Because Ragnar Tørnquist smashed my heart into a thousand little pieces by pretty much announcing that he wouldn’t be working on the sequel to Dreamfall in a response to an interview on Rock Paper Shotgun, an excerpt of which is provided below, and also because Aelyrra wouldn’t stop pestering me, I picked up The Secret World.
RPS: Do you ever plan on going back to single-player games, especially single-player adventure games?
Tornquist: I think right now I’ve made an MMO, and it’s taken six years of my life. I’m going to stick around and stay with The Secret World for a while, but I would love to do something [single-player again].
Congratulations, Ragnar Tørnquist, you just made it on to my mortal enemies list.
The Secret World’s no longer so secret world is a refreshing break from the littered landscape of fantasy MMORPGs. The game belongs to the urban fantasy sub-trope, something that’s surprisingly not at all common these days, glittering teenage vampires not withstanding. Casually, I can only think of one game, Vampire: The Masquerade, and one author, Laurell Hamilton in the genre.
Being based on a modern world setting has it usefulness, such as making cultural references and other allusions to things that would have been anachronistic in a usual fantasy setting. There’s a character named Ann Radcliffe, who is uncomfortable with having being named after a person of such accomplishment. There’s also a store that sells outdoor supplies named ‘Call of the Wild’. And then there’s this.
My character, Calreth, is a Templar on the Huldra server. I also have an Illuminati alt, and I seem to prefer the Illuminati story more, but since my friends are on the side of the Templars, that is where I spent most of my game time. As an initiate of the Templars, my handler seems to be a technologically incompetent M, and the head guy (I have no idea what to call him), a Samuel L. Jackson impersonator. Unlike the other two societies (Illuminati and Dragon), the Templars seem be living out the in open, with their headquarters as a copy of the Vatican City but smack down right in the middle of London, and populated by the entire cast of Downtown Abbey.
On the other hand, the Illuminati, headquartered in an up market part of New York City’s sewers, has it parallels with the Syndicate in X-Files, which is perhaps what drew me to it. I can go around pretending to play the role of the Cigarette Smoking Man, a character of questionable qualities that is involved in every major conspiracy, and in a world whose future is determined by my words.
The setting of the story, written by someone who used to do adventure games, is elaborate and rich in lore. If you spend the time to explore, there’s history behind almost everything, and knowing some of them is going to be crucial when it comes to solving investigation quests. Or you can just Google it
Vanity is a huge part of the game, and if dressing up in Second Life was what you liked to do, you’d find similar options available here.
Game mechanics wise, there is some change, but nothing too huge of a deviation from other MMORPGs. You have hot bars, you devise a rotation, and you rinse and repeat. There’s perhaps more movement than usual in the sense that instead of kiting, I find myself having to circle strafe endlessly. With regards to the game having no levels, that’s over-hyped. Although levels aren’t explicit, Skill Points (SP) more or less determine your level. Progression is still more or less on rails, meaning you finish up one area, and then go to another, all in a linear order. The only major difference is that if you choose to spend enough time grinding, you could ultimately have all the skills available, which is break from the traditional character creation process. Asides from that, the holy trinity of tank-healer-dps is still there, so don’t expect a revolution or anything.
I’m not going to pass any judgement on the game, as spending two days playing an MMORPG is too early to divine the future of it. Funcom has its share of both successful (Anarchy Online) and failed (Age of Conan) MMORPGs in portfolio, and there’s no telling where The Secret World would end up.