The Secret World: Review and Gameplay
The MMO genre is often derided for lacking innovation, and for prioritizing loot and level grinding over storytelling and gameplay. Perhaps if more people knew about The Secret World, they might take a different view of what an MMO can be. The following review is an attempt to describe what makes The Secret World both unique among MMOs, and great among RPGs.
The review focuses most on what makes The Secret World great — its story — but also addresses gameplay systems, endgame content, visuals, player community, as well as character customization and progression.
Love MMOs? Then read on. Hate MMOs? Then you should definitely read on.
Life will never be the same again.
Imagine being awoken one night to the strange sensation of a new and unfamiliar power coursing through your body. The sensation is faint at first, a muted buzzing in your head, but gradually it builds, until your own cries of astonishment are drowned out by the cacophony of millions of tiny wings. Your veins are on fire, and it is all you can do to keep from going mad with desperation. All at once, your desperation focuses until it expels the still-circulating fire from your body in a brilliant flash that sends furniture, bedclothes, and ornaments into a dozen different directions with catastrophic force. You survey the destruction around you, but the lids of your eyes grow heavy with exhaustion.
In the morning, you awake from what must surely have been a dream, but all around you are the shattered remnants of an event both inexplicable and impossible. You scarcely have time to make sense of the scene before you, however, as fire courses through your veins anew. This time, though, the fire burns with a softer heat, and you can feel it ebb and flow in response to your thoughts. Without contemplating the action, you raise one hand, palm up, a few inches in front of you; the moment you do so, a single tongue of flame issues from your hand, and comes to hover at eye level. Raising your other hand, you will the flame to traverse the distance between your palms, and to your amazement, it does.
Peering into the flame as it continues to hover over your palm, you try to come to grips with this radical interruption of everything you thought was real. That's when you hear three curt knocks emanate from the door to the hall outside. You fumble for a few moments in a futile attempt to erase the chaos of the night before, but quickly decide that getting dressed is a more practical course of action. Dressing takes longer than usual, as your shaking hands refuse to manipulate buttons and clasps effectively. Despite the time elapsed, the knocks that broke your reverie are not repeated, and you begin to wonder if your unidentified visitor has already departed.
Taking a deep breath, you quickly make for the door and pause a few moments before hesitantly opening it a third of its arc. Before you stands a tall, ominous-looking man with an immaculately-cropped haircut, and equally-immaculate blue-grey business suit. His eyes are obscured by dark sunglasses and his mouth betrays no emotion whatsoever. Both parties remain silent: you, because the appearance of yet another unexpected oddity has momentarily robbed you of speech, and he, because he seems to be studying you intensely. You are not sure how much time passes like this, but you think that you can see one corner of the man's mouth arch almost imperceptibly; you have no time to confirm this observation, however, before a blackness deeper than sleep takes a hold of you.
When you eventually awake, you find yourself lying on the floor, bathed in the rays of the midday sun streaming in through the living room window of your apartment. You feel groggy and weak, but manage to sit upright and begin collecting thoughts. Panicking for a moment, you look furtively towards the door to the hallway, and then survey the rest of your surroundings. You are relieved to discover that he is nowhere to be seen, but your awareness then shifts to a crumbled piece of paper you hold in your hand. Unclenching your hand, you examine the contents of the note. The note has been handwritten, by a skilful hand practiced in copperplate script: "We are the Templars. We have been watching. Seek us out."
Such were the strange beginnings of my character's journey through The Secret World; a journey that took me halfway around the globe, into the depths of hell, back in time, and through the dreams of slumbering gods.
The Illuminati, Templar, and Dragon all wield great power in secrecy.
Your journey will begin in much the same way: Your character will awaken to discover that they have been granted mysterious powers by some unknown agent, and shortly thereafter be recruited into one of three secret societies to fight in a war that the rest of the world may not know about, but is most certainly threatened by. These secret societies are all bitter rivals, and all have their own agendas. The Templar are determined to stamp out evil wherever the find it, the Illuminati seek power at any cost, and the Dragon to exert control through chaos. Despite conflicting agendas and aeons of resentment, however, all three societies are united in one common cause: ensuring that "the secret world" remains a secret.
What exactly is the secret world, though? It is the world where everything is true: ghosts, ghouls, goblins, vampires, demons, witches, zombies, and much, much worse. Unfortunately for the organizations in question, this world has become increasingly difficult to keep hidden from the people who have the luxury of believing that all of the above are merely the products of primitive imagination and ignorance. You see, it seems that at certain points in history, the secret world violently erupts into the mundane world; causing great damage and loss of life in the process. The last time this happened, it resulted in what modern people call "the black plague." This time, the plague has taken on a different, far more virulent form, and whole cities have already fallen: Tokyo being the first.
The Illuminati, Templar, and Dragon were all unprepared to face the sheer magnitude of the paranormal outbreak, and have thus far failed to contain it. Their hope is that the previously-ordinary people all over the world who are waking up with incredible powers and near-immortality will provide the power they need to prevent the world succumbing to "an endless night." And that's precisely where you come in.