The Secret World Videogame Preview
Traffic was a NIGHTMARE because of the pesky giant hell monster
Even for experienced gamers, taking on a new MMO (Massively Multiplayer Online game) is a daunting prospect. Not only do titles such as World Of Warcraft and The Old Republic consume your every waking minute, but the commitment to online friends can be one burden too many. The Secret World from EA and developers Funcom is doing things a little differently.
It’s set in a world where myths and monsters are all real, much like Buffy or Supernatural, but instead of hot vampire slayers or sexy hunter brothers, you choose to join one of three secret societies – the Illuminati, Dragon or Templars – and build your character from scratch.
The mission we played takes us to a spooky abandoned funfair, where the Boogyeman is causing havoc. After receiving our orders from a shady G-Man we head to the spinny chair-o-planes, when the ride suddenly springs into life, handy for taking out aggressive zomboids and hulking behemoths. Fortunately our arsenal of spectral shotguns and mythical powers means even without help from some wild dodgems we’re no slackers on the field. The demo ends with a brief ride on a rollercoaster which reminds us of Theme Park (in a good way), but what impresses most about The Secret World is the world itself, and the unusually large emphasis placed on storytelling in the game.
We were so intrigued in fact that we collared Funcom’s Product Mangaer Erling Ellingson to find out more:
SFX: We’re big fans of Buffy The Vampire Slayer and Supernatural at SFX, and we can see hints of shows like those in The Secret World. We’re there any specific influences on the team during the making of the game?
Erling Ellingson: Yes, to all of them. We love comic books, we love television series, books, and we draw inspiration from everything. The fact that The Secret World is based on the modern day real world means there’s a lot of stuff we can draw upon, themes and events that are happening in popular culture and popular literature. Our greatest inspirations are the urban legends, the myths and legends of old, stuff like that. In this demo we’re showing here for instance we have the Boogeyman, and later in the game you get to actually fight the Boogeyman.
The three factions: the Illuminati, Dragons and Templars. Does that mean there will be a religious theme in The Secret World?
I guess we touch upon it now and then, but it’s not a focus for us, not at all. We touch upon some of those stories and some of those elements, but it’s never a focus.
Why those three factions then?
That’s a good question, but it’s so far back I hadn’t actually started on the project then! I think they just complemented each other. For instance the Illuminati is something we wanted to go with because it’s probably the most known of the secret societies, so that was a natural choice, though I do think we’re taking the Illuminati in directions that’s not necessarily typical. Of course the thing is that they all complement each other greatly. We have the Illuminati, who are the corporate manipulators, then we have the Dragon, which are brutal and militaristic and righteous, and then you have the Templars, which are more philosophical and believe in the chaos theory. So they complement each other, but they’re in contrast to each other. All of them are inspired by real world secret societies that we’ve all heard about.
You'll be fighting nasties in a diverse range of environments.
So you’ve got a faction called the “Dragons”, are there any actual dragons?
There are definitely dragon-like creatures I would say. If you want to call them dragons or not that’s up to you! We have huge winged demons.
You’re placing a huge amount of emphasis on story, do you see this as a way to entice gamers who are daunted by MMOs like World Of Warcraft?
The Secret World is the perfect bridge between multiplayer and single player games, because it is so story heavy and so focused on story and it’s very solo friendly. You can go through it you can play it by yourself if you want to. A lot of the missions have single-player mechanics, like sneaking into a building and avoiding the cameras, that aren’t usually in MMOs. So in terms of gameplay, story, graphics, we are bridging the gap between single player and multiplayer games.
There are hundreds of different missions in the game and all of them are told through cinematics. We have an extremely talented writing team, and they’ve written hundreds of hours of story and dialogue. We motion capture all of our cinematics and everything. There’s a lot of work going into that, more so than any other game I’ve done before.
You also have no levelling up system, why is that?
We wanted to create a progression system that was different from everything out there. One of the most traditional things with MMOs is the class system. There are not a lot of games that have come up without classes. I love Ultima Online, which is one of the classics that doesn’t really have classes and is much more free form. So we wanted to try something new and we believed we could make a character progression system that would be more interesting than a class system. It’s taken a lot of years of blood, sweat and tears getting there, but the progression system we have now is absolutely fantastic. Just being able to chose from over 500 different abilities and combine them, find synergies. For instance, you can chose one assault rifle ability that knocks people down when you fire at them and then you find another chaos magic ability that does extra damage to enemies that are lying on the ground, and you can put those together and use them together to be extra effective. Finding the synergies is like a meta-game in itself.