previews\ Aug 26, 2011 at 8:00 pm

PAX Prime 2011: Rid Yourself of Class Roles in The Secret World


The Secret World might be facing an uphill battle against Star Wars: The Old Republic, but you definitely shouldn’t overlook this innovative MMORPG from Funcom. When you think MMORPG environment, you probably think fantasy or future setting. Never does modern world setting come to mind, but this is what Funcom has created. Funcom has taken the world we live in and has filled it with demons from evil myths. Give credit where credit is due. This is actually an innovative idea in a market saturated with “me too” games. The MMORPG market is filled with World of Warcraft clones that offer nothing new to the market. The Secret World offers a modern world overrun by darkness that players must restore to normal, using a combination of mythical elements and modern weapons.

The Secret World doesn’t use the traditional class or level system featured in many of today’s MMORPGs. Instead it uses a combination of vertical and horizontal progression. As players complete quests and slay demons they earn experience which they can use to unlock skills (horizontal progression). Don’t expect to level these skills up. In the Secret World, there is no “Fireball level 1” and “Fireball level 2”. There is only one Fireball skill and that skill can only be made stronger by the weapon upgrades looted along the journey (vertical progression). It should be noted that only weapons have an affect on stats. While you can wear whatever clothing you want/find, there are no stats on clothing and don’t expect to find “armor” in the game.

The lack of traditional “classes” and a “level system” means players can switch in and out of the MMORPG archetype roles by switching their skills. If they want to be a more tank type character, they could switch their skills to make them more effective at taking damage. If they want to deal damage they could take offensive skills. A player can eventually learn all of the skills on their character which means no need for re-rolling their character to see the different skills. The only reason to create a new character would be to see the other faction stories.

Watch The Secret World 'Cinematic' Trailer

Unlike most MMORPGs that feature only two factions, The Secret World takes a different approach and throws a third into the mix. The three factions: Illuminati, Templar, and Dragon can join forces when battling the urban myths in PVE, but when it comes to PVP, the quest for global domination pits the factions against each other. Funcom learned some great lessons regarding PVP from games like World of Warcraft, where one faction can simply dominate the other in PVP and ruin the experience for many. By adding a third faction, this unique approach allows the two weaker ones to potentially team up and take down the most powerful one.

In the preview showed to us, we were investigating a pitch black underground garage. Choose your faction carefully, because your gaming experiences will change accordingly. For instance, if you are a Templar, the garage may be perfectly normal and your experience may have caused it to become infested with the evil spirits. Likewise, if you were to play that same instance as a Illuminati, you may be the reason the lighting goes out in that garage and someone playing as a Dragon will have to experience it in darkness.

Speaking of darkness, The Secret World introduces a player-equipped dynamic lighting system. Players can light up dimly lit areas with items found throughout the world like flares or a headlamp. Be careful when deciding to light an area because it could also reveal you to enemies and cause them to attack you. It’s all a part of the “tactical” choice players must make in the game, which is what Funcom stressed during the preview.

Overall, The Secret World has a lot to offer to the MMORPG community. To start, it offers a change of scenery and a fresh spin on genre filled with repetitive themes. The combat isn’t particularly groundbreaking, but it works. What really shines in this game is the player tactical choices and creative theme. The Secret World, which has started beta signups, is set to release in April.

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