GDC 2012: The Secret World (Impressions)

by: Chuck -
It is 9:20 and things are not going well for the Funcom team. Moments before the 9:00 appointment, the room they were showing the game in lost power knocking all the PCs offline and taking out video switcher that allowed them to rotate through the various computers. As the tech team struggled to get the PC's back online and working correctly, presentation team tap danced around asking questions and making idle chatter with the cadre of press in the room. 

Eventually they got the demo working (well mostly) and we dived into the presentation and checked out some of the new gameplay and features. Why do I bring these issues you ask? Because good games can muddle through a bad demo but great games shine through a horrible demo and that's exactly what The Secret World did, it shone through and actually got me excited about the game.

I've been following The Secret World since it was announced over five years ago as Funcom and the first time I'd seen the game in person since PAX Prime 2009. Funcom is doing something different with The Secret World as they are eschewing the typical Sci-fi/Fantasy trappings of most MMO's and setting the game in modern time. You will join one of three features three secret societies (Illuminati, Templar, or Dragon) who trying to save the Earth from evil and as well as trying to establish control themselves.

One of the new features they showed off in the demo was how your gear determines your class in the game. What's cool about this is that you can dynamically re-class your character in game without having to resort to logging out and re-loading an alt. This means that as you group up with others you can easily change your characters role in the game to adapt to the environment you are in as well as the make-up of your group. It seems like the only alt-characters you will need in the game will be for those who want to explore all three of the different factions in the game.

We also got to see the crafting system in the game. I'm not normally a crafting guy but the system was interesting as you could break down generic items into their components and then combine those basic minerals into new components which could then be crafted into far superior weapons. I also dug how the crafting system is actually grid based and you create the shape of the item you want in the grid. Want to create an axe, make it axe shaped. Want to make a glyph? Put them in a diamond pattern. It's an interesting twist on the crafting system that actually seems a bit more than what you see in most MMO's.

We also got to see one of the dungeon raids in the game. What was interesting about the dungeon is that it was actually told as a flashback and had us traveling back in time a bit. Sure there's some suspension of disbelief that goes along with this approach as we were using some modern weapons in the raid but it is kind of a cool concept as it is how they are telling the overall plot of the story. The dungeon also showed off how dynamic the combat system is as you're not just going to be sitting there running the same macros over and over again and will be forced to move around as you fight large mobs of monsters.

Despite the technical issues that plagued the demo (and prevented us from seeing everything they wanted us to see) I came away looking forward to The Secret World because of some of the cool features mentioned above as well as because the lore and background of the game feels rich and deep. Where else will you have a game where you're exploring the Carpathian Mountains in Transylvania to figure out what a bunch of mutant vampires who were experimented on by Stalin are up to? It just feels like there's a very rich experience there to explore and I'm interested to go hands on and try the game myself when it's released in June.
 
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