Well, after a series of horrendous financial woes including massive layoffs, The Secret World has gone free to play. While I played, I rather enjoyed the game…but not enough to continue my subscription after a few months. The gameplay was fun, but I was having trouble making it into a guild. Partly, the society of the game wasn’t quite hammering itself out at that point. It was all exploration, questing. And, to be honest, it was a hell of a lot of fun. There wasn’t a raid culture where I was inducted into a cabal of tightly-knit people like on World of Warcraft, so I didn’t end up roped into a cabal of other players wherein I was an essential cog of a larger machine. I am constantly getting suckered int playing a healer, and I didn’t in The Secret World. It seemed like a more casual MMO experience, and that’s what I enjoyed about it. The skill system was novel and didn’t really restrict me as a player- I could heal and DPS with a very minimal set of skills, and didn’t pigeonhole me as any particular class.
There wasn’t that factionalism to really bind us together like there was in other games; no screams of ‘Horde for life!’, reppin’ for Orgimmar and Undercity. The factions largely felt…well, cosmetic. I hate to compare it to WoW once again, but part of the reason why factions flourished was the world PVP aspect. It could be incredibly frustrating to get ganked while questing, but it also made players of a given faction much more likely to protect one another, to take pride in your colours. Even walking down the street today, wearing a Horde T-shirt gets me nods of respect or at least recognition. It makes it easy to strike up conversations with people.
I think my favorite part of the game was the lore and story quests. The lore in particular was fantastically written, the world settings incredible, and the idea behind the setting itself fantastic. I walked around for hours and hours looking for lore and really rather enjoyed it. That was the game’s greatest strength. There were plenty of references to everything from Stephen King to HP Lovecraft and back again. The quests were a lot of fun, and the emphasis on puzzles and problem solving was a nice change of pace. The skill wheel made things easy while being deep, and it was fun not to be restricted by class. I could swap in one skill set and be a healer when needed, and swap in another to DPS or quest. This also required the odd equipment change, but that wasn’t as big of a deal as I originally thought.
The community of The Secret World is also wonderful, by and large. Not only is it helpful and polite, it’s occasionally self policing. Since there’s an emphasis on problem-solving skills, the community frowns upon asking for answers (and even more so about giving them) on certain channels. Racism, homophobia, and other unpleasantness are rapidly reported and shouted down. Players are, by and large, extremely helpful to one another to boot. I haven’t ventured into a roleplaying server yet, but by and large everyone seems to be wired tight and willing to both teach and learn.
So why did I end up quitting? Paying fifteen dollars per month to basically play by myself was just sort of…well, baffling. I was playing what essentially amounted to a single player game with a tax, and because I was taxed, I felt to compelled to play constantly. That really killed the casual feeling of the game, which made me enjoy it less and less until I figured I was better off saving the money. It’s not a bad game by any means, but I felt a touch pressed to play even when I didn’t want to. Why am I giving it another chance now? Well, why not? There will most likely be a much bigger pool of players, and since I’ve quit, there’s been plenty of content added. So why not give it another shot?