in Video Games

Why I’m In Love With “The Secret World”

the secretworld

In which Christine offers up some in-depth fangirling about her latest obsession

The Secret World is a recently released MMORPG (Massively Multiplayer Online Roleplaying Game), coming from veteran online gaming company Funcom and game director Ragnar Tørnquist. Though initially it required a monthly subscription, it has since changed to a buy-to-play model (that is reportedly doing very well).

The game is set in modern-day earth and, after creating a character, you are able to choose from three secret societies to join as a member: the shrewd and power-hungry Illuminati, the more traditional Templars, or the chaotic and mysterious Dragons. You are then thrown into the secret war between the three sects – and into the combined fight to stop the oncoming apocalypse that threatens to destroy Earth as we know it.

It’s a world where everything you’ve ever been told, every urban legend, scary story, or ancient mythological tale, is actually real. And seven months after its release, I’m still addicted and crazy in love. Why, you ask?

1. Storyline and Atmosphere

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The modern day setting was what drew me in from the get-go. It’s unconventional to see an MMO set on Earth instead of a made-up fantasy land with made-up races (not that there’s anything wrong with this, but there’s only so many elves, animal-human hybrids and dwarves that I can take). In this game, everyone is human – save for the monsters you battle – and there are easily recognizable locations like Egypt, New York, London, and Seoul.

I’m also a huge sucker for horror and conspiracies; both of these things are tied not only into the overarching storyline, but into the mini-missions as well. The idea that every tall tale we’ve been told and every monster we’ve been terrified of not only exists, but that people and organizations in power are conspiring to keep it a secret, is creatively done. The modern-day setting also adds a level of realism that is highlighted by cute little pop culture references. This game’s consistently great writing is what brings me back time and time again.

2. Colorful Characters

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Well written and unique characters are integral to a good storyline, and The Secret World has that in spades. The character I usually play as is a member of the Illuminati. Her boss, Kristen Geary, is hilarious and my favorite Non-Player Character by far, because she offers great snippets of dialogue like, “I fucking love old-school hip-hop, don’t you?” and, “So work for [the Illuminati], and let us work for you, because we’re the conspiracy that’s bringing sexy back. Seriously, have you seen the other guys’ uniforms?

There’s also a sweet small-town cop with daddy issues, a gay archeaologist dream team couple, a priest who trolls online forums trying to join secret societies, a psychopathic Swedish plastic surgeon who experiments with dead bodies (and your face), and more. These are just the background mission-giving characters. They’re well rounded, interesting, memorable, and they add a lot to the game’s atmosphere. The voice acting and dialogue also makes watching cutscenes a treat.

3. Gameplay

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The game is classless and level-less, meaning you can do whatever the hell you want with your character’s fighting style. It’s the ultimate in character customization. Want to have a hammer-swinging warrior monk who can switch to ranged weapons to snipe a far away enemy and then heal yourself and your party with a little magic? Go for it. You aren’t limited by the typical class-based systems that other MMOs have, where if you choose, say, the mage class, you can only fight with spells or a staff and your armor is limited to robes and light clothing.

The way The Secret World handles this feels a lot more organic and freeing, especially in light of the storyline. If I’m an immortal agent, why shouldn’t I be able to use every weapon at my disposal? Why should I only be limited to carrying around a sword when I can just as easily pick up a shotgun to do my monster-killing? Oh, that’s right, in The Secret World, I’m not. Ha!

Figuring out the build system can get a little confusing at first, but once you get used to creating your own personal “class” and style of play, it’s pretty fun.

4. Badass Creepy Monsters

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Look at that picture. Look at it. That is a burlap sacked undead scarecrow trying to kill me with a ceramic doll. Who even comes up with these things? (Because I am in love with you, whoever you are.) This one isn’t even a boss monster, just some random relatively low-level sucker wandering around farms and fields waiting for prey like me to show up.

As stated before, I am a sucker for horror, especially creative horror, and with the many different monsters in this game it’s done extremely well. I can’t count how many times I’ve caught myself muttering “Nononono, oh god you are so freaky, get away from me!” when fighting some random ass creature.

5. Investigation Missions

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I am really really bad at puzzles. I’m impatient and easily frustrated and I hate not being able to figure things out within the first five minutes of trying because it makes me feel stupid. That said, the investigation missions in The Secret World are the best things ever. It’s a nice change from the usual “go here, collect X amount of X item, go there, kill Y amount of Y monsters” type of missions in MMOs. And yes, I do cheat a lot, because like I said I am extremely impatient. But somehow that makes it even better, because the few times I actually figure out an investigation mission on my own, the sense of satisfaction I get from it is practically a rush.

6. Shopping

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Clothes are pretty. Shopping for clothes, even virtual ones, is fun. And The Secret World offers a lot of customization options when it comes to clothing, which makes experimenting with different styles almost as much of a blast as playing the game.

Besides fashion, you can also buy various pets to traipse around the virtual world with (and it might just be me who feels this way, but the creepier missions feel a lot less horrifying somehow when you have a pixelated dog with you). You can also easily customize your character’s weapons of choice to go with whatever theme you choose or look you want to give off. My personal favorite is a baseball bat with nails sticking out of it, because that’s the kind of hard-ass apocalyptic no-nonsense attitude I wish I could embody.

Check out the game trailer below:

And the kicker is that there’s new content every month in the form of “Issues.” This means more story, more characters, more missions, more shopping. More more more, all for the price of one box or digital copy. All in all, this is an MMO more people should try out, because I know I’m definitely sticking with this one for the long run.

Photos: Martin Bruusgaard, Christer Sveen