In our first hands-on session with The Secret World, we journey through the Templar's starting area, solve some mysteries, and get devoured by an Ur-Draug.
The online role-playing game The Secret World is shaping up to be a real rogues' gallery of supernatural horrors. From zombies to vampires to nameless, indescribable monstrosities, this upcoming massively multiplayer online game has all your childhood nightmares in order. After being kind enough to respond to our extensive Q&A, developer Funcom (Age of Conan: Hyborian Adventures) invited a handful of journalists to visit their office in Montreal, Canada. There, we caught up with creative director Ragnar Tornquist and got our first hands-on session with the game.
"We see our story as a giant jigsaw puzzle," Tornquist said during his introductory presentation. The pieces to that puzzle are scattered all across the globe, and it will be our charge to seek out the truth and possibly save humanity along the way. Story is one of the main focuses of The Secret World, along with character progression and the game's modern-day setting. Upon concluding, Tornquist explained that our play time would take us through the Templar's starting area to the city of Kingsmouth Town--which is under siege by the undead.
Before heading to the suburbs of the dead, our first order of business was combat. Fighting in The Secret World was all about generating and spending marks. Since we were using dual pistols (a ranged weapon), we put marks on enemies by hitting them with our standard ranged attack: "the Business." Once the enemy had a few of these marks, up to five maximum, we could use our "Wanted" attack to cash them in. This cleverly named attack let us strike multiple targets by bending a bullet's midair trajectory (complete with gun-flicking animation). It also did bonus damage depending on how many marks the target had.
"Above the Law" rounded out our starting trio of abilities and let us tag a small area on the ground. Enemies in this area took extra damage, as well as generated marks on themselves. Depending on which weapon you wield, marks will be generated differently. With our pistols in order, we were introduced to the game's quick-travel system: the Garden of Eden. Located down an isolated stairwell in an old train station, the portal to Eden deposited us onto what looked to be a massive tree branch. White light shone all around us, complemented by the humming of hornets and the occasional stomping of a tin man who strolled past in the distance. Following the arm of this massive, winding tree, we eventually found the exit portal.
We had arrived in Kingsmouth. One early mission that caught our interest came from the fortune-teller Madame Roget. She was being plagued by terrible nightmares involving ravens and wanted us to investigate the source. Our first task was to simply follow the ravens. The first raven led us to another raven, who led us to another, who led us to a hulking, knife-wielding psychotic called the Ravenant. Thanks a lot, ravens. A dramatic battle ensued, ending with the Ravenant's retreat. We then collected the feather it left behind, before following the ravens to the next location.
After repeating this process a few times, we came upon an empty fountain. A nearby envelope instructed us to arrange the collected feathers in a specific pattern to "bind the malevolent spirit." However, what it should have said was "make the malevolent spirit really angry." The final battle followed between man and bird-monster, but we won't spoil how it ended.
At this point in any other MMO, our character would have likely leveled up. But in The Secret World you don't gain levels. Instead, there are two main character progression systems. The first involves your character's abilities. Your character earns ability points by completing missions and other secondary objectives. These points can be spent anywhere in the massive skill wheel, with different families of skills being tied to different weapons. The second system involves the chakras. As you play, you will collect different chakras to fit into the seven chakra slots. These improve your character's stats, such as increasing attack rating or critical damage.
Later during our session, we played through the same dungeon seen at the EA Studio Showcase. It played out the same as when we last saw it. However, in that previous demo our heroes were shot down in the end by a flying creature. This time, we got the chance to fight that creature. And it killed us, a lot. This Ur-Draug encounter started out normal enough: our strongest character took point while the rest of the party stood around and pelted it with all manner of pain. Then its eyes began to glow, and we got a radio message about reality breaking down.
Now the battlefield had an otherworldly glow about it. Fighting the Ur-Draug at this point would be suicide, so we all hid behind a stone mound. This creature couldn't be bothered to find us itself and would spawn lesser horrors to skulk around and look for us instead. And if one of them found us, the Ur-Draug would dish out some serious hurt. After a time, reality was restored and the fight proper continued.
Before signing off, we took a moment to look through the game's pause menu, where we found options for adjusting the user interface. It was broken into four sections: auto-targeting, name displays, toggling HUD elements, and toggling cinematics. While the overall feel of The Secret World wasn't altogether different from other traditional MMO games, save for the lack of an auto-attack, the game's sense of humor really stood out. It loved to poke fun at supernatural cliches and was packed with horror and pop culture references. You can discover The Secret World for yourself in April next year on the PC.
Release is June 19 ?!?!? Your kidding, right?
I have played the Beta this weekend. Very very very disappointed.
Even if it was a free dowload and free to play I wouldn't play it.
i want my 11 gig back was a waste of time, which is a real shame i had hopes for this game but was just let down by it
if the game doesnt have any levels or locked "classes", then wtf is a templar class? what would it differ chosing a templar class from another class when you can customize your class to your liking anyways? I don't quite understand...
someone mentioned that it may turn off younger generations...and how is that a bad thing? I take that as a major positive...but I'm just a grumpy old bastard.
Looking forward to this one. I know Tornquist can tell a good story, from The Longest Journey and Dreamfall adventure games, and I like that in an RPG, too. Having that in an MMO sounds like a lot of fun to me. The only parallels I can think of are Lord Of The Rings Online, and Star Wars: The Old Republic. If the latter lives up to Bioware's reputation for good writing and memorable characters, in a story-driven RPG, we could be a seeing a trend here. A very good one! IMHO anyway. :-)
@cobra5 and oflow : what do you propose for an alternative way (and i mean a viable one) of combat in MMO ?
I just wish the character animations were smoother and more life-like. :-( It'll turn off a lot of the younger generation of gamers.
@Cobra5 I agree 100%. It has a lot of potential as a genre that people havent really taken advantage of (the old shelved Call of Cthulu game tried but never made it) but with Funcom aka Failcom at the helm, I wont get my hopes up.
Hmm... I like the sound of the meta game, especially the class-blending, but I'm really sick of the standardized MMO combat formula by now... :( Same thing that bothers me about SWTOR.
I am looking forward to checking this game out. Combining Tornquist story-telling with MMO gameplay could either make a very memorable experience or could flop big-time. Hopefully it's the former. It would be great to have an game-related conversation that goes beyond typical builds, raids, quests, enemies and all that dry stuff.
@Ikthog You do know that he mentioned that it is still in closed beta ya? Did you ever see WoW in closed beta? Comparing it to the first WoW retail release, you wouldn't think they were the same game.
Agree with Ikthog on this.With mmo like blade and soul coming up where the models and animations are just crazy this just looks clunky.i do love the game world tought. im keeping an eye on this one.
Every time I see videos of this, I'm struck at how unsophisticated the character models and animations are, particularly since they clearly put some serious thought into the look and animations of the bigger enemies. It's just a shame to see someone trying to make a legitimately unique and original MMO, only to have it undercut by a lack of attention to some key details. (I have the same complaints about SW: TOR.) Looking forward to seeing how it ends up, but sadly anticipating the 6.0 review scores to come.
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