Soon all the secrets will be revealed.
Thanks to a multitude of Open Beta weekends and enough previews to fuel some other conspiracies, we’re guessing you have a good grasp of The Secret World by now. Funcom’s story-driven MMO, which is set in a version of our world where the occult is very much real, is shaping up very nicely. More importantly though, the subscription release is actually pretty different from the norm, with a classless progression structure which means any character can learn every skill in the game, and even switch their builds on the fly.
The big mystery however is how all these different concepts tie together in the game’s spooky end-game, and that’s exactly the kind of speculation Funcom looked to dispel by taking us around a few choice areas – namely Transylvania and a previously unseen part of Egypt.
We’re going to keep the plot details to an absolute minimum, but needless to say having previously played a hefty chunk of Egypt and the Solomon Islands we definitely got a sense that the fiction was tying itself together in some really interesting ways involving ancient historical races and commonly misunderstand myths… and that’s all we’ll say.
Transylvania certainly felt like an suitable apex to the game with corrupted humans, fungi-covered giants populating the wilderness, with only an ancient Romany fighting force to stop them. In one of the faction’s villages we sampled, the dialogue in some of the missions again showcased how well Funcom can write dialogue and create interesting characters. Unfortunately our
time with the camp was cut short, as it was a bit of a whistle-stop tour, but our team of five had no problem dispatching any demon, ghosts or monsters we came across thanks to our team’s handy level 10 gear. What Funcom were really keen to show us however was one of TSW’s penultimate dungeons – a mission dubbed ‘The Darkness War’.
We’ve spoken before about how Funcom regularly play with player expectations and this instanced area completely summed up that approach. The mission starts as usual with a detailed briefing, via a carefully directed cut-scene and sees the participants instantly transported to a time that’s a millennia prior to the modern day. When we awoke we were on an unnamed island, an environment that’s seemed like a nexus for all things weird and wonderful, with Mayans fighting against Vikings in backdrops punctuated by both races’ marooned ships and darkness spewing monsters spoiling what was otherwise a rather idyllic setting.
Where this all feeds into the grand narrative we have no idea, but seeing these two cultures literally clash was a revelation, and a perfect example of how Funcom are taking established MMO tropes and taking them in new directions. The boss design was really interesting too, often placing more of an emphasis on player placement and recognising attack routines, rather than a team’s brute strength.
Puddles of darkness spewed around boss characters regularly causing major damage whenever a character ventured near them, but this in turn was further complicated by rotating 2D columns on the floor that signified where the next push attack would originate from. It’s additions like these that give combat a really reactive and fast-paced feel, especially when you narrowly avoid an attack by rolling out of the way.
There’s a lot of core features we haven’t talked about yet – like swapping combat builds and story design – but regardless of that, questing around Transylvania certainly felt special – like it would be worth the dozens of hours of investment to get to. The release of this assuredly different MMORPG is just around the corner and we genuinely can’t wait to play more!
To see more of The Secret World, including a video exclusive to GamerZines, check out the latest issue of MMOZine.
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