Editor-in-Chief Chris "Pwyff" Tom returned to Montreal last week for another hands-on preview of The Secret World, where he experienced The Scorched Desert and two new dungeons!
Another new system was a profile manager that allowed players to put their equipment, weapons, and abilities in a set profile. While not particularly exciting on its own, it was also noted that players can easily share their ability profiles with other players, which will really help keep the TSW community engaged in game, rather than forcing them to take to the forums to share those builds.
Elite Abilities - special abilities that are unlocked at the very end of a weapon's advanced ability wheel, of which a player may only take one active and one passive - finally made their debut this time around, and I know that many players were worried that Elite Abilities would be too "build-defining" for TSW's free-form system. After careful examination of the elite abilities available (for Rifles, Swords, and Elementalists), however, it seems they're not absolutely required to make the perfect build. Elite passive abilities have also been designed to help players across all ability specializations, with generic bonuses like "reduce the duration of crowd control spells," and things of that nature.
Combat in The Secret World remains as fun as ever, and I'm really looking forward to conjuring up a static group of friends to run perfectly coordinated combat builds. The sheer depth contained within TSW's ability wheel is staggering to consider, especially when you realize that builds can be coordinated to fit in any group size.
Running the Dungeons
After concluding our adventures in the Scorched Desert, we spent the rest of our day immersed in two of TSW's incredible dungeons. While I can't say much about the first dungeon, the second dungeon we ran, The Ankh, was far more difficult than anything previous, and I had a great time running through this. The Ankh simply oozes atmosphere and mood, as it takes place in a dig site that extends miles deep into the earth. The ones responsible for the site, the Orochi group, ultimately got infected by whatever they dug up, so much of the instance is spent slugging through these infected agents while also keeping the darker beasties at bay.
One unique mechanic introduced and utilized throughout The Ankh are the deadly Motes of Darkness. These little spots of purple light (they really stand out) cling to nearby players, completely silencing them and preventing them from doing any actions. Teammates must kill the Mote of Darkness quickly, as they explode after 20 seconds, killing the player they're attached to. What really impressed me about The Ankh was how Funcom slowly introduced these Motes of Darkness and how they utilized them throughout the instance.
In the very beginning of the dungeon, a single Mote of Darkness floats around, allowing players to become acquainted with its properties in a safe environment (one particularly evil dev told a journalist to grab the mote and waited for him to die before explaining what the motes do). The next time you see Motes of Darkness, they're sweeping up and down a hallway, forcing groups to dodge past them. After that, players encounter the Motes of Darkness in their first boss fight on a bridge, where the boss continually streams Motes of Darkness down the path, alternating left and right. From here, things get more difficult, ultimately culminating in another boss fight where Motes of Darkness sweep around the room and crisscross on occasion, meaning players need to be constantly moving out of the way while still fighting.
Throughout all of these encounters, while most press members took up the role of DPSing with Assault Rifles or Elementalist magic, I was given the opportunity to try out healing with my newly constructed Rifle / Blood Magic healer build. Healing in TSW is a rather interesting departure from normal healing, as I needed to build weapon resources (think combo points) by attacking the enemy before I could throw out a heal. Rifle healers seem to be entirely focused on giving lifesteal (called leech) buffs to teammates, while Blood healers are more focused on shielding players and preventing damage. The last healing weapon, Fists, was unfortunately disabled for this event, but I suspect I may pursue the art of punch-healing on launch day.
While there wasn't as much to discover about The Secret World as last time (crafting was still disabled and we still haven't seen the social breadth of the game), what this event did for me was really solidify my belief that The Secret World is going to be one of the most important MMORPGs of our time. Contained within this world is a treasure cache of unique features that really highlight Funcom's willingness to experiment with MMORPG tradition, and innovation is something we sorely need right now. Each zone in The Secret World that has been revealed and explored thus far is a wholly realized experience, with beautiful dungeons and memorable characters at every bend, and if Funcom can maintain this level of quality, The Secret World will rank as one of the most immersive and innovative MMORPG experiences to date.
Be sure to tune in next week for my interview with Lead Designer Martin Bruusgaard as we discuss crafting, PvP balancing, server architecture, and the economy of The Secret World!
Christopher "Pwyff" Tom, Editor-in-Chief