‘These are the times that make men stride across the skin of the world’
- Torchwood: Miracle Day
When I heard those words, while watching the trailer of Miracle Day for the first time I swear I had goose bumps, such words they were. They were full of greatness and awe-inspiring, like the words of the poet Lord Tennyson’s “Ulysses” ‘Death closes all: but something ere the end/ Some work of noble note, may yet be done,/ Not unbecoming men that strove with Gods’. While it wasn’t quite as great a season as the legendary Children of Earth season, it didn’t disappoint me; those words were a promise fulfilled of the greatness that the fourth season of Torchwood would unveil.
I’ve started playing The Secret World; it’s an odd duck as an MMO. It’s not really following the recent and no so recent trends of MMORPG’s. It doesn’t follow a familiar generic genre of fantasy or science fiction. It doesn’t rest upon an old standby IP, certainly although there are echoes of Dreamfall: The Longest Journey that wouldn’t even help, not many people even remember that game or played it. Most of all it’s not afraid to start small and work its way into something bigger. You can see a much more refined approach to this game than Funcom had with Age of Conan.
In the first hour of playing you find yourself in New England, a town called Kingsmouth. The first person you meet is a cowboy, talking with a voice straight out a western he tells you to put aside your childish ways, evil has come to Kingsmouth and he wants you bring down a reckoning on whoever brought it here. I had a chill when I heard him say that, the emotion the words evoke is right out of a good book or a great movie, the idea that a MMO can evoke emotion in a simple quest is relatively new. Certainly MMOs have always tried to make us laugh with one ridiculous quest or another, but real emotion hasn’t been something MMOs really deal with. Even more than The Old Republic, this game has the ability to make it all seem worthwhile. It is fully voiced but not every quest is talking. Sometimes you find a scrap of paper on the ground and it’s a test of your investigation skills. Sometimes it’s a simple fetch quest dressed up as Armageddon round one; more than any other MMO I’ve played Secret World isn’t shy about showing not just telling you you’re all that stands between humanity and the end of the world.
Even the way leveling up is done is simple and yet complex. Get points from experience and then use them on skills. Unless you research extensively you probably don’t really understand the leveling system. It seems relatively simple and yet it’s far more complex than is obvious. In Kingsmouth there are places that will eat you alive at first. Fighting more than a few monsters at a time is unadvised and yet slowly as you understand the game more it becomes obvious that you’re going more powerful and that the game wants you to think for yourself on how you want to play rather than follow any cookie cutter build; though if you want they allow you the choice of that as well.
Some people are of the impression that Bioware didn’t innovate anything by having the first fully voiced MMO, I’m sure that the same people don’t think that Sony changed the industry by Disc format games, or Microsoft didn’t change the game with online console gaming or the hard drive. Ten years from now we won’t even be able to imagine playing a MMO without it having fully voiced and fleshed out NPC’s; we’ll scoff at anything less. In my opinion it is story and world building that will change the landscape of gaming in the next decade not the latest graphics engine. The Secret World impresses me; I hope I’m not the only one but either way I aim to stride across the skin of its world as long as it will let me.