First Steps: The Secret World
This review talks about the first fifteen minutes of The Secret World. One of the first things that attracted me to this game was is it leaves behind the world of dragons and magic and takes us to a new world, one that looks a lot like ours, but with a secret that we all want to discover. The idea of playing one of the Knights Templar, the Illuminati or the Dragon and fighting a war against an evil that threatens humankind is something new and exciting.
So in the Secret World the powerful groups have been fighting for control since the beginning of mankind. You begin as a character that has awakened to find strange new powers and just as you get the hang of the basics, you are visited by one of the groups and asked to join. This beginning is pretty much the same for any side you choose, the major differences here is who visits you and what they say. From there things change but for the most part you become aware of an attack in Japan and make your way to your groups meeting point.
Right away, you will notice you are in modern day earth, which for many MMO fans will be new. It can be refreshing or strange depending on how you feel about it. For me I thought it was refreshing just like when I played City of Heroes for the first time. So let us take a step back and talk about creating a character.
You begin by selecting the group you wish to join and then the server. So far, it appears you can only be in one group per server, which prevents issues, kind of like not having Horde and Alliance on the same PVP server. From there you can select how your character looks. Now personally, I did not like how the character faces looked, but this is a beta and it can change. You can make changes like the hair color, style, nose, chin and things like clothing, but don’t expect to make too unique of a character physically, at least not in this current beta.
Once you have your look you select your name. Something different here is you have a first and last name and your nickname. Now it is your nickname that is used for the game. This allows you to have a real sounding name and then choose something more unique for your nickname. The only issue here is many nicknames will be taken, so, if you wanted a name that matches from first to last it might be hard, or you end up with a nice first and last name and a silly nickname.
From there we are back to the cut-scene, which shows your leaning some of your powers and meeting your contact. For this review, I selected the Illuminati. For that group you are visited by a man who acts a lot like an pushy pompous Hollywood agent and pretty much tells you they are in control and come join us or else. Right away I was impressed by the voice acting as it sounded natural. Also, the storyline already got me interested, but it is not a surprise since it features the work of Ragnar Tørnquist, creator of the award-winning The Longest Journey.
You can see my first ten to fifteen minutes of gameplay, but to explain the game further the idea is to give you total freedom. There are no levels in The Secret World, however, you do earn points which allow you to add more skills. So say you like swords, but you want pistols and you decide you want to be good at hand-to-hand combat, well, all this is possible.
Now to give some context, City of Heroes, the superhero MMO, originally was going to give you the right to make your character however you wanted. The reason they did not was because they did not want one cookie cutter class that could do it all, they also did not want you to make a bad character who got its ass kicked and caused you to quit. In, The Secret World, your abilities can be changed at any time, so if you go with a gun and sword build with healing and find you need more defense you just reallocate your points.
Since the game is based on modern times and your story is you have these incredible powers it makes sense. Most of the time you will either be fighting against NPC’s or other players so the ability to change your build can be handy and keep you interested in the game and your character since you do not have to keep re-rolling new characters to try out new builds.
As said, the game is in modern times, so you have guns and modern weapons to use as well as swords and what we will call magic just to make it simple. When choosing what build to make it can seem overwhelming, but you can choose premade power-sets or decks to make it easier. You can also just pick one weapon and build around it. The great thing is there are a ton of side abilities allowing for healing, better defense and speed and other things that can make almost any build viable, but the PVP min/max experts will tell you what is best soon enough I am sure.
Back on the topic of freedom, The Secret World does not force a specific progression meaning you do not have to sit grinding missions if you do not want to. There are multiple ways to improve yourself including working your way up the ladder in the organization you choose.
There are other aspects of The Secret World that you will not really experience in the first few moments of the game. However, you can dress how you like since the game is not dependent on gear armor or stats from gear for the most part. There are stats on relics you collect, but your main clothing does not have stats or armor levels. This allows you to have your own style and look without costing you offensive or defensive abilities. You can also dismantle anything in the game from weapons to other items you find, which is an interesting aspect.
As far as combat, not long after you begin you are tossed into combat. You begin by finding your way to your contact which allows you to explore the city you are in and get used to the controls. There is lore everywhere which you can find and click on and a lot of hidden items you won’t be able to get to until later. You will also fight in major cities like New York and London against all types of creatures of lore like Zombies, Vampires and Werewolves.
Once you are in combat, I will say it reminded me of Left for Dead in a good way. You start off with a shotgun and two basic attacks and get used to aiming and moving while firing. The combat felt fluid and was not boring nor easy which again, is a good thing. Very soon, you get two more powers, one that slows your enemies and a powerful attack you use on the bigger enemies. Right before the big battle you get a heal spell that you will take use off right away. This tells me the idea is to allow you to stand alone and not depend on the holy trinity of Tank, Healer, DPS.
Motions like strafing and backing away will be important in this game. You will also need to know when you slow your enemy and the best time to heal. The beginning battle also shows off destructible environments as well as cool lighting effects and the fact that it will mostly be you against the world.
In the first fifteen minutes, you really do not take use of your inventory or character page, but it is there and functions pretty much like any other MMO. However, in the game there currency can be used to upgrade slots for your inventory, which is good instead of the need to buy bags. You also can change your clothing on the fly, chat with friends (including Facebook connectivity) and change your skills and talents.
Once you survive the battle, you encounter something strange and then awaken ready to begin your new life in the secret world. From there is where you select your first weapons and skills and get your first mission.
Other cool thing that you will not see in the first few moments is the travel system. About twenty or so minutes in you discover the “Hollow Earth” that allows you to travel around the world in seconds, which is a cool concept and allows a reason behind how things work in the game world.
Obviously, there is much more to The Secret World than what you read in this review or saw in the screenshots and videos. However, it is a game that is worth a look at especially if you are looking to get away from Dungeons and Dragons.
The ability to have freedom within a game mixed with a good storyline and voice acting is a recipe for a great game. The Secret World will be available July 3rd, you can preorder it here.