Exclusive review of The Secret World press beta

By: Alex Hitchen

As for every video-game genre, even for MMORPG there is a true history. And as for history, MMORPG started to toddle in remote or medieval settings, mostly set in fantastic worlds, with certain recurring features. The extraordinary of the game we are presenting to you is: The Secret World is the evolution of that history.

The very first feature that catches your eye, from first not in game screens or from some previews you could see about, it’s that we aren’t dealing with a classic MMORPG. The three characters that you can see in the opening screen, waiting for game start, aren’t elves, dwarves or other fabulous creatures, but only specimen of our species. Their outward appearance too, from figure to clothing. And this is the first winning feature of the game: if the anima of classic MMORPG was 50% escapism in a fantastic world and 50% identification in a hero, the anima of TSW is 100% identification.

Starting from beginning the first choice we have to do is which faction to join. The available factions in game are three and each of them reminds well known facts or groups of real history: the Templars, the Illuminati and the Dragons. In our test we could experience two of them and the first feeling (already tasted with the introducing videos of each faction) was a deep realism. In the various interviews released by game’s developers was said that they wanted to fulfill in the game everything we consider urban legends in reality: it’s true. If Illuminati (in the game, with a base in New York City) are considered, in the real world, as a powerful group of families able to influence secretively the course of history, the Templars (with their base in London), don’t need introductions: obviously the game takes cue from these ideas to develop two totally original groups, but the point is that both can affect the fate of the (game) world without any scruples.

Once faction is chosen we can move on character creation, which appears at same time easy and modern. It’s possible to customize, with the menu on the left of the screen, facial traits (head, skin colour, eyes, nose, lips, jaw) and hair & make up (hair style, facial hair colour, eyebrow, make up); with the menu on the right of the screen the outfit (head accessories, chest, back, legs and shoes). You’ve got it: to begin this MMORPG doesn’t mean to dress rags (as usually happens), but means to dress normally, because you (at least at beginning) are a normal guy. In any case the system let us see that your look will be one of key features of the game, with the possibility to unlock dresses cooler and cooler.

Now it’s time to begin the gameplay: a great power harbours in you, but you’re not the one to know it. Your only choice it’s to join with some powerful faction that can give you some truth. Once you move first steps, the feeling over again, is realism: the excellent graphic (in both DX9 or DX11 options), the shadows and the city setting make their job and you actually feel to walk around in London or New York streets as a normal citizen; but you are not a normal citizen, you have to look for Illuminati or Templars, to explain just this to you, and the feeling is that you are in a real world, with mature dialogues and ominous musics; the sense of freedom mingles (pleasantly) with anguish one, as if everything can happen in every moment.

Answers will come, but first of all you need to experience (in a sort of tutorial) your basic powers on the field: you’ll be carried (as in a dream) where the evil has begun, and there you’ll face first “infected”, to become familiar with controls. The interface it’s a classic one, with the minimap in the top-right screen and skills bar in the bottom.Skills can be clicked with mouse or binded to keyboard, while the movement it’s controlled by WASD. The combat itself isn’t so easy; some skills need to click the target while others hit a specific area (without any targeting): e.Every skill can be used while moving. Moving and using skills at the same time seems to be the secret to survive.

After the tutorial is ended you can finally see what in TSW takes over from classes and levels: the weapons choice. The second slogan widespread by media to advertise the game was in fact the complete lack of classes and levels, the possibility to really become who you want to be. Again, it’s true. There are 9 available weapons (3 guns, 3 short-range, 3 magic techniques) and the choice about one means to use the related skills. Doing quests or tasks, but in general making every relevant action in the game allows you to gain all points (Ability or Anima) you’ll need to empower the skills you prefer. The system is complex but complete: it is essentially based on the possibility of using 7 active skills, and choosing 7 passive ones as gameplay support. From a GDR point of view the “weapons-quest” (as every quest in the game) begins with a long introductory dialogue of the NPC assigned to our training. It’s interesting that he doesn’t consider us at all as “the one”, but simply as a soldier (one among a lot of others), so that it’s clear that our success or failure will depend only by our skill and ability in battle.

Once the weapon-tutorial is ended too, you’ll have immediately to carry out a mission in the small town of Kingsmouth, to reach whom you’ll be introduced to a bizarre world named Agartha, that works as “teleport” toward every world location, chaired by a ‘800 stationmaster and kept by enormous steel-robot. Choosing the right passage you’ll reach in a while the location you need, to begin finally your true adventure.

Without revealing too much, the only Kingsmouth it’s a perfect mechanism of action, quests and dialogues that hardly you’ll be able to interrupt. Setting, identification and story progression are so well made you would discover more and more, satisfying all NPC requests, always anticipated by ever foregone dialogues.

Ultimately TSW is a game with a groundbreaking content, with mature plot and dialogues, with incredible music (always appropriate for the location: unforgettable the Crucible), with an excellent and well representative graphic, with an original progression and classes system all to experience, with quests always anticipated by interesting cut-scenes and dialogues. The bold choice of Funcom of trying (and succeeding in) renewing a genre is certainly well done, above all for every players want to discover a true secret world.

By: Alex Hitchen

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