Alright. Now that we’re at Part Three I’m done giving background, I’m just going to talk about mostly about the game play and questing in The Secret World. If you want to catch up, just check out Part One and/or Part Two. As I said before, there may be spoilers in these posts.
By the time I got through the starter area, I had a pretty good understanding of the faction I was working for, and each of the NPCs I interacted with were fully-voice acted, and I could ask them a variety of questions such as the state of the secret world, their opinions on the other factions, and themselves. Also, after initially meeting with them you can also check to see if they have any quests. So far, any NPC presented quest would be explained in the form of a cut scene, leading to a switch in perspective for the camera. I would say this does make the quests seem more dramatic than having six other people standing in front of the character with you, and while I wouldn’t say that they blow me away each time, I find the consistency to be a positive improvement compared to what we had in Age Of Conan.
That said, quests so far rarely feel like the run of the mill quests we have in other MMOs. While it’s possible I may not have gotten in far enough, the closest thing I had to a mundane quest was to lure a group of enemies into a magically protected church. This did in fact consist of me shooting them and then running off, but it was explained to me as a way of testing the magic wards the church had in place. It wasn’t especially complicated, but it was more interesting luring five of them as opposed to merely killing five of them. In another quest, I was supposed to help resupply an isolated town under siege by zombies. Instead of simply marking on my mini map each of the locations, first I had to find a phone book and check the list off addresses there. I would like to point out interacting with the phone book was very thorough, I didn’t just right click it and then have it assigned to my mini map, I actually had the opportunity to look at it; the phone book had actually addresses, phone numbers, and the names of each of the locations. Because I could visit the phone book prior to the quest, this time the important addresses were circled in red. It was only then did my character decide which areas would be best best to investigate. Some areas had supplies, and some had giant monsters waiting to eat off my face. Once I had finished checking out all the buildings I had first circled, my character noticed he did not actually have enough, and I had to find another phone book to figure out what to do next. In another quest, I found myself chasing flocks of ravens and then examining a drawing of a pentagram in order to find the right location to put the raven feathers I had collected to summon a monster.
While the puzzles and concepts I was being introduced to were reasonably simple, from what I can tell there are supposed to become much more complicated: they actually have an in-game browser that connects you to Google so you can do research. I would also like to point out that this browser worked significantly better than the original browser built into EVE Online. Really, this is the first time I’ve ever played a game that outright told me, “You’re not going to figure it all out on your own.”
Now, let’s talk about the real game play where you kill things. Before you can get to fighting zombies, monsters, and those dirty stick in the mud Templars, you need to pick a weapon (If you’re a Templar, don’t bother. You’re already dead). As you progress through your faction starting area, at some point you will be sent to a trainer that will explain the basics of how combat works. This trainer goes on to explain the fire that you seem to have control over (as mentioned in Part One) is your “anima”. For some reason you are able to project this life energy inside you to be a deadly. As such, the question you have to ask yourself is, “How do I want to control it?” This is supposed to be the defining reason why The Secret World is an RPG progression. Any weapon you choose to use is ultimately a focus object for you to project your anima. You have three categories to choose from, Melee, Ranged, and Magic. These three categories each have three weapons associated with them. Melee is composed of Hammers, Swords, and Fist Weapons. Ranged consists of Shotguns, Dual Pistols, and Assault Rifles. Last, we have Elemental, Blood, and Chaos Magic. At any one time, you can use two weapons and fourteen abilities associated with them (Seven active abilities, and seven passive abilities). This is explained to you in a video shown via the in-game browser. Let me just say, the announcer manages to make everything sound awesome. He tells you to consider abilities as cards in a collectible card game, and the abilities you choose to use are your “deck”. I don’t know about you, but that doesn’t actually sound like something to get you pumped. Maybe you think it’s kind of cool, but you wouldn’t go and call it exciting. At least, not if this was being explained by a normal person. The announcer for this manages to say all of it so seriously when he finishes saying, “deck” I think to myself, “Holy crap, this MMO lets me me pick and choose my abilities like its a deck in a collectible card game!” Chances are this guy could convince me that you should only be able to solo in MMOs and that all single player games should be multiplayer only. Really, that guy could get me to buy anything. That said, while all this freedom is well and good, and I may now have a man-crush for the narrator, it doesn’t actually determine whether or not it’s fun.
On the surface, you might think that the combat is more of the same. And to be fair, you can see the similarities to “standard MMO” fighting. However, because you don’t level up through a power tree or a strictly linear system, there is a more strategic mindset for when you start picking abilities you want to learn and use, and the combat itself and feel a bit more fast paced and tactical. Having said that, I think it’s actually really hard to peg it as “fun” or “not fun”, because it all really depends on how you feel about classic MMO combat. If you think that’s fun (or fun enough), this could either interest you as a step up, or turn you off for being too different. On the other hand, if you’re looking for something different, this might be enough to pique your interest, however to some it might still be too much of the same old thing. Personally, I find the combat to be just different enough to satisfy me.
Overall, I would say that my time spent with The Secret World was pretty enjoyable. Because I have the game pre-ordered and have access to the last beta weekend, you can bet I’ll be talking about this game for a while.
Riknas, signing off!