Previews// The Secret World

Posted 4 May 2012 17:50 by
Where do you turn to if you want an MMO experience without the colourful fantasy of leading title World of Warcraft, or the great expanse of the (somewhat uncontrolled) space of EVE Online? Funcom and Electronic Arts are hoping that The Secret World will be the answer to that question.

At its core, it plays and acts a lot like a traditional Massive Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game should. You create a character, join a particular class, find some friends, form a team and gad about completing missions for money and fantastic virtual prizes.

As with most new entries in the MMO space, style and presentation has a big part to play when it comes to the differentiation game. That?s where The Secret World could have a hold on a large number of subscribers - Funcom has gone down the dark fantasy route in focusing on a world overrun by various urban monsters and undead horrors.

What?s somewhat worse than the creatures that roam the cities at night (and day), are the equally shady syndicates that pull the strings of politicians - who are supposed to be looking after the general populace. We?re guessing things aren?t going to well for the public really, hence the rising of three different factions that your character can join in The Secret World: Dragons, Templars and the Illuminati.

Three different groups to pledge allegiance to, each with different ideals but all have a united goal - to do away with all this crazy zombie and monster nonsense that?s plaguing the world around them. In particular, the area of the game I played focused purely on zombies, and multiple varieties of them, within an abandoned amusement park.

The park, located in the Savage Coast, is owned by one Nathaniel Winter - a creepy-looking dude rocking a top hat and trench coat. He?s the son of millionaire mogul Nicholas Winter, a business tycoon that created the theme park. He?s ?never made a bad investment,? yet curiously despite some strange tragedies taking place during the park?s construction (a dismemberment here, a stabbing spree by a chap in a chipmunk costume there) the public opening went ahead.

Nathaniel?s not exactly happy about the history of events, and at a foggy, deserted and preactically haunted theme park entrance, asks you to discover the truth behind the whole construction. Much like the rest of the game, the locations are drab, gloomy and themed for some dark fantasy action.

There are no classes or levels to speak of in The Secret World - your only real choice beyond character customisation is the allegiance you swear to one of the three factions. Instead, you build up points and resources, which can then be used to spend on various equipment and abilities.

And some of these abilities rock hard - combat is based on dark magic and gunplay, with equipment ranging from shotguns to assault rifles and snipers. You may pine for a sword at first, but you realise that these weapons pretty much act in the same way. Shotguns are naturally for close-range fire, snipers can take out baddies from further away, and so on.

Savage Coast?s amusement park in particular is a good example of the sort of vast worlds that Funcom are developing for the game. Missions are completed in ?Tiers,? with each Tier essentially an objective to complete before moving onto the next one. During my short playthrough, I had to enter the park, check the map to find my bearings, and travel to a ride called the Octotron - where an ambush of zombie strongmen and undead clowns tried to topple our team.

Underneath it all it?s all a bit familiar - but I imagine that?s simply down to maintaining the accepted mechanics that underlie every MMO title. Stylistically though, The Secret World is quite True Blood in its approach. The dark humour and gun-based play could help Funcom and EA produce a winner here.

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