Have You Played… The Secret World?

Just another day in London.

Have You Played? is an endless stream of game recommendations. One a day, every day of the year, perhaps for all time.

Somewhere inside The Secret World is a splendid single-player RPG. Awakened to the supernatural horrors in our world, we join a secret order fighting against them – and other rival orders. Unfortunately, we do this inside an MMO. The Secret World is still quite pleasant as an MMO, one with a fab premise and an ace class-free skill system, but having started playing a few months ago I find myself wishing so often that it were simply single-player.

So, yes, supernatural things are real – monsters, ghosts, ghouls, golems, gods, ancient spirits, zombies, mythical creatures, and Lovecraftian horrors – and we have received supernatural powers to fight against them. Its main missions would make a fine skeleton of a single-player RPG, with well-written cutscenes, voiced dialogue, and some memorable characters and quests. I’m a big fan of Innsmouth Academy and its headmaster voiced by Jeffrey Combs. It’s a great setting and the The Secret World sells it well.

This paragraph is a collection of unrelated things I like. Its classless skill system has hundreds of skills to narrow down into a build of seven actives and seven passives, which I hugely enjoy refining. The world is spooky and unpleasant and delightful to explore, especially the meat beaches. Many monsters are pleasantly unsettling. Having stat items separate from your cosmetic garments is oh my gosh just such a treat (I made a cool modern-day cowboy, of course).

This paragraph is dedicated to how much I dislike its awful stealth missions: a lot.

And then it’s an MMORPG in typical modern-day MMORPG style. Oh, that doesn’t spoil everything, but it makes things tedious. It has lousy MMO AI. Areas outstay their welcome. Assets are overused. I haven’t got to tour any of the raids or dungeons I understand have big, extravagant set pieces and boss battles. I don’t understand all the weird MMORPG vendors clogging up my faction’s headquarters. The only benefit I get from it being an MMO is occasionally seeing other folks fighting monsters.

I’m clearly not very fond of MMORPGs, but every conversation I’ve had about The Secret World includes someone lamenting “It’s a shame it’s an MMO.” It is.


  1. djbriandamage says:

    I love the premise and setting and conversations in this game. I don’t understand nor enjoy the combat one bit. I find the huge skill tree versus the limited skill slots and 2-weapon combos to be insurmountable. Just walking around, seeing the sights, talking to people, all this made the game worth its purchase price but I can’t muster the interest to punch any more zombies.

    • malkav11 says:

      It’s about building combos. Like a very tight CCG deck. It’s a pretty amazing system that’s unfortunately pretty easy to screw up.

      • Insidious Mental Pollution says:

        That’s the inherent problem with it, in my opinion. You can build some fun-sounding decks, but if it doesn’t play nice with the game’s difficulty curve, you may find yourself hurting badly. It’s not very forgiving, but I did enjoy it for a time.

      • Faxmachinen says:

        I didn’t find it quite like that. There is only one passive (i.e. Elemental Force) that you actually have to combine with your heavy hitters, the rest is just stuff that either works with your build or doesn’t.

        That being said, it’s much more fun than the combat in other MMOs (such as Rift). The boss fights engages the whole group by having them stand in the right place, shoot the right thing, or cleanse debuffs on rotation. It also has an ability that lets you cheat death for a few seconds.

  2. tattertech says:

    I really enjoyed TSW at launch, I think I quit a little bit before the first raid finally came out. It was a lot of fun and the dungeons (at least at the time) were extremely challenging and fun. In fact, there was a ton of things I remember really loving about the game, but for some reason it just wasn’t enough to keep going with.

    One of the few complaints I recall having was that they made the Lovecraft inspired zone basically just zombies everywhere.

    • Ciritty says:

      Kingsmouth consists of some zombies but most enemies are Draugs, some Draugs look like misshaped zombies while others look like dark-crablike humanoid entities – the forests are filled with Ak’ab which are large moths and a bunch of other creatures.

      • Fnord73 says:

        A Draug is a norwegian river, lake or seamonster who lives in murky waters with plants in them. Funcom are norwegian.

    • malkav11 says:

      There are zombies, but they aren’t really your Romero-style zombies, just corpses raised from the grave by dark magics that are afoot, and shading into dead from other eras of the area. There are also Draugr, which are weird tentacly sea creatures brought by the fog, with a complete ecosystem that involves seeding the zombies in the area. And spectres and meaty, dripping familiars, especially at the local Academy. And wendigo. And horrible giant bugs called Ak’ab. And golems. And people infected by the mysterious possibly extradimensional black goo known as the Filth. And deep ones. And demons of several sorts. And will’o’wisps. And animate scarecrows.

      Etc. It’s actually quite varied. Zombies are pretty prevalent in the early parts of the first zone, and don’t disappear by any means, but there’s a lot of other stuff out there.

      • liquid3am says:

        Extradimensional kinda looses it’s meaning in case of Gaia, which consists of many pocket dimensions and layers connected in Agartha.

        Filth is actually the base of this world – you witness it during one of the last missions.

        The Program is glorious, all who guard it are glorious.

  3. Judas says:

    This is such a great game that when it launched, had too many people criticizing the pay to play model. I really enjoyed this sleeper hit. I wish that it would have succeeded and had a great community. Last time I logged in it seemed like a ghost town. It was too hard to get into instanced dungeons.
    I too wish that it can be converted into a single player game.
    The talent trees and options are fun and unique.

    • Colonel J says:

      I can criticize TSW for many things but the community will never be one of them – seriously it’s one of the best. My cabal – none of whom I’d gamed with before TSW – and the community is the reason I keep coming back. If you are starting out in the first zones, outside of (or even during) Steam sale time, then yes your instance is going to feel very empty compared to other MMOs you’ve played. And outside of Agartha hub hardly anyone uses Global chat channel btw so don’t take that as evidence of population. Join the #sanctuary chat channel, join #noobmares chat when you get to the end-game dungeons. and most of all join a good cabal (guild) – there are many really good active ones who cater for all sorts.

      On population…tbh, I know of many people in TSW who actively chose the less populated servers (instances) as they prefer how it feels without other players around to spoil their immersion. And they also join an active cabal for the social (and RP it that’s your taste) side for the times they do want to team up (the dungeons are brilliant). Also it’s single server tech so you can friend, team, chat and guild with anyone regardless of the instance you roll on.

      • StarkeRealm says:

        Well, if you won’t I will. Dealing with endgame you start getting into a really vicious community. I remember seeing a thing in Kingsmouth where a new player was having issues, and when someone suggested they take Turn the Tables and Immortal Spirit to make life easier, one of the players exploded, going on about how they would be worthless, not know how to play the game, and never be able to do Slaughterhouse Elite if they followed that advice.

        I got frozen out of my guild, so I was trying to get access to nightmares and actually remember getting kicked from a group in noobmares… the newbie “friendly” channel for endgame content because I wasn’t in full 10.4s.

        This is to say nothing of the guilds that would run New York and then kick any PUG members they’d used to fill the ranks before the final gear roll went…

        Or the insular elitest, “no, you can’t do this unless you’re already overgeared for it.”

        Also, when the dev makes a mistake, most of the community at large will turn around and blame the player experiencing it. This was especially true with the scenarios, where they were not balanced for players in QL10 greens, no matter what the devs claimed. Then you had the people in full 10.5s running them and saying, “nah, the water’s fine, quit crying.” And, then the community numbers went into freefall.

        And, this wasn’t just an issue with the difficulty. Players trying to report that quests were bugged would frequently get accused of being too stupid to get it to work right, or failing to understand the puzzle, even when the quest was, in fact, bugged.

        Yeah, honestly, one of the worst communities I’ve ever seen in an MMO.

        • Yirdfast says:

          It sounds like you’ve been incredibly unlucky. I’ve never experienced a more generous, welcoming gaming community than in TSW. There’s been a few rotten ones like in all online games, but over all, it’s a community worth staying for.

  4. Premium User Badge

    Aerothorn says:

    For some reason Funcom has essentially refused to do server mergers – as a result a lot of servers are ghost towns and they require you to pay $20 to move to one that isn’t.

    Heck no.

    • WMain00 says:

      Is this a big deal though? It’s mostly a single player game and from what I understand most if not all of the dungeons can be soloed if correctly specced?

  5. katinkabot says:

    Love this game and as everyone else has echoed it is really too bad it is NOT a single-player game. What a great series of games this could have been. I started playing at launch and then took a break. Good luck getting caught up again for endgame. No-one was playing. The boss battles were great though – when you could get in. Some of – not all – the zone stories were great. There was one later zone with the Russian cosmonaut dungeon…so sad.

    • Numbers says:

      > Good luck getting caught up again for endgame. No-one was playing.

      This does not do the community justice, so I’d like to address it specifically. Like others have mentioned, there’s channels dedicated to helping people getting into end-game. #sanctuary and #noobmares is full of the most patient and helpful people you can find. I’ve recently come back from a year long break and had felt right at home with these guys. Even without joining a cabal (guild) I always have people to play with. There’s literally no content I am unable to get into easily. Come play with us :D

      • mikeimusprime says:

        There are a bunch of people doing end-game content all the time. And a majority of them are more than willing to help new people. You just have to know where to look. The aforementioned #sanctuary and #noobmares custom channels are the best places to start.

  6. BigMikeyOcho says:

    But being an MMO is also one of it’s strongest points, even if you play it single player. Specifically for the fact that the world changes, has events, and doesn’t stop. Skyrim’s last official DLC was released a while ago, and there aren’t going to be any more of them. TSW’s latest Issue 10 of the Tokyo docks was released earlier this month, and TSW has the story roughly planned up through Issue 35 (or around that). As a single player, the game would be awesome, too, but I enjoy it more as an MMO as the world doesn’t stop.

    • spron says:

      Considering the, ah, limited staffing for the game, issue 35 is probably about 10 years away. I go through my Secret World phases where I log in with a friend to duo some stuff, mostly investigation missions. However, even as I am enjoying the game, I weep at the promise of what could have been. The game’s plot and atmosphere are _so_ superior that it is seems unfair to other MMOs to compare them.

      However, the tragedy of the game’s launch, Funcom’s rank incompetence at managing a company, and the decimation of all the development teams means that the game will never reach anything like its full potential. At best, we’ll get a steady drip of content; the placeholder animations and frankly unfinished combat system will never, ever be addressed.

  7. EkoAzarak says:

    The Secret Worlds story is sorta interesting.. in a pulp way. But everything else is just mediocre – bad. The combat is fucking awful and character design is pointless. The animators should be fired too. It sours everything in the game.

    Seriously, Funcom just repeatedly fucks up good IP’s… Age of Conan, The Secret World… great settings and IP’s but fucking awful execution. STOP giving SHITcom projects to develop!! And please somebody reply that AoC’s combat is good and you will be forever labeled a mouth breather inbred moron.

    • Tukuturi says:

      I believe the animators and the guy who designed the combat were fired quite a while back if it makes you feel any better. As I understood it, many of the floaty animations that are currently in game were originally intended as placeholders in development. The game released early and unfinished in typical Funcom fashion, then it bombed in typical Funcom fashion and went free-to-play, leaving no money to replace those animations.

      As for the awful combat, there’s really no excuse. I believe Martin Bruusgaard, now with Red Thread Games, is primarily responsible there. Still, he seems like a nice guy. I felt bad when he got laid off, and I was happy when Tornquist hired him on at Red Thread. Unemployment is a harsh thing to wish on someone over a game you didn’t like.

  8. Lars Westergren says:

    Also MMO: Clusters of level-appropriate monsters evenly spaced out all over the maps for your grinding pleasure. Hundreds of other players running around everywhere, bunny hopping, dancing, spoiling the mood of mystery and isolation. No choice&consequence permanence and nothing you do matters. People running up to you and gleefully spoiling the great investigation/adventure quests.

    Agreed with the great setting and writing. Shame it isn’t single player, it would have beaten even Vampire: Bloodlines.

    • Ciritty says:

      The secret world doesn’t have levels, simply un-equipping pieces of your gear or equipping lower level gear will bring you down to your friends “level”.

      • spron says:

        Firstly, thank you for your build guides, Ciritty. I have found them invaluable for getting my feet wet in Tokyo and the scenarios. Also, I hadn’t thought about de-equipping myself to keep the lower-level zones a challenge. I’ll mention it to my duoing partner.

        • Ciritty says:

          Happy they were of help! If you or your friends need any specific build aid don’t hesitate to ask – It’s what I do! :)

  9. lowprices says:

    Since there’s no subscription fee, I’m tempted to have a punt on it if it’s cheap in the Steam sale. I wanted to have a look at the time, but the subscription (as well as the fact that it wouldn’t run on my rattley old laptop), put me off.

  10. RuySan says:

    i thought this was about The Whispered World. Now i’m sad(wick)

  11. sinister agent says:

    I tried TSW, I really did, but it was fatally undermined by flaws, literally all of which came from its MMO tropes. Such a waste.


      Thanks for writing my post for me, I probably wouldn’t have been so succint and would end up using at least one ridiculous metaphor (“it’s like trying to put ice cream in pizza, it’s not good even if you like both ice cream and pizza, but I don’t like pizza, so I’m just trying to eat my ice cream but it’s quickly melting and full of oregano and”)

  12. Turkey says:

    These recommendations seem to get sketchier and sketchier the closer we get to present day. I think I’m getting old.

    • Alice O'Connor says:

      A fair portions of the games I pick are ones I think aren’t “WOW BEST GAME MUST PLAY!”, they’re games which are wonky in some way (often in big ways) but have something interesting in them that I enjoyed and appreciated and like talking about. “Have you played?” is a question.

      • Banyan says:

        Yeah, this is the epitome of a Have You Played game. It exposes a lot of game mechanic tropes by doing the exact opposite. There are puzzles that assume that you have knowledge of classical music or will actually try to figure out morse code or will go to a fake website on the real internet to search for clues or treat character death as something other than a failure state. It’s a game that assumes that you’re interested enough in the story that you’ll do research and remember on your own, and does a damn fine job of keeping that story worth your attention. Pretty much everything that I found annoying stems from the MMO structure: annoying quests obligating me to detour from interesting exploration or the need to grind to level up or wandering into an area clearly meant for a group and dying instantly.

        I recommend the first 20 hours or so to pretty much any gamer, assuming it’s on sale, just to experience a game that messes with your expectations of what a game is. I eventually wandered over to other games after reaching the third zone, but don’t regret my time with TSW at all.

        • spron says:

          lol there was a mission where i had to either (1) install a barcode scanner on my iDevice or (2) manually “read” a barcode in order to advance. What’s more; the barcode in question was not one of the varieties that scanners most often encounter, so I ended up installing four different apps in order to finally advance.

          My duoing partner ended up starting to teach herself UPC checksums in order to sight-read the code before I finally got the scanner to work.

          • Ciritty says:

            It’s something that’s cool about the Secret world and it’s totally understandable that not everyone enjoys that, however a simple google for barcode scanning tool would result in an online way to scan the code in-game… without requiring a phone or learning how to read it without tool. :)

      • sinister agent says:

        See, I can totally appreciate that, even if I don’t like some of the games (which is inevitable anyway). The older I get, the more I feel the impact of games that are flawed, but interesting. It’s seldom the first game to try something that does it best, and I tend to remember games better when they try and screw up than when they’re just another game, even if they’re quite competent.

  13. Darkheart says:

    Does Funcom know everybody wants this to be a single-player game? Would it be hard to make a SP game out of the MMO?
    Every time this game is on sale I’m thinking about buying it and playing it solo, though I don’t like missing out on content because it is designed for groups…
    Would def buy the single-player version.

    • Ciritty says:

      Almost all content is created to be completed by anyone on their own, there are only 8 dungeons and 2 raids that you can’t do on your own. The Secret World community is however incredibly helpful and it’s absolutely possible and easily achievable to tag a long to dungeons were people will gladly show you the ropes.

    • mikeimusprime says:

      I for one would hate it if they made the game single-player only. The community is one of the things that brings me back every day.

      And Ciritty is right, the only thing you’re missing out on are the dungeons and raids. And the dungeons easy to see the story if you ask the community.

    • Rizlar says:

      Woops, mis-reply.

      Dungeons are surprisingly good and not actually that hard to find a group for. But you can definitely just skip them and still get the most out of the game.

  14. Wisq says:

    Yet another MSORPG. Zero incentive to team up, so the multiplayer aspect is just “oh look, someone’s fighting something over there, but they probably don’t want/need my help so I’ll just leave them alone”.

    I never even got as far as the forced-multiplayer instances, so I don’t know what those were like, but in my experience, since people don’t ever team up normally, they’re (for the most part) utterly terrible as a team when it’s forced upon them. At least, in the lower level multiplayer instances — maybe the higher ones have progressively weeded out the people who can’t play as a team, I dunno. (They certainly weeded me out by killing my interest.)

    I get that people want to be able to pop in, do some stuff, and pop off again without having to spend hours finding a group. I’m not asking that we return to the days where you basically couldn’t kill anything worthwhile without a group to back you up. But I’d at least like to see some incentive.

    For example, I was quite happy with how Borderlands 1/2 handled it — due to scaling enemies, teamplay difficulty tended to be similar to solo difficulty, but loot was improved the more players you had, and it was also a frantic and visceral enough game that adding players = adding fun. MMOs could maybe accomplish this by having several areas at each level, some for solo play and some for (more efficient? better rewards?) teamplay. Or maybe just the same area, but you choose an instance based on your desired difficulty level, with teams (or exceedingly skilled players) implicitly needed for higher ones.

    Another thing most MMOs (and Borderlands itself) desperately need is being able to scale your level to your friends’, similar to Champions Online etc. I’d be perfectly fine with only being able to scale down rather than up — I don’t think there’s a lot of value to dragging a newbie through the upper areas (except maybe as a sneak preview to get them excited), but I definitely want to be able to help out my friends without destroying all gameplay, rather than be “punished” for spending too much time in a game when my friends finally show up.

    Bonus points if there’s some sort of benefit to the higher-level player for doing that. It doesn’t need to be XP/gear/etc., it could be something less tangible. Heck, you could just add some sort of reward for teaming up in general, which would naturally also encourage level-scaled team-ups with newer players.

    But until I get a report of someone actually successfully putting the second M back into MMO, I pretty much turn off interest in a game the moment I hear it’s an MMO — because I know it’s just going to be another singleplayer game with lag and terrible awkward repetitive combat.

  15. Gamboni says:

    I have played and am currently playing. I can’t think of a more tragic game offhand. Tragic because an incredibly interesting setting, way better than average writing and acting, and some very good missions have been wasted on an otherwise cookie cutter MMORPG. Some of it is so good I’m willing to put up with the rest, but only just. I really hope this isn’t the last we see of the setting. Something akin to the Arkham games in TSW’s universe would be pretty much perfect.

    • Ciritty says:

      Care to elaborate what these cookie cutter mmo things are? The Secret World is perhaps the least generic MMO out there.

      • Gamboni says:

        All of the things it shares with other MMORPGs, most of them being there exactly because they are MMORPGs. I’m talking cookie cutter in the sense that clicking on guys to make them die in an FPS is cookie cutter. I feel no need to defend my dislike further.

        • sinister agent says:

          Same (dreadful) controls, same dissatisfying, more or less automated but still slow and laborious combat, same atmosphere-destroying crowds of people and global chat, same grinding, same pointless forever-respawning monsters, same post-death ghost sequence. There’s probably more, but really.

          • mikeimusprime says:

            Same dreadful controls? As what, like every computer game ever? If you don’t like the key mappings change them. But they’re pretty standard for most PC games, not just MMOs.

            While TSW’s combat is similar to most MMOs out there, slow is not an adjective I would use to describe it. If you find the combat slow, it’s usually because you’re not using the right build for the job. It’s also not automated at all.
            Most crowds of people are situated in places in-game where it would actually make sense to find crowds of people. Like the bank, post office, pub, main passageways through the world, etc.

            Re-spawning monsters are pretty much covered in the lore, and so is the post-death spirit world. TSW even plays around with the spirit thing in was no other MMO I’ve played ever have.

            The game is far from perfect, but it’s not a cookie-cutter MMO. It has a different feel/vibe to anything on the market right now.

          • sinister agent says:

            “Hold a button to enable mouselook” is not common to all games, just crap MMOs. And the combat is just cycling cooldown attacks, like every boring MMO ever. I’d rather just cut to the chase and auto-resolve it based on what level I am, the result would be identical. And whether the story comes up with an excuse for constant respawning or not, it’s still boring, repetitive, and utterly demoralising. Why even bother killing anything if it’ll just be back in the exact same spot, doing the exact same thing, forever?

            Your last point is pretty much exactly my point, though. TSW is held back by all the generic MMO baggage. If it hadn’t hamstrung itself with that terrible choice, it could have been a really enjoyable RPG.

            I’d still recommend trying it to be honest, if you’re looking for an MMO that at least makes an effort. I just completely lost interest in playing it very soon after leaving the opening segment.

          • mikeimusprime says:

            Holding a button to mouselook is a staple of a lot of 3rd person games, at least RPGs. It is not at all confined to just MMOs.

            As for combat, it definitely shows you didn’t play it much if you think auto-resolving based on level would have the same outcome. That would severely hinder most people, actually, because by having good rotations, builds and movement, you can take on things that are above your gear level all the time.

            Is combat as simple as cycling attacks? Technically yes (As long as you ignore the fact you actually have to dodge/move to avoid attacks, interrupt attacks, etc.), but then again, that’s most games again. If we’re going to boil a games combat down to just the button presses then, shooters have the most generic combat ever.

            The combat also is more than just cycling cooldown attacks. It’s easy to make good builds that have no cooldowns at all.

            While you clearly do not like MMOs, It’s not fair to call almost anything about TSW generic.

  16. defunct says:

    This article and the responses depressed me so much, that the free trial (30 days) I just started downloading, I’m now stopping. You guys make it sound truly horrible.

    • Gamboni says:

      Aww, give it a go. I’m still playing even though I complain. The MMO part isn’t atrocious as far as MMOs go, I think the blandness of it just sticks out because of the contrast with the parts that really are good.

    • TCO_TSW says:

      Don’t give up on this game. It may not be very focussed on the group aspect, but the group content the game does have is some of the best in any MMO and it does have one of the most kind communities I have ever encountered in gaming. Plus it has an amazing story and missions. Yes I am a fanboi. And no that doesn’t bother me. Ok some flaws to make things more fair? Endgame isn’t fully fleshed out and animations aren’t the best in the industry. I personally DO like the combat though. It keeps you moving. ;)

    • spron says:

      My goodness, play it for the 30 days! The first three zones and the initial bit of the storyline mission (that runs all the way through the game) are quite inspired and I believe every single bit of it can be done solo if you don’t care to join a cabal (guild). This game also has some of the best dress-up around, since your visual appearance is completely separate from your “armor.”


      Play the game to make your own mind, friend! How do you think we all got our opinions? ;-) (And when I played it the trial was only three days long, so you should try and enjoy it…)

    • malkav11 says:

      TSW is my second favorite MMO ever, and it would be my favorite if there were more of it. The setting, atmosphere and quests are second to none, and although the combat is clearly polarizing, I think it’s the best I’ve found in MMOs so far – fast, mobile, and with a huge amount of build customization. Which you can do pretty much on the fly, even.

      I mean, I loved it enough that I bought a $200 lifetime subscription before it was even properly out, and it’s only gotten better since then (albeit its failure to hit it big has clearly meant a slower rate of content production and probably limited the scope to some degree). And yes, it’s gone subscription optional, but as far as I’m concerned, all the better. It’s meant that instead of merely having access to the game at all times without worrying about a subscription, I have that -and- I get all the new content for no extra cost -and- I can snag boosts and cosmetics and such to boot. I only wish I’d had similar foresight with LOTRO. Oh well.

      (WoW is my most favorite, but that’s just because it’s such a sprawling, rich pile of stuff. It doesn’t really compete with TSW on that game’s strengths.)

  17. strangeloup says:

    I feel much the same way about TSW as I do about SWTOR, though the latter makes a much better go of being a single player game with MMO decorations. I never got past Not-Innsmouth in TSW, partially because I wasn’t sure if there was a way to reach other locations if you’ve not finished everything in that area, and partially because it got so bloody grindy.

    • Ciritty says:

      The Secret World requires literally no grinding at all to see all content, all you need to do is walk to the next zone through “Agartha”. Progressing your main story however will show you the way as well.

    • Neharon says:

      This is supposed to be a reply to strangeloup. Hopefully that’s where it ends up.

      You are free to travel to Scorched Desert and Transylvania from Kingsmouth at any time. You wouldn’t be able to kill anything there… but you’re free to go there.

      According to the devs the intent was that a person should finish about 80, 85% of an area in order to be able to survive in the next, fwiw.

    • TCO_TSW says:

      The comment about this game being grindy confused me a bit? I am the most casual player ever and I have never done a single raid in my life… But I don’t find this game grindy at all. Care to elaborate a bit? :)

      • spron says:

        Just gonna mention super quick and quiet that the AEGIS system is pretty darned grindy to get the research needed to advance your controllers.

        However, to anyone who doesn’t know what the AEGIS system is…don’t worry about it. It’s endgame stuff and you can’t even try it out until then. The vast majority of the game, in fact, has zero grind.

        • TCO_TSW says:

          That is fair, but you really don’t need to update your Aegis, just like you don’t need to get augments. I have clocked in hundreds of hours and have updated none of my Aegis and I’m doing just fine. ;)

        • cekman says:

          The AEGIS system was grindy, but now is a lot less so. AEGIS only applies to the Tokyo zone (so far), and when the devs expanded Tokyo with the release of Issue 10 a couple weeks ago, they also greatly dropped the price of the AEGIS upgrades, and vastly increased the rewards the main missions give you of the currency needed to buy them. The progression will be a lot quicker for people starting out in Toyko from now on.

      • strangeloup says:

        Fair, fair. Replace ‘grindy’ with ‘MMO makework’ and it’s more or less the same. What I was referring to was the issue I have with all MMO’s, really — you can’t just go to place X and do the thing you want to, you almost invariably have to fight a bunch of mobs en route that present no particular challenge and just make it take longer.

        Plus TSW is sadly not immune to the MMO trope of quests along the lines of Twenty Bear Asses, and honestly I’d just like to play the genuinely interesting story bits without all the padding — the tutorial/opening section of the game where you’re introduced to your faction is excellent. I just don’t have the patience for all the faffing about in between interesting stuff.

        • Ciritty says:

          Actually TSW doesn’t have a single “Twenty Bear Asses” type of mission. It has a couple of kill x amount of x enemies but very few and they can mostly be skipped and generally provide the least amount of experience.

          Players get rewarded the most for doing the missions that require intellectual effort and or “stealth” missions.

          Going to places without fighting random things is actually also very avoidable, even if you attract enemies you can outrun them.

          As you reach “max level” less than a fourth into the initial content (All the content you get from buying the base game alone) you get a lot of freedom regarding what missions you do.

  18. apa says:

    Back in open beta I did the beginning of the tutorial and the setting felt awesome: conspiracies, mythical horrors and secret societies. Then I appeared in a city street with bunch of player characters running around, jumping and shouting nonsense in a usual multiplayer fashion. Oh if this just would have been a single player RPG :(

  19. Neharon says:

    For anyone wanting to experience multiplayer in TSW, the dungeons are amazing and come in three difficulty levels, I’d recommend joining the Noobmares, Sanctuary and, when an event is going, Event channels.

    Type in /chat join Noobmares


    The Meet Up function is great also. See a friend online, send a meet up request or vice versa, five seconds later you’re stomping things together regardless of server.

  20. Tom Servo says:

    I have been playing this very irregularly with a friend of mine and we both have the opposite complaint. A lot of the story missions are forced single player which is annoying when we want to play as a team. I agree with everyone else that this game in general is great potential wasted.

    I also hate this Have You Played? series on RPS, my backlog is big enough, thank you very much!

    • Neharon says:

      There was a lot of complaints about this and the devs did listen. It’s much less of a problem later in the game. A few instanced mission areas will allow a person to join you even if they don’t own that particular content, though they won’t be able to do the missions there. You can’t skip to the Tokyo areas like this however due to the storyline requirements.

      Mainly I wanted to mention that when you duo single player instances it’s important to keep both players in sync on the quest or it can bug. Have to keep an eye on that.

    • TCO_TSW says:

      Some of the old solo instances have been made single player friendly, except if it wouldn’t make sense story-wise such as in Dreams or Story Missions. New instances that have been added since launch can be entered with a group. ;)

  21. Voqar says:

    I prefer grouping in MMORPGs since that’s kind of the point (ie, there are way better single player games out there and sharing servers with idiots while soloing is a generally lame experience).

    But, if an MMORPG *must* have the majority of its content as single player, few do it as well as TSW, which has IMO the best solo content in the genre. Excellent variety and often a good challenge level for those who want it.

    TSW also has really excellent instances for grouping – they have low/no trash and a focus on fun boss fights (6 bosses per instance), and at the highest endgame difficulty those fights are often raid-like in quality and execution. Great stuff. The instances are so fast and fun that even while leveling you’ll want to do each one multiple times (compared to many MMORPGs where you may not even do instances at all while leveling or you have FFXIV style instances that are grindfests of trash with crap xp and loot for a payoff (mixed with excellent bosses between vast oceans of trash)). The TSW instances also manage to pass along a strong sense of story and/or vibe without bogging you down- it’s amazingly well done.

    TSW has some of the cooler endgame mechanics I’ve experienced in that you have to qualify thru a solo quest based on your role to even be able to DO the hardest instances (not THAT difficult but it does cause some players to have to focus and/or learn to play a bit). The endgame gear system is also very cool as it’s more about growing and customizing your gear over time than it is about constantly replacing your gear with random drops. You’re always progressing and you’re never feeling screwed as you can in RNG systems where you never get that drop you want or don’t get rewarded for your time. But you still have to earn it all. It’s very slick.

    Sadly, Funcom is inept and focuses too much on solo. You can easily get thru the excellent single player content and vaporize endgame in a couple of months and then there’s no point in playing anymore. Funcom foolishly spends months of dev time coming up with episodes featuring a handful of hours of solo content rather than expanding their endgame, reducing the game to something you’ll either play once in a great while to destroy the solo content in new episodes every few months, or like me and everybody I know who played, we just walked away never to return, and were sad about it because the grouping mechanics and quality of what group/raid content there is/was was excellent.

    If Funcom wasn’t inept and had focused on expanding what really matters in MMORPGs, the group content and endgame, instead of putzing around with more solo idiot mode, the game could’ve taken hold more strongly over time.

    It’s a game worth playing, since it’s an awesome gaming experience, especially if you have some friends to play with. But I see no reason to ever stick with it once you’ve maxed out the one and only character you’ll ever need and blitzed endgame enough.

    Personally as someone who used to love MMORPGs and who now doesn’t even bother keeping up with them, the whole solo-first garbage ruined the genre for me. What hooked me on MMORPGs originally was the grouping and doing things with other people. I can a bazillion games, many of them single player, and there is NO lack of great single player gaming out there. But there is nothing like a good MMORPG that features group content and group experiences….literally…and sadly…these days there really is nothing like that, because MMORPGs today ignore their roots and focus on solo idiot mode and casual/wide appeal instead of quality grouping, challenge, danger, and the elements that established the genre. Now it’s all about how much money can we milk out of casual suckers.

  22. Uncaring Cosmos says:

    I’m really intrigued by TSW, but I’ve never really played any MMOs before (apart from a short time spent playing Guild Wars 2 with a friend). Are there any other beginners out there looking to form a group? From my brief initial solo foray in TSW, it seemed a bit of a ghost town.

    • TCO_TSW says:

      A lot of new player can be found in custom chats like #Sanctuary (which is a help chat for new players). You can join this chat by typing /chat join Sanctuary, pressing the + icon and selecting Sanctuary from your list. Right now there is also an event going on. Info on that can be found in #Event and on TSWDB.com

  23. Phantasma says:

    Essentially your sentiments cover a fair bit of the “almost love/still somewhat despise it” relationship i have going on with Secret World on an infrequent basis

    If there’s an epitome of a game, that would have been so much more enjoyable without the -gladly- dying industry obsession, that everything is better as a MMO, then it would be this one.

    Incredibly interesting setting, for MMO standards decent characters and dialogue, but as soon as the fighting starts, it all falls apart.

    And i’m not just talking about wonky animations, mob clusters and by-the-numbers cooldown combat.

    The Skill Wheel may sound good on paper, but when every other tooltip vomits a torrent of miniscule percentage increases, i won’t call that interesting design.

    “Deal X damage now and Y damage over Z seconds. If the foe has debuff 3 on it, then the DoT increases for F percents and U seconds”

    And if 3 of those collide with a bunch of passive skills, which almost all do similar things in variable degrees, have fun with your oh so deep and meaningful character building.
    Especially Blood Magic was a big offender, but that was a strong pattern throughout the different sub-classes.
    One of the few things that Guild Wars 2 (among others) did right, was giving classes plenty of *unique* skills and trait combinations, that excite me even without having to resort to my calculator beforehand.

    Give me something, that makes me invisible. Give me something, that makes a clone of myself, let me summon enviromental obstacles or change the way the fight works.

    Just stat buffs/debuffs feels old and quite a bit lazy.

    Hmmm, sad, i definitely did not want to get swept away in a bitter rant, but i really wanted to like this game.
    But when the time between dialogues made me sigh rather than anticipate the next combat (which is 80% of a MMO, let’s be honest), then why even bother?

    Oh, and *don’t* get me started on crafting :-D.

  24. tumbleworld says:

    I was so sad about The Secret World. It’s a wonderful idea, totally screwed over by MMO rubbish (and some very eccentric level design in the late levels). Such a shame. I still think they should hack the resources into a single-player RPG. I’d buy the hell out of that.

    • TCO_TSW says:

      They really don’t have the resources to make any type of other game right now. :( TSW is as good as it’s gonna get. I do think it is still a great game. ;)

    • elsunga says:

      May I ask what was that “eccentric level design” please?

      And my note about “MMO rubish”. Different people, different tastes, but imho there is no other MMO which is so single player friendly as TSW. You can solo all the story and majority of all stuff. You do not need do any group content to get gear, everything you need to finish storyline is obtainable from solo content.

      Someone mentioned “grind”. Another myth. If you don’t want do nightmare group content you do not need grind anything. Gear/experience progress is tuned very well, so when you nearly finish one zone you can move to next one. There were some complains about new stuff from new zone, but after last update in Issue 11 the problem was resolved (and I personally think most of the Tokyo problem was more about completionist psychology of some players than gameplay).

      And about TSW combat. This is purely subjective, but for me it is far the best combat system in any MMO. With no class limitations and its builder/consumer system, you do not need map million keys and be piano virtuoso. You do not have to click mindlessly one or two keys with OP ability to burn everything around you. You have “just” 2 sets of 5 abilities you choose and the infinite numbers of possibilities how to combine them.


        Look, I hate MMO’s, so I tried rushing to the place where I’d get the next big story thing and was killed by the monsters in the way, and even if I’d gotten there I’d have to kill monsters I couldn’t kill. It doesn’t matter if objectively speaking the power levelling curve is sound, for me any combat at all is a grind because I don’t want to do any of it.

        • mikeimusprime says:

          Do you do the same thing in Single Player RPGs? Because there are plenty of those that require doing side-quests whch require fighting to make sure you can tackle the harder enemies later on.

          If not, why would you do the same in an MMO? You can level up easily just by doing some non-story quests in TSW, more than a few of which don’t require any combat.

          • AXAXAXAS MLO II: MLO HARDER says:

            If a single player RPG’s combat consisted of running in circles around monsters while waiting for one of the three skills my low-level character has to fill up so I can mindlessly use it, I’d stop playing it as well.

  25. TCO_TSW says:

    Also to give another perspective, what I feel is much closer to what Adam Smith wrote about the game here: link to rockpapershotgun.com ;)

  26. elsunga says:

    btw there is promo action running right now. I have 1 trial key for free 30 days. You do not need pay anything. Use key, download it for free and play for one month. If anybody interested mail me labtekwon at seznam dot cz

    First come, first served.

  27. Nordavind says:

    ‘Have you played The Secret World?’ the title asks. In case you haven’t, here is a special (one time, use before January 15th) 30-day free trial key (they are usually just 3 days): UFFAHG8CQY8GHPKU

    And yes, it is labelled as an MMORPG, but to be honest, it can be just about anything you want it to be. I played it end to end solo. All I can solo, I do solo. I even solo some group content, because I can. However, I also PvP and do all of it’s endgame, just because it’s there.

  28. Shaz says:

    Those stealth missions can be brutal, but they got a LOT easier for me once I learned The Glory of Flashbangs.

    Contrary to what one would typically think the name implies, flashbangs are stealthy little devices which simply blind NPCs to your presence for a short time without their ever realizing anything happened. Suddenly, I could do some of the more aggravating stealth missions. Woohoo!

  29. YoungSeal says:

    In terms of population, I’m logged in right now to do the holiday content (They add something new ever year at Christmas and Halloween and they do great event stuff) and there are loads of people running around in the main Faction Hub ie London.

    Its not a huge pop but there are loads of people playing if you want to find groups.

  30. Sivart13 says:

    I played through all the TSW story content at launch, and also recently played through three stories in SWTOR up to level 55.

    SWTOR, which has hundreds of its own problems, really accentuates how terrible TSW is. SWTOR has much better combat, and (for me) a more engaging story — you get to actually reply to the questgivers as they blather on!

    Really though, no one should be playing either of these games. Even though I said SWTOR has *better* combat, it’s still MMO combat: endless groups of health-sink mobs designed to make you repeat the same rotation of actions over, and over, and over, and over

  31. tomimt says:

    I’ve been wondering it from time to time, in this time of MMO’s with plotlines and all, how feasible it would be to start converting older MMO’s with faded player base into single player games. There’s some pretty decent MMORPG’s out there with a lot content, which have been pretty much left hangin because the players have gone to other games, so if the need for MMO components was reduced and the game mechanics altered so, that it would make a better single player game and give the game some sort of new lease in life.

    That all would propably depend on how deep the MMO elements are rooted in the code and how difficult it wold be to make the game more single player friendly, but I do think there could be some money to be done in that.

  32. Rizlar says:

    TSW is really great. Been playing through the game on and off since about last christmas, enjoying the amazing story and slowly advancing through all the combat, mostly solo.

    The combat systems are a interesting issue – the ability to experiment with the hundreds of skills and the necessity of understanding how the different skills interact and empower each other is really interesting. It’s like all the theorycrafting and optimising that goes on in trad MMOs made into a full fledged feature. You really need to engage with the underlying systems or you will get your arse kicked. But then the flip side of this is, because you need to refine a build in order to get anywhere with the combat, you basically just end up using the same rotation of skills all the time – the expression of all these interesting systems in terms of actual combat is just spamming the same keys in the right order for the whole game. And there is so much combat to get through, and it’s not particularly easy, it seems pretty unforgiving of experimentation.

    Not sure if just making xp gain a lot faster (letting you invest in different skills more easily) would solve the problem. Maybe I just need to plan ahead a bit and invest many levels of xp in the framework for a new build. But that is still a prohibitive amount of effort for the sake of just trying something slightly different. And I would probably still get my arse kicked.

    Great game though – the setting is amazing, characters and narratives running through the world are brilliant and the investigation missions are really something special (but bloody difficult).

    • malkav11 says:

      As you get into nightmare missions you do need to shake things up at least a bit depending on what you’re fighting. For example, nightmare ghosts will only take half damage unless you have a Weaken effect on them (I think it’s Weaken, anyway). Other enemies might be very resistant to Afflictions (vampires, say), etc.

      And my tendency lately has been to only play on bonus AP weekends, where you don’t get extra experience but you do get twice the reward from it. Then I use my lifetime sub bonus points to snag a timed AP boost, and proceed to earn triple AP all weekend. That accelerates expanding one’s options nicely. But even sticking with just the regular weekend bonus would make a big difference.

  33. Premium User Badge

    Ninja Dodo says:

    I have similar feelings about this game: I like the world and atmosphere a lot, and what I’ve seen of the story, but all the things I don’t like about it are the things that make it an MMO.

    Players bunny-hopping around and standing on cars is a bit silly, but not the end of the world, and I’m not the biggest fan of combat via hotkey-based cooldown powers but the thing that actually really bothers me is the respawning. Nothing ever actually changes or has any lasting effect on anything…

    I’ll fight a boss creature, narrowly defeat it, then as I’m carefully looking through some of the documents it dropped, as I’m still standing there, the damn thing respawns right in front of me and I have to fight it again! It just feels so fake.

    Another time I was given a quest by the local pastor to investigate some runes that marked his church, which seemed to be protecting it from undead invaders somehow. Upon closer inspection they turned out to indeed be some form of warding spell. I took it upon myself to apply these same symbols to the fence around the cemetery, instantly purging the entire enclosure of the undead. “Huh, that was really neat,” I thought, “Finally I can stroll through this area in peace.” Five seconds later, the quest resets and the cemetery is once again crawling with zombies. FFS.

    I still like it enough that I’m going to go back and play the rest of the story and investigations but I have come to the conclusion that I really don’t like traditional MMOs at all.

    Side note: After listening to Danielle Riendeau’s musings on cybahpunk copkillahs on the Idle Thumbs cast I was pleasantly surprised at the (to my ears) fairly accurate New England accents.

    Nice attention to detail.

  34. Kala says:

    “Somewhere inside The Secret World is a splendid single-player RPG.”

    Yes, this.

    That was almost exactly my response to it.

    (Though many people do seem to play MMOs as single player games anyway – pursuing their individual objectives in a collective world, trying to have as little interaction as possible with others, lest it distract from their own goals, unless it’s to help with a specific goal, and then once that goal is achieved run off in the opposite direction. It bemuses me, slightly. I know more than one people who set up WoW so they can run more than one character at the same time, essentially playing with themselves so they don’t *have* to interact with the plebians to get the loots. Surely there’s something gone wrong here if you’re going out of your way to play a multiplayer game single player…?)

    Anyways. Back onto Secret World. There’s things I thought were a bit different? Some innovations? But they would work much better in a single player setting. Something about MMOs seems to encourage a kind of…fast paced-grindiness. Rush to one quest to another, level up. And I don’t think that’s about player preference; I think you’re encouraged into that style of play by what the game provides; funnelled through by it’s framework. (Despite all my rage, I am still just a rat in a cage /emo)

    So while I *liked* all this riddle solving stuff, and I *enjoyed* the setting, it all seemed like it would work better, more smoothly, in a single player setting where you would have time to treat with the narrative properly, more intimately, one to one.

    (which sounds like I want to have sex with it :/)

    Because the bits that make it intriguing do not mesh at all smoothly with the aspects that make it typical.
    Which is a shame.

  35. ycngha says:

    This game is just plain awful. I can’t remember the last time a game actually put me in a horrible mood and inspired quit after quit. How can Funcom work so hard on a game that could so easily be fantastic and be so stupid about the simplest thing — CONTROLLING YOUR CHARACTER. If you’re going to give this game a try, I hope your pinky-finger is muscular because at default the game expects you to WASD + use the top row numbers + the mouse for combat simultaneously. Looking at the keyboard I don’t even know where Funcom expects me to put my hand to cover all those keys at the same time. Try mashing the 1 with your pinky while your middle finger is on the W. You could re-map it. Okay, where? Not the mouse, of course, because reasons. Yes, supar double plus advanced players r awesome at using every key on the keyboard simultaneously or have a 26 button Razer mouse. I am sadly a mere mortal. I actually hate Funcom now. How is that possible? I don’t give a crap about game companies. I actually legitimately hate Funcom.

  36. vexedforest says:

    Maybe an MMO player should have been the one to, you know, TALK ABOUT AN MMO!

    I don’t mean to offend, but it just seems silly.

  37. TH3_INF4MOUS_DC says:

    I honestly just regret buying it, I thought it was going to be so much more, and it really just seemed like more along the lines of a let down.