GW2, TERA, and The Secret World: Who Comes Out on Top?

by Tyler Edwards, April 12, 2012

Guild Wars 2, The Exiled Realm of Arborea (better known as TERA), and The Secret World are three of the most hotly anticipated new MMOs coming down the pipe right now, each with legions of feverishly excited fans clamoring for their releases. But how do they rank against each other? Which is a must play, and which are merely "might play"? We won't know for sure until they're released, but speculation is fun, so we'll try to make our best guess based on what we know so far.

gw2 mechanics

Core game mechanics:

Guild Wars 2: GW2 is by a wide margin the most innovative of the three games, leaving virtually no aspect of traditional MMO design untouched. Instead of the usual quests, it features epic, dynamic world events. Gear is not a key to progression and is largely a cosmetic choice. There are no factions, and all players can interact with or battle each other as they choose. The traditional holy trinity of tank/healer/DPS is out the window. Such radical changes are risky, but intriguing.

TERA: Compared to GW2, TERA's game mechanics are much more traditional, but it does boast a non-target based combat system based on action RPGs that promises to be far more dynamic and exciting than your average MMO combat. It also features a unique political system that allows players to rule entire provinces. Like GW2, it will not have factions.

The Secret World: Perhaps the biggest selling feature for The Secret World is its lack of leveling, but really, it's just a different kind of leveling. You still need to grind experience to gain new skills and increase power. However, it is different in the fact you can choose to spend your XP on many low level skills, increasing your versatility almost endlessly, or focus on more expensive and powerful for more specialized gains.

Winner: Guild Wars 2. It's taking the most risks, but if those risks pay off, it promises to be a truly incredible experience unlike anything we've seen before.

secret world classes


Guild Wars 2: GW2 offers eight classes that mostly follow standard archetypes, with a few unusual ones, such as the illusion-wielding mesmer. The most notable thing about GW2 classes is their lack of the traditional "holy trinity" and ability to serve any function in a group setting.

TERA: Like Guild Wars 2, TERA offers eight classes along fairly standard archetypes, though some have been given unique twists. Their warrior, for instance, is a lightly armored, agile fighter. It can still serve as a tank, but it does so through maneuverability and skill as opposed to soaking blows with a shield like the MMO warriors we're used to.

The Secret World: In contrast with the other two games, The Secret World rejects the concept of classes entirely. The game has over five hundred distinct skills - utilizing everything from swords, to assault rifles, to black magic - and they're all available to every player. The end result is a virtually unlimited amount of customization options.

Winner: The Secret World. While the other games' classes will no doubt be fun, The Secret World's endless customization options simply can't be beat.

endgame tera


Guild Wars 2: One of the most daring things about GW2 is its complete lack of endgame. Players are expected to do the same things at max level that they did while leveling, and hopefully, this should make virtually all of the game's content equally important. Still, it may prove boring for those addicted to raiding and other traditional forms of endgame content.

TERA: Aside from the usual dungeons and such, TERA's endgame offers dynamic events for large groups of players that sound like something between Rift's, err, rifts and the raid content seen in most MMOs. Aside from that, there's its political system that allows players to take control of an entire province within the game via their choice of a peaceful election or a PvP tournament. Once in charge of a province, a player will have a great deal of power over that area and the players within it. This is a very clever idea, and while the potential for griefing is a concern, it could also make for a lot of fun and a great sense of community.

The Secret World: Much like GW2, The Secret World aims to make the entire game the endgame. While its content is a bit more traditional, including quests and dungeons, players can theoretically access all of it from the beginning - though some content may require unusual skill and very specific builds when tackled by low level players.

Winner: TERA. While the lack of a true endgame may be appealing to some people, Guild Wars 2 and The Secret World may not have much to offer fans of the traditional endgame. TERAs endgame offers enough new experiences to be interesting, but it should also appeal to fans of a more traditional MMO model.

gw2 pvp


Guild Wars 2: The original Guild Wars was renowned for its PvP, so it should come as no surprise that GW2 is bringing it on the PvP front. PvP in GW2 is divided into structured PvP, which is similar to the instanced battlegrounds seen in other MMOs, and world versus world PvP, in which entire servers battle against each in epic wars. Gear, level, and skills will be normalized in structured in PvP to ensure fair competition, and servers will be ranked in world versus world, so you won't have to worry about your new player server going against a server home to the top PvP players.

TERA: TERA looks to offer a fairly standard set of player versus player features, including battlegrounds and PvP servers. Unfortunately, the battlegrounds will not launch with the game and will instead be patched in several months later to the dismay of PvP fans everywhere. On the plus side, TERA will also have the option to declare war on other guilds, which is something every MMO player has probably wanted at some point.

The Secret World: The PvP system in The Secret World is about halfway between the instanced battleground model seen in MMOs like TERA and the more advanced model seen in GW2. It will have your average battlegrounds for small teams - set in famous locations like Stonehenge and the legendary city of El Dorado - but it will also have larger, persistent battlefields where the fighting never ends. Whichever faction controls these battlefields will receive a buff that persists until they lose control of the battlefield objective. For those thirsty for PvP, these battlefields provide a never-ending well of action.

Winner: Guild Wars 2. Its commitment to fairness and balance, as well as its epic world versus world battles, put it head and shoulders above the rest.

graphics secret world

Lore and looks:

Guild Wars 2: Considering how unique the gameplay promises to be, the main storyline for GW2 looks surprisingly generic, revolving around angry dragons run amok. On the plus side, it does have a much greater emphasis on personal story than most other MMOs to date, allowing each player to build their own unique and epic story. Its graphics are spectacular and realistic, but they're lacking in any distinctive personality or style.

TERA: The graphics in TERA are rich and colorful, and the overall style will be familiar to players of other Asian MMOs, such as Aion. Its storyline, featuring dreaming gods and mechanical monsters, is at least a bit more original than yet another tale of rampaging dragons, but it doesn't seem likely that anyone's going to be playing TERA for the lore.

The Secret World: Breaking from the high fantasy mold that dominates so much the MMO genre, The Secret World is set in the modern day and revolves around occult, conspiracy theories, Lovecraftian fiends from below, and other spookiness. The developers promise a strong emphasis on story-telling and an epic plotline that will guide you through the entire game. Its graphics are as impressive as the above games' and feature all kinds of lonely, haunting locations just waiting to be swarmed by ghouls, zombies, and other nasty critters.

Winner: The Secret World. In a market drowning in fantasy titles, it dares to offer something different. Its eerie mix of urban fantasy and horror is breath of fresh of air, and its visuals seem more than up to the task of portraying its dark, creepy world.

guild wars 2 winner

The Winner Overall:

Drum roll, please...

Guild Wars 2. While The Secret World and TERA both have their strong points, GW2 is such a radical departure from the tired old MMO formula that it's impossible not to get excited about it. Will it live up to the feverish hype created by its fans?

Probably not - expectations have been built up to the point where anything short of a game that cures cancer and solves world hunger will be a disappointment to some people. But it does bring some sorely needed new thinking to the MMO genre, and while it won't please everyone, it does have the potential to be an amazing gaming experience.