The Secret World: Review and Gameplay: Page 4 of 12

The Secret World: Review and Gameplay
The MMO World's Best-Kept Secret


Kingsmouth Outskirts

Strange things stir in the fog.

Unlike the vast majority of MMOs, The Secret World is not set in a distant, mythical past, nor is it set in a high-tech distant future. Instead, The Secret World is set our world, here and now. The game's conceit however, is that everything—all the myths, fairy tales, urban legends, folk stories, and conspiracy theories—is true. The reason that folk like you and I aren't aware of succubi, werewolves, wraiths, ghouls, draugr, and unnameable eldritch horrors is because powerful secret societies, in addition to governmental and corporate agencies, work from the shadows to keep the knowledge of this "secret world" hidden.

The wonderful thing about The Secret World's modern-day setting is that the game world is at once familiar and alien. The town of Kingsmouth, where players begin their journey, looks like a typical Midwestern town… Except that it has been overrun by zombies and aquatic monstrosities. Likewise, when the player reaches Tokyo much later in the game, they will find that the familiar cityscape has been completed transformed by the invasion of dark, supernatural forces that ooze out from between gaps in the pavement, and clamber unnaturally down the sides of the monolithic skyscrapers. The horror of the situation that the player finds herself in is enhanced because, when disbelief is for a moment suspended, it seems like something that could actually take place.

"Horror, in an MMO?" Yes, you heard right: There is horror in The Secret World, and plenty of it. To my knowledge, horror has rarely, if ever, been attempted in an MMO; probably because the player's character becoming a nigh-unstoppable killer of anything that moves is the carrot that most MMOs dangle in front of the player's nose. To an extent, that's true of The Secret World as well, but the dread-inducing atmosphere of some of the game's spookier locations, along with the imaginatively, horrifically grotesque monster designs go a long way to setting the player on edge: Especially if he happens to be playing while wearing headphones in a darkened room!

I made the mistake of doing that very thing one night, and my cruel handler sent me into a reputedly-haunted underground car park while he quaffed brandy from the safety of Templar HQ. That the car park was almost completely pitch-black, save for the odd flickering fluorescent light, was bad enough, but the car alarms that would suddenly blare without any obvious cause, or the vaguely-humanoid shapes that seemed to skitter just outside the range of my torch were even worse. When the laughter of ghostly children started ringing in my ears and the tiny burning eyes started advancing in my direction, I was tempted to shut the game down—progress be damned, I just couldn't take any more.

Al-maryah Village

A city at war.

For all my cowardice, though, I just couldn't manage to shut the game down. Even when the game is doing its best to scare you witless, you cannot help but be drawn to explore further and dig deeper into the game world: The rewards simply to great not to. And I'm not talking here about the usual sorts of rewards that MMOs foist upon players for completing this or that objective. The Secret World has those too, of course, but it also rewards the curious, probing player with a deeper understanding of the nature of the various paranormal events that have erupted in Maine, Egypt, Transylvania, and Tokyo, as well as the connection between them. Objects in the environment such as whiteboards, graffiti, computer terminals, posters, and even the designs on various architectural features the player will come across would merely serve as window-dressing in most other MMOs, but in The Secret World they often contain clues to solving the game's many mysteries.

Raconteur of the RPG scene.
Favorite Genre: RPG
Currently Playing: The Witcher III
Top 3 Favorite Games:Fallout: New Vegas, Neverwinter Nights 2: Mask of the Betrayer, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic

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