The Secret World excels at taking common features in MMOs and using them in unique ways. Take death for example. Every MMO has some kind of “ghost form” after dying that allows the player to run back to their corpse for a lore breaking second chance (or third, or fourth, or…) at life. The Secret World not only establishes lore for the character’s immortality, but also requires you to utilize the anima form to progress through several missions. A “ghost form” isn’t peripheral, it’s essential.
Death isn’t the only common MMO system that TSW uses in an uncommon way during its missions, crafting is also utilized as well. I really enjoy crafting in MMOs but rarely have the time to use the interface in the way it is intended—as a secondary objective to be “maxed” for end game purposes. Thankfully the Secret World’s crafting system doesn’t require that you earn skill points in order to make more advanced weapons and talisman, rather it is the raw resources and toolkits that determine what you can make.
More importantly, the same system used for crafting weapons and gear is also used for the completion of missions. The interface for crafting is similar to what you find in Minecraft. Using the correct resources in the appropriate shape allows you to make a hammer, shotgun, assault rifle, or whatever weapon or talisman or consumable you would like. Conversely, you can also place a weapon in the interface to disassemble it for the raw materials.
These two features carry over into some of the game’s missions. During your exploration you may find an object that can be disassembled for parts using the crafting interface that will allow you to progress. For example, in The City of the Sun God I found a spear that when I disassembled it revealed a note hidden in the shaft. Other missions may require you to assemble something out of the pieces you find in order to progress. In that same Egyptian zone I had to search for the pieces of a staff and then assemble them in order to have a whole staff that opened up the next location in my mission.
What The Secret World doesn’t do is tell you when the crafting interface is necessary to progress through the mission, you have to figure that out for yourself. The first time I ran into this type of mission it took me forever to realize what I needed to do; I think I eventually had to look up a hint. However now I know to check quest items in the crafting UI whenever I’m stumped on how to move forward. This is one of the greatest triumphs of TSW as a game, it gets you to consider possibilities in and outside the box in order to move forward. You’ve got to set aside what you think you now about MMO systems and consider other possibilities. As a result I am far more observant and experimental in this game than in any other.
The integration of crafting (and death of course) in the missions of TSW is one of the many clever things that Funcom does with this game that after I first experienced it I thought, “why don’t other games do this?” More importantly, I started to look at the bigger picture, and wondered why so many MMO developers view the many systems that make up their game as individual parts rather than as a whole. It’s not quite the sandbox vs. theme park argument, but it’s along those lines. Having played a game with more integrated systems, I want more of the same. It’s another reason why a sandbox like Black Desert Online is starting to look more and more appealing.