The Secret World relaunching F2P as Secret World Legends

Real-ish-world supernatural MMORPG The Secret World will relaunch reworked and free-to-play as Secret World Legends [official site] this spring, developers Funcom announced today. It’ll look prettier, fight better, and rework quest flow, all of which sounds great. The Secret World is a wonderful game at heart, with a weird and well-written world I hugely enjoyed getting to know and some cracking puzzles, but it has suffered from its MMORPG baggage. Funcom aren’t even calling Legends an MMO – it’s “a shared-world action RPG”. TSW dropped subscription fees years back but Legends will be properly free-to-play, with all content free to everyone too.

Secret World Legends is a full relaunch, starting everyone fresh with new characters and only the zones, scenarios, and dungeons from its initial launch. Then, over weeks and months, Funcom will start rolling out everything and everywhere else now in The Secret World. They say Legends also “has updates befitting a modern-day action RPG.”

“This includes a redesigned combat system to make action feel more natural, more intuitive systems to interact with, enhanced visuals, and an improved flow of the quests, as well as the structure of the early game for new players.”

I’m interested to hear more about that combat. I really dig designing builds in The Secret World, picking seven active and seven passive (or eight, later) from a pool of squillions to create and exploit synergies, but the actual combat suffered from fitting that into an MMORPG numbertapping framework. If they can make action more like an action game, that’d be grand.

The free-to-play model sounds fairly generous on paper. All content will be free, unlike The Secret World where the ‘Issue’ add-ons cost extra. Legends will have microtransactions, of course, though Funcom say “You will be able to earn everything in the game without spending money.” They’ll sell things like extra character slots, extra inventory space, and vanity items. Optional subscriptions will bring the usual perks. Players will only have one character slot but Secret World lets players effectively switch class and even (sorta) level at will, as well as replay most quests, so the restriction is less punishing than it would be in other MMOs shared-world RPGs (its three factions do have some different quests and flavour, mind).

Funcom will keep The Secret World’s servers running for players who want the old game and their old characters. I’d guess their focus for the future will be on Legends, though. Lifetime subscriptions will carry over to Legends, as can virtuacash and “some” vanity items. I hope I get to keep my stylin’ white cowboy threads.

If you’re new to this whole ‘Secret World’ thing, the basics are: monsters, ghosts, ghoulies, and cosmic horrors are real and kept under wraps by feuding secret societies. After accidentally eating a bee in your sleep, you gain superpowers and join in the supernatural scrap. So off you go, romping around New England, Transylvania, Egypt, and other myth-laden places, duffing up monsters and following a central story mission. A lot of it works like a singleplayer RPG with some good writing and great voice work (Jeffrey Combs!), and I still sorta wish it were one. Even quests simply about killing X monsters can sometimes be interesting, and there’s some real fun in the investigative missions which can involve real-world research, even if Googling these days turns up quest walkthroughs before hints.

For more, check out Wot Adam Thought of The Secret World in 2012 and Cobbo’s return in 2015 following an overhaul of the solo experience.

I’m quite keen to see how much Legends changes and might return myself. I’ve only played in the Dragon faction and I hear the Illuminati have a great tone.


  1. aircool says:

    I remember buying this a year or so ago, but was instantly put off by all the faffing around of rebinding keys, nameplate settings and all the other UI crap that goes with every MMO.

    I’ve done it a ton of times before in previous MMO’s, so maybe that’s why I just couldn’t be arsed to do it all again.

    It did look promising as I was after something different from the usual D&D fantasy, but looking back, I think I was just bored with the standard MMO formula. It’s certainly the case now.

    • jeremyalexander says:

      I know exactly what you mean. My biggest problem with MMORPG’s aside from the click and watch combat systems is the horrible UI’s. Just let me play it like any other first person combat game and turn off whatever Hud elements I want.

  2. Snowskeeper says:

    It’s worth mentioning that they seem to be marketing it as a single-player game with some multiplayer elements; that’s what they mean when they say “shared world RPG.” Whether that actually means anything is unclear, but if it does, it’d explain how they were able to make combat ‘more natural.’

  3. jeremyalexander says:

    This kind of garbage drives me insane. They have obviously been working on this for some time and yet they kept the old game up for sale. I put off buying this game for a long time and finally caved and dropped some serious coin on it and less than a month later they announce a FTP conversion that had to be years in the works. UGH, at least I don’t have to pay any more, but man that’s harsh. And I chose it over saving my money for things like Prey or Dishonored 2.

    • Snowskeeper says:

      Why does it have to have been “years in the works?”

      • Asurmen says:

        Because you can’t redesign a game at the drop of a hat?

        • Snowskeeper says:

          This isn’t a total redesign? Combat and progression are being changed, as well as the payment model. They’ve been working on that for a month or so thus far, and are only ready now to announce the change. It won’t be implemented for a while yet. You’re treating this like they’ve already launched it.

          • MisterFurious says:

            You must not know much about game design or how businesses and corporations work. Nothing is done quickly. Everything has to be put to the committee and approved and that takes a long time. It wasn’t like some guy just said, “hey, let’s go Free To Play” and everyone said “OK” and then a few weeks later it’s done. They’ve probably been planning this for over a year at the very least.

          • Snowskeeper says:

            No, I know exactly how they work. They work how you say they do.

            But, as I have already said, it is not done. The new version isn’t even in beta yet. This is them announcing that the change is going to happen.

          • Asurmen says:

            I’m not at all, but you don’t announce something of this scale without having already produced something worthwhile.

            Improving combat, visuals and quest progression is pretty close to a redesign. As combat will be different, every monster and quest will need looking at. Every texture and animation needs a pass.

            Simple fix would be give owners of Secret World something in Legends as a thank you.

          • Snowskeeper says:

            They’re already planning to do that.

    • Cederic says:

      Then celebrate. You get two games for the price of one.
      The existing game remains and continues to be playable. There’s also now a shiny new game you can play too.


  4. Kefren says:

    I’d be more interested if it was a pure offline single-player game. Since it is now F2P you’d think they’d hack off a version like that which could be sold for outright money on GOG. Then when they eventually shut it down, at least they’d still have something for sale to people who might have played it but were not interested in MMOs and online games.

  5. Kem0sabe says:

    If it’s still running on the original shit engine they cobbled together, then no way I’m touching this.

    The secret world ran terribly on computers way above its recommended specs, lag, poor framerate, outdated visuals. They should have just relaunched on a modern engine.

  6. somnolentsurfer says:

    Well, I’m intrigued.

    The Secret World as a single player RPG would be just what I’ve always wanted. I’ve always loved the setting and premise, but every time I try to play it I end up worn out by the horrible, horrible grind or trying to solo anything.

    Thing is, free to play games tend to rely on tedious grind for the monetisation engine, so I don’t have a load of faith they’re going to strip that element out. If they’ve reworked the combat enough that the repetitive kills are actually fun, that would be a good start though. And enough to make the grind about repetitive kills, not repeatedly dying.

    • tomimt says:

      Yeah, when I tried the Secret World I was constantly thinking how nice of a single player game this would be, as it was so plot heavy. The whole MMO aesthetic ruined it when you were focusing on a quest and the enemies get on spawning so that other players could jump on the same mission or some other that just happened to be on a vicinity. And for the kicker it had pretty bad MMO design to begin with.

      It should have always been a single player game.

      • April March says:

        Thirded. It was an interesting game trapped to bizarre run-around-dudes-spamming-action-bar MMO combat. I’d like it better if there was no combat, mind, but something nice and punchy would fit the bill.

        • Vast_Girth says:

          Fourthed. It could have been an awesome single player RPG. I would have snapped it up.

          I loved the premise, but as soon as i came to essentiallly a corridor filled with standard MMO bunches of respawning monsters, any interest just shrivelled away.

          If the combat is improved and its more single player friendly, i may well be tempted to give it ago.

  7. Rizlar says:

    Guess it’s time to retire old Madge and her wardrobe of leather jackets and relocate from Seoul to New York. Can anyone else hear that buzzing noise?

    Unexpectedly nice news!

    • Snowskeeper says:

      Cosmetic gear is going to be transferred over, if that helps.

      Speaking of being the best faction, would anyone like to set up an RPS Illuminati Cabal, if Cabals are still a thing in the new Secret World order?

      • Rizlar says:

        None of them were bought with real money so it doesn’t matter.

        Speaking of leather jackets though, hopefully they introduce a load of new outfit options. There is a definite 90s/00s vibe in the old stuff with baggy cargo trousers etc. Always a risk with a contemporary setting, this stuff is so relatable and recognisable it almost immediately feels dated. But it’s also an amazing opportunity to update with new trends and blur that line between reality and fiction again.

        • somnolentsurfer says:

          From the little that I played, new stuff always seemed to be remarkably slow in coming. There’d basically be one new outfit a month, and that would be some kind of novelty item, not something you’d want for a serious character. Presumably it sells better. But it doesn’t leave me thinking there’ll be a ton of new stuff available at the launch of Legends.

        • Snowskeeper says:

          I do enjoy a bit of dissonance. My current character spends her time wandering around in a white business suit, a pair of round sunglasses and bright purple skull face-paint. That’s a fun option.

  8. Snargelfargen says:

    I enjoyed this a lot many years ago and then my computer melted. Always wanted to pick back up where I left off. Can anybody speak to if the start of the game has been streamlined any since release? I remember the starting areas being pretty time intensive.

    • Snowskeeper says:

      They’re not grindy, if that’s what you mean. Pretty much every quest–even the less interesting ones about escorting a guy who got caught in a bear trap or whatever–add to the lore in some way, either through the events of the quest itself or through the text messages from your handler (Geary’s text messages are amazing).

  9. mashkeyboardgetusername says:

    Might give that a look, see how the redesigned combat is. While theoretically the investigations were the focus of the game, I found the awful combat just made me give up. (Someone once said that you can judge an MMO’s combat by how long it is until you’re just skirting everything’s agro bubble as you run around. In The Secret World I was doing this on the first day or so.) It was a shame, I wanted to dive into the intriguing world they’d made, but bounced off. Hopefully this’ll fix that.

    • Premium User Badge

      Qazinsky says:

      Agree with you and everybody else that mentioned the boring combat. It’s somehow even more boring than regular MMO combat.

      • Vandelay says:

        Agreed. I have a low threshold for MMO combat. I haven’t played many, but Guild Wars was about 20 hours, The Old Republic was maybe 5 or 6. The Secret World was probably the same, maybe an hour or so less, but that was mainly because I put more effort in having spent money on it. As a free to play, I can’t imagine getting much more than the first quest or two.

        As a single player game, without any grind, conversations in the style of a Deus Ex and combat in the style of an action game rather than in the style of a game having compensate for lag this would be a great game. Unfortunately, I don’t see them making those kind of changes here and it will remain covered in its MMO origins. Making the changes to change it into something great would require a complete scrapping of everything from the engine up.

        • Morte66 says:

          This is so true.

          And what’s more, it’s so glaringly obvious that I remember many people saying it before the game came out.

          You’ve got to wonder how professional businesses fail so badly.

    • Ragnar says:

      Or how long before your abilities overflow onto a second hotbar.

  10. brucethemoose says:

    SWTOR did something similar, but that cancerous MMO hotbar combat never really went away.

    So, as much as I want to try this, I’ll stay away unless there’s evidence that the combat is really, really good.

  11. Ragnar says:

    This re-launch with a focus on minimizing the annoying MMO aspects sounds great. I always felt, like with SWTOR, that it would make for a much better single / co-op multiplayer game than an MMO.

    I do hope they have something for the folks that already bought the game, though. I just bought three copies of the game to play with family, never got a chance to actually play it, and there doesn’t seem any point to doing so now.

  12. Sin Vega says:

    Whatever they do, this game will never find peace as long as it remains an MMO, and not the single player RPG it obviously should have been.

    • BooleanBob says:

      I agree, but could they ever have found the funding to make that game?

      It’s a shame, this. I quickly became so tired of the combat that I was soon unable to enjoy anything else about it. The story content, though often pretty great, provided no respite because in the background of every conversation loomed the spectre of drudgery to which I’d inevitably have to return.

      The other problem was that despite putting a LOT of effort into slathering everything in three coats of cool, urbane hip – in some cases, even succeeding – the mood was consistently punctured one thing they couldn’t control: the players. Who’d have thought an assortment of gamers would be so singularly to put together one presentable outfit between them.. (not that I was any better myself.)

      • Sin Vega says:

        Unfortunately it would probably be impossible even with a vast pile of money, as the crappy parts (grind, lousy combat, other players, mmo everything) are just too heavily embedded in the design. Such a waste.

  13. Monggerel says:

    Tried the 10-day trial version. Was surprised at the game having actual story and writing in it, despite being an MMO and not SWToR (which was kinda hit-n-miss but it did try).
    Was thoroughly unsurprised by *everything else*.
    Try it, if only to fend off the yawning, cavernous maw of despair for another day or two.

  14. DEspresso says:

    Funcom will keep The Secret World’s servers running for players who want the old game and their old characters

    Addendum: Apparently the Steam-Version won’t work anymore.

    • Snowskeeper says:

      Addendum Addendum: if you have it installed, you’ll still be able to use it, and even if you don’t, you’ll still be able to use the CD key to download the client on their site.

  15. April March says:

    After accidentally eating a bee in your sleep, you gain superpowers and join in the supernatural scrap.

    I think it’s important to point out, to the benefit of people who haven’t played the game, that this description of the opening has much less of RPS traditional snark than one might at first imagine.

  16. mickiscoole says:

    This intrigues me. I bought a grandmaster account right when it started, and got to the last zone (Japan) when the combat got to me and I basically gave up for good.

    To get to that zone I basically copied another players build and just stuck with that.

    The story and characters were all excellent, and I echo the sentiment that a single player RPG would have been amazing for this.

    And for anyone who is considering starting the game because of this: Go Illuminati. Seriously the best choice of all of the factions.

  17. sneetch says:

    Good, so hoping the combat is better and that the incident areas are single player now: it kinda ruined any immersion you might have felt searching for that “clue” in the dark woods when other players constantly ran past you, running to exactly where the “clue” is.

  18. Uninteresting Curse File Implement says:

    The Secret World established some kind of record in how quickly I went from being hype to try a game, to uninstalling in disgust. All it took was trying the combat for a few minutes in the first dungeon. It appears, MMO combat is still not my cup of cocoa, and years haven’t changed that.

    • Ragnar says:

      From my experience, years only make it less tolerable.

      Every year I get older, less patient, more aware of – and concerned with – the quality of my limited gaming time. And every year I find MMO combat more distasteful.

      If MMOs ever want a cut of my gaming time, then they’re going up have to change, because I’m clearly not going to.

  19. Starhammer says:

    I really enjoyed many aspects of The Secret World. The genre is fairly unique in MMO gaming, and the progression system is closer to what I’ve wanted from such games than anything else I’ve played. I really hope this “New Progression System” isn’t just DevSpeak for “We’re gonna make it just like WoW! Just like they did with the Star Wars Galaxies NGE! Won’t that be super-wonderful?”

    Obviously, something isn’t working for them, or they wouldn’t change it. I’m hoping the new F2P version isn’t limited to being worth what I pay for though :(

    • Snowskeeper says:

      It’s even less like WoW now than it was originally.

      They’ve said their choices were “abandon the game” or “revamp the game to be viable.” Regular issue releases were not generating enough power to be worth the amount of effort put into the game.