An MMO that manages to stand out from the pack, The Secret World is a world well worth immersing yourself in.
Story - A major selling point of this game is the theme, which centers itself around the idea of modern day myths and legends coming to life. Many of these legends are dark imaginings of literary and sometimes conspiracy theories. As the game progresses you will discover clues as to why these events are happening. Unlike other games where you just feel as though you are along for the ride, a small part in larger adventure, here you take part through investigation and revelation. If you like horror, mystery, thrillers -- stories spun by the likes of H.P. Lovecraft, Stephen King and Richard Matheson...you will certainly enjoy the majority of the content found in TSW. As such this is mostly subjective. If you dislike Star Wars, it would be an uphill battle to try and enjoy a Star Wars themed game. That said, it is a welcome change of pace from the usual fantasy themes found in MMOs and is original in its delivery. 9.5/10
Graphics/Design - All the environments reflect the atmosphere Funcom was going for in TSW. The locales are dark and foreboding, and when exploring you will have this feeling that you are in a living horror novel. There are many references to the horror genre, including various details in the settings themselves (Innsmouth for example) and the creatures you face. The graphics themselves are stellar, but as some reviewers have commented, there is a kind of gritty "unfinished" feel to them. "Floaty" characters and their animations may be a turn off for some, but the gritty feel just adds to the atmosphere. The monsters look great and fit right in with the atmosphere. The glitches are minimal from what one would expect from a newly released MMO. On the upside, the spell effects are decent and the environments themselves are well designed. There are many nooks and crannies to adventure and you will never feel quite safe no matter where you are. Thus far, this is the closest thing your going to get to a "survival horror" MMO. 8/10
Sound - The music sometimes feels straight out of a 'B' horror film or a crime thriller. The ambiance draws you in; the cawing of the gulls and crows, wind blowing through the trees and the grumbling of distant ghouls and monsters all add to the immersion. The sound effects are hit and miss, especially on character abilities. 8/10
Voice Acting/Dialog - The game really shines in its storytelling. The voice acting is superbly done. The dialog continues the literary theme of the game. Sometimes the characters seem a bit too poetic, and although it may not feel realistic at times, it manages to fit and twist perception as if it were an episode of the Twilight Zone. Some characters are down right cracked, sometimes hilariously so, but never to the point where it becomes overly cheesy. Most of the dialog is done in the form of cut scenes, which is unlike games such as SWTOR where you have an active role in a conversation. In this game, your character doesn't speak, but merely observes the musings of the NPCs. You will notice many homages given through the various people you meet in the game, which sometimes serve to lighten or darken the mood. 9/10
Questing - The story, along with the voice acting give you a reason to actually care why you are sent off to kill or collect X amount of Y. Many quests are tiered, so that no only do you find yourself doing the usual MMO tasks, but there will be moments where you will genuinely wonder what will happen next. The game forces you to explore around, discover clues, take part in the story itself. It very much feels like a hybrid between a typical MMO and a PC Adventure game, filled with puzzles which can at times be brutally challenging. These challenges will test your wit, but also your researching skills. There is an in game browser set up so that you can google for information or even visit websites designed with the game in mind. You can only have a few quests in your log at a time, taking any more will put your current ones on pause. This makes tasks feel like they have more weight, because you are involved in deliberately completing them instead of wondering around grabbing objectives from a number of quests. In this way, it feels as if the quests themselves have an active plot, instead of being merely a mission.
The quests offer rewards in the form of currency as well as tokens. The tokens are spent on above average gear; the route that many current MMOs seem to have taken. Many quests do not require you to hand them in, but instead they are phoned in for the rewards on the fly. You'll be doing a lot of running (reasonably fast by sprinting) and getting your rewards faster, helps cut travel time down. Some quests give gear outright, especially the longer more involved quests. The quest NPCs are easily located on the map, but there will be moments where you'll run across quests while exploring. As of now, some quests are buggy, but these are the sort of things that will more than likely be fixed within the next few weeks. 8.5/10
Combat - The combat is probably the weakest aspect of the game. While the concepts of leveling up your character is unique and fun to experiment with, the combat itself can be clunky and is very basically executed. The intricacies of combat isn't in the execution of complex rotations or skill priorities, but in your enemies actions (either avoiding them, knowing when to act or not to). I do not have much experience with dungeons beyond the first available one (Polaris), but from what I have seen, it moves by fairly quickly between bosses. The bosses themselves were mostly tank and spank, but offered challenges by requiring proper movement and timing. 7/10
Leveling/Character Design - The design of "leveling" and designing your character is by far more intriguing than the combat itself. There are multiple pre-made decks (skill templates) to choose from to help players who do not want to be bothered with figuring out the best skill sets for the style of play they are interested in. However, the game allows you dictate exactly how you want to create your character, whether you want to be a class that deals strictly damage, survivable tank, healer, support or a hybrid of these. You can even mix up melee and ranged abilities. You can eventually unlock ALL skills in the game, therefore there is no need to create alternate characters unless you'd like to belong to another faction. You can switch out skills before encounters, and the game encourages you to create templates that suit different encounters. You can have 7 active and 7 passive skills at one time, and 2 weapons that determine what skills you can use. At first you will want to master 2 weapons, choose skills that synergize together, and work to focus on a theme (Affliction/Penetration, Impair/Penetration, etc.). There are many affects that work together in tandem to give meaning to combining certain skills together. Your gear is what determines your overall level (how powerful you are to handle more challenging content), but you still gain levels as you complete missions and these reward you with AP points (used to unlock skills) and SP points (used to level up weapons and talismans). Putting SP points into your weapons and talismans allows you to equip better (higher level) gear.
The ideas behind this unique design have much potential even if it isn't executed spectacularly well in its current state. Given time (updates), this could improve and may also improve the combat itself. 8.5/10
PvP - I do not have any PvP experience at this time, but I hear that it is weak due to the clunkiness of the combat. This I do no foresee as something that will be easily fixed. ?/10
Crafting - Some will love, some will hate the crafting. Personally I find it solid. You take green quality weapons, talismans and potions, and dissemble them into base components. The components placed in certain configurations to make new gear, or to add glyphs to gear to make them more powerful. If you like your crafting complex, or would rather have a unique profession, then you will probably find this way of crafting too simplistic. I find it goes well with the flow of the game, instead of spending countless hours farming and crafting instead of exploring and questing. 7.5/10
Overall - A very solid MMO that will more than likely be too single player orientated for some hardcore players, but still may offer challenges in the end game. There is a very rich story that is supported by excellent voice acting and a darkly surreal atmosphere. The combat lacks polish and it very simplistic at times, but the concepts behind designing your character offer much promise, especially after unlocking more skills. 8.5/10