With The Secret World, a mythical virtual Earth has been created. It's populated with haunted houses, secret societies, vampire cults and zombie invasions that feels completely distinct from other titles in the genre, such as the hugely popular World of Warcraft and Star Wars: The Old Republic.
The adventures begin in New York, London or South Korea, depending on whether recruits choose to join the clandestine Illuminati, Templar or Dragon factions. However, that decision hardly matters because players of any ilk are quickly dispatched to a dark corner of New England where they pursue solo or together all the same quests.
Secret World has abandoned a typical class structure in favor of abilities determined by weapons such as shotguns, swords, assault rifles and magical books. Players can equip two at a time with a total of seven active and passive abilities. The freedom is welcome, but it probably sounds more groundbreaking for the genre than it plays out.
While many quests are of the kill-an-X-amount-of-this or fetch-a-Y-amount-of-that variety, the developers have neatly masked such massively multiplayer online games grinding with story lines that are both spooky and funny. They've also created mind-boggling investigation and puzzle-based missions, some of which require players to do stuff like decipher Morse code or read the Bible.
RATING M for Mature
PLOT Adventures in a scary world
DETAILS PC, $50, with 30 days of game time
BOTTOM LINE A thinking person's online role-playing game