The gameplay is a little different from other MMORPG as it does not contain a traditional system of classes or levels to dictate how to progress through the game. Instead, as the character is gaining experience points, he/she will gain Ability Points (AP) and Skill Points (SP) that allows the player to buy abilities or skill levels for their equipment.
For each experience bar, the character gains 3 AP (one AP per third). Those AP are used to buy abilities in the Ability Wheel. The wheel is divided into categories depending on the type of weapon it is associated to :
- Ranged : Shotguns, Pistols, Assault Rifles.
- Melee : Blades, Hammers, Fists.
- Magic : Elementalism, Chaos, Blood Magic.
- Miscellaneous abilities are not tied to a weapon. They provide help in survival (Survivalism branch), threat reduction (Subversion branch) and threat generation (Turbulence branch).
Each branch of the wheel has a list of abilities (active and passive) that have to be bought in a predetermined order using AP. Passive abilities improve active abilities or have effects if certain conditions in combat are met (the enemy gets damage over time on a critical hit, for example). In order to buy abilities from branches in the outer part of the wheel, the 2 branches in the correspondent inner wheel have to be fully unlocked first (miscellaneous branches don't have requirements but are in the outer wheel). Abilities in the inner wheel cost significantly less AP (19 per branch) than abilities in the outer wheel (169 per branch). On top of that, the last ability in each branch is always an Elite ability, meaning it is more powerful than most other abilities.
Only 14 abilities can equipped at once (7 active and 7 passive) and only 2 of those can be Elite (1 active and 1 passive). The 14 abilities equipped are called a Deck and the game has a number of pre-built decks, corresponding to different roles, to guide the player when choosing which type of character they want to play. Abilities in the deck are changeable at any time, except in combat.
To be able to use an ability, the corresponding weapon must be equipped. The weapon abilities build or use weapon resources and each type of resource is generated and consumed differently in a fight depending on the type of weapon used :
- Ranged weapons : They build up on each enemy and start at 0/5. They are all consumed at the same time.
- Melee weapons : They build up on the character and start at 5/5. They are all consumed at the same time.
- Magic weapons : They build up on the character and start at 0/5. A different amount of resources is consumed depending on the ability used. Blood magic can use the character's health instead of resources.
Two different weapons can be equipped at the same time and most abilities will build weapon resources for both weapons.
Each experience bar will give the character 1 SP. SP are used to buy skills, which allows the use of higher level equipment and give passive effects, called Skill Feats, depending on the currently equipped weapons. This is the game's way to track the characters' "level" progression : as their weapon skill gets higher, they will hit higher level enemies more consistently. The skill level is determined by the highest level skill (if the character has Pistol damage level 5 and Pistol support level 2, their Pistol skill level is 5).
All weapons have 2 skills associated with them (damage and either survivability, healing or support), equipment skills only have 1. Skills have different Skill Feats depending on the weapon (Elemental damage has not the same Skill Feat as Chaos damage). Both Skill Feats of a weapon will work as long as the weapon is equipped.
List of Skill Feats :
- Fist - Damage : Increases the damage and healing done by Savage Sweep and Feral Regrowth. / Healing : Fist healing abilities increase the target's healing received from all sources.
- Blade - Damage : The enemy takes more damage every other hit of blade abilities. / Survivability : Whenever an enemy attack glances, the character regains health.
- Hammer - Damage : Every sixth attack with hammer abilities will deal more damage. / Survivability : Blocking reduces the damage taken.
- Pistol - Damage : Pistol abilities have a chance to deal an additional hit. / Support : Drone abilities heal the defensive target.
- Shotgun - Damage : Shotgun abilities deal more damage the closer the character is to the enemy. / Support : Turret abilities reduce the damage taken by the defensive target.
- Assault Rifle - Damage : Assault Rifle abilities apply a charge to the enemy that detonates after a few seconds. / Healing : Assault Rifle leech effects are more powerful and last longer.
- Elemental - Damage : Elemental abilities have a chance to deal damage around the enemy. / Support : Elemental Manifestation abilities increase the damage dealt by the defensive target.
- Blood - Damage : When health is used as a weapon resource, blood abilities deal more damage. / Healing : When a Blood Barrier expires, the target of the barrier is healed.
- Chaos - Damage : Chaos abilities have a chance to deal more damage. / Survivability : Whenever the character evades an attack, the next attack against them will deal less damage.
- Talismans - Head : Increases magical protection. / Major : Increases maximum health. / Minor : Increases physical protection.
Stats and States
Characters have offensive, defensive and healing stats, determined by their equipment, abilities, skills and other effects.
- Offensive stats : Combat power (determined by attack rating and weapon power), critical chance and critical power, hit rating (reduces the chance of the enemy evading or glancing hits) and penetration chance.
- Defensive stats : Evade chance, physical and magical protection, defense rating (reduces the probability of critical hits and augments the chance of glancing hits) and block chance.
- Healing stats : Healing power (determined by healing rating and weapon power), critical chance and critical power.
Hits can be critical or glancing (deal more or less damage), penetrating or blocked (bypass of portion of the defense or deal less damage), or evaded (deal no damage). Some of these effects stack (a hit can be both critical and penetrating).
During combat, there is 4 different status effects, or states, the character or the enemy can be inflicted with. A lot of abilities abuse those states :
- Hindered : Rooted or snared. (Slows)
- Impaired : Stunned, knocked to the ground, or obstructed. (Stuns)
- Weakened : Debilitated, corrupted, or exposed. (Debuffs)
- Afflicted : Affected by damage over time effects. (DoTs)
Equipment and Physical Appearance
Each character can equip 2 weapons and 7 talismans : 1 head talisman, 3 major talismans (a finger, a neck and a wrist talisman) and 3 minor talismans (a luck, a waist and an occult talisman). The equipment's stats are determined by its Quality Level (QL) : the better the QL, the better the equipment, but a higher skill level is needed to equip higher QL equipment. Because the game does not have a traditional level system, the QL rating is used by players to determine the difficulty of an area or a dungeon (the maximum QL being 10).
Unlike other MMORPG though, the equipment does not actually change a character's physical appearance (with the exception of the 2 weapons). Instead, the player can choose what they want their character to wear depending on the clothes they have. Players can either buy new clothes in-game, but can also unlock some as faction rewards or by getting achievements or even buy more using real money. Here are the different slots that can be personalized : face, mouth, head, neck, chest, back, hands, legs and feet. There also are unlockable multislot outfits (for example, when a player completes one of the game's pre-built decks, they will get the corresponding outfit).
The game has several different types of quests, or missions, depending on the objectives and every mission is divided into tiers :
- Story mission : This is the character's main storyline and they always have one story mission at any given time. They take the player through each area of the game.
- Dungeon mission : These missions lead into the dungeons of the game. They usually advance as each boss is killed and complete when the instance is cleared.
- Main mission : The main missions have different subtypes. Action missions are typically kill or hunt missions. They involve combat, and sometimes a little bit of exploration. Sabotage missions are not combat oriented and involve infiltration with collection and destruction. Investigation missions are research and puzzle oriented. They make the player solve riddles or search for information, and usually include real world elements.
- Side missions : Those quests are obtained by finding or examining items in the environment. They are very short missions and typically ask the player to kill enemies, find something specific or bring an item to someone. Unlike the other 3 types of missions where only 1 mission of each type can active at any time, 3 side missions can be active at the same time.
The game is heavily story-driven. Almost every mission, with the exception of side missions, begins with a fully-voiced cutscene. The character can also talk to NPC about different topics (and these conversations are fully-voiced as well, although the player-character never speaks). If a mission is taken while having another mission of the same type already active, the mission currently active will become paused. It can be picked back up whenever by talking to the original mission giver and the mission will continue at the same tier it was paused (though side missions cannot be paused, they are canceled instead).
Like other MMORPG, there are main questing areas, as well as 5-man dungeons and sometimes solo-instances that are mission-related. A lot of places are solo-instances and there are some parts of the world can only be seen through a single mission.
The Secret Societies
There are three secret societies in The Secret World and the player needs to choose one when creating their character. They are the equivalent of factions and play a role when doing PvP or faction missions and guide the character through storyline missions. Faction missions are a particular type of main mission that will sometimes start when leveling up faction rank (it levels up with experience points), and give a unique multislot outfit when completed. Characters from different secret societies can talk to each other and group together but they can't join the same Cabal (or guild). Each secret society has it's own philosophy and motto :
The Dragon faction are an ancient group originating in China. They are highly intelligent and philosophical in their work, with their logo resembling the traditional design of a dragon head. The Dragons believe in chaos, and only through the natural chaos of life can the world exist in harmony. There can be no fixed structure or territory, and so the most mysterious of secret societies has been broken up only to rebuild itself once more. The rebuilding starts with the silent monks striving to find the order's new leader, always a child who they will guard fiercely. The order uses a variety of mental and martial arts to fight its enemies.
"Change requires chaos, and chaos is ours to orchestrate."
The Templar are a secret society in the world that aim to rid the world of what they deem evil, and will pursue their goals single-mindedly with no consideration of the cost or sacrifice needed to achieve the goals they have set out. Their society's lineage can be traced back to the days of Babylon and includes royal families, private armies, and members of parliaments. It is said that as a templar you "are" the war on darkness. The military might of the templars can be seen in the vast occult libraries, accumulated knowledge earned throughout history in the hard won battles against the darkness. The templars use magic, the old mysticism of sorcerers and priests, of life and death to obliterate evil in all its forms.
“There is no purpose greater than ours. The world will founder without structure and discipline.”
The Illuminati are synonymous with the term "secret society." Represented by the "Eye of Providence," they are assumed to be one of the most secretive groups ever, boasting members such as Benjamin Franklin, according to conspiracy theorists. Their main goal is financial prosperity of a nature that could barely be comprehended, with the group being linked to the United States government and the Federal Reserve by other conspiracy theorists.
"The world is a bad place, and you can either do or get done. We're the Illuminati and we're not done."
Setting and Zones
The Secret World incorporates two different worlds : the real world, and a parallel world incorporating mythology, legends, and pop culture. The secret world is described by the game's director as being "dark fantasy", containing vampires, demons, and zombies. The game makes the player travel between different locations around the world. Some of the locations are hub cities for each faction, while other are questing areas. Each area includes several zones within it, and each zone has it's own dungeon associated with it.
Hub cities :
- New York : Illuminati's city.
- London : Templar's city, main hub.
- Seoul : Dragon's city.
Questing areas :
- New England, Solomon Island : Kingsmouth Town (dungeon : the Polaris), the Savage Coast (dungeon : Hell Raised), the Blue Mountain (dungeon : the Darkness War).
- Egypt, Valley of the Sun God : The Scorched Desert (dungeon : the Ankh), City of the Sun God (dungeon : Hell Fallen).
- Transylvania : The Besieged Farmlands (dungeon : the Facility), the Shadowy Forest (dungeon : Hell Eternal), the Carpathian Fangs (dungeon : the Slaughterhouse).
Every location is connected to Agartha, which is an area accessible by using the Agartha conduit (30 minute cooldown).
There are 3 PvP areas players can join from anywhere and have characters from all 3 factions fight each other :
- El Dorado : A battlefield in which players must pick up and keep 4 relics. The longer a faction control the relics, the more points they get.
- Stonehenge : A battlefield in which players must gain control of the center point and keep it as long as they can.
- Fusang Projects : A persistent warzone in which players must destroy golems, called Custodians, in order to gain control of facilities.
Before accessing a PvP area, the player must choose their class (tank, damage dealer or healer) and each class will get a different buff upon entering the area. Buffs are given to all players in the world, and their effect depend on how good their faction is doing in PvP.
The game does have different dimensions, and each player must choose one when creating their character, but players are not limited by the dimension they picked at the beginning. Every character is on the same server : everyone can talk to people from other dimensions and group with them in order to do missions and dungeons. There are RP dimensions as well as French and German dimensions, but because the different areas of the game are not specific to any faction, there are not any PvP dimensions.
The game delivers monthly content called issues, each one presented with a comic-book style cover. Each issue adds more quests, dungeons and updates to the world. Here is the list of issues so far :
Issue #1 : Unleashed - July 31st 2012
Included bullet points such as 7 new missions, a cross server auction house, and two new Nightmare modes for existing dungeons.
Issue #2 : Digging Deeper - September 18th 2012
Originally slated for August, as per a monthly release schedule, Funcom pushed back the game to a September 11th release date due to developer difficulties. Unfortunately an exploit was found before release and the Issue was delayed again. First one day to the 12th, then, tentatively, one week.
Digging Deeper includes the addition of new auxiliary weapon ability trees, as well as the first auxiliary weapon, the rocket launcher. The update includes a barber shop as well as a "cosmetic surgeon." Included are 5 new missions, as well as adding a Nightmare mode to two existing dungeons. Digging Deeper also includes a cross server group finder.
Issue #3 : The Cat God - September 26th 2012
Issue #4 : Big Trouble in the Big Apple - November 15th 2012
As of December 12th, a subscription isn't necessary to play the game. Before, you had to buy the game and then pay a subscription fee in order to be able to play. Now, you still need to buy the full game, but paying a subscription only gives you additional perks (XP boost, discounts on the item store, exclusive items...). Note that the in-game store is still available, regardless of if you're a subscriber or not.
The first piece of information given about the game was intended to coincide with the release of the first piece of media for the game, on April 7th 2009. Forum members at the game's official website were able to participate in an alternate-reality game in order to help promote the game. Inside the community, different members received email from someone named "Adeline Belmont". Adeline asked these users who were contacted to help her. These users, and other users, were then contacted by someone called "A Friend", who deceived some of the users in order to find out her "location". The conflict was not a real event; merely being simulated by Funcom in order to advertise and market their game to these users. The user called "A Friend" then vandalized the website in order to try and remove information uncovered by users, who discovered a site named Sanctuary of Secrets. Adeline Belmont also has some codes to crack and wants the users to crack a code that she believes will give her some information about her family.
PC System Requirements
- OS: Windows XP (SP 1) / Vista (SP 1) / Windows 7 (SP 1)
- Processor: 2.6 GHZ Intel Core 2 DUO or equivalent AMD CPU
- Memory: At least 2GB RAM for Windows XP / 3GB Ram for Windows Vista and Windows 7
- Hard Disk Space: At least 30GB of free space
- Video Card: nVidia 8800 series 512 VRAM or better/Radeon HD3850 512MB or better
- DirectX®: 9.0c
- Sound: DirectX 9.0c compatible sound card
- OS: Windows 7 64 bit is highly-recommended
- Processor: Intel Core i5 3.0Ghz or equivalent
- Memory: 6GB
- Hard Disk Space: At least 30GB of free space
- Video Card: Nvidia GTX 560 Ti 1Gb
- DirectX®: 11.0
- Sound: DirectX 9.0c compatible sound card