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Sunday, December 16, 2012

Welcome to The Secret World - A primer for new players

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With the recent move to a buy-to-play business model, The Secret World has seen a huge influx of new players. It won't take them long to realise that this game is a little different to most MMOs, so I thought it would be a good idea to write a brief primer for the game that would answer some of the questions I had when I first started playing. These are the kind of questions that the tutorials won't answer.

There is a short but steep learning curve for the game, and whilst the tutorials have been improved a little there is still a lot that is left unexplained. Hopefully some of this information may prove useful. It may also be worth referring to my old post "The Secret World Hints and Tips", that I made when the game first launched, though some of the information therein is a little out of date.

So, lets get started with the first question I had when I started playing the game...


What server should I join?

In most cases it really doesn't matter. The Secret World uses a type of single-server technology that means you can group, talk to and trade with absolutely any other player in the game.

There are home dimensions, which are the instance servers you initially log into. If you join someone else's group you'll automatically be taken to their dimension to play with them. You can even join and fully interact with cabals on different dimensions.

There are three things that may have an impact on your choice.
  1. Roleplaying. Arcadia and Leviathan are designated as roleplay dimensions. They both have active RP communities and you can expect to meet a lot of roleplayers on them.
  2. Language. Drac is designated as the official French language dimension. Kobold is designated the official German language dimension.
  3. PvP. If you want to fight in the persistent Fusang PvP battleground you should be aware that it is the only zone in the game that is bound to your home dimension. So if you have friends you want to PvP with you should aim to start on the same dimension. Having said that the developers have stated they are looking at ways to change this so Fusang is cross-dimensional.

Character creation seems a little limited... anything I can do about that?

Character creation has actually improved a lot since launch. There is now a height/build slider and plenty more face and hair options. If you aren't happy with your initial choices there is a hairdresser in London and a plastic surgeon in New York you can visit.

The primary way of distinguishing your appearance in the game however is by your clothing. Clothing is not tied to your statistics, so you can wear pretty much what you like. Initial clothing choice is limited, but very soon you will have acquired enough Pax to spend at the Pangea clothes shop or at the tube station market in London. I was able to afford a decent outfit I liked after a couple of hours play.

You can also acquire clothing from quests, achievements, events and the real cash shop. There are so many options you should be able to dress your character how you like as make them look unique without any real difficulty.


Why are all the names I want already taken?

The games uses a type of single-server technology. That means that your unique identifier (i.e. your nickname) must be unique across all the dimensions. It must be different to every single other nickname in the game, which limits the choice a little! You'll just have to be imaginative!


What the hell is going on?

Good question! I've played through the entire storyline and I'm still not entirely sure! One of the great things about this game is it keeps you guessing, and you are never entirely sure who can be trusted. Characters don't just up and tell you their motivations, but you can discover them through quests, lore, items, computer entries, and in-game NPC conversations.

As an initial primer here is what you need to know. Earth is under attack from dark and mysterious forces. The earth spirit Gaia is defending itself by effectively creating superheroes. Gaia is sending out bees to merge with the spirits of the chosen and infuse them with anima, a kind of magical force. That's you.

Once infused with anima, the world beyond the normal world is opened up to you - the Secret World. You can see and hear things normal people can't. You become aware of the ancient secret societies that vie for power and control - the Templars, the Dragon, and the Illuminati.

There are other forces out there. The Council of Venice oversees disputes between the three societies, the Phoenicians are a fourth faction that are also members of the Council of Venice. There are many more you will come across as well.


I don't understand the quest system? Why can I only have one quest at a time?

The quest system is designed to be different to most other themepark MMOs. Most MMOs have quest hubs, where you will pick up all the quests, then head out to complete them all before returning.

In TSW you can only take one of each type of quest (Story, Dungeon, Action, Investigation, and
Sabotage) at a time (as well as up to 3 side quests). The idea is you take one quest and concentrate on that. It will lead you around the zone, and when the quest finishes you will not need to return to the quest-giver, just file a report with your faction superiors. Instead there will be a new quest nearby, usually within around 50 feet.

This means you follow a breadcrumb trail of quests around the zone, which has the effect of showing you all of the important zone locations, and also splits up the player population into different areas so everyone isn't following the same route and stepping on each others toes.


What's with all these yellow honeycomb lore objects?

That's the bees speaking to you and telling you some background on the area you are in. It could be about a faction, a place, an item, or something else entirely. Collecting all types of lore in a given section can earn you achievement rewards.

It's worth reading the lore. Not only is it very well written, it gives a great insight into the game's story. I also know of at least two occasions where the solution to a quest problem was written in the lore I had collected.


Can I specialise in just one weapon?

You can, but you really shouldn't. You should ideally get a second weapon as soon as possible (either by going back into the training room, buying one from the Council of Venice vendors in Kingsmouth, or doing a quest that rewards one).

A second weapon opens up one of the joys of the ability wheel system - synergy effects. Some weapons synergise with others, vastly improving your combat effectiveness. When you get familiar with the system you can even use bridging passives to synergise weapons that don't have any basic synergies.

At the very least a second weapon will add a second finishing move to your rotation, improving your damage output significantly.


How does fast travel work? Can I run any faster?

There are a few ways of getting around quickly. The main fast travel system is Agartha, a magical road of interconnected branches on the world tree that exists inside the Hollow Earth. Time and space bend in Agartha, meaning you can traverse the entire planet quickly. It's worth learning where the branches of Agartha lie, as you can speed your journeys up even more by leaping from one branch to another once you know what you are doing.

Getting around zones quickly is a little different. You can use the /reset command to kill yourself, and then pick any of the anima wells you have visited to respawn at. Whilst this can move you from one side of a zone to the other almost instantly it comes with a cost, as each time you die your items become damaged and the repair costs at end game are not cheap!

Finally you can sprint (the default key for sprint is "X"). You will need to reactivate your sprint after every zone or combat. You can purchase upgraded sprint speeds (via anima boosts) in one of two ways.
  1. Through in-game PAX at your faction headquaters. You must have reached a certain faction rank to be eligible to purchase each upgrade.
  2. Through real money via the in-game store.

There are currently three upgrades you can purchase, the best of which gives you a 100% sprint speed boost.


Are there any community conventions I need to know about?

Plenty, but discovering them is one of the fun things about starting a new MMO. The TSW community is for the most part incredibly helpful and welcoming. The one piece of advice I would give to start is not to reveal quest spoilers in general chat, it is really frowned upon.


What on earth is Pax Romana?

Pax Romana is Latin for "Roman Peace". It is the in-game currency, sanctioned by the Council of Venice.


Why is there no falling damage in the game?

You're a superhero! The anima infusion from the bees means you can fall a very long way without it hurting.

The developers have stated that this is actually a design decision as it encourages exploration. It also offers you some quick ways around some of the later zones.


I heard something about reticle targeting. How do I activate it?

Press "T". This changes the targeting system in the game so that it plays more like a 3rd-person shooter. You get a crosshair that moves with your mouse, and whatever you point the crosshair at becomes your target.

Reticle targeting works best with ranged weapons.


Why don't I ever run out of bullets?

You aren't firing bullets. You are firing bolts of anima and using the weapon as your focus.

Actually, there is no real explanation. It's just a gameplay decision not to bog the firearms-based player down with ammo management.


What weapons and builds are best for tanking/healing/dps?

Generally the following applies:

  • Tanking: Blade, Hammer, Chaos Magic
  • Healing: Assault Rifle, Fist Weapons, Blood Magic
  • DPS/Support: Elemental Magic, Pistols, Shotgun

It's not quite as clear cut as that though, and you will initially need to concentrate on survivability rather than fulfilling a specific role unless you have a regular group. The great thing about the ability system is that you will eventually be able to fulfil all of the main roles and plenty of others too.


I want to start PvP as soon as I can... how do I go about it?

Press "P" to open up the PvP map. You can queue to join any of the PvP battlegrounds as soon as you have reached Kingsmouth. However, you will die quickly and a lot until you have boosted your hit points via equipment. Expect to get one-shoted if you have below 4000 hit points.


My inventory is full of junk, what do I do with it?

You can sell it of course. Alternatively you can destroy it (drag it out of your bag and drop it into the world).

Unless you really need the cash however I would recommend disassembling it. Most items can be disassembled into their component parts. These components can then be combined to create even more powerful items.

This crafting guide explains it all in detail.





I hope all that has cleared a few of the more confusing aspects up for some of you. If you're still stuck and need any advice or help don't hesitate to drop me a /tell in game. My character is called "Vinculus" and I'm around most evenings UK time.

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