The Secret World beta weekend preview
This weekend I took part in the second beta weekend for The Secret World. The Secret World is a modern day mythological/conspiracy themed mmorpg developed by Funcom.
During the weekend I played the game I found myself enjoying it more and more because of brain teasing missions, lack of a levelling system, crafting that was a challenge and not a chore and great monster to fight.
The game opens up by allowing you to choose between one of these conspiracy and myth driven factions which are Templar, Illuminati and Dragon. Each faction has their own hub areas which are London, New York and Seoul. For the beta weekend I picked to join the Templar.
Character creation in The Secret World seems like your standard mmorpg character creation at first glance, but there were some noticeable differences. The first thing I noticed was the lack of customisation in terms of body sliders etc. the only real customisable part excluding gender was the face and hair, but with the lack of body customisation the game did offer something to make up for it and that was choosing what your character wears. Now unlike in most games your clothes change as you level, but in The Secret World they don’t (I’ll explain this later). Since it is a modern day mmo clothes were suitably modern and with that I decked my character out with a sweater, open coat with scarf, blue jeans and hiking boots. Lastly for naming you had to pick a first name, nickname and last name.
Before going to the Templar HQ there was the small matter of a combat tutorial which was introduced by a man with a sock puppet. The tutorial took place in a recent battle against demons as you play through the eyes of another person alongside the characters that appeared in the game’s CGI trailers. One thing I did find noteworthy before starting the tutorial was that you had the ability to skip it which is handy if you have already created a character and just want to move on.
Personally I felt the tutorial was pretty standard. It introduced the combat of the game well, but it didn’t tell me how to do stuff like dodging which I discovered by accident. The tutorial also just focused on combat which annoyed me granted most mmorpg tutorials focus on combat, but I felt stuff like crafting could have been possibly explained in another tutorial.
After the tutorial it was time I visited the Templar HQ and after a brief cutscene I was told to pick a weapon. The game offered me a choice of 9 weapons, 3 guns, 3 fist weapons and 3 elemental powers. Before confirming your chosen weapon you could try each one out so you could decide easier. After some thought I settled on the assault rifle and after picking it I was given it along with seven talismans. Now earlier I mentioned you don’t need to change clothes as you level well this because you change talisman instead because talisman offer you’re your stats for health, attack etc. With weapon in hand I was instructed by the HQ to investigate the sleepy town of Kingsmouth.
To get there I had to enter the Agartha (the Agartha is based around the hollow Earth theory from myth and folklore). The Agartha was a maze of portal leading to different areas throughout the world. When I entered the Agartha I received an item which allowed me to teleport to Agartha once every 30 minutes.
The area of Kingsmouth was interesting as it’s a town that is overrun with various undead creatures, strange pods, other mythological creatures and more. The area offered various missions from survivors or from items on the ground.
There are various types of missions in The Secret World which include story, main, side and dungeon missions. I do have to say the selection missions on offer is what made me fall in love with this game. While some missions were the standard kill and collect mission there were other types of missions which were called investigation and sabotage missions. The reason why I loved these two types of missions was because they offered a great challenge and they usually contained several tiers which would be described as checkpoints in the mission which showed your progress.
For example in an investigation mission I had to investigate who killed several people in the summer of 2002 and exam the fact why a paper reported that the killer wasn’t human. So with that I had to the investigation with only a date and an article I had to find. Needless to say it took a while and with each tier adding to the challenge, but when I completed it I felt good because the game didn’t hold my hand and say go here it made me think.
If missions weren’t challenging enough there was the crafting. As I mentioned earlier I felt crafting needed a tutorial well the reason why I said that is because it is confusing at first glance. Crafting offered no trainer or list from where you pick an item to craft all you r had to do was place certain materials in a set pattern and attach the correct toolkit and assemble the weapon. It sounds simple but you aren’t told outright what the correct pattern is for what item and materials need to be upgraded by combining stakes together. What did make life easier was the fact several players made a document for players who were confused which was helpful. After learning how to craft it did however become easy, but I feel an introduction to crafting by the game would be good.
With interesting missions and difficult crafting comes the one of the downsides of the game and that is the combat. Combat is a traditional hotkey based mmo with seven active and passive abilities. Combat was pretty easy as I just found myself just building up a charge with my assault rifle and using a powerful attack that uses up the charge, occasionally I had to use the dodge mechanic to avoid enemy AOE or to heal.
One important fact about The Secret World is the fact it there is no levelling or traditional classes in game. Instead of levelling the game offers two point based systems called skill points (SP) and ability points (AP).
SP is used to train your weapon skills/role. As you gain SP you can decide what skill you want to level which is all 9 weapons and the three talisman types. When you choose to level a weapon you can pick to level one of two roles which helps determine your role in the game for example assault rifle roles are damage and support based. Specialising in a particular weapon/talisman field is important because the higher your skill the more powerful the weapon/talisman you can use.
AP is used to learn new active and passive skills for combat. The AP screen at first seems daunting, but it is rather simple. For example since I use the assault rifle as my primary weapon I spend my AP on abilities under an assault rifle block each block ends with a powerful ability, but to get to it you have to complete the block. Also for those who can’t decide on their abilities Funcom have decks which help you pick abilities to suit your play style.
Lastly during the beta weekend I managed to try out the game’s first 5-man instance called The Polaris. The instance takes place on a cargo ship that has run aground on Solomon Island near Kingsmouth. One of the most striking things about the instance is for an entry level (first instance) it did create a challenge. Each boss had a special ability for the example the water around the first boss is electrified so you had to stay on what little dry land there is near him. The final boss a Cthulhu styled monster called Ur-Draug was a challenge I would say worthy of a final boss, the boss required you to stand in certain areas and move to certain locations when powerful attacks came in etc. Overall The Polaris continued to live up to challenge that The Secret World offered, but that said some people have said the instance is too easy but in comparison to other entry level instances I would say it was a challenge.
My overall impression from the beta weekend is that The Secret World has the making of a great mmo with missions that require thought, and effort and a great setting. Unfortunately some players could be turned away by the challenge of the game because the game unlike many other mmorpg doesn’t hold the players hand.
Author: Aaron Meehan
Hi, I’m the creator of SG Gaming Info. When I’m not working on my writing or creating content for this site’s YouTube channel, I like to relax and enjoy character driven story games.