in Video Games

Why I’m In Love With “The Secret World”

the secretworld

In which Christine offers up some in-depth fangirling about her latest obsession

The Secret World is a recently released MMORPG (Massively Multiplayer Online Roleplaying Game), coming from veteran online gaming company Funcom and game director Ragnar Tørnquist. Though initially it required a monthly subscription, it has since changed to a buy-to-play model (that is reportedly doing very well).

The game is set in modern-day earth and, after creating a character, you are able to choose from three secret societies to join as a member: the shrewd and power-hungry Illuminati, the more traditional Templars, or the chaotic and mysterious Dragons. You are then thrown into the secret war between the three sects – and into the combined fight to stop the oncoming apocalypse that threatens to destroy Earth as we know it.

It’s a world where everything you’ve ever been told, every urban legend, scary story, or ancient mythological tale, is actually real. And seven months after its release, I’m still addicted and crazy in love. Why, you ask?

1. Storyline and Atmosphere

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The modern day setting was what drew me in from the get-go. It’s unconventional to see an MMO set on Earth instead of a made-up fantasy land with made-up races (not that there’s anything wrong with this, but there’s only so many elves, animal-human hybrids and dwarves that I can take). In this game, everyone is human – save for the monsters you battle – and there are easily recognizable locations like Egypt, New York, London, and Seoul.

I’m also a huge sucker for horror and conspiracies; both of these things are tied not only into the overarching storyline, but into the mini-missions as well. The idea that every tall tale we’ve been told and every monster we’ve been terrified of not only exists, but that people and organizations in power are conspiring to keep it a secret, is creatively done. The modern-day setting also adds a level of realism that is highlighted by cute little pop culture references. This game’s consistently great writing is what brings me back time and time again.

2. Colorful Characters

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Well written and unique characters are integral to a good storyline, and The Secret World has that in spades. The character I usually play as is a member of the Illuminati. Her boss, Kristen Geary, is hilarious and my favorite Non-Player Character by far, because she offers great snippets of dialogue like, “I fucking love old-school hip-hop, don’t you?” and, “So work for [the Illuminati], and let us work for you, because we’re the conspiracy that’s bringing sexy back. Seriously, have you seen the other guys’ uniforms?

There’s also a sweet small-town cop with daddy issues, a gay archeaologist dream team couple, a priest who trolls online forums trying to join secret societies, a psychopathic Swedish plastic surgeon who experiments with dead bodies (and your face), and more. These are just the background mission-giving characters. They’re well rounded, interesting, memorable, and they add a lot to the game’s atmosphere. The voice acting and dialogue also makes watching cutscenes a treat.

3. Gameplay

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The game is classless and level-less, meaning you can do whatever the hell you want with your character’s fighting style. It’s the ultimate in character customization. Want to have a hammer-swinging warrior monk who can switch to ranged weapons to snipe a far away enemy and then heal yourself and your party with a little magic? Go for it. You aren’t limited by the typical class-based systems that other MMOs have, where if you choose, say, the mage class, you can only fight with spells or a staff and your armor is limited to robes and light clothing.

The way The Secret World handles this feels a lot more organic and freeing, especially in light of the storyline. If I’m an immortal agent, why shouldn’t I be able to use every weapon at my disposal? Why should I only be limited to carrying around a sword when I can just as easily pick up a shotgun to do my monster-killing? Oh, that’s right, in The Secret World, I’m not. Ha!

Figuring out the build system can get a little confusing at first, but once you get used to creating your own personal “class” and style of play, it’s pretty fun.

4. Badass Creepy Monsters

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Look at that picture. Look at it. That is a burlap sacked undead scarecrow trying to kill me with a ceramic doll. Who even comes up with these things? (Because I am in love with you, whoever you are.) This one isn’t even a boss monster, just some random relatively low-level sucker wandering around farms and fields waiting for prey like me to show up.

As stated before, I am a sucker for horror, especially creative horror, and with the many different monsters in this game it’s done extremely well. I can’t count how many times I’ve caught myself muttering “Nononono, oh god you are so freaky, get away from me!” when fighting some random ass creature.

5. Investigation Missions

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I am really really bad at puzzles. I’m impatient and easily frustrated and I hate not being able to figure things out within the first five minutes of trying because it makes me feel stupid. That said, the investigation missions in The Secret World are the best things ever. It’s a nice change from the usual “go here, collect X amount of X item, go there, kill Y amount of Y monsters” type of missions in MMOs. And yes, I do cheat a lot, because like I said I am extremely impatient. But somehow that makes it even better, because the few times I actually figure out an investigation mission on my own, the sense of satisfaction I get from it is practically a rush.

6. Shopping

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Clothes are pretty. Shopping for clothes, even virtual ones, is fun. And The Secret World offers a lot of customization options when it comes to clothing, which makes experimenting with different styles almost as much of a blast as playing the game.

Besides fashion, you can also buy various pets to traipse around the virtual world with (and it might just be me who feels this way, but the creepier missions feel a lot less horrifying somehow when you have a pixelated dog with you). You can also easily customize your character’s weapons of choice to go with whatever theme you choose or look you want to give off. My personal favorite is a baseball bat with nails sticking out of it, because that’s the kind of hard-ass apocalyptic no-nonsense attitude I wish I could embody.

Check out the game trailer below:

And the kicker is that there’s new content every month in the form of “Issues.” This means more story, more characters, more missions, more shopping. More more more, all for the price of one box or digital copy. All in all, this is an MMO more people should try out, because I know I’m definitely sticking with this one for the long run.

Photos: Martin Bruusgaard, Christer Sveen

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  • Ymbria

    OK, after being mostly encouraged by Kevin vanOrd’s video review at Gamespot, your really good review pushed me over the edge. I’m going to download Secret World as soon as I finish writing this. I think what did it for me was your mention of shopping. Clothes shopping was actually one of my favorite activities in Star Trek Online. 😉

    FYI, Kevin gave the game a 7.5 because although he liked it for many of the reasons you mentioned, he was troubled by the bugs and broken quests. Since that review was done shortly after release last year though, I’m assuming most of the bugs have been fixed.

    BTW, the personality test on the game’s website has me pegged as a Templar, but I think I’m going to go with the Illuminati to indulge my goth dark side. 😉

    • Thanks so much for reading! Hope the game is to your liking. And good call siding with the Illuminati, we always need more recruits 😉 I’m on a mini gaming hiatus as of right now but if you ever want a friendly face to game with in future, feel free to drop “Grieves” a line!

  • Ymbria

    omg Christine! This game is sooooo amazing! Everything you wrote about it is true. The visuals, the music, the eerie ambiance, the story, are all amazing. I also love the combat and skills system. I’m training my Ymbria to become a mage, How cool is that? Had I known what a great game this is, I would have gotten it a lot sooner. I can’t think of anything I’ve played that comes close. Thanks again for convincing me to get it. OK, I wrote the name ‘Grieves’ down. 🙂

  • Ymbria

    Hey Christine, so where can I buy new clothes and shoes? The stuff you start out with is rather dreadful, isn’t it?? 😉 Can I go to a clothes store in New York, or pay real cash in a Funcom store, or both? I’m anxious to upgrade my wardrobe as soon as possible.

    BTW, I was having a problem hearing the cut scene voices which I was finally able to fix, and since I’m still early in the game, I think I’m going to delete my character and restart. I don’t want to miss out on anything this amazing game has to offer. BTW, the dialogue with the npc’s is soooo hilarious at times. I’d love to have the script from this game. 🙂

    • Glad to hear you’re having an awesome time! There’s a huge store in London called Pangaea that you can buy clothes from using in-game currency, and once you hit Kingsmouth you’ll be able to access the Funcom shop and buy stuff from there with cash; just press the ‘,’ key and the window should pop up. You can also get badass clothing pieces and outfits as rewards for completing missions and achievements!

      • Ymbria

        Ty Christine. I went to Pangaea last night and it was wonderful. Spent 30 minutes trying on stuff, and bought a couple things including a bikini for the missions when I need to go swimming. 😉 Also, my Steam-Funcom payment finally got processed (took nearly a day), so soon as I finish this note I’m going to login and buy some little black high-heel boots and the black widow outift. 🙂 btw, the quests have been getting harder, guess I need to find a cabal to join. And as you said, some of the quests really make you think. Unusual for an MMO. 😉

  • Ymbria

    Hey Christine, I am blue, because I had my first truly unpleasant group experience in SW 🙁 .It had to do with the ‘Polaris’ mission in Kingsmouth. I think too many people take the game way too seriously, and I can see now why the #1 reason people don’t like MMO’s is because of other people. Ironic, don’t you think? 😉 Anyways, it wasn’t enough to make me want to quit SW, but definitely enough to make me wary and circumspect of other players. Chock it up to experience I guess.

  • I аgree, love this game, still playinց.

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