My thoughts and why this game rocks:
Stepping into the secret world you are introduced to one of the most entertaining cut scenes in recent memory. A bee flys into your mouth and suddenly you erupt your clothes into fire then pretty much your whole apartment. Given time you learn to control your powers and once that is done you receive a visitor. A visitor that tells you she comes from an organization and that all those conspiracy theories are true. As she leaves she tells you the name of her organization and that you may have heard of it...the Templars. This sets the stage wonderfully for what is a game based on a dark version of the real world where the secret societies vie for control and fight "together" a common darkness.
Then you arrive in London and are told to find a "mad" puppeteer. He starts by saying all the things you might expect, but then that he will show you through the instrument of unreliable narration (emphasis mine) that's right he uses a high level English term and he uses it correctly. This emphasizes one of the best things in the game the writing. In case you don't know these are the people that did dreamfall and its predecessor. They know their way around an engaging story. If you thought (as I did) that the story in the old republic was good...you haven't seen anything yet.
As the puppeteer talks, you fall into a swoon and are taken back in time to an event that has been talked about around you since you clicked play. They make it very obvious you are inhabiting another player...and here you step into one of the best survival horror bits in recent memory. How many mmo's in what is really a tutorial make you feel like you could actually die...and actually make you feel like you are in so deep that you are making a real difference in the world? I can't think of one...but this one did.
If you have ever read any lovecraft (or seen any bad japanese horror movies probably) you will feel right at home. Tentacle monsters abound and you better learn quick how to use the gun skills the game gives you. Soon you are separated from the npcs that start with you and for an intro that had me going "oh *&^" several times the ending well...suffice it to say it let you know quite well the stakes...and they are not low.
You wake up and can continue learning about your new secret society and get ready to travel to New England. I choose however to wander around London looking for hidden lore about my faction...something I enjoy doing generally but after reading the first few you find easily was massively hooked on. My first three hours of play I didn't kill a single thing or even use a skill.
As I was wandering around looking for lore and reading a fascinating historical description of the Templars, I stopped to talk to npcs...not to pick up quests...but just to talk...and it was worth it. Showing again there experience with adventure games talking to NPC's is rewarding simply for entertainment but it also tells you more about the world around you. One of the most memorable was a guy named Galahad who sat in a park underneath a tree with a girl beside him. Evidently he thought of himself as THE Galahad from King Arthur but he was not like the Galahad I remembered. Having a rather lustful version of courtly love, he is either crazy..or perhaps not. The game lets you decide. The girl who sits beside him is also interesting to talk to and made me laugh several times.
After wandering around London I made my way to New Hampshire and Kingsmouth and was introduced more thoroughly to the questing and combat system. With no classes I was afraid it would be to difficult to figure out what worked and what didn't and be to overwhelming. A good bit was not unlocked during the beta but what was there was somewhat overwhelming but it was actually quite enjoyable finding things that worked well together, and the possibilities were rather limitless. I stuck to elementalism but added some choas magic passives that upped my damage over time. Mixing in some shotguns also looked like it might have worked as you could have hindered creatures to keep them away from you, and then used your spells to more effect. Hammers would have allowed you to knock them down...then move back and hit with elemental spells, while swords had an interesting flash step like move that would allow you to move away again and hit with elemental spells. As you can see the possibilities with just one primary skill (elementalism) are very open..and this was with only about 30% of the skill tree available.
Read the above again. See how range is so very important? This is what makes the combat different. In every other MMO I have played I just walk up to something and string attacks. Not here...back pedaling, strafing, and JUMPING (I again haven't played an mmo where jumping is important not only to get to places but in combat is important) are all incredibly important. This isn't Terra (which I haven't played but only read about and honestly don't have any interest in) but avoiding attacks is incredibly important and works well.
Lets talk about quests. Unlike in other games you can't hold many but that lets you focus on the story of the quest you are doing..and that story is excellent. Mixed in with very well done cut scenes you always feel like you are doing something for a larger reason than just to kill creatures. You are solving mysteries, helping a town invaded by lovecraftian creatures (the fact that one of the towns streets is named lovecraft way is not unintentional). And the quests are NOT simple. Not only are the creatures tough and many require groups (this is NOT a game conducive to soloing AT ALL) completing your objectives is actually hard. One example. The quest in the eight minute vid here. You are looking for sheets of paper that will finish a report and you do have arrows pointing you in a direction...but only a very general direction. When you get into the area, there is a circle on the ground (a fairly large circle) and what you are looking is somewhere in this circle. Ok you say so just go around and look for something that is highlighted...nope won't work..remember these people did adventure games before. What you are looking for ISN'T HIGHLIGHTED. That's right..welcome to actually using your eyes to find a piece of paper on the ground...just as you would have to do if this was real. And this is one of the easier beginning quests.
Other quests have environmental puzzles where you have to avoid instant death traps (horror show being a great example) that are VERY much a change from go here kill this, go here and pick this up and deliver it. Certainly some of these quests exist but the writing and the involvement with the world make even these quests much better than average.
And these are not even the quest highlights, those are the investigation quests. Here you are given only very general clues and you have to use your brain and research outside of the game (google is very much your friend but not simply for looking for spoilers). You might be given a painters name obliquely, and a hint of a location in town again obliquely (it reads like a normal commemorative plaque...but we are dealing with secret societies here the Illuminati...nothing is as it seems) you have to do the research find out this is a real painter look at his pictures and find in the location one that looks exactly like one he painted which will have an inscription sending you on your next clue (see all the clocks in town...hmm they all say the same time...and it did mention king Solomon earlier when you talked to the priest). If the above hasn't sold you....I don't see how this can't. I was enjoying myself immensely and then I found this...and all most immediately reached for my credit card to preorder.
Lets also talk a bit about difficulty. This is not a game where you will be racing to the top of the level cap. As I said before creatures are hard to kill and stay that way as you level up. You can go anywhere, and are given only tiny references to which area is best for you. With no levels quests are either normal, hard, or very hard. Do you group up and go after a hard quest in the beginning, or do you stick to normal ones? Choice is yours their are no limitations. I did the latter but as the harder quests got to be normal as I gained access to more powers...I still had to group up to complete them. This was a beginning area really, word on the street is that after this the difficulty of combat ramps up even more.
Corpse runs also make a return, increasing the difficulty. You die you have to run back to where you died and pick up your corpse..and hope the creatures have moved on...if not you start running and probably die again but hopefully this time in an area where the creatures will leave. This makes death once again something to fear and avoid, no other penalty is necessary. Going someplace where you are going to die a lot, because the experience will be high...yeah I suppose you could do it...but I won't be.
I hope this gives you a better idea of the game. If I had to find something bad it would be the memory leaks and the crashes but I was playing it with windows seven and 2 gigs of ram which is one gig less than required. Still the game ran smoothly with very little lag and the crashes only happened after about two hours of continuous play.