The Secret World is a MMORPG that does somethings differently from the usual model and while overall I feel like it's intriguing and I want to see more of what there is to see in there, some basic parts of the content are frustrating, too difficult, badly designed and seem purposeless. Avoiding these parts of the game is possible, but the overall experience remains diminished.
There are no classes in this game, only 9 weapon types (swords, hammers, firsts, pistols, shotguns, rifles, blood magic, elemental magic and chaos magic). Putting points into skill trees, you get active and passive skills from which you can choose 7 of each to build your 'skill deck'. While you can theoretically pick up all skills, some of them require specific weapons to be used and you can't wield them all at the same time. The cost of skills also goes up progressively, so if you try to pick a bit of everything at first, you'll get a bunch of weak skills. Why not let you pick two weapon types and stick to them? You can only wield two weapons anyways. This is a shame because the mixing and matching is really fun. If you use chaos magic and get tons of "Weakening" effects, there are a bunch of passives in the shotgun tree that complement that. Rifles go well with fist weapons, swords and blood magic, etc.
There are no classes but everybody is a rogue in The Secret World. Not really a cloak and dagger style rogue, but a World of Warcraft rogue. You build combo points by using some skills and you spend them with others. No mana, no spirit, no rage, it's all combo points. They don't work exactly the same way for all weapons (some will be linked to the enemies, i.e. you have 3 shotgun combo points on a specific monster but not on others and other weapons will link the points to yourself.) but it feels consistent no matter what weapon you're using. And that's fine, They restrict usage of really strong skills with cooldowns bu t otherwise the combo system works perfectly well.
You also get points to level up your master of different types of weapons and armor, you need to have a certain level in these masteries to equip stronger equipment. Weapon masteries have two stats you can raise, offense and defense, but raising them both is dumb because the level of your mastery is not the sum of these stats but only the highest one - which is counter-intuitive and makes your waste precious mastery points. You also get passive bonuses by leveling all of these things, what kind of bonuses? You won't know, the game says "You get 'warmth'" for instance, but nowhere will you be able to read what that does. Except on the internet, why not in-game?
The crafting system is pretty terrible, basically you take components and you need to place them in the correct patterns to build or upgrade things. A sword pattern will look like a cross, but some are really obtuse and you'll need to look online again. I never used the crafting system so far because it's too much hassle and you have so much components and don't know what to build with them. Runes, materials, glyphs, tools and what not, I wish there was a list of things I could craft and I'd use that instead. Worst yet is the way you place items, you can't just pick them one at a time, you need to take your stack of 10 metal and split it into two stacks, one stack of 1 and one of 9. Then continue splitting it so you have individual pieces. That's so backwards, just pick them up one at a time and have shift+click be for picking up the whole stack.
You'll get a bunch of different stats on the stuff you wear, critical chance, heal rating, health, etc. Gear is still a bit weird, there's a quality level for everything that limits what you can wear (based on your masteries) but you don't have a level, quests don't have a level and enemies don't show any level either. It makes it hard to gauge what you're supposed to be doing. The fact that the game doesn't really help with telling you where are the quests you should do adds to this problem. The game feels a bit too difficult, you'll get to quests in which one enemy drains almost all your resources and if you fight another one immediately, you die. There should be something telling you where you should go and indicators about the difficulty of enemies compared to your stats.
The three factions are largely the same. You have a different intro cutscene, the flavor text during the quests is different, but I haven't seen any major differences, at least not in the first area of the world. You always start at the same spot, no matter what faction you pick, and then you're sent to kill 10 zombies, then loot gas tanks, or something. The quests are interesting sometimes and they chain well into phases (kill things, loot things, use things, kill bigger things, complete quest) and you complete quests remotely. Two kind of quests are very frustrating, stealth quests and "knowledge" quests. In stealth quests, you need to play the game in a way that MMO engines aren't built for, dodging laser beams and searchlights, getting knocked by explosions and dying because you tripped something, it's terrible, I don't know how to fix these, just remove them or make it possible to brute force through them. "Knowledge" quests require you to use google, enough said.
The fighting is pretty decent, sometimes enemies have special attacks that you can dodge by moving around - although not as much as in Neverwinter - you have four big status effects, Weakened, Hindered, Afflicted and Impaired with a bunch of abilities that trigger or cause things to happen when these statuses are on your target. There are glancing hits, penetrating hits, leech effects, you can get very complex with building your perfect deck, and I'm quite interested to see what high-level builds can look like. The game is a bit too difficult and I'm still playing around with builds, but I'll keep trying to make a really good one to get to other maps (there must be more than Kingsmouth, right?)
All and all, The Secret World is full of weird things that should be ironed out at some point, even the simplest things like the in-game web browser (because some quests REQUIRE you to use it!) are badly designed (the browser doesn't keep the last page you opened, so if you go somewhere to see info for a quest, then close the browser to do a step of the quest, then come back, you need to navigate back there) making me use steam's built-in browser or alt+tab out. The skill system is cool, some of the quests are interesting, and I'll play some more of TSW, but not that much if I'm not able to find a good build that lets me enjoy my way through the game.