The Secret World Review
Fortunately, combat isn’t the only activity TSW offers. Quests fall in two main flavors: “traditional” quests and puzzle quests. Using the word “traditional” really does the game a disservice, however, as these quests are generally far from the “kill 10 zombies” missions common to the genre. Often with multi-tiered goals, TSW’s quests are memorable, which few other MMOs can claim. But it’s the puzzle quests which are truly innovative.
The Secret World has puzzles. Actual puzzles. Use-your-brain puzzles. Stump-you-for-half-an-hour puzzles. Look-up-sh*t-on-Google puzzles. I don’t mean looking up the answer on Google — I mean the puzzles can sometimes require you to do some research, and the game has an inbuilt web browser to allow you to do so. For instance, in order to crack a computer password, I was given an obscure hint that turned out to be similar to the title of a set of violin concertos, and the answer was the name of the composer.
Of course, if you don’t fancy puzzles, or if you’re ever stuck, you can just look up the solution in an online walkthrough. Puzzles aren’t for everyone, but for those who do enjoy them, TSW presents some delicious ones.
With its open leveling system, the game allows you to replay quests after their cooldown timer expires, and much of the magic is lost in replaying a puzzle quest to which you already know the solution. Then again, I suppose the same can be said for any type of quest, since replaying content amounts to grinding. Still, given the choice between replaying quests and mindlessly killing mobs, the developers chose the lesser of two evils.
One issue I should bring up is the reports of broken quests. While I never experienced a broken quest myself, the chat seems full of people who have. I question how many of these allegations are legitimate, however, because oftentimes the individuals making the claims were simply incorrectly trying to solve a puzzle quest. I’m not suggesting there are no broken quests — simply that the number of claims is likely exaggerated.
TSW limits the number of active quests you can have significantly, meaning you can’t visit a “quest hub,” pick up half a dozen tasks located in the same area, and complete them all efficiently. But “efficiency” is seldom a word associated with “fun,” and by doling out quests a couple at a time, players gain a better understanding of the context of each, which helps immersion.
The downside to this is that it’s easy to miss quests. While the locations of NPC quest givers are noted on your map, some quests are found by clicking on small objects scattered about the world. If you happen upon one while your quest journal is full, tough luck — you’ll have to remember to return later.
When you’re not questing, you’ll likely be engaging in PvP. TSW does have large-scale PvP warzones, but there’s nothing particularly new or exciting about them — they feel included for the sake of having PvP. It’s unfortunate that a game that took so many risks in other areas wound up with such a pedestrian PvP experience, which I suppose is more of an endorsement of the rest of the game than a criticism of its PvP.
In terms of value for your buck, TSW’s business model puzzles me. There’s a $50 fee to purchase the game, a $15 monthly subscription fee after your initial 30 free days, and a real-money item shop accessible in-game. That strikes me as one too many ways to charge players expenses. The cash shop feels like it’s in place for an eventual shift to free-to-play with microtransactions, and given Funcom’s pedigree (Age of Conan, Anarchy Online) I’m surprised that TSW isn’t a F2P title — though it may very well shift to that business model like AoC and AO did.
At the end of the day, The Secret World is an adventurous foray into the frontier of the MMO world, a trailblazer that isn’t afraid to take chances and delivers an unparalleled experience, but that is held back from achieving true excellence by a few small but significant issues in the areas that it avoided taking risks: combat and PvP, namely. If nothing else, I would applaud the game simply for daring to be different, because if there’s one thing the genre desperately needs, it’s originality. But TSW succeeds at being more than just different — it’s well-executed, high-quality, and fun.
- Puzzle quests
- Endearing characters
- Immersive world
- Succeeds in capturing the horror genre
- The most innovative MMO in recent history
- Sounds & music, ambiance
- Combat suffers from clunkiness
- Combat kills immersion
- Character creation isn’t all it could be
Final score: 85/100