Tom: While Secret World is uniquely suited to solitaire play — at least at a thematic level — it doesn’t always work out that way in terms of gameplay. The scenarios, for instance. But even in the wider world, it’s nice to have a sidekick. Or be a sidekick. It depends on which one of us you ask. Personally, I think Hornbostel (pictured, left) is trying a little too hard with the eye patch. That’s like something a sidekick would do.
Chris: The eyepatch makes me look tougher! Plus I’d just gotten it as a drop and it matches my outfit. The hell is that burqa ninja getup you’re wearing, anyway?
Tom: I’m a nun. A bad-ass nun. Or maybe a chick jedi. I haven’t quite decided, but either one of those is better than a transgender Snake Plissken.
After the jump, me and one-eyed Jane.
Chris: In most MMOs, the carrot to advancement is loot and levels. To be sure, those things will pull you along a bit in Secret World, too. However, I feel like the game really wants me to absorb the story and lore and setting and it wants to show me those things. The chance to experience that stuff completely works as an even bigger draw to pull me personally along — although I can imagine right now Tom is rolling his eyes.
Tom: Hey, even when the story in Secret World is bad, at least it’s trying in a way that almost no other MMO tries. And it’s certainly a milieu that no other MMO tries. Modern day horror? International conspiracies? Elder gods? Stephen King meets the Underworld movies meets the facemelting ghosts from Raiders of the Lost Ark. I’ll happily take the erratic quality of the writing, often forgettable, sometimes bad, but good often enough that I’ve never regretted paying attention. There aren’t many games I can say that about. And there aren’t any MMOs I can say that about.
Chris: Grouping up really allows you to drink deeply from that cup. When Tom and I originally grouped up to do some quests, I hadn’t even been to the City Of The Sun God zone on the character I was playing, but darned if we didn’t take a pretty amazing tour of that zone. We didn’t do everything there — far from it — but we did far more than either of us would’ve managed solo.
Tom: I plan to go back. One of the story threads that I really enjoyed was the set of quest for the little kid statues parked for thousands of years in the Egyptian monuments, pining to see the rest of the world. I loved the one that collected postcards. I gladly watched every one of those cutscenes not for the cutscenes — they were just pictures of statues with glowing eyes — but for the writing.
Chris: The one thing to point out here is that if you’re going to watch the cutscenes and read the story beats as they drop, you’re going to need a patient teammate who isn’t jabbing the ESC key and then glaring daggers at you while you take your sweet time. Thankfully, Tom was willing to put up with me indulging in Secret World lore and mission geekery. Your mileage if you go with an ad hoc pickup group will likely vary.
Tom: Speak of daggers, why does the flight of daggers ability show up in all the cut scenes? This is an elite passive ability that stores up to four magical daggers before firing them off at enemies. The daggers persist between combat. And into cut scenes. The one in the image up there makes it look like your lady Plissken has a blue dagger wang. I’m just sayin’.
Chris: That flight of daggers constantly on animation is annoying. Why can’t it be turned off when you’re not in combat? At any rate, to return to the subject at hand, I think — and I might be wrong here — that there’s likely an ancillary benefit to grouping with a friend in Secret World. Tom and I have yet to go gangbusters after an investigation mission, but having read his foray on the To Hell And Bach investigation, I can’t help but feel like having another person around can’t help but enhance that experience too. For instance, when I did that same mission, I stupidly stumbled on the written stuff that Tom missed… but really, really struggled with the Latin or Hebrew or whatever language that was. Combine my ability to accidentally fall into stuff with Tom’s knowledge of classical languages and we’d have destroyed that quest. I think.
Tom: So Secret World is a great game to play solo, but it isn’t always solo friendly. A lot of the quests bog down in 1v1 standoffs which come to an abrupt end if you accidentally pull in a second monster. While playing solo, and trying to keep what I felt was a reasonable spot on the power curve, I kept hitting difficulty spikes where I died over and over. But when Chris and I grouped, at a level slightly above where he was supposed to be and slightly below where I was supposed to be, we glided reasonably through the content. We could go wherever we wanted, we could do whatever quests we wanted, we could manage any enemies we saw. The Secret World was our oyster. Except for the one aborted attempt into a lair. That was not for us. Yet. They’re liked burned out swathes of the map that basically say “you shall not enter”. Which makes me want to enter.