Over this past weekend, I was fortunate enough get into the 4th beta weekend for the MMO game The Secret World. And boy was it fun. The basic premise is that you literally woke up with super human abilities, which attracts the attention of a secret organization. You have your choice of organization: The Templars, Chaos Dragon, and The Illuminati. I went with the Illuminati, although there isn’t a huge difference in which faction you choose other than location, uniform, and the occasional faction mission.
Unlike other MMO’s, there are no classes or levels; instead, you receive points which you can use to buy abilities and build a deck, so to speak. I went with a fists/elemental combo; fists because of self-heals, and elemental for range attacks. I really enjoyed the build, running around and clawing at things like Wolverine. Though I have to say, the assault rifle looked like a lot of fun, too. Wasn’t impressed with the spellcasting animations—you have your hands out to the sides like some weirdo--and only the elemental spells were cool—Hammer of Thor, especially.
Your starting area is Kingsmouth, set in New England, where a mysterious fog has crept in, bringing with it creatures and drawing the townsfolk out to sea—only to return as the undead.
The environments alone were magnificent; it’s like running through a horror movie, with abandoned cars and buildings, barricaded forts. A strange haze over the town, large waxing moon when there are no lights. Grotesque monsters, coated in barnacles or tentacles coming out. Clusters of zombies on the side of the road, in front yards, wandering the woods. Oh, and they run.
The Savage Coast has even more weird crap, such as a literal motel Hell, a haunted theme park, and an academy that ain’t your Hogwarts.
And if you think that’s wacky, you should meet the characters inhabiting the world. I love that everyone had a personality with a few screws loose, and the voice acting was superb. My particular favorite was the germaphobic schoolmaster who’d call out: “No running in the halls! The floors are slick with gore.” And his colleague refers to him as “the world’s revenge on sarcasm.”
It was easy to become immersed in the world, and I actually dug the storyline, which is rare for me since most MMO’s put little effort into the story. With this, like in true Lovecraftian fashion, you want to know what the heck is going on. Is this place a supernatural hot zone? Did God decide to give Solomon Island the finger? And what’s with all this black goo?
-Missions come in all kinds of variety, from killing monsters to sneaking into bases. You even get to do some spy work. There are puzzles, some that require using Google. You make a call to turn in your mission report, instead of running back to the
questmission giver (BIG plus right there).
-Combat is fun and engaging. You can run, jump, dodge while still attacking. Automatic targeting.
-Boss fights are mainly focused on survival (watch the ground!)
-No mana! Your abilities are only limited by cooldown times and how fast you can push keys.
-No professions. You don’t need to gather materials for hours on end or search for a blacksmith to make you a weapon. Every character can now take a part items and reassemble them into something useful. The system may take some getting use to, but I found it very novel the way you had to assemble the material into the shape of your weapon or talisman.
|Me kicking a wendigo's ass (click it, looks better in full size)|
Not so pluses:
-Zombie rush! Okay, I get it: zombies are everywhere. But do they have to swarm me right in the middle of a fight with a tough creature? I’d say most of my deaths were due to this.
-Walking everywhere. With all these abandoned vehicles, couldn’t I steal one to make the journey go a little faster? Doesn’t even have to be a car. A motorcycle, moped, even a friggin’ bike would be fine.
-Why can’t I zoom out? With a world this big and awesome, I’d love to zoom out and take a gander. This would also be helpful in boss fights, where I felt the limited camera view inhibited my performance.
Would I recommend this? It’s tempting to say ‘yes’ because I really want this game to succeed, despite that EA is the publisher—and I'd rather tell EA executives to go fuck themselves. But… I’m going to wait and see. There were a number of buggy quests, and since the betas could only report on two areas, there’s probably more down the line.
There’s also the chance that it might not catch on since it’s aimed toward an older audience, evident by the number of times ‘fuck’ is used, sexual suggestions, graphic horror content. This is not something I’d let kids play.
But as many said, it’s fresh and interesting take on MMO’s.