ZAM @ PAX East: Hands-on With The Secret World

At PAX East, Funcom had their world first public demo of The Secret World. What's changed since February? How good does it look? Find out!

ZAM is also having a twitter contest to give away about a dozen weekend beta keys for May! Just tweet / follow @ZAMOfficial or @Pwyff with what you're most looking forward to in The Secret World (one tweet per account, so two chances to win!), and we'll randomly select a few lucky tweeters throughout the day. Be sure to follow us, or we can't directly message you with your winning code!

This year's PAX East was a special event for the team at The Secret World (TSW), as this was their world first public hands-on demo with the game. As a member of the press, however, I've had the great pleasure to participate in not one but two hands-on previews with TSW, so I was more interested in what big changes had been made since February. If this is your first time ever hearing of The Secret World (get out from under that rock!), be sure to read my first two previews, as some systems (character progression in specific) are a little too deep to explain in every preview. A special thanks to Funcom's Junior Communications Manager, Tor Egil Andersen for putting up with all of my inquiries.

New Weapons

In all previous play sessions, Fist weapons were completely restricted, although that didn't stop me from collecting as many claws as possible in silent protest. At PAX East, however, Fist weapons and Chaos magic were on prominent display, with a number of the demo builds utilizing these two weapons in some way or another.

Fist weapons seem to focus more on claws than real fisticuffs, so if anyone was hoping to pick up some enormous red boxing gloves, you may be out of luck. It's understandable, given how little model customization you can add outside of, well, boxing gloves, but it does dampen my hopes in making a scrappy boxer who punches demons to pulp. The damage-dealing portion of the Fist tree appears to be fairly standard with a lot of gory abilities like "Go For The Throat," a single-target attack that deals high damage while stunning them.

Healing with Fists relies more on Druidic buffs than, say, punching your teammates to life (as hilarious as that would be). Tor Egil Andersen noted that "Fist healing" (boy does that sound weird) will be heavily reliant on heals-over-time, which rounds out the three healing "styles" of TSW to shields (Blood), life leech (Rifles) and heals-over-time (Fists).

Chaos magic is a unique addition to The Secret World, with players creating illusionary weapons to assault their foes. Chaos magic users can focus on either DPS or tanking and, with the few builds that I tried, it seems Chaos will focus heavily on evasion (for tanking) or AoE and control (for DPS). I'll admit I was a little turned off by the animations of Chaos magic, however, as some of them felt a little "weightless." The argument could be made that Chaos weapons are illusions and are therefore weightless, but when you're throwing out a bright green chain at your opponent, it would be nice to feel the power of it.

New Features

Another new addition from previous builds is Utility Abilities, which will work precisely as they sound. While I wasn't able to see what these new utility abilities were (they were present but locked off on the ability wheel), Tor Egil Andersen explained that all weapons could use these abilities to round out their build without forcing players into specific secondary weapons to access "core" abilities. In other words, Funcom is adding even more depth than before with utility abilities. From what I could tell, there were three different utility ability trees: one for healing, one for dealing damage and one for tanking.

New Thoughts

Admittedly, there wasn't a whole lot added to The Secret World since my last hands-on preview, but this was to be expected, especially given that the team needed this demo session to last through hundreds of thousands of PAX goers. Unfortunately, I would note that this might not have been the best format to really get fans interested, as TSW's most exciting features are, by far, its story and its free-form character progression. I really can't stress enough how unique these two are and, unfortunately, these were not the two things on display at PAX East.

Still, it's always exciting to see a game in its last phases of development and polish, and Funcom still has two months left before their game launches. I really can't stress enough how ambitious they're being with The Secret World and how different this game will be from any other title on the market. The past few years have been lean when it comes to forward-thinking MMO development, and The Secret World is really pushing the envelope on that front. As to whether players will appreciate a game that makes them play smarter, think longer and pay more attention remains to be seen.

Chris "Pwyff" Tom, Editor-in-Chief


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