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The Secret World preview – Joining the Illuminati

 

World of Warcraft meets The X-Files. That’s the best way to describe The Secret World, the latest MMO contender from Funcom and EA that trades in medieval fantasy for a more contemporary, albeit creepier, setting. In TSW, conspiracies are the norm, secret societies offer assistance, and each enemy looks like they’d be right at home in any horror movie. Plus, we can’t think of any other MMO that let us blast shotgun shells into a zombies face before swapping to an industrial sledgehammer to bloody it just a bit further.

The events that transpire in TSW all take place in modern day: unbeknownst to the public at large, secret societies have been pulling the strings of fate by beating back unseen forces of evil and claiming whatever’s left over. They may appear to be fighting for the greater good, but each syndicate has their own ulterior motives – they’re all at odds with each other in the race for power, serving as the game’s three factions.

The New York-based Illuminati vie for corporate domination and the wealth that come with it. The Templar hail from London, and operate with a militaristic zeal to control anything related to the occult. The Dragon (who aren’t yet available in the beta) of Seoul base their actions on the butterfly effect, fostering chance occurrences to create chaos that will end in their favor. As fans of underworld fame and fortune, we sided with the Illuminati, with the hopes that we could one day don their trademark high-tech gas masks.

TSW’s skill progression is unlike any other major MMO to date: instead of restricting players to choosing a class and a talent tree, any character can specialize in any weapon of their choosing, and it’s up to the player to decide which skills would best suit them. By investing your ability points into specific quadrants of the ability wheel, you’ll gain access to the better skills for your weapons of choice.

You won’t find bows, arrows, or wands here – the current weapon list includes dual pistols, black magic, and the aforementioned sledgehammers, just to name a few. Our hammer-shotty combo felt just right: we drew enemies closer with some charged shotgun blasts – then once they came in range, we pulverized them with AoE swings of our cranium-bashing buddy. Combat feels like a mix between the fast-paced action of TERA and the (slightly clashing) targeting system from WoW. With plenty of spells to cast, there’s never a dull moment, but it can be jarring having to switch targets mid-fight when all we want to do is smash faces by spamming the “1” key.

TSW also sets itself apart by doing away with levels completely – instead of grinding to get from level 39 to level 40, killing monsters and completing quests will net you additional ability and skill points so you can branch out further into the ability wheel’s outer rings. It’s almost disorienting playing an MMO without character levels – we love that our character feels more like a specialist than a number, but it can be confusing trying to decipher if attacking a particular zone or enemy group is viable, given our current loadout.

Questing marks yet another departure from other MMOs: instead of fetch quests doled out by NPCs devoid of personality, you’re sent on multi-tiered missions by a crazy cast of characters. Given that conspiracy theorists are some of your only contacts outside your company of choice, you’ll run into quite a few nutjobs, each fully voiced to get their insane points across.

Funcom also made nice use of camera angles during cutscenes, and we didn’t see the same canned animations over and over – characters moved like you’d think they would, with mad scientists gesticulating wildly and corporate seductresses slinking around. We’d say it’s at the same level as the outstanding storytelling in Star Wars: The Old Republic, but there’s one problem – your character never speaks, so each quest feels like a Grand Theft Auto III scene, where your mute protagonist blinks and nods at their highly entertaining company.

Visually, TSW is on point, with some utterly beautiful outer-dimensional zones and areas; the hub zone of Agartha looks like a fairytale dream filled with rusty mechs, and the zombie-infested Kingsmouth resembles New England’s version of The Walking Dead. The game’s monsters are equally excellent, blending typical horror tropes with some truly original design. It’s definitely the first time we’ve seen a topside jellyfish-elephant-zombie hybrid.

We’ve just started to scratch the surface of TSW, and already, we’re awfully impressed. The game’s is supremely refreshing in a market filled with space or sorcery MMOs, and the plot and NPC dialogue is so well done that it could bring over adventure game fans who haven’t set foot in an MMO lately. Be sure to check back for additional updates on our monster mashing adventures – our sledgehammering skills can only get better.

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11 comments

  • illuminati-kenya - March 14, 2014 6:09 a.m.

    INTRODUCTION TO ILLUMINATI (call +254707427303 or click here www.iluminati666.kbo.co.ke It is a well-known fact that Illuminati consist of Multi Millionaires, Billionaires who have major influence regarding most global affairs, including the planning of a New WorldOrder. Many world leaders, Presidents, Prime Ministers, royalty and senior executives of major Fortune 500 companies are members of Illuminati. Now, for the FIRST TIME IN HISTORY, we are opening our doors to the masses. If you would like to Join Illuminati, Just register with us today. BENEFITS GIVEN TO NEW MEMBERS WHO JOIN ILLUMINATI. A Cash Reward of USD $300,000 A New Sleek Dream CAR valued at USD $120,000 A Dream House bought in the country of your own choice One Month holiday (fully paid) to your dream tourist destination. One year Golf Membership package A V.I.P treatment in all Airports in the World A total Lifestyle change Access to Bohemian Grove One Month booked Appointment with Top 5 world Leaders and Top 5 Celebrities in the World. ,,,,
  • Kimozabi - May 11, 2012 8:06 a.m.

    And how can this preview go into praise about character movement during cut scenes and then not mention the mindblowingly awful lip synch? It's like Funcom is deliberately kidding us. People look like they have granite faces and wooden lips. They never come remotely close to forming the words they speak and it looks pityful at worst, bad at best. Dont' take my word for it - watch it yourselves: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tR4meZTjDS0#t=0m12s (from 0:12 seconds to 1:28). Games Radar, why did you not mention this? It's like this preview tried to cherry pick the positives and ignored the obvious flaws. Like how the first city scene for the Illuminati plays ambient sounds of cars driving around, but then has no cars actually driving anywhere. Instead, you have a bunch of people standing opposite each other on the street, but when you approach they don't speak, and you can't interact with them. This town was filled with ghost cars and mannequins. For such praise about the graphics, it would have been nice to get a sense of when the presentation is actually bad as well. "Plus, we can’t think of any other MMO that let us blast shotgun shells into a zombies face before swapping to an industrial sledgehammer to bloody it just a bit further." Yes, a "shotgun" that sometimes takes eight shots to kill an unarmored zombie, and which doesn't blow anything off ever. But then again, if floating numbers is all you want from firing a shotgun, then it could be fine. And where's the fun of a hammer, that doesn't smash anything, but just swings through the air and makes numbers fly upwards? When did we stop wanting anything but the faintest resemblance from our MMORPG weapons?
  • GR_LucasSullivan - May 11, 2012 12:52 p.m.

    Just curious - what MMOs DO you like?
  • angelusdlion - May 12, 2012 9:51 a.m.

    Obviously they're being paid to accent the positive.. duh. (sarcasm fully intended.)
  • espen-dalhaug - May 14, 2012 5:21 a.m.

    I`m very excited over this game. I didnt even notice the lipsync problem you make such a big deal out of. I`m happy theyve concentrated the use of resources on what the gamers wants - a good story, good gameplay, animations and the unique skill three. Who gives a f... about the lack of lip sync??
  • illuminati-kenya - March 14, 2014 6:08 a.m.

    INTRODUCTION TO ILLUMINATI (call +254707427303 or click here www.iluminati666.kbo.co.ke It is a well-known fact that Illuminati consist of Multi Millionaires, Billionaires who have major influence regarding most global affairs, including the planning of a New WorldOrder. Many world leaders, Presidents, Prime Ministers, royalty and senior executives of major Fortune 500 companies are members of Illuminati. Now, for the FIRST TIME IN HISTORY, we are opening our doors to the masses. If you would like to Join Illuminati, Just register with us today. BENEFITS GIVEN TO NEW MEMBERS WHO JOIN ILLUMINATI. A Cash Reward of USD $300,000 A New Sleek Dream CAR valued at USD $120,000 A Dream House bought in the country of your own choice One Month holiday (fully paid) to your dream tourist destination. One year Golf Membership package A V.I.P treatment in all Airports in the World A total Lifestyle change Access to Bohemian Grove One Month booked Appointment with Top 5 world Leaders and Top 5 Celebrities in the World.
  • Shadow Of Death - May 11, 2012 6:55 a.m.

    The game seems interesting, but I wonder about the controls. I don't really play MMOs, but it looks like it uses a skills system. They're triggered by various key presses right? What about controller compatibility (or even supported)? Is it viable, or would there end up being too many skills for it to make sense? I don't really like playing Third Person games with M+KB, nor do I care for games where all the skills are organized in hotbars with 10 keys (1 through 0) or more. Just awkward to me. So yeah, should I give this a pass or not?
  • Kimozabi - May 11, 2012 7:48 a.m.

    Shadow Of Death: You should definitely give this a pass. This preview, a long with those of MMORPG.com (http://www.mmorpg.com/gamelist.cfm/game/404/feature/6388/The-Secret-World-The-Innovation-TwoFor.html) and Venturebeat (http://venturebeat.com/2012/05/11/7-reasons-why-you-should-play-the-secret-world/) seems to focus so much on all the systems surrounding the core game play, without adressing the fact that this MMORPG does absolutely nothing to make it's combat not mechanical, stiff and basically everything you hate about Wow's combat (unless you're into that of course). First off, forget ever using the controller, far too many controls. Second off, from your post, I get the feeling that you don't like traditional MMORPG hotkey combat? If so, stay faaaaaaaaaaaaar away from this game. It basically researches how much you can ruin the concept of fun with a weapon due to mechanical MMORPG requirements. Take the "assault rifle" and ask yourself. If anybody in the world told you of a ranged weapon, which you couldn't aim manually, which didn't fire off shots when you pulled the trigger, which took more than six shots (even point blank) to kill a person, which has the magical ability to attack an enemy in widely different ways, even though to activated the weapon the same way every time, which has no recoil, which doesn't allow you to empty the magazine by holding the trigger, would you ever consider this an assault rifle? Copy this question to the shotgun and pistols and you have ranged combat in Secret World. It's especially pathetic to play through the Left 4 Dead rip-off tutorial (a crew of four go through an under ground train station and fighter ahorde of smaller zombies, along with a few tank-type hulk zombies, who have attacks which can knock you back) and see the shotgun being to lame, that it sometimes takes EIGHT God damned shots to kill ONE zombie. I hate that so few previewer discuss this. How can you have fun using a rifle, when literally every single piece of appeal this weapon has, is stripped out to make up for considering lag and balance with other weapons? It's like Funcom doesn't understand why people like using guns. Magic isn't as bad, since you have no real frame of reference of how magic should work, but the sword doesn't fair much better, since once again we get to use a sword, that doesn't cut through anything, but just acts like a club. When you slice through an enemy with a sword, something needs to be chopped of. Otherwise, it's not a sword at all, just a club with a stupidly thin head. But rest assured, throughout your time with this game, you will be running around a world filled with statically placed mobs with questionable animations, before you click your mouse on one, activate your hotkeys (maybe move from a special attack or two) and spam fast enough, that this fight took as little time from the total to get all your skills. Oh, and when you still get xp from each and every kill, along with new skill unlocks being tied completing quests, the mention of this game having no levels become completely pointless. This is no different from Rift, where you also have a ton of skills to choose from, only Rift isn't affraid to come clean with it's systems as much (though that game also has swords that don't cut through anything). It looks like you're looking for any MMORPG, that features core combat (85% of the experience through leveling) that is actually any different that WoW. Don't bother. Different weapons don't even have different combat ressources. Not the magic, not the melee weapons nor the ranged weapons. Not even compared to each other. If you don't like hotkey combat they way we've had it for years upon years, skip this one.
  • Shadow Of Death - May 11, 2012 8:20 a.m.

    I get the feeling you don't much care for this game XD But yeah, from what you've mentioned, it seems it'll be the sort of game I'd get bored with playing after a short while. I like open world games to be a bit more 'action-y' than just "Press 1, press 2, ad nauseum." Similarly, I was disappointed that the Elder Scrolls MMO was basically generic MMO gameplay with TES Lore and world. In other words, very different from GamesRadar's own suggestions recently. Is it so hard to have a MMO with non-hotkey based gameplay?
  • espen-dalhaug - May 14, 2012 5:27 a.m.

    Do you have a suggestion of how you would like to activate things? Even Battlefield 3 is soaked with keyboard commands and i cant see the problem, but please share if you got any suggestions :)
  • espen-dalhaug - May 14, 2012 5:24 a.m.

    You only have 7 active and 7 passive skills. You can only control the active ones (obviously) by pressing 1-7, all symbols marked with the key they are activated with. You should give it a go, there is still beta keys to be found :)

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