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Chaos Theory: Top reasons to check out The Secret World today

MJ Guthrie

A league of its own.

No, I'm not talking about a 1992 baseball movie; I'm talking about Funcom's most recent addition to the MMO-verse, The Secret World (which ironically launched exactly 20 years and a day after the release of the movie. Coincidence? You never know when this game's involved!). In a landscape awash with clones, The Secret World brings something unique to the table. Instead of the standard fantasy or sci-fi flavored whack-a-mole themepark, TSW is a horror- and conspiracy-laden game set right in our own real world.

It's not just that the game's mold-breaking gene that sets it apart, either. The fact is there are a number of reasons you should load in and experience this game if you haven't already, and there are plenty of reasons to come back if you have drifted away. From unique features to a distinctive level of immersion to an unprecedented update schedule, TSW is definitely a keeper. In short, it's well worth the time to check out. And now that it is possible for anyone to continue her adventures without a monthly commitment, what are you waiting for?

The Secret World screenshotKeeping it real
The game is set in a unique environment... at least for an MMO. It is set right here in our very own world; folks can wander familiar streets, see familiar sights, and face familiar mythos. There is something to be said for having the line between the game and the world blur a bit, and that something is immersion.

The Secret World screenshotIn my opinion, TSW provides a level of immersion unparalleled in the market. I've been in NYC and looked up to see the exact place I had just visited in-game and vice versa, and it's quite an experience! Add in the ability to use my own knowledge of our world -- be it myths, music, or mysteries -- to solve problems, and the sensation can get downright uncanny at times.

Funcom doesn't stop at just in-game settings to smudge those lines between the game and reality; it deftly mixes in life even outside the game. The studio has hosted ARGs (alternate reality games) that pull folks in whether or not they play the game itself. In effect, the game is brought out into the world, and choices here influence how it plays out, as in the newest ARG involving the end of the world, which just started.

Two other immersion helpers are dimensions and the voice-acting and cutscenes of the missions. The fact that no one is artificially cut off from communicating or interacting with anyone else by separate servers is a huge bonus. And the cutscenes? Well, they speak for themselves... literally! The characters come alive around you as you hear the stories and see the nuances instead of just reading quest text.

Keeping it fresh
Doing the same old, same old gets, well, old quickly. Luckily, besides just treating players to a different genre and immersing them, TSW has other ways to combat the doldrums.

The Secret World screenshotFirst, you have flexibility. While there are definitely folks who insist that there are only certain "correct" builds, the fact remains that you can can play however you darn well want! Have you ever started a game, fallen in love with your character, but decided the class was just not a good fit? The Secret World ends this buyer's remorse with classes by getting rid of classes. You never have to reroll to try out another weapon or build because you can play everything. Even better, you can switch between tanking, healing, or dealing damage on the fly depending on what you feel like doing. What better way to change things up a bit then doing something new?

Second is the delectable sensation of suspense, of never knowing exactly what's coming. From that first moment of slipping launch in a day early, you are primed to expect the unexpected with TSW. There is no oppressive feeling hanging over the game of "been there, done that, got the t-shirt." (Ironically, you do get T-shirts and other in-game clothing for certain events and achievements.) Instead, you're always wondering what is around the next corner and what is up the developers' sleeves.

Keeping it coming
If we were to number the top reasons to check out The Secret World, numbers one through four would be issues #1 - 4. Frequent additional content, coming to players on a monthly basis, is without a doubt one of the highlights of the game. Instead of making players wait upwards of a year to experience anything new, Funcom ensures that TSW fans get regular doses of new stuff. Admittedly, there was a hiccup in timing back when the whole layoff thing occurred in August, but Funcom did still deliver the promised update and caught back up to the monthly schedule with the next one just one week later.

The Secret World screenshot
What all has been added since launch? While every update brought new missions (and plenty of those have been investigations!), each update also added other nifty features.

Issue #1 Unleashed

On July 31st, TSW fans enjoyed the first of their monthly updates. Besides all the optimizations and bug fixes expected in a patch, Unleashed added cross-dimensional shopping and mail as well as the first of the new nightmare modes for dungeons.

The Secret World screenshotIssue #2 Digging Deeper

After multiple delays, the second "monthly" update finally arrived on September 18th. In this one, players got more customization options as well as the opportunity to change their appearance in-game via the barbershop (Ockham's razor in London) and plastic surgeon (The Modern Prometheus in New York City). Regional bosses also started dropping more loot, including blueprints and special raid puzzle pieces, and two more dungeons got nightmare modes. And on top of all that, the first new weapon, the rocket launcher, was added for players to use.

Issue #3 The Cat God

Only one short week after Issue #3 hit the stands, Issue #4 was released, catching TSW up on its ambitious update schedule. The fixes and new missions appeared on September 26th; however, the extra fun part of this update came later in October, when the Halloween event involving the Cat God himself played out.

Issue #4 Big Trouble in the Big Apple

Releasing on November 15th, this update gave players time to orchestrate a holiday performance in the new roleplayer's paradise, the Albion Theatre. There were also major PvP changes that were positive for the two battlegrounds which started seeing more action, but not so great for the persistent warzone Fusang. A second auxiliary weapon -- the chainsaw -- was also introduced to game. And although it debuted a week after the rest of the patch, we would be remiss to not include TSW's first ever raid!

Keeping it, period!
This final reason to get into The Secret World is that once you get the game, it's yours to play whenever you want. With the newly announced payment model, all you have to do is buy the game once -- as you would a single-player game -- and you have access to all the content that is currently in game. Unlike a single player game, however, TSW will keep expanding and adding more content.

The change in payment models will ensure that no one will lose anything he currently has, and it will allow more people to get in and try the game out at their own pace (as opposed to the short trial weekends of yore). And even though there will be some downloadable content packs for purchase, the developers have already declared that there will still be content updates to the game. Sure, there will not be the volume of content available to the free crowd as enjoyed in the past four issues, but there will continue to be ongoing content. So where is the downside?

The Secret World screenshot
Much has happened to The Secret World since it launched, and much has been added. Whether you are trying it out for the first time, are returning, or never left, now is definitely a good time to jump in-game. I'll see you there!

Conspiracies, paranoia, secrets, and chaos -- the breakfast of champions! Feast on a bowlful with MJ every other Monday as she infiltrates The Secret World to bring you the latest word on the streets of Gaia in Chaos Theory. Heard some juicy whispers or have a few leads you want followed? Send them to and she'll jump on the case!

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