The Secret World Week 2: World Secreter
The Secret World Week 2: World Secreter
My article last week may have given you the impression that I am not enjoying my time in The Secret World - and I can see you might have come to that conclusion. Without a doubt, the most interesting aspect of the game is its mission structure and how different it is to other MMOs and so I focused on that. It presents unique and actually interesting missions throughout, the world and missions have interesting quirks and the amount of actual thinking you have to do is a welcome surprise in a genre bogged down by mindless, repetitive grind.
Objectives being bugged is an incredibly serious flaw in a game where nothing is straightforward however. If your objective is to 'Kill 10 spiders and collect spider legs' at a map marker and spiders don't drop spider legs, you know the quest is bugged and you can complain. If the objective is to 'find who was responsible for this murder' with no map marker and the NPC doesn't spawn, you can't know if you made a mistake or if the game did.
Nevertheless, I absolutely don't hate The Secret World - actually it is one of the finest MMOs I have ever played.
First and foremost, I love the setting. When I first heard of The Secret World I expected it to be somewhat different, but in my mind I thought you'd be fighting mostly human enemies. Your first excursion into the game supports that theory - as a member of the Dragon I walked through Seoul, which was full of human npcs. I did the tutorial mission, which pits you against 'infected' enemies - humans who have been turned evil by an ominous black, tar-like substance.
Soon however, you leave for Kingsmouth - and while you spend most of your time fighting the living dead, there's a wide variety of reanimated corpses for you to fight. You fight regular zombies, but you also fight charred remains and burned witches whose skin has been replaced with charcoal. You fight returned victims of a mining accident and undead firefighters - and the different varieties of enemies you fight work into the world's history. And this goes double for the Draugr.
Draugr in The Secret World are different to the kind you'll find in Skyrim - instead of 'zombies with a funny name' the Draugr in The Secret World are sea monsters. The most common type look like extremely tall, sea green and barnacle covered men with weapon like growths from their arms and they are joined by women with sea snakes, breeders with protruding bellies and larger, tougher and not even remotely human boss creatures.
The Draugr fit into one of Kingsmouth's main motif's - H.P. Lovecraft's Cthulu Mythos. A look at the map shows the street names 'Lovecraft Lane' and ‘Arkham Avenue - which brought a smile to my face the first time I noticed it. it runs much deeper however, with cultists, men losing their minds and a local story of powerful beings living under the sea.
I spent my first week in Kingsmouth, but at the beginning of the second week I moved on to the next area 'The Savage Coast.' Located on Solomon Island like Kingsmouth, The Savage Coast introduced new characters, new enemies and furthered the story (as you'd expect.) The Innsmouth Academy introduced my favourite new breed of enemies - the ghosts and ghouls of the students and staff. The ghouls you fight in the school are human, but featureless - almost like mannequins - and the ghosts are tall and dark, with exaggerated faces contorted into screams - some of horror and some of delight.
Which brings me to another aspect I love about The Secret World - the atmosphere. Simply put, The Secret World is bleak. There is a day/night cycle, but Solomon Island feels more grim during the day - patches of sunlight exist, but the world is trapped in an overcast haze and as you travel through the world it is obvious nothing is right. Crashed cars and dead bodies line the roads and there is a genuinely unsettling feeling pervading the environment.
It’s the first MMO where I actually cared about the stories. Even in The Old Republic - where I played the Imperial Agent (the class everyone says has the best story) I generally grew tired of the story and dialogue after a while - but not in The Secret World. The problem is that word ‘story’. In SWTOR there was one story, your main story - and everything else (bar some excellent exceptions) was meaningless. With the waiting you do and all of the pointless running about, the story loses its edge as it begins to feel like additional time you have to spend before you get to your destination.
Not so with The Secret World. There are a few missteps here and there - one mission bearer tells you all about how his dad murdered a bag of kittens when he was a child, which seems like an odd thing to bring up with a stranger - but overall the characters are excellent, with realistic motivations and outlooks and some very fitting gallows humour. I’m genuinely interested in watching the cutscenes that precede each mission, explaining why you are doing whatever you are doing.
I would have prefered if The Secret World had taken one concept from SWTOR’s book - voice acting for the characters - but Funcom have done a good job of working with silent protagonists. ‘Conversations’ feel more like monologues as the people you talk to reveal aspects of their life and situation, but they have been written so as to make them feel like real people.
I reached The Blue Mountain yesterday - the third area of Solomon Island, so I’m hoping with a little luck to be on my way through Egypt by next week’s article. I know I said last week that I’d talk about combat and I promise we’ll get there next week - which I think will be a good thing, as I learned a lot about combat this week that I didn’t know previously and I imagine I’ll learn more before then. Either way, I am definitely looking forward to seeing what The Secret World throws at me next.
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