With way too many hours of air travel now behind me, it’s now time to start telling you all about what we learned at PAX. Over the next several days, you’ll probably be seeing a flurry of posts about how everything looked. The awesome and the mediocre. As this is the first post I’m getting to throw up here, I’m doing a bit of a preface.
Six of us here at The Game Fanatics ended up in Boston over the weekend, and we got in depth demonstrations and viewings of all the best games and gear at the show. The first game I want to talk about is The Secret World. I got the demo Friday afternoon, and it was the first booth that I saw that seemed exceptionally interesting.
To start, The Secret World is an MMO being released by Funcom. Described as an action/horror RPG, Secret Worlds takes place in a distopian future where three main organizations vie for power. The Illuminati, a high-powered corporate group described as “willing to pay any price to dominate others”; The Templars, a duty driven group that views the sacrifice of innocents has acceptable in the name of a higher cause; and The Dragons, a secretive organization that revolves around espionage and deception. The player joins one of these factions, and emarked on a the narrative tailered for that group.
The Secret World has a few things that make it stand out as a worthwhile title to choose over the other MMORPGs (of where there are many poised to release). First, its setting an approach to storyworld is wholely unique. There are no other titles that are either based in real-world setings, or classified as being of the “Horror Genre”. This is the least objectively compelling, as it’s based entirely on whether or not the player is interested in those aspects of the game, but for those who are, Secret Worlds is obviously the premire choice.
Mechanically, The Secret World also has advantages over its competition. One of the most important of these is how The Secret World distingushes its gameplay. As the chief medium for how the players will be interacting with the world, combat is entirely customizable. Players will be able to choose from a wide away of weapon and power choices, and combine them as they see fit. Utilizing machine guns and shotguns, or claws and psychic powers, players can literally mix and match any existing power set with any other. This essentially means the abolishment of classes. Though I expect certain power sets will compliment some more than others, the amount of customizability should feel familiar to, and satisfy, western audiences.
Another feature that players may feel themselves drawn to is that all visual appearance options for their avatars will be cosmetic. Players will always have the option to make their character look the way they want them to look, without having to worry about sacrificing functionality. This will obviously serve the Role-Playing crowd, but it will also help tailer the experience of any player, as it will serve a large part in immersing them in a convincing setting at the game’s narrative progresses.
In light of the non-functionality of “armor”, The Secret World approaches the functional side of equipment with “Chakras”. Essentially, these sound like invisible gear that will dictate the stats of the characters wearing them, and come in many varied and complex sets. This raised a concern with me, as it means that evaluating a foe for purposes of PvP encounters very difficult. It will be very difficult to tell how you should approach an opponent, because you will have no knowledge of his power. This is compounded by the fact that Secret Worlds doesn’t utilize a standard leveling system.
Leveling in The Secret World is done via a system of accruing points which the player can spend on acquiring new skills, as well as increasing the rank of Chakra that the player can equip.
The PvP system does have its advantages though, chiefly in the forethought in to organized PvP. With a three faction world set up, any faction that becomes too power in regards to PvP dominance will see that the two other factions will combine forces to oppose them.
The Secret World looks to be a quite polished MMORPG with most of its innovavtion being in class design, changing the most basic way most of their players will approach the primary content of the game. Taking its narrative uniqueness in to account, this is a game that seems like it may not appeal to the lion’s share of players looking to explore the latest generaton of MMOs, but it will definitely have a niche appeal, and I predict a pretty dedicated player base.