After learning the rules of combat and selecting my weapon of choice, I traveled to Agartha, a web of biomechanical tendrils that resides inside the Earth, weaving every point of the globe together. Agartha serves as The Secret World
's transport hub, and immediately reveals that there is much, much more to the planet than what we know.
From Agartha, I traveled to Kingsmouth, a town situated on Solomon Island, a fictional island off the coast of Maine. The town of Kingsmouth has been enveloped by a thick fog, which brought with it hordes of zombies, monsters and H.P. Lovecraft references. In a refreshing change of pace, I didn't start my quest by killing rats or warthogs – I was slaying zombies. Granted, many opening quests are still "kill X many zombies for quest-giver Y," but at least the low-level enemies look intimidating. Some of the other early quests required solving simple puzzles, which was also a welcome distraction from the usual combat grind.
Combat, at least what I've seen of it, doesn't differ terribly from other MMOs. Skills are activated on an action bar, each with a different cooldown period (mostly instant, in my experience). In addition to traditional swords and spells, players can wield a variety of guns. After experimenting with magic, I eventually settled on a sword and an assault rifle, giving me a balance of long-range damage, close-quarters techniques and healing.
Experimenting is easy thanks to a wide open progression system. There are no character classes in The Secret World
at all. Instead, players earn skill points and ability points as they gain experience. Skill points are invested in broad weapon and magic categories: Blades, hammers, blood magic, elementalism, shotguns, pistols and so on. Ability points are invested into specific abilities for each category. As long as you have the points, any weapon or ability is yours for the taking. With such a low barrier of entry, its easy to customize the character you want. It's also just as easy to abandon something that isn't working, a nice bonus for anyone worried about "ruining" their character by making a bad choice. For those who want a more dedicated path, a number of optional "decks" are available, which automatically highlight skills that go well together for specific builds.
After several hours of play, The Secret World
has done a decent job of guiding me into the world of MMOs. There are a lot of complicated systems in play here – and so many menus! – but the in-game tutorials have kept them from overwhelming me so far. There was one moment, however, in which I discovered that I had to actively target my own character
for a heal ability to work. Such concepts might be second nature to MMO devotees, but it took me a minute to wrap my head around it. Thankfully, there's an extensive in-game help section. For the purposes of this article, however, I'm trying to find out how far the tutorials will take me before I have to get more proactive in learning about the game.
I'm still waiting, for example, to see how well The Secret World
transitions me from solo play to actually connecting with other people. For someone used to universal friends lists and simple game invites, that's probably the most daunting part of delving into the genre.
Next week, I hope to go into the social aspects in more detail, and I'll finally crack into investigation missions. These missions task players with solving puzzles that require you to research clues outside of the game itself. Color me intrigued.