The Secret World - first look

Though the game is in no way card-based, Tornquist compared skills in the game to a card deck - you can only have a certain hand at any one time, but you'll have the option to step out and shuffle that deck when you want to change things up. We're imagining something similar to Guild Wars' skill-based system, where you simply unlock new skills and then equip them at will. Also like Guild Wars, combat will be fast-paced and reactive, with no auto-attacking.

If dumping levels and classes sounds a bit ambitious, rest assured that Funcom's scope doesn't stop there. Tornquist frequently referred to The Secret World as "beginning where other MMOs end," noting the lack of grinding and the ability to jump in and play with players of all skill levels. Have friends who have been playing for six months? Sure, they may have some more powerful skills and weapons, but you should still be able to tag along on their adventures from the start.

The Secret World's large open world contains a linear storyline, but you're enabled to leave that and wander on your own at any point. If you do want to follow the plot, the main storyline should be fully solo-able, although it will take longer than it would if you’d had buddies to help. Because there is no level grinding in the game, missions don't need to funnel you toward endless monster-killing like the quests in most MMOs. There will also be missions that require puzzle-solving, interacting with the game's fully-voiced NPCs, and more.

Of course, if The Secret World truly begins where other MMOs end, then we had to ask ... how does this MMO end? Tornquist laughed and assured us that there is an endgame in The Secret World, including some repeatable content and difficult group-based instanced areas. The storyline has a set ending, but there's a cliffhanger that will hopefully lead into expansion packs and future content.

Instead of trying to take on the seemingly unbeatable behemoth that is World of Warcraft, The Secret World is being propped up as something very different. It's an MMO that can appeal to players who are burnt out on WOW and traditional, grind-based RPGs, or as a second MMO while they play something else. Of course, until Funcom begins to show actual gameplay - hopefully later this year - it's hard to estimate how successful they will be. But with its mix of mythology, real-world intrigue, and the creator’s storytelling pedigree, we'd be crazy not to be intrigued.

Apr 9, 2009