 2013 12:02 GMT By Brenna Hillier

Six months, five content updates and one less subscription fee later, The Secret World has finally gelled for our resident MMO newbie, Brenna.

It started so innocently one afternoon. “Help me do a few of the last quests in Kingsmouth; they’re too hard for me to solo.” Then it was 0200 and we’d smashed our way through two zones and were ready to hit up a third.

The Secret World really upset me when it launched last year, filled with wondrous lore, but as impenetrable as Aunty Hilda’s year-old fruit cake and buggy enough to make spiders slaver. “I want to love it,” Pat told me recently. Me, too – so much so that I wrote to Joel Bylos and demanded answers. Unfortunately his sane and considered response was not enough to keep me forfeiting my subscription to pay for removalists.

Now the MMO has gone if not free-to-play than subscription free, adopting a Guild Wars approach with a one-time cover charge, and I have a new housemate with more quests under his belt than I ever knew existed. It’s time to back to Kingsmouth, the zombie and Draugr-infested New England town which is the landing zone for Solomon Island.

It started so innocently one afternoon. “Help me do a few of the last quests in Kingsmouth; they’re too hard for me to solo.” Then it was 0200 and we’d smashed our way through two zones and were ready to hit up a third.

It turns out going back to redo older quests can be pretty rewarding, especially if you’re in a group and can speed through. My housemate was earning reasonable experience and more importantly ability points and skill points, handed out with lavish abandon as quests are completed, which in this level-free game are how you count your progress.

It’s an odd sort of progress, though. The gigantic number in the middle of your ability wheel, which shows how far along you are towards achieving everything, doesn’t really mean much. A much less progressed character with a clever build adapted fot the situation has a better chance of success – and survival.


Impromptu dance party, everyone is invited.

The build I favour at the moment uses blood magic (one of nine primary ability trees) exclusively, because I’ve been stacking all my points in that tree on my way to unlocking a deck (collection of synergistic skills which earns you a special uniform reward).

I don’t have any mind-blowingly good gear but what I do have is a variety of active and passive skills I’ve chosen to keep me alive and wear down the enemy. If I get caught in a battle beyond my current capacities I grit my teeth, fire off a few damage-over-time sbilitieswhich I’ve teamed up with some nasty status effects, and heal myself until all the other cooldown timers vanish. Rinse and repeat; everything gives up in the end.

This is not a tremendously exciting way to play, and when I have my housemate to tank I switch to spike damage or multi-target skills, but the point is: it works. No, the point is: I put it together myself.

The Secret World’s decks are nice targets to aim for, representing solid builds designed for various group roles or soloing, and it’s particularly nice that a range of low-level decks have been added since I last played, giving new players an achievable goal. But the real fun comes in just putting the pieces together.

Issue #5 brought plenty of
new content, features and fixes.

This took me a long time to figure out because I kept dying so much on my own, and playing with Pat – both of us equally befuddled, for The Secret World, bless it, is simply terrible at explaining itself to players – was not much better. Just reading the skill descriptions isn’t enough. You need to see them in action, think about them, and start scanning ahead for way to multiply them – something that doesn’t feel easy until you’ve got one or two more effective high level skills to play with.

Grouping up with my housemate, who smashes through low-level bosses and shouts “thanks for showing up” into the mic as they fall to his elemental and blade combo, gave me the time and space I needed to start experimenting and thinking for myself. Now I’m clever enough and strong enough to solo the early zones; I’m looking forward to more challenging areas where even my fearless housemate minds his aggro; and I’d dearly love to revisit some places I’ve been with a new player or two, so I can be the monster smashing the boss’s face in and showing off just how cool The Secret World is.

The Secret World has come a long way since launch, despite two rounds of lay-offs, and new features and content are being added all the time. It still has some problems, notably in the user interface and inventory, but the buggy quests and weird glitches of launch week are now infrequent enough to be surprising.

What is happening here. I don’t even know.
Whatever it was, I liked it.

More importantly though, I’ve also come a long way: from not knowing a thing about MMOs besides a few buzz terms common to party RPGs (holy trinity, aggro) to chatting with my housemate about my plans to carry two sets of gear specced for different group roles as well as my solo setup. I understand crafting; I’ve unlocked a faster sprint; I have strong opinions about various enemies and quests. I still can’t reliably use the chat window.

I’ve been told that The Secret World is an MMO for people who love MMOs. It doesn’t hold your hand explaining basic MMO tropes (then again, it also doesn’t bother explaining its own unique features, either). It ramps up the difficulty sooner rather than later. It offers good rewards for replaying existing content, and it never locks you into any particular role; there are no respecs when you can unlock a good slice of a new tree in a few hours of questing.

But for me, The Secret World is the MMO I play even though I’m not into MMOs.

The Secret World has noted a 400% increase in activity since dropping its subscription requirement.

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9 Comments

  1. roadkill

    Uuum, no!

    #1 2 years ago
  2. viralshag

    I want to play this but I’m not prepared to pay £25 for it. I hear too many bad things about it despite this excellent write up.

    If I wasn’t having so much fun being back in Rift, then I would be more tempted to try it now. If it drops in a sale, I will probably try it out.

    #2 2 years ago
  3. Aimless

    You’re missing out by not using two weapons.

    First off there’s the obvious stat bonus of having another item equipped, but more importantly the ‘builder’ attack you’re using to generate Blood resources most likely generates them for a secondary weapon at the same time; check the skill description. As such you’ve an opportunity to swap one of your abilities for a non-Blood ‘consumer’ that cashes in those secondary weapon resources, adding a powerful attack, heal, or whatever you wish to your rotation at no extra cost in terms of time spent building resources.

    The flexibility of TSW‘s skill system is really interesting and indicative of how different the game is to your typical comfort food MMO: it requires you to think, to pay attention to what NPCs are saying, whilst most entries in the genre have focussed on making the process of playing as brain-free as possible. Not that the latter is bad necessarily — I still enjoy SWTOR‘s breadcrumb questing, for instance — but it’s nice to have a more challenging alternative.

    #3 2 years ago
  4. ps3fanboy

    this is what tsw should have been on day one… but as usually funcom fucked it up, and now people have gone and found other games to play.

    #4 2 years ago
  5. Hunam

    I think it’s brilliant. One of the most interesting games on the market.

    #5 2 years ago
  6. YoungZer0

    Should’ve been a single player game.

    That is all.

    #6 2 years ago
  7. DSB

    It’s presumptuous, but I do think you’d be a lot less impressed if you had more MMORPGs under your belt.

    Personally I think it’s been done before and done better, and while it obviously does have those little moments where it tries to do something more (much like Conan did as well) it’s still just wrapped in systems that are mostly common as dirt.

    #7 2 years ago
  8. Sini

    They had me at Cthulhu looking boss monster. They lost me at Failcom.

    #8 2 years ago
  9. kittenlatte

    Even now that this game is free to play, I never went back. I didn’t enjoy it as much as I thought I would, guess the game is not for me.

    #9 2 years ago

Comments are now closed on this article.

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    Destiny’s latest glitch spawns infinite Thralls to help fuel your bounty hunting and loot lust. The glitch is simple to replicate. You’ll need to start The Dark Within mission on Earth, on any difficulty. Then follow the steps in the video below (Via DualShockers) to get to an area out of the map. You’ll then […]

  • Battlefield 4 Winter Patch is here with new game mode, netcode improvements and more

    DICE has released the Winter Patch for Battlefield 4. The patch brings an eSports focus with new game mode Squad Obliteration and plenty more. Battlefield 4 Winter Patch is now live on all platforms. It’s just over 400MB on PC and 1.34GB on consoles. The patch adds new game mode Squad Obliteration and more customisation […]

  • HTC hopes to see Half-Life on VR headset Vive

    Vive manufacturer HTC said that it hopes to see Valve games, including Half-Life, on the virtual reality headset. Speaking to the BBC, HTC chairwoman Cher Wang said that Valve is keen on having its games available on the VR headset. “I think Valve’s best game is Dota, right, and Portal and [Team Fortress] and I […]

  • Make money easily in Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate

    If you’re looking to buy a fell set of armour for your character in Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate but keep falling short on Zenny, this video will show you an easy way to make lots of it. Arekkz Gaming has a very handy tip for all Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate players: how to make Zenny […]

  • This is how you claim free Xbox One games from your Xbox 360

    Microsoft is giving everyone the ability to claim their free Xbox One Games with Gold titles from their Xbox 360 console, even without owning an Xbox One. If you don’t yet own an Xbox One and want to make sure you don’t miss out on all those free Games with Gold games, you’ll be pleased […]

  • Destiny weekly reset for March 3: Heroic and Nightfall detailed

    Bungie has reset the weekly cap of Crucible and Vanguard marks and added new Heroic and Nightfall strikes, now with burn. From now until next Tuesday, the weekly Heroic strike will be The Devil’s Lair with Heroic and Lightswitch modifiers. As for the Nightfall, you’ll be fighting Sepiks Prime with the help of Arc burn. […]

  • Few Mass Effect FemShep cosplays are as elaborate as this one

    The internet is full of Female Commander Shepard cosplay from Mass Effect, but very few are as terrific as this one. Visual artist Freya Willia has spent over two years painstakingly creating the perfect suit of armour and the best weapons to make her cosplay of Female Shepard as authentic as possible, Omni tool and […]

  • Deals with Gold: Assassin’s Creed Unity, Red Dead Redemption and more discounted

    This week’s Deals with Gold titles for Xbox Live subscribers is a good mix of modern games and old favourites. The list of discounted games through this week’s Deals with Gold is live with discounts on Assassin’s Creed Unity, Amazing Spider-Man 2, Red Dead Redemption, Max Payne 3, and more. The deals are live now […]

  • Destiny guide: how to maximise your Grimoire Points

    Destiny players regularly compare the size of their Grimoire Points. Learn how to make yours the biggest. Destiny guide: how to earn Grimoire Points In Destiny, earning most Grimoire cards is just a matter of playing the game, maybe a little more attentively than usual. You’ll either need to complete a certain number of actions […]

  • Shovel Knight: Plague of Shadows will let you play as a baddie

    Shovel Knight owners will benefit from the generosity of Kickstarter backers quite soon. Because Shovel Knight was overfunded during its Kickstarter campaign, developer Yacht Club Games committed to releasing free content updates. The first of these, Plague of Shadows, has now been detailed. The expansion stars baddy Plague Knight, who turns on his former allies, […]

  • GTA controversies, from Hot Coffee to PR manipulation

    GTA has a long history of controversy. The latest Did You Know Gaming tells the full stories behind the sensational headlines. Grand Theft Auto is such a byword for controversy that it’s easy to forget the full context of what actually happened to bring mainstream press, politicians and interest group awareness to the Rockstar series. […]

  • Infamous 2 one of five new PlayStation Now additions for March

    PlayStation Now will expand to the tune of five new games this month. The March PS Now additions are Infamous 2, Twisted Metal, R-Type Dimensions, Alone in the Dark: Inferno and Operation Flashpoint: Red River. PS Now will set you back $20 per month or $45 for a three month subscription. It offers all you […]

  • Final Fantasy 10/10-2 HD Remaster gets PS4 release date

    Final Fantasy 10/10-2 HD Remaster hits PS4 in May. The PS4 release date for Final Fantasy 10/10-2 HD Remaster is May 12 in North America and May 15 in Europe. Gematsu reports a special pre-order bonus calendar with art by Yoshitaka Amano is available through the Square Enix Store and participating retailers. In Europe, pre-ordering […]

  • Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare getting 15 new Prestige levels

    Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare players can now aspire to the ranks of Grand Master Prestige. Advanced Warfare developer Sledgehammer Games will add 15 more Prestige levels to the latest Call of Duty, giving players at max XP a chance to grow even further. According to the Sledgehammer Games blog, when you enter Master level […]

  • Destiny: Crota’s End recreated in Minecraft

    Destiny’s toughest challenge gets even nastier if you throw Creepers into the mix. The ultimate Destiny challenge – for now – is the Crota’s End raid. Taking place in an alternate dimension accessed through the Hellmouth on the Moon, the Raid takes Guardians through a pit of darkness to the resting place of Crota himself. […]

  • Xenoblade Chronicles 3D trailer introduces the Heir to the Monado

    Xenoblade Chronicles 3D protagonist Shulk is the Heir to the Monado, his distinctive red sword. Let this trailer fill you in on what that means. Xenoblade Chronicles 3D releases for New 3DS on April 2 in Europe and April 10 in North America. As well as all the content of the Wii original, it has […]

  • The Elder Scrolls: Total War mod covers Morrowind, Oblivion and more

    The Elder Scrolls: Total War is a terrific mod allowing you get get intimately involved with the history of Bethesda’s detailed fantasy universe. The first release of The Elder Scrolls: Total War dropped on the weekend, giving players their first chance to try out LoRdNazgu1‘s creation. This version runs from 3E 427 to 4E 45, […]

  • Five Nights at Freddy’s 3 out now on Steam

    Five Nights at Freddy’s 3 is out now. Yes, we’re surprised too. You can grab Five Nights at Freddy’s 3 on Steam for $8. Developer Scott Cawthon really doesn’t mess about; the game was only announced in early January. Here’s the blurb: Thirty years after Freddy Fazbear’s Pizza closed it’s doors, the events that took […]

  • EVE Online heister makes off with $13,000 worth of goods

    EVE Online is a hotbed of villainy, espionage and backstabbing, but one intrepid corporate thief has made waves even in this setting. The thing about EVE Online is that it’s a true sandbox: the game’s rules are very loose, and allow players to make careers out of theft, piracy, assassination and espionage in addition to […]

  • Marth Amiibo getting a stock refresh in North America

    Nintendo of America has announced a fresh supply of the difficult to find Marth Amiibo. The Marth Amiibo will be back in stock in the US in late April, the platform holder said on Twitter today. Planning to pick up Code Name: S.T.E.A.M. and don’t have a Marth amiibo? More are headed to stores in […]

  • Skyrim beta update upgrades creation kit file size

    Skyrim has been granted a new beta update – more than three years after launch! – to improve the experience for modders and those who use them. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim released in November 2011. I think that’s worth noting before we discuss the beta update that dropped today, even as Bethesda is working […]

  • Paradox’s next epic RPG is, uh, Knights of Pen & Paper 2

    Knights of Pen & Paper 2 is very serious business so please enjoy this very serious trailer. “Return to the dicey world of Knights of Pen & Paper for a new turn-based adventure, where players get to take on the role of players, and also of the game’s encounter-designing, rules-laywering GM in a fully customizable […]

  • Amplitude looks amazing in new gameplay trailer, has a team multiplayer mode

    Amplitude may have been delayed but we still get something this March: a fine new gameplay trailer. Amplitude is coming to PlayStation 3 and PS4 sometime in northern summer. It’s a reprisal of Harmonix’s classic rhythm action game, a forerunner to its later efforts with Guitar Hero and Rock Band, and was crowdfunded. Update: Turns […]

  • DayZ creator’s “crazy”, “esoteric” next game developed with Improbable

    DayZ creator Dean “Rocket” Hall has dropped the first vague details of his new game project. “I do not want to make safe games. I do not want to make games the way we have been making them. What if the most experienced video game staff in the world collaborated on the most esoteric and […]

  • Battlefield Hardline will support AMD’s Mantle

    AMD has confirmed what most Battlefield fans thought. Battlefield Hardline will indeed support Mantle. Battlefield Hardline will support Mantle, AMD has confirmed. Some players weren’t sure whether the retail version of the game will support AMD’s API, due to its absence from the recent PC beta. AMD did not say whether the feature will be […]

  • Unreal Engine 4 GDC 2015 sizzle reel shows what the tech can do

    Unreal Engine 4 is a pretty versatile bit of tech, as this new sizzle reel shows. As one of the more ubiquitous engines, Unreal will be on show at GDC this week. Developer Epic produced the following sizzle reel to quickly demonstrate what it can do – cutting edge graphics (there are very few games […]