Eurogamer has an hands-on preview on Funcom's conspiracy-laden MMO The Secret World, and while they seem to be worried on whether the developer can deliver a properly polished experience on launch, come away pleased from the experience. Here's a sampling:
The skills are thoughtfully designed and fun to use, with potent effects, although the guns - despite being a standout attraction in this MMO - feel a little weedy and lack the feedback of spells and melee combat. Combat is a little scrappy, and far from a masterclass in overhauling MMO mechanics, but nor is it the thoughtless grind you see in some other games.
The real fun is in selecting your 'deck' of skills. You have slots for seven active skills and seven passives, filled from an expanding range as you spend the skill points awarded instead of experience - there's no explicit levelling in the game - on new toys. Skills are bought from a radial wheel (a showpiece of The Secret World's exceptionally slick and pretty UI). This isn't much more than a fancy way of presenting an open series of parallel skill trees; although The Secret World claims to have no classes, you will find archetypical skills for tanking, healing, crowd control and so on within.
Early questing spot Kingsmouth, where the Illuminati apparently took an interest in public sanitation. However, you are genuinely free to develop your own hybrid or switch between multiple builds with different utilities, and this is clearly where the long-term satisfaction of character development resides. Meanwhile, the limited number of skill slots ensures that combat should stay focused and manageable despite the ballooning possibilities.