The Secret World

Published on March 27th, 2012

And now for something completely different…

There’s something wrong with MMORPGs, isn’t there? Between tired fantasy conventions and dull as dishwater ‘click to win’ quest design, gamers are beginning to see the cracks between the design slabs and yearn for something more. An experience which not only offers lots of combat, but a genuinely new setting with a plot which doesn’t just seem like an excuse to grind our valuable free-time away, and quests which require us not just to fight, but to think as well.

The Secret World

TSW takes a lot of cues from the real-world

Despite that, these thoughts continually ran through our minds while playing , because it’s so much more than another cut and paste WoW clone. It’s genuinely a breath of fresh air with a load of fantastically implemented ideas.

The most noticeable innovation is the setting, as TSW is set in a seedy version of the modern-day dominated by three secret societies which are fighting back the forces of the occult. During our immersion day, we enrolled as member of the Illuminati – a society which isn’t as spiritual as the Dragon or as serious as the Templars – who are looking to make some money, get ahead and if possible stop dark forces from crossing dimensions and invading society. So far, so good.

The Secret World

Guns in MMO combat? You better believe it!

After selecting our faction we were shown an in-engine cut-scene of our character experiencing his ‘magical awakening’ and was subsequently approached by a smooth-talking handler who told us of a place he knew we’d fit right in, only we’d have to earn our way first. He sent us to a sweaty and unattractive conspiracy theorist who hung out in a laundromat, because the ‘filth’ wouldn’t be able to hear his bizarre musings. This deliberate fun-poking proved an apt introduction to The Secret World, as despite the grounded subject matter, this really isn’t an MMO that takes itself too seriously. There’s a jovial and cheeky nature to the game which is genuinely endearing, and even the introductory quest has that element to it. Only gently nudging the player in the right direction rather than displaying directions outright, via the mini-map or HUD. After finding surveillance equipment for our nervous friend we were sent down an elaborate maze to gain entry into Illuminati HQ, where we got to mess around with the three different combat options – magic, melee and guns – as well as meet our domineering female contact.

TSW is very much a story-led experience, with in-game cut-scenes and lengthy monologues. However, unlike The Old Republic’s attempts at prioritising story, these long conversations don’t bog the game down. Instead spoken dialogue only interjects when necessary, and you’ll be glad when it does thanks to some great characters, genuinely funny banter and varied cinematic direction. Of course, whether that’s the case after a hundred hours remains to be seen, but we will say that the Illuminati’s ‘corporate but cool’ nature definitely made a good impression on us.

The Secret World

A brief taste of what's to come...

After selecting an all-guns no-nonsense combat build and experiencing a short tutorial section featuring a dimensional shift in a Toyko subway, we were unceremoniously transported to Egypt – an area it would take an average player around 70 hours to get to, but we were tight on time. It’s a shame we missed the rest of New York and an exciting finale to the opening act which leads to all factions heading to the Solomon Islands, but Funcom want to keep that particular gameplay nugget under wraps until the game is on shelves. However gaining access to a significantly sandier location did give us a flavour of how the nuts and bolts of The Secret World experience would play out…

To read the rest of this extensive preview, all five pages of it, check out the latest issue of MMOZine.

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