The Secret World – Preview
Forget what you think you know. Imagine a world where the lost city of Shambala suddenly reappeared on the world map, imagine a time where the lost city of Atlantis rises out of the sea and imagine a time where the earth that we live on is revealed to be hollow. Those stories, dismissed as myths and legends, are now all true and, with these truths revealed, dark forces come forth, storming the earth and spreading the shadow, waiting to claim anyone who dares to set foot into the darkness. The end of days is upon us, there’s nowhere to run and nowhere to hide. Time is running out and now is the time to choose a side; The Secret World is appearing in front of us.
The Secret World, a brand new MMO from Funcom, places you in a real world setting where everything you thought you knew about this world must be discarded. With darkness seeping into the world, there only are three secret societies willing to stand in its way:
- The Illuminati; with headquarters in an abandoned warehouse in New York City this group of shadowy figures are looking to rid the world of the darkness. By having their plants in high profile positions in governments and businesses around the world, they can do as they please without giving too much away about themselves.
- The Dragon; based in Seoul, South Korea, the Dragons motives are not entirely known to the other two factions. The Dragon feel they know the true meaning of the world and are the ones who sit in between the other rival factions, at times being able to manipulate them and bend them to their own will.
- The Templars; a lavish mansion in the centre of London Town is home to The Templars. With rich heritage and a history of battling the dark forces for thousands of years, tradition means everything to The Templars, although they are aware they must change with the times in order to keep up in the fight.
Not only will these factions be battling demons and the mythical creatures found rising from the depths, now they will be battling against each other. The Templars and The Illuminati are directly opposed, both wanting total control of the world but for totally different purposes. The Dragon on the other hand are very shady, slithering between the factions, ready to turn their back on one and offer their help to the other, but always in a way that benefits them, so that when the time is right, they will be the ones left standing when the dust falls and the sun sets on the end of days. “You can be whoever you want to be and play however you want to play,” says Ragnar Tornquist, creative director on TSW. One of the big differences with TSW compared to other MMOs is that this is a class-less and level-less game, where you are able to progress exactly as you please. PvE missions act as the base for you to gain skill points in order to equip new skills and powers to your character and, whilst I got a quick look at the skill wheel, the presentation I sat in on was unfortunately all in German, so I couldn’t tell exactly what was going on… helpful, I know!
The PvE level I was shown was a single player story mission where we were introduced to a Templar character that was tasked with investigating the disappearance of a fellow operative with whom the Templars had lost contact, and who they were starting to grow concerned over. You arrive at the car park where the contact was last known to have been and it’s soon obvious that nothing is at all as it seems, with shadowy figures dancing through the pools of light ahead of you and then quickly skulking back off into the deep shadows. After checking the parking lot CCTV, you are made aware that a known Dragon operative is also in the area and that you must find your colleague, while being wary of the Dragon’s presence, just in case it all kicks off. The next part of the demo literally blew my mind; as you make your way into the deepest part of the parking lot, the lights shut off, plunging you into total darkness with scratching and moaning noises seeming to seep out from the pitch black that reaches out to you, as though it is ready to suffocate you. A quick dip into the inventory and on goes the player’s head torch so that you can slowly make your way further down into the darkness. Suddenly, glowing eyes come charging right for you, trying to tear the flesh from your bones and add you to the pile of lifeless corpses, all staring blankly into the darkness.
With the stats ramped up for this demo, all of these ghouls were dealt with in just one shot but we were told that this certainly wouldn’t be the case in the full game. The chiaroscuro lighting effects created using the head torch, along with the overpowering darkness, really helped create that sense of dread and, even though some of the dialogue at the beginning of the presentation had light-hearted undertones, the level soon turned into a nail biting, underwear soiling fright fest.
As well as the head torches, you can gain access to flares that you can throw anywhere on the ground, which will not only gift you with some much needed distance lighting, but will attract certain enemies, allowing for tactical gameplay. The game gives the player the choice… if you want to run through the parking lot with just the head torch on, hacking, shooting or blasting away at your foes with magic you can, or if you want to throw down a couple of flares, draw the demons into the light and then take them apart when they’re least expecting it, you can do that too. It’s another layer for the gameplay that really helps to keep things varied. Eventually, you find the body of your Templar brother, lifeless, with his blood used to send you a message on the wall above, bringing the demo to an end. One of the great things mentioned during the demo by Joel Bylos, lead content designer on TSW, was that the same mission would be playable by all three secret societies, but told from different perspectives, which will help to unravel more of the story, allowing you to discover why the lights went out and just what the Dragon operative was up to – a very nice touch that will keep things fresh if you want to start new characters.
Another interesting point is that your character can wear whatever you want them to wear. Clothes and accessories do not have any impact on your defence or HP, so if you wanted to dress like a slutty teenage girl in a short skirt and high heels then you can (and, let’s face, it a lot of people will). Throughout the two presentations I watched, the variety in character design was massive. 6’2” muscle men in tank tops, short skinny girls in their tight trousers and jackets and gangly men wearing very little were all seen running around, helping to keep things looking completely different.
As well as the PvE sections, there are also PvP sections and this is where a lot of players are expected spend their time. In TSW, there can be up to 100 people in the PvP arenas at a time, a lot of which take place in famous landmarks and mythical locations such as Stonehenge (which has been unveiled as a beacon that can summon demonic creatures), the lost city of Shambala, El Dorado and so many more. One section I was shown demonstrated the teamwork needed in these PvP sections, with two teams battling to grab five explosive charges in order to break down some doors, advancing the play into another area where the third faction was already waiting, tasked with defending the next objective. I only saw a short glimpse of this and it certainly looked frantic, but I’m sure those who play in a highly organised manner will really enjoy these sections. It’s not only the thrill of combat that makes these PvP battles fun and important, but if you manage to successfully hold an area for your faction on the world map, then certain bonuses will become available for every player in your society, making teamwork absolutely vital when it comes to securing yourself some hefty bonuses.
But, here is my dilemma with TSW. I have never played an MMO and I have never before been tempted to. The only games I play on my (limited) laptop are text based Football Management sims because that’s just about all it can cope with. I cannot really afford to buy myself a new PC or Laptop capable of running this game to the level that it deserves to be played at and, trust me, this game is stunning. So what do I do? I have a game that has caught me on the back foot, that has drawn me in and all I want to do is go and get my BETA access key (sign-ups available from 26th August at www.thesecretworld.com) but I know that I won’t be able to. Before the release of TSW in April 2012, I will have to search around for any way of being able to get my hands on a machine good enough to allow The Secret World to be that first experience for me in an MMO.
What is the main reason that TSW has me hooked? The real world setting appeals to me far more than anything. I’m not a goblins and elves person and I can get more out of an experience when I’m in surroundings that I am familiar with or can easily picture in my mind. Yes, fantasy MMOs sculpt these beautiful lands for their players, but knowing more of the lost city of Atlantis, I already feel that I have a basic knowledge of the area, and seeing that brought to life in front of me is something that I just I don’t think I can turn away from. The lack of levels and classes mean that I can go through the game as I please, so if I’m not happy with a few things that I have selected I can tweak it slightly and never have to feel like I’m hemmed in down one road.
Never before did I think I would hear myself say that I wanted to play an MMO, but after seeing TSW in person and speaking to the very passionate team at Funcom, Ragnar Tornquist, Joel Bylos and Martin Bruusgaard, and experiencing the vision they have for this title with them, I cannot help but want to be a part of it and hope that you will too.
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