This article originally appeared on MMOGames.com.
Dear The Secret World,
I hope everything is well. I’ve heard you want to see other people. I can accept that. It’s been so long since I last entered your haunted world; I guess it makes sense that you would explore other options.
You’ve really put yourself out there. I see you’ve started a free trial program, and you have a shiny new trailer. That’s good. You’re breaking down your barriers, opening yourself up to forming new bonds. I’m glad you’re doing well.
But have you thought about your old friends? Some of us have wanted to see you again for some time, but there are still barriers in our way. We want to come back. We’d love to come back. But there’s something standing in our way. You know what it is. We’ve told you about it before. But maybe, with all the outreach you’re doing now, you’ll finally be able to open up to us.
We want to reconcile. We want to see you again. Please let us come home.
Ethan “Isarii” Macfie
What Makes The Secret World Great
If you’re wondering what exactly it is I’m on about, allow me to explain in greater detail. The Secret World is a pretty fantastic game, boasting a unique combination of features that really make it stand out within the genre. This is one of the most criminally underrated MMOs of all time, if not the most outright. If you haven’t played this yet, do. The problem I’m leading up to doesn’t apply to you.
So what makes it so great? A lot of things, really. I’m a huge fan of the urban fantasy setting, but admittedly that’s a little subjective. If I were to boil it down to two big features, it would be these.
Engrossing Story, Engaging Quests
The Secret World‘s main draw is its questing, which has been phenomenally executed. The writing, voice acting, and detailed cut scenes are far beyond what has ever been done before in an MMO, but that’s not its only appeal. As befits a horror game, everything in TSW is fraught with danger and shrouded in mystery. The game’s dark story hooks you in as you progress through immersive settings like New England, Egypt, and Transylvania.
It is the game’s investigation missions that truly set The Secret World apart; if you’ve longed for an MMO that doesn’t hold your hand, this is the one – and its real world setting brings with it a near unparalleled ability to do so. While there are several examples of missions that are a little over the top (involving deciphering Morse Code transmitted through headlight flashes, or diagnosing medical conditions based on patient charts), most of them hit a comfortable stride where many players will be able to progress without consulting a walkthrough – granted, this will often be with significant effort.
The game’s quests are also almost all repeatable. With the exception of main story quests, every mission begins a timer after completion displaying when you’ll be able to do it again.
Lengthy and Highly Customizable Character Progression
The other key feature that really sets The Secret World apart is its character progression. The game features a daunting number of abilities and passive skills, which players slot to create their builds. Unlike some deck building games, The Secret World does not strive to balance every possible build; the game is based upon a rigorous system of continuous build optimization, and players will often run into brick walls of progression while questing if they haven’t been planning their build from the beginning.
The way it works is that each character can equip two different weapon types at any given time, and they can use abilities from either weapon at the same time (no need for weapon swapping). Passives can be slotted from any tree regardless of what is equipped. With this system, active components of a build can be quickly unlocked to allow for fun play, while the build’s true power-progression comes from slowly unlocking certain passives from the right trees.
Fully unlocking these abilities will take a long time. Like, a really long time. Continual character progression has become a key feature of The Secret World, and they’ve continued to expand on the game’s already substantial launch options with new skill systems like Aux Weapons, Augments, and the AEGIS system.
A Secret War with Itself
Unfortunately, the shortcomings of The Secret World‘s strongest selling points create its greatest barrier to veteran players returning.
The complexity of the game’s character builds and the rigorous optimization it requires create a steep learning curve for returning players. I’ve always found it useful to go back to the game’s earlier zones while reacquainting myself with the title’s mechanics, and I’m not alone in using that method. While this replay could also function as way for players to recap the events of The Secret World‘s main story, unfortunately, the portion of the game’s narrative with which returning players would most want to re-familiarize themselves with is the only portion unavailable for replay.
I understand the reasoning behind it. Ostensibly, the game’s main story features a choice & consequence element that would make it difficult to allow players to replay those portions of the story. In practice though, there are only three choices that the player actually gets to make. That’s right, three. And they don’t even have an effect other than a minor cosmetic change at the end of the Tokyo expansion. We’re not talking about a Mass Effect-style experience here; it would be simple enough to just grey out the other options on repeat playthroughs, and call it a day, with basically no harm done to the player’s narrative experience.
Now I know what you’re thinking. Why not just make an alt, right?
If it were any other game, that solution would make sense. But this is The Secret World – a game where you’ll spend hundreds of hours after reaching endgame continuing to progress your character with earned experience. In that situation, making an alt stings. It’s off-putting.
A quick Google search for “The Secret World replay main story“ will show that I’m not alone in hoping to see this change made. It’s been a popular request for years now, but it hasn’t happened yet. With Funcom’s new marketing push to attract players to the game now fully underway, I believe it’s time to do something to draw veteran players into returning as well.
Dear The Secret World, please let me replay your main story.