The Secret World Updated Impressions

We reveal some of the dark secrets behind The Secret World, which were shared with us during the Penny Arcade Expo.

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Imagine that all of the myths and legends you've heard over the years were all true. Imagine that everything you thought was impossible is now a part of your reality. In Funcom's upcoming massive multiplayer online game, there are certainly more secrets to be uncovered. At the 2009 Penny Arcade Expo, the creators revealed a few tantalizing details about The Secret World, which is set in modern times with real-life locations. We met with director and producer Ragnar Tornquist and lead designer Martin Bruusgaard to talk about the secret societies, guilds (cabals), and rankings. And, we got our first look at a bit of gameplay.

In our last update of The Secret World, we revealed that there are three underground factions, and each has its own unique way of ridding the world of evil. By going to the game's official site, you can take a personality test to see which faction suits your beliefs. We were introduced to the self-righteous Templars, who are based in London and believe that evil must be vanquished and sacrifices must be made. Tornquist described the Templars as crusaders who would burn an entire village down to get their hands on one demon. They're bound by law and tradition and do not believe in compromise. As Tornquist said, "They do not participate in the war on evil; they are the war on evil." Headquartered under an abandoned warehouse in New York City, the Illuminati believe that it's a tough world where only the strongest will survive. Members of the Illuminati will use blackmail and deceit as currency to achieve power. Their motto is, "Do or get done." The third faction is the Dragon, a group of individuals hiding out in a monastery in Seoul that primarily stick to the shadows. They believe that the only way to achieve true balance is through creating chaos. The Dragon faction is all about deceiving, orchestrating chaos, and waiting patiently for its time to come. While the other societies fight against each other, The Dragon faction stands by, watches, and then picks up the pieces.

Choosing the right society to be a part of is an important decision because you can't change your mind later without starting all over again. The factions all have the same goals, but how they accomplish those goals is entirely different. As a new member, you start from the bottom and work your way up the ranks. Given that the game does not have a traditional leveling system, everything you do is tracked and your actions will determine what kind of direction your character will take. Whether you're slaughtering zombies or completing missions, everything you work for will be reflected in your score and increase your standing within the faction.

To keep the world competitive, there are rankings for almost everything. Players, their cabal, and their society are individually ranked. Everything you do will go toward a score, so the game tracks how you're doing locally on your server, regionally, and globally. For bragging rights, special titles can be awarded in-game, and it sounds like Funcom is linking up Facebook and Twitter so you can share your progress with the rest of the Internet.

The excavator to the left might be a better weapon against walking cement.
The excavator to the left might be a better weapon against walking cement.

Guilds in The Secret World are known as cabals, which are player-made groups affiliated with the secret societies. Cabal housing will be available, and you'll have the freedom to decorate and furnish the housing according to your own tastes. There are different ranks to achieve from within the cabal, which will unlock more content. Upgrades of some sort were mentioned, but we were not given any details about them.

Bruusgaard and Tornquist talked about the player-versus-player portion of the game, which is optional and apparently easy to access 24/7. The area in which you fight in is the hollow Earth. This region is known as Agartha and divided into cells that players can fight over for benefits. A precious resource known as "anima" is available here, and it is vital for weapon upgrades or to acquire new trade skills. When a group captures a cell, it receives bonuses that can help the group in the player-versus-environment areas. You can also build defenses to help hold your cell, which is intended to give cabals the feeling of owning and protecting something that is theirs.

After going through the features of the game, we were told we'd actually be able to see a bit of gameplay that won't be released anywhere else. The gameplay was put together in a short video where an armed man ran around the streets, using his shotgun to shoot various creatures in the face. It was dark, which made it difficult to see where the fighting was taking place, but the focus was clearly on the firefight between the character and the enemy. At some point, the character switched to a fiery sword, but regardless of what he was wielding, the action looked fast and intense, especially when larger monsters were coming at him from different directions. Without being able to play the game, it's hard to say what it would feel like, but it definitely looked like a zombie shooter from the short clips that we saw. There were no heads-up displays from what we could tell. All we saw was a red target reticle as the character was running around frantically shooting and dodging mythical beasts. Martin emphasized that the action is snappy and that you really feel like you're in the combat shooting monsters. It deviates from traditional MMOGs in which battles feel more calculated.

How often do you get to do this in an MMO?
How often do you get to do this in an MMO?

Our presentation ended with a cutscene that showed a disheveled man in a heavy coat, drinking at a bar and using magic of some sort to get the change on the table to swirl in a small circle. He headed into the men's room toward a row of urinals, and we noticed an odd-looking humanoid-shaped thing standing by the urinal next to him. As he's doing his business, the creature--whose face is wrapped in cloth--transformed into a monster with long, probing tentacles. This didn't seem to faze the man who was there relieving himself and staring absentmindedly ahead into the mirror. As the creature poised to strike, the man looked the creature in the eye and the mirror shattered, drawing the demo to a close.

We could only guess at what this cutscene represented, but before we left, Ragnar left us with these words, "Old enemy, new opportunity, and the rising tide of change." Without a confirmed release date yet, we can definitely expect more updates in the future. From the information that we've gathered, it looks like this will be one of the more intriguing games to keep an eye on because of how different it is from other MMOGs. The Secret World is currently set to be released on the PC and Xbox 360, and we'll be sure to update you with more information as soon as it becomes available. In the meantime, be sure to check out the latest gameplay screens, as well as the trailer.

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