Alright, hear me out. I know all of you are freaking out about this ‘Fallout’ thing coming out tomorrow, or something about a Battlefront for this Star Wars business- I kid, as I currently have Fallout 4 downloading and definitely look forward to hearing about how Star Wars: Battlefronts’ opening day goes. In the meantime, I’ve been basking in the glory of a free-to-subscribe MMO that has been around for a while now – The Secret World.
Just like any other MMO, this game may not be for everyone, but it strikes a fairly different chord than most MMO games in the realms of the Internet. It starts off as most other MMOs do- you create your character, find that you end up with the ability to harness strange power by some means, and go off into the world to fight evil. Or solve puzzles. Or kill other players. Or sit in a cafe and drink coffee. Really, your imagination is the limit, for the most part. The difference here is that the setting is ‘the real world’.
The setting is the real world so far as the game sees it, at least. You probably won’t find much in the way of ‘down to the detail’ geography, but in the first few hours, you can find yourself in the foggy streets of London, the crowded sidewalks of New York, or in a small town in Maine. While I’ve only been toying around in these areas, other areas such as Egypt, Tokyo, and more exotic locales do pop up as you progress through the story.
As you start the game, you choose from three factions- the Illuminati, the Templars, and the Dragons (which is the only of the three that doesn’t seem to have historical relevance)- and you start with an introduction to your group, including choose your starting weapons. These dictate your abilities, much like Final Fantasy XIV and some other MMOs have been doing in recent years. After that, you are set into your first locale where your story begins to unfold.
In my first week or two of playing, I have yet to run out of quests- both integral and secondary- to keep myself occupied. Some of these are the usual fare where you retrieve an item to bring back to the person asking for it, or you escort a person from one end of town to the other while defending them. Where the game has shone, at least for my experience, is in the puzzles. Unlike in many other games of this kind, you can’t just skip the clues and information given to you for your quests sometimes. You might have to find a number for a keypad tucked away somewhere in the scenery, or a piece of parchment that you find in a basement might lead you to a way to unlock a door to proceed. There are some tough puzzles, should you choose to take them on. The game even has an in-game ‘web browser’ which actually opens the internet so that you can look up clues in the real world that you need to.
Bottom line: the game is unique in the world of MMOs.
While you do have to buy the initial game- usually around $30 for the base game on Steam- it feels like the game offers a lot of bang for its buck. Yes, there are micro-transactions that you can purchase should you choose to, though the game does not throw them into the players’ face and the game certainly does not feel like it is ‘pay to win’, which is what I’m used to having mostly played free-to-play MMOs in the past. They are tucked away in a corner should you choose to hunt them down, as it should be. There are plenty of in game items to customize you character with, functional and otherwise, and while there is DLC that pops up every so often in quests, it’s minimally invasive.
Over the coming months, I’ll most likely have more to say, as my MMO game starts to ramp up as the winter months roll in. As it stands, I’ve spent most of my time in hub worlds- places where there are not quests but there are things to buy and people to interact with at times- and in the first stomping ground of Kingsmouth, so I’ve barely scratched the surface on The Secret World. Admittedly, the community has been stellar. People have been incredibly helpful and I have yet to have that feeling that plenty of MMOs have left me with of being anxious regarding asking for help or talking with people so it feels beginner-friendly. As far as online games go, you could do far worse than The Secret World, especially if you enjoy Lovecraft, Stephen King, or any other big names of modern supernatural or Gothic horror. This game will scratch a specific itch for a certain group of people- but at least in the beginning stages, the game does so with fantastic results.