So, I've been playing this new MMORPG call The Secret world. I know, I know, I can already here the collective groans of "oh great, yet another WoW ripoff. All these MMO's are all the same, cookie cutter, stale game play."
Well, I'm here to tell you Funcom actually did a really good job breaking the mould, and here's why:
The first, and in my opinion greatest difference is the player advancement. There is no set linear advancement like traditional MMO's. There is no levels, and you can't "grind" your way to success. All the advancement is more of a lateral advancement. You can grow your character's skill set in may different directions, but the skills don't necessarily get better, just more varied. The deciding factor of your success depends much more on proper skill selection, and knowing how to use them, then on shear force. Combat is much more about strategy, movement, positioning, and timing, then any other MMO I've played.
Essentially, to build up you character, you earn Anima Points (AP) and skill points (SP) by questing and killing stuff, much like any MMO. The difference is, these points are essentially limitless, as there are no levels, there are no caps. You then spend those points to buy abilities and such. You could could in theory get every skill in the game if you play long enough. There's no need to make an alt. The key here is, you can only used 7 active abilities at a time, and 7 passive ones, so choose wisely. There are 3 ability categories, each with 3 sub-categories. Guns, melee, and magic. Under guns you have pistols, shotguns, and assault rifles. Under melee, you have swords claws and hammers. Under magic you have chaos, blood, and elemental. Use them to make whatever the hell kind of character you wish.
Questing has also gotten a huge face lift. The quests are dividing into types of quests. Story line, main, dungeon, and side quests. Story line quests are the over all story of the area you are playing in, it's a huge quest usually with many stages, the first one has 18 stages. Dungeon quests are simply quests involving a dungeon, you can only have one of these are a time. Side quests are usually fairly simple tasks with only a few steps, fetch, kill, investigate, that sort of thing, you can have 3 at once.
Main quests are really the bread and butter of the game. They are usually quite a bit more involved, and add a lots back story and color to the areas. There are several types of main quests. Standard ones are usually straight forward but riddled with story telling and character interaction. There is tons of detail put into these quests. There is also stealth quests, usually leading to solo instances where you have to find a way to sneak past defenses, requires a bit of problem solving. The finally type of quest is called an investigation type. This is where shit gets real! These quests give you virtually nothing to go on, no map markings or hints, and often you need to look outside the game to solve them. There is one quest that has you translating latin, researching famous painters, looking up verses in the bible, and cracking codes. All of this is not in game, I actually had to use google translate, and find the bible verse online. These really make you think outside the box, and some are very complex. No hand holding here kids.
Over all, I really think this a fresh take on the genre, and I'm having a blast playing it. However, this game with never make it big, for several reasons. First off, it's a very adult game. It's most defiantly earned it's "M" rating. Gore, violence, language, sex, it's got it all! I think it's great, but that really hurts it's mass market appeal. Secondly is the difficulty, it's absolutely, unforgivingly, brutal. The chat is just riddled with people who have migrated over from other MMO's constantly bitching about not understanding this quest or that thing. People claiming things are broken because they couldn't figure it out in 10 seconds or less. It's not for the faint of heart, but if you are looking for something to challenge your brain, with a rich, moody horror story like atmosphere, then you will love this.
Just beware of the black house. I stumbled upon it while I was wandering around. I tried to walk in the front door, but a force threw me back out. I decided to try the back door, I got in, but the wall were bleeding, there was voices whispering horrible things in my head, my vision got blurry, and I started to loose health. I barely stumbled back out with my life.
Expect to find that, and thousand more equally creepy yet delightful environments in this game.
I give this game, 4.5 vile, screaming, hellspawned, monsters from beyond out of 5.