I’ve done so many posts gushing with praise for The Secret World. There’s really nothing left for me to say that I haven’t already said.
In the MMO community, you sometimes hear people talking about a game as their “home.” A virtual world that’s particularly special to them, that they will never leave.
Lately it has occurred to me that The Secret World is my home.
Sure, I’ve played World of Warcraft longer, sunk more hours into it. I certainly don’t see myself ever leaving WoW behind. But my connection is to Azeroth, not to WoW as a game. WoW is my least favourite incarnation of Azeroth, by a significant margin.
And WoW doesn’t have the same feeling of belonging. It has a lot of familiarity, a lot of nostalgia, and don’t get me wrong: WoW is a very important game to me, and for all my gripes, it’s still quite special to me.
But it’s not The Secret World.
TSW is a game that gives me tremendous pleasure simply to inhabit. I have so, so many great memories of this game, and many of them are spectacular moments, epic climaxes to brilliantly told story-arcs, but just as many are far more simple: sitting in the woods of Solomon Island and listening to the seagulls, watching the dawn glint off Siren’s Lake, feeling the oppressiveness of the night sky in the grim winter landscape of the Carpathian Fangs.
It’s certainly an odd match. On paper, it’s not a game that would appeal to me. I’ve never been especially fond of horror or urban fantasy, and I think conspiracy theories are ridiculous. It has no Elves, no intricately strange and beautiful non-human cultures to immerse myself in, no dragons or knights in shining armour or any of the things that usually appeal to me. But yet it has wormed its way into my heart all the same.
Somewhere along the line TSW became more than a game to me. Sometime between pursuing Loki into the depths of the earth, trekking through the surreal industrial nightmare of the Hell Dimensions, and delving into the darkest pits of the Dreaming Prison, TSW came to embody a sense of infinite mystery and possibility.
Rationally I know I’ve seen nearly all there is to see in TSW, but after three years of constantly stumbling across side missions and lore honeycombs and rare spawns and weird things I cannot even explain, there’s a part of me that is always going to believe something wonderful — or terrible, or both — might be lurking around the next corner. That there are still mysteries yet to plumb.
It’s that feeling of unlimited potential that forms the foundation of all speculative fiction. It’s the driving force in my life. It’s why I became a writer, why my apartment is full of books and action figures and space ships, why I’m a gamer, and a reader, and a fan of movies and TV.
It’s that feeling of possibility that makes the game so enchanting. It doesn’t feel like a game anymore. It feels like a world. A world I do not and may never fully understand, but one which never ceases to fascinate me.
It’s that feeling of possibility that keeps the game interesting to me, that puts a smile on my face even if I’m doing something as objectively dull as repeating Bullets for Andy for the eleventy billionth time (SERIOUSLY ANDY DO YOU HAVE ENOUGH BULLETS YET?).
The Secret World is the best game I’ve played in my adult life. It may be the best game I’ve ever played. There’s a decent chance it may be the best game I will ever play.
Oh, of course it’s not perfect. It’s very good, and a lot of its most glaring flaws have been solved, but it definitely has its annoyances. Ak’ab are still Hell, and Oni are worse. I still want to slap whoever gave the green light to the mob density in Orochi Projects, and I’ve never been fond of silent protagonists. And it has entirely too many horse heads.
It’s not perfect, but nothing is.
And it just clicks for me, in a way nothing else in the gaming world quite does.
It’s home. It’s where I belong.