TSW, I think I’m in love with you
Please tell me if you love me back. Check yes or no.
Okay, so I’ve made the rounds through the MMOs. In the last few months, I’ve played Wildstar, WoW, Firefall, Marvel Heroes, GW2, and SWTOR. Finally, I’ve looped back around to The Secret World. They just released their new membership with new and improved stuff.
The last time I quit TSW, it was because my computer would lock up to where I had to hard-reboot it about every 15 minutes.
The thing is, I still keep coming back. Despite the issues I have with it hardware-wise, I frickin’ love this game!
Now that I’ve returned, it seems that my computer is a lot less allergic to it now. It only hangs itself about every 2-3 hours now, which is perfectly fine by me. That is not only doable, but it also reminds me I need to get up and take a break!
I am playing an Illuminati alt, but I need to revisit my Templar main as well. He has yet to do chapter 9, so I’ve got a ways to go. My new alt is really fun though, so I’ll probably finish leveling him first. I just hit Egypt with him, which is one of my favorite places. Nothing like a few cultists and scorpions to make you miss the zombies and demon-possessed cannibals (wendigos)!
I wanted to talk today about some of my favorite things about TSW that I think make it my all-time favorite game (that’s right, I said it)!
The crème de la crème of quests, the Investigation missions in TSW are exactly what my mathematical, analytical mind wants from an MMO.
Imagine a scene in SWTOR, if you will, where an Imperial Agent hacks into a computer.
Right click the computer
Progress bar…do dee do…alright done, we’re in, and the quest moves on.
That same type of thing in TSW plays out like this:
Right click the computer
DOS prompt. Okay, it wants a password. I don’t know the password.
Type “hint” into the computer.
It says “her name.”
You look at the desk and see a photo of the guy whose computer you are hacking, his wife, and his dog. The back of the photo says “Me, Liv, and the dog.”
You type in “Liv,” and you hear the error sound.
You search the trash can and find a receipt for the veterinarian, and apparently the dog’s name is Sadie.
Success, you are in!
This is the kind of joy that awaits you in The Secret World. There are no hints in the quest tracker, it simply says “gather more information about so-and-so.” You have to think, reason, and try things. Sometimes you have to go to websites that Funcom has set up for the companies in the game, and sometimes you have to google obscure Latin phrases. The way it brings in outside knowledge is fantastic. If you know things about history or Latin or the Bible or Dracula or what-have-you, you might be called upon to use it!
The scenario above is not an actual scenario, by the way, though it is based on one in particular that I am thinking of. I didn’t want to spoil your fun by ruining one of the investigation missions. Which means you should do my effort justice by trying this game. Because seriously. So fun.
The characters in The Secret World are really quite superb. You as a character don’t speak, but the characters that give you quests are really well-voiced, they have interesting things to say, and they can turn a phrase and make you think more deeply than a philosophy book.
To just name a few of the fantastic personas, you have:
Nassir – wise-cracking desert soldier who has an unhealthy obsession with American action cinema like Die Hard. He’s also always dancing.
Kristen Geary – your boss in the Illuminati, speaks in memes and corporate office jargon. She might have killed a few people with duct tape to get her job.
Richard Sonnac – your boss in the Templars, smooth-talking, slightly full-of-himself, and menacing in a way that makes you like him.
Cucuvea – plant-woman, old as dirt, needs tech-support to help her with her “puter.” Reminds me of a female yoda. Probably just as powerful.
And my personal favorite:
Saïd – an ancient mummy, dressed in a white suit with a pair of shades, Oxford-trained, pretty sure he has time-traveled multiple times in his life. Hard-core business man, utterly charming, makes you kinda forget he’s been dead for 3000 years by catching you off guard with his witty repartee.
This is one of the best sets of characters in any game, period. And this isn’t even all of them. How about the girl who hunts vampires by doing research and always reading books, or the last of the cowboys, or the biker-turned-philosopher/zombie-killer/weapons-designer who gives you a mission called “Zen and the Art of Weapon Maintenance,” or the secret agent who is on her first day on the job (and she is stressed because, you know, zombies), or the junkyard mechanic who invented a weapon that runs on quantum mechanics and was mocked in elementary school because they thought he was stupid?
So. Very. Good.
The character building system
Say goodbye to levels. Instead, you have ability points and skill points that are given to you with every “ding” of your experience bar. You can spend them however you’d like, and you can follow preset “decks,” or you can make your own path, though the latter can get you killed if you break your character’s progression. That is the downside with choices is you can make bad choices.
That being said, the character customization system is fantastic, and I love the amount of synergy I can find and the level of depth my characters can have.
You can even plan around your teammates and make your skills super-synergize with each other, if you are into feeling awesome.
The character’s ability points (AP) are used in the wheel of skills that allow you to buy into the different weapons (9 total). You have to buy the entire inner section for a weapon before you can move into the outer section, and you combine two weapons, 7 active skills, and 7 passive skills to create your deck. The passive skills can also come from anywhere on the entire wheel, so you could theoretically have passives from weapons you aren’t even currently using.
The skill points (SP) go into leveling up your weapon passives (such as making pistol skills that hit have a 15% chance to do a second hit for 50% damage), as well as letting you equip better and better weapons. Gear other than weapons is independent of your appearance, and you instead have “talismans” that give you your stats.
Your appearance instead is completely cosmetic, and that is my next thing that I think is awesome.
Unlike many MMOs, you don’t wear battle armor, helmets, and giant weapons…well, unless you want to. You can wear a t-shirt, jeans, and a loose coat, or cowboy boots, a squirrel hat, and a tie-dye suit. You are basically immortal, so you can dress like it…whatever that means. There is a shop in London that you can peruse to find the perfect shoes, or you can complete your decks and earn outfits based on that archetype.
Achievements and the real-money transaction store also have some cool items, but there is a ton of customization that doesn’t require real cash. The important thing here, though, is that you can wear a Carmen Sandiego trenchcoat with a great helm.
Instead of levels, you go up the ranks in your faction. Each rank has a faction-specific title, and most of them have rewards, including faction clothing, faster sprints, the ability to use certain faction items, and of course, the faction missions that show up at ranks 3, 7, and 10.
The thing I like about ranks, aside from the additional clothing options, the titles, and the useful things like sprint and the items, is that ranks provide a sense of progression that is entirely disconnected from power level (well, almost). They don’t feel like levels, they feel like more trust in your organization.
Also, almost forgot, but you get a voicemail every time you gain a rank, which just adds that beautiful flavor to the seemingly boring process of “dinging.”
Have you played TSW before? What do you think about it? Is there anything in this article that can convince you to give it another go?