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The Secret World

Preview: Reinventing the MMO with The Secret World

Mar 15 // Daniel Starkey
The Secret World (PC)Developer: FuncomPublisher: Electronic ArtsRelease: June 19, 2012 Like World of Warcraft and The Old Republic, The Secret World is based on interfactional warfare. There are the Templars based out of London who want to restore and maintain order, the Dragons based out of Seoul who are the embodiment of chaos, and the Illuminati based out of New York who are comparatively moderate. Each of these factions is contending with transdimensional foes, and there are a lot of unanswered questions and a lot of figures vying for power. Everyone will have a recruitment mission to get them set up with one of the groups, but there is no typical class selection here. Funcom has decided upon Skyrim-style class selection -- pick what you want, do what you want, and find a role for yourself. There are more than 500 abilities and nine classes of weapons (though some of those are magic), and as you gain experience, you get skill points to distribute into any category to shape your character however you want. Each player is also limited to seven active abilities and seven passive abilities, so careful selection and strategy plays into deciding what you use. It's a really intriguing system that is elegantly implemented with a stunningly beautiful, semi-minimal interface. Taking cues from TOR, the majority of the game is voiced, though the player character is a silent protagonist. It's a much more engaging way of conveying stories and doling out quests, and it represents another area where Blizzard is starting to fall behind. Quests themselves are more organic than in other MMOs, and the story is told more through the perspective of gathering information and lore to piece together what is going on rather than through the traditional fetch quest. "Quest givers," if they can be called that, will often actively mislead you either intentionally or unintentionally, and they represent an interesting break with the established tropes of the genre. I had a good 30 minutes to play the game after a presentation by Funcom staff showing off some new content. I wasn't able to get too far into the real meat of the game, but I got to pick up a few weapons, tool around with some basic abilities, and run around London for a bit. The overworld is rich and lively, and for once, there's a game which does not seem to have the utterly impractical architecture of other MMOs (i.e. buildings that are so utterly gargantuan as to be ridiculous). Combat is smooth, and everything takes place in real time. The player can move while casting, charging, shooting, etc., so battles feel more like an action RPG than anything else -- faster and more frantic without ever losing complete control. It's a fun and refreshing mix that I can't say I have seen replicated anywhere else. The Secret World is due out June 19th, which is good because I've been looking forward to this since I first saw it at PAX '09. I'm still a bit concerned as to the longevity of the title, but a lot of work has gone into "reinventing the wheel," as it were, and it definitely shows.

The MMO space has been steadily filling up since people realized just how much money Blizzard is actually making. Many have tried to break into that space, but most have failed. Funcom has a pretty consistent history of bring...


Location trailer for The Secret World sets the spooky

Jan 26
// Sterling Aiayla Lyons
I've found over the years that lots of MMORPGs release with a good artistic style while at the same time missing out on offering an engrossing atmosphere. Funcom's The Secret World is one that definitely takes an intere...

The Illuminati revealed in The Secret World

Jan 13
// Alasdair Duncan
Earlier this week, Funcom teased the reveal of the Illuminati, one of the three playable factions in its upcoming MMORPG, The Secret World. Revealed as the manipulators and schemers in the shadows, the Illuminati look to be t...

Funcom shares the secrets of the Illuminati this week

Jan 09
// Jason Cabral
It seems the gears of Funcom's PR machine are turning for it's next MMO project The Secret World. They have devoted this week to shedding some light on The Secret World's resident puppet-masters and occult-yuppies, the Illumi...

The Secret World beta has over 500,000 registered users

Oct 25
// Alasdair Duncan
In MMO land, the immenent release of Star Wars The Old Republic certainly casts a big shadow but that doesn't mean it's the only show in MMO town. Funcom's The Secret World is looking like it could provide something different...

The Secret World is like Dragon Age with assault rifles

Aug 31 // Jim Sterling
The Secret World is set on an Earth where every myth, conspiracy theory, and ghost story is true. Familiar legends, lost cities and shadowy organizations are everywhere, and players get to choose between three factions -- The Dragon, The Templars and The Illuminati. Although players from any faction team up for story missions, they are also taking part in a "Secret War" to control the world.  Despite the original dressing, the game's mission structure and combat betray The Secret World's MMORPG roots, as players team up, get missions, travel to dungeons, partake in click-heavy combat, and make off with the loot. However, there's quite a bit of speed to the combat, with an engaging pace and intensity that reminds me quite a bit of Dragon Age.  Characters get a variety of melee weapons, magical spells and special abilities, and since this is the modern day, firearms such as assault rifles are also in play. No matter your weapon, combat is still automatic and quasi-turn-based, so you cannot simply turn Secret World into a third-person shooter.  The Secret War makes for some pretty damn interesting stuff and looks set to be the most compelling feature. Despite publicly working together, there are various missions in which the game's three factions work against each other. These story missions are unique to each faction and often play against each other. For example, one faction might end up turning a previously safe area into a ghost-littered hell factory, and another faction's mission may take place in the terrifying aftermath.  The game's world contains various important landmarks based on mythological locations such as Atlantis and Eldorado, and these places set the scene for The Secret World's PvP mode. Every special location confers a variety of gameplay bonuses to whichever faction controls it, bonuses that affect every player on the server. Other factions can mount offensives to wrest control of the location, however, and huge three-way battles are on the cards. We were shown footage of one of these fights in action, and it looks absolutely chaotic, with players running around from all corners of the map, swords and fireballs at the ready.  What really jumps out at me, however, is the legitimate horror atmosphere that the game is able to pull off. One mission, set in a dimly lit parking lot full of screaming, charging specters, is particularly eerie and could legitimately terrify players. Add to that, the fact that monsters look legitimately grotesque and carry more than a little bit of a Lovecraftian influence, and you've got a game that has some serious fright potential.  The Secret World looks promising, especially as far as MMOs go. While the idea of the genre has always interested me, the dull gameplay and predictable mission progression always puts me off. I'm hoping that The Secret World brings a little more action and a lot more fun to the MMOs. It has an absolutely terrific sense of atmosphere and some great visual flair, so here's keeping our fingers crossed that it's not been squandered on just another MMORPG.

Funcom's The Secret World is distinguished by the fact it's an MMO that I actually care about. I was drawn to the title as soon as the early trailers rolled out, intrigued by the modern day setting and enthralled by...


That's So MMO!: Super Secret Edition

Aug 27
// David Moore
Hail and well met my MMO brethren! PAX Prime is underway and exciting reveals are sure to arrive at any moment. The week leading up to the event, however, has been fairly quiet. Still, there are a few stories worth mentioning--so, let’s take a look!

New trailer for The Secret World goes to the men's room

Jul 07
// Alasdair Duncan
Just a day after showing the trailer for The Savage Coast, Funcom has released a new CGI trailer and a batch of fresh screenshots for its upcoming MMO, The Secret World.  The trailer depicts a John Constantine-esque gen...

New Secret World trailer takes us to the Savage Coast

Jul 06
// Jim Sterling
I'm not a big fan of MMO games, but I've had my eye on The Secret World for a very long time. The premise of a universe where every crackpot conspiracy theory and urban legend is true intrigues me no-end, and the brash horro...

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