Partly because I am not easily scared by horror movies (honestly can't remember the last time I was more than startled in a movie), I don't really find The Secret World scary, and don't think I ever will. However, the atmosphere is fantastic. I've only been a little past Kingsmouth (the first real adventure zone), having spent so much time creating my characters, and looking for lore entries in the hubs. But goodness gracious! The town is literally steeped in mood. The mix of zombies and Lovecraftian abominations—with a touch of X-Files conspiracies thrown in for good measure—is phenomenal. Notice the sunlight in the screen shot. As Ysharros pointed out, the mood is dark, the environment is not necessarily.
That is the first thing that is awesome about this game. Yes, this is a cheerleading post for The Secret World. Sorry, I'm not as cynical about the games I play as some are. I realize I do get ranty and can aften digress. But you can keep up. Right, Dear Reader?
The Community. According to MMO Compendium, even during downtimes, the forums have not blown up in nerd-rage. I haven't investigated this myself, but the chat in game seems reasonably helpful and not full of Chuck Norris facts, etc. Is this a result of the Mature Rating? I don't know, but it's a pleasant change. It helps that I am for the third game in a row on an RP server—oops, "dimension." To think I used to shy away from these types servers because the people were "weird." Turns out weird means not 13.
With the game server down for maintenance this morning, I took the opportunity to organize this post and watch Gamebreaker's blurb on the subject. I'm going to borrow liberally from them for my outline, but the comments are my own.
Set aside your differences. OK, remember how when you played WoW and you wanted to be a an Orc or Tauren, but all your friends were rolling dwarves and gnomes? So you had to roll Alliance, or you wouldn't be able to play. It sucked. Not so with The Secret World. Feel free to group up with those of opposing factions for PvE content, dungeons, etc. After all, some serious shit is goin' down, and unlike Telara or Azeroth, we need to stick together to tsake care of it. Then, when the pressure's off, we can fight amongst ourselves again in the PvP areas. Yes, I say again cross-faction PvE. Hopefully soon we make form cross-faction cabals (guilds), wheels-within-wheels.
One world, different dimensions. Oh and remember how you would meet someone who played WoW like you; what's the second thing you'd ask (after Alliance or Horde)? "What Realm are you on?" Inevitably, because there are a gajillion people playing WoW your new friend played on a different server. It would be costly to transfer, and you'd have to leave all your guildies and other friends behind, so you stay put. With TSW, you can reach out across dimensions (sort of like instances of the game, but more massively multi-player) to talk to friends group up, even join same faction cabals. (I dunno if you can be in more than one cabal.) Your "nickname" is unique across the entire server. As I discussed on Twitter earlier today, there are other games that have similar population strategies, like STO, EVE, Champions Online, and more. Even Rift makes it easy to jump servers. The thing is, more games should have this feature or something like it. Otherwise, when you have the inevitable contraction of player population, you force server mergers. And some unlucky players lose all their character names, which can be gamebreaking for many.
No elves here. Rather than a fantasy or Sci-Fi setting, this is our world, tweaked a little. All the myths and legends of old are true—all the conspiracy theories, all the political machinations. This makes it very immersive, in my opinion. I knew this was gonna be cool when one of the NPCs told me this wasn't some "Dan Brown paperback". Heck, I got a kick out of the details like the road signs in Kingsmouth. The references to New England horror/mystery pop culture are great, too.
Leave no stone un-turned. Along those lines, everything in the world could be important. The shops around town aren't just decoration; they have meaning, they could be part of the mystery, part of a puzzle to solve. There's a built-in web browser with Google as its homepage. You're gonna need it. Not to get the boss fight guide, but to find out who that 18th-century composer was, to find out what that one guy looked like. You may know some of the answers, but you won't know them all. And hey, this is the 21st century, FunCom knows you're gonna be looking stuff up. Just like that open-book test in school, this game's just that more challenging because the answers are readily available.
This next item is going to lead into my next post, one of the few advice posts I've ever done. I think maybe the first for a game itself. But there seems to be some confusion about gameplay that is dissuading some people from appreciating the game fully. Or turning them off completely.
More abilities than you can shake a stick at. Because the game is classless, eventually every weapon and ability in the game will be available to every character. You can be that shotgun-wielding healer. Or the fireball-throwing tank. Or the whatever-shooting/swinging/casting DPSer. But only seven active and seven passive abilities at a time. The freedom of choice can admittedly seem overwhelming, but that is an item for the next post.