#oneaday Day 910: Continued Adventures in The Secret World

I’m still playing The Secret World and still enjoying it. Generally a pretty good sign for an MMO is if it can maintain my attention through the first month and convince me to continue paying the subscription fee (if applicable) past that point. The Secret World is certainly keeping me occupied and entertained, and I’m enjoying it a great deal.

I’ve progressed somewhat since the last time I discussed the game. I’m in the second of the game’s main “adventure” areas, which is another part of the Innsmouth-style Lovecraft town. Rather than the more “towny” area that you start in, the second part is more like a forested outskirts area. There are fewer houses, streets tend to wend their way into the depths of the woods, and there are creepy Twin Peaks-style lakes with mist rolling off them (and monsters lurking in the fog, of course).

The missions continue to display an excellent amount of variety. There are a few more “kill [x] of [y]” action missions than I’d perhaps prefer there to be, but they generally have more of a narrative incentive to progress than in other MMOs. For example, in one mission I completed tonight, I was tasked with killing a bunch of draugr and then burning their bodies. This attracted some more powerful draugr, which I then had to kill and impale on some spikes. This attracted a draugr queen, which I then had to kill and splay out on a pointy rock. This attracted a draugr berserker, which I… you get the idea. This process continued through several steps, with increasingly more difficult fights along the way. At the end of the quest, my “handler” and I reached the conclusion that the draugr had an organised hierarchy and chain of command that could potentially be exploited in the future. Much cooler than simply returning to a questgiver and them going “thanks for killing all those wolves”. (Praise should also be given to the fact that, this being the modern world, you turn in quests simply by phoning your handler rather than having to return to whoever gave you your quest.)

The fact that most missions incorporate something a little more than just plain killing is the best thing, though. In another one I completed today, I had to gather mushrooms from various areas around the map (guarded by horrible slobbering things from the depths of the ocean, natch) and then mix them together according to a recipe on a scrap of paper I had to remember I’d been handed at the start of the quest. The Secret World assumes a certain degree of intelligence on the part of the player, and doesn’t remind you that, say, the instructions you need to complete a quest are safely in your journal — or, indeed, that sometimes you have to use the crafting interface to complete an objective.

Speaking of the crafting interface, it’s a surprisingly cool approach somewhat reminiscent of Minecraft, of all things. Disassembling equipment you don’t need rewards you with raw materials, which can then be combined together to make various objects. The twist is, you have to arrange them into the correct formations to produce the things you’re after. You can then add things like glyphs to give them special abilities and bonuses and customize them.

I even tried a bit of PvP the other night. I normally hate PvP in MMOs because in most cases it’s a horribly unbalanced afterthought that simply isn’t any fun whatsoever. It is terrible in Star Wars: The Old Republic, for example, and I’ve never really been a fan of it in World of Warcraft, either. The Secret World has some interesting ideas, though, that make PvP well worth engaging in.

There are currently (I think) three PvP areas in the game. Two of these are instanced battlegrounds in which players take part in timed team-based matches according to whichever faction they’re on. The other, though, is a large map which has persistent PvP going on at all times. A number of facilities cover this map, and it’s up to each faction to capture (and, ideally, hold) each of these locations. There’s a strong incentive to do so, because all players of a given faction receive ongoing buffs according to how many facilities their secret society is in control of.

And people are playing it well. The chat channels in the PvP areas are full of people actually bothering to talk to each other, strategise and coordinate their efforts. The Templars appear to have a bit of a numbers advantage, but that certainly hasn’t stopped my faction, the Illuminati, from having a bit of fun — especially during quiet periods. Which is nice.

All in all, then, Funcom have done an excellent job in shaking up the very stale MMO space and creating something that it distinctive, entertaining and downright compelling. Its writing is good, its world is beautifully crafted and the whole experience is wrapped together with some unconventional but very effective game mechanics that successfully distinguish it from the million and one World of Warcraft clones out there. I strongly suggest you give it a try if you get the chance.

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Pete Davison

Southampton-based music teacher, writer and enthusiast of Japanese popular culture.

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