Last month, Editor-in-Chief Chris Tom got to experience some hands-on play time with Funcom's The Secret World. Find out his thoughts on this ambitious modern-day MMORPG!
About a month back, I had the distinct pleasure of heading to Montreal for a world first public hands-on experience with Funcom's The Secret World. It was also the first time in a while that I found myself struck with pre-event giddiness. While most of this excitement stemmed from my eagerness to finally try one of my most anticipated MMOs of all time - I'd even highlighted TSW's character progression and story in my "Making an MMORPG" series - I'll also admit that there was a little bit of fear somewhere in the mix. While I had yet to hear or see anything negative come from the team, I couldn't help but dwell on Age of Conan's poor post-launch reception (although AoC has since done great things with its subsequent expansions and recent shift to free-to-play) in addition to my propensity to be crushed when games don't meet my sky-high expectations.
Regardless, I soldiered up and bravely marched into the Funcom Studios, determined to delve into as much of The Secret World as I possibly could; to really assess if this was a game worth all the internal hype I piled on top of it. And now, with the NDA being dropped today, I'm very happy to say that my expectations have been met. And exceeded.
There's a lot to cover here, so I'll jump right into things. We all started out with pre-generated Templar characters, to better facilitate grouped play among the journalists. By making all of us Templars, I suspect that Funcom is still debating whether or not they'll allow cooperative 'mixed faction' PvE. My best guess is that the team will be taking a "wait and see" stance, once they see how loyal players are to their respective factions.
I won't spoil too much regarding the Templar opening sequence, but I will say that The Secret World possesses some very good voice acting. I usually skip most voice acted games in favour of reading the subtitles, but some of TSW's characters were so well voiced that I found myself listening just for the sake of hearing them speak. Obviously there were a few exceptions to the rule, but this was a rare case where I enjoyed the script and the people who were voice acting it for me.
Moving along, my character was quickly shuffled into "The Crucible," a tutorial zone where aspiring Templars get to try out all the weapons before they choose one that suits them best. There were nine total weapons available, with three melee weapons (Hammers, Blades, and Fists), three ranged weapons (Pistols, Rifles, and Shotguns), and three magical weapons (Chaos, Elementalist, and Blood). I spent a good hour reading skill descriptions that were probably months outdated, but to go into some detail:
Hammers seemed to be focused on AoE damage with strong tanking abilities and good utility (stuns, snares, slows) thrown in. Blades were more focused on single-target damage abilities, in addition to possessing some really strong single-target tanking abilities. Unfortunately, Fists were still being worked on, so we didn't get the chance to use them, but I did manage to find six claw weapons, which I then started hoarding on the off chance I could throw them at monsters (I couldn't).
Pistols seem to be focused on speed, with movement boosting abilities and strong chain-damage skills. Rifles have a large number of utility skills and AoE abilities, with access to things like life-leeching bullets and explosive grenades. Shotguns (my personal favorite) were focused almost entirely on AoE-damage with lots of huge blast attacks.
Chaos Magic appears to a mix between tanking (you heard me) abilities and single-target damage attacks. Elemental Magic was all about the traditional up-front magic damage dealer, possessing Ice, Fire, and Lightning related skills. Blood Magic had a lot of healing and damage mitigation abilities, in addition to some strong damage over time spells. I know that another class had access to some strong healing magic (I believe it might have been Chaos), but since I can't remember, I'll just say that it exists.