So, I’m going to skip over a second set of introductions because chances are if you’re reading this you already read part one. That, and if you didn’t read the first part I can’t imagine you caring much about this post either.
One thing I would like to say before discussing my experiences in-game is to say that Funcom has really gone the extra mile in this project, especially as one of the few prominent independent studios left. I never thought the newsletter that I signed up for on a whim would actually come back and entice me the way it has. Their use of the Facebook “social experience” The Secret War managed to make a simple map of our own world seem significantly more mysterious and enticing. Along with that, they kept me checking in on it regularly with offers of in-game items, treats, and guaranteed beta access for those that accumulated an exceptionally large sum of “points”.
Along with that, they continued to string along the conspiracy theorists with unique marketing, sending those who signed up for the newsletter on an elaborate internet chase, trying to unravel two mysteries at once in what people are calling an “ARG” or “Alternate Reality Game“. They have been keeping us active digging through pastebin archives, searching for hidden meaning in songs on Youtube, deciphering secret codes to unlock Live Action videos that bring us one step closer to understanding another conflict occurring in The Secret World. If you want to try and see what I’m talking about… go to www.funcom.com and wait for a few seconds for the site to load. Then hit “33” on your keyboard, and you can see what I’m talking about They are currently on the sixth seal here. See if you can figure out the questions you may have on your own. One would normally think a game rooted in mystery, deception, and espionage would not lend itself especially well to an MMORPG; while I can’t speak for everyone, Funcom has done a damn good job at making it work so far.
And with that out of the way, let me tell you about my experience inside The Secret World. Keep in mind, there may be spoilers.
Just before the character creator, you are asked to choose between one of three factions, the Templars, Illuminati, and the Dragon. To help you decide, each faction has a simple trailer (click the links if you want to see them). Considering how they have much more elaborate trailers, I’m surprised that they chose to use those ones. My personal guess is that these trailers are easier for the client to run as opposed to the full CG ones, and they don’t want to tax the program more than necessary.
Anyway, while my personal choice was the Illuminati, I decided to try the starter areas for each of the factions. Regardless of your choice, the game opens up with a cutscene referred to as “One Week Ago” in what is presumably your apartment, unless you actually are a squatter or stole another person’s apartment after killing them and throwing their mutilated corpse in their own closet. “Why so specific?” you might ask. Don’t. Worry. About. It. Okay?
As I was saying, you are sleeping in your (alleged) apartment while a radio broadcast mentions investigations into the Japanese government after an unclear accident took place against a certain “Orochi” group. Meanwhile, while this broadcast takes place, one glowing insect and another regular one fly onto your windowsill and slowly make their way across their room. The first insect flies into your mouth, and the glowing one follows right after it. Almost immediately after, your character brings a hand to their throat and sits up coughing. Reaching out for your jacket across from your bed, a blue fire comes from your hand, and you jerk back in surprise. Testing your hand once more, the flame appears once more and you stare in shock. The screen goes black, and we then see ourselves “Four Days Ago”. Your apartment is now a wreck, CDs, books and various objects are strewn across the floor, along with an entire bookshelf toppled over. And then there is you, tucked away in the corner curled up holding your knees to your chest, face distraught. There’s a rumbling in the background, and you find yourself yanked upward as you let forth an explosion around you and are held up in the air while beams of energy shoot out from your mouth and eyes like you were running a laser-light-show for your organs. By the next time skip you’ve decided to use your fire as part of your own break dancing routine as you throw it back and forth between your hands, until you decide to absorb it from one hand, and let the blue energy travel through your shoulders, up your arm, and materializing it once more in your opposite hand. After that, your paths finally diverge based on your faction choice, and a representative of that group shows up at your door. They capture the moods of their respective organizations very well, with the Illuminati man clarifying the playboy/party life you can lead, the Templar woman explains the importance of nobility and your responsibility to the world, and the Dragon sends a monk with lips stitched together, knocks you out with a bolt of lightning to the forehead, has you dragged off, so you can wake up being thrown out of a van in South Korea. For a bit of context, it is heavily implied that your apartment is in New York City. The Dragon are agents of chaos indeed.
At this point I think I should stop and clarify, not only were all these introductions very cool, for an MMO the animations were extremely fluid and compelling, and from what I have seen, Funcom has clearly gone out of their way to let us know they can do a lot with their character models. This is made especially clear in the Illuminati section as characters stand up and walk around, sometimes raising their fists and shaking their head, while other times providing slight nods and general gestures. In general, the facial animations are a bit lacking, but overall Funcom has conveyed the feeling of living human bodies very well. Of course, I should point out that I did notice a fair number of flaws in the animations for the Dragon starter area, but it appears to be something everyone is aware and should be worked out by the next release date.
Since this article has turned out (again) to be longer than I expected, I will be detailing the combat and gameplay in Part 3.
Riknas, signing off!