At GDC we had the chance to check out the opening of the Dragon faction for The Secret World from Funcom. While the Illuminati are based in the U.S. and the Templars are based in Europe, the Dragons actually make up The Secret World’s Asia faction. With their home base in Seoul, South Korea, the Dragons have traditions steeped in mystery and ancient lore. The faction has some amazing aspects to it, not to mention an opening scene that will get your blood pressure rising.
So without giving too much away about the Dragons and their philosophy, take the concept of Chaos Theory mathematics and build upon it. The Dragon faction is all about chaos and following a grand plan that you most likely will not understand. In their introduction sequence this works out well for the player who is treated to some steamy content. It is a Funcom game afterall. Your introduction to the Dragons sets up the concept of the faction in an intense scene while simultaneously doing a great job of explaining the lore.
With Chaos as its foundation, the Dragon belief system almost has a Taoist mentality to it only a lot more sinister. You begin your journey on the streets of Seoul searching for the contacts of the faction. Players follow a Yakuza style character and his girlfriend into a back room. This begins the Dragon storyline and sends you into the Tokyo Flashback sequence where you really start the game play.
While any player can use martial arts as a skill, the Dragons really lend themselves to it the best. They seem to be much more mystical than the other societies and play similar to a Mortal Kombat style theme. That being said, you can play your character any way you like in the faction which is the best part of The Secret World. But if you really want to follow the Asian theme and go full blown kung fu and magic, then the Dragons set the perfect stage for your character.
Another part of the Dragons is the stealth and subtle approach to the faction. Again embracing the Asian theme, there is a secretive feel to the group which almost ninja-like. Because their lore is so mysterious, few words are uttered by the NPCs. There is a sense of knowing without really knowing what you are doing. It is this feeling that continues to follow you throughout the storyline of the Dragons.
While many European and North American players may quickly jump to the Templar or Illuminati factions, the Dragons honestly feel very separate from their opponents. The game is full of surprises and deep lore and the Dragons are the ones who capture that best. In many ways the opening scenes had a much eerier feeling to them than the others. It certainly has character and I can see why the Dragons would appeal to certain types of players. They offer a clear difference as a secret society and set players on a path that will continue to be mysterious all the way to the end. Even then, we forsee more questions arising that the players will have to figure out.
If true mysticism and dark Asian style moods fit your play-style, then the Dragons are definitely for you. Opium dens and dark foreboding medieval Japanese-style castles on the sides of mountains bring up the thoughts that go with the Dragons. Take some of the darkest Asian cinema you know sit and watch for an afternoon, and you will get the feel of what the Dragons will be like. We really loved the look and style of this faction and cannot wait to learn more. It is a tough faction to get right and Funcom has done a masterful job of bringing players into the dark web of chaos that is the Dragon.