When Funcom announced the three factions for The Secret World (Illuminati, Templars, and Dragon) I immediately knew I wanted to play the Illuminati. Not because they had cool outfits with gas masks and such, but for an even simpler reason: the Illuminati are based in my home town of New York! Gotta represent, right?
WARNING THE BELOW CONTAINS SPOILERS ABOUT THE ILLUMINATI STORY.
True enough, the Illuminati experience starts off in New York City. The game starts off with a cinematic (dated one week earlier) where my character ends up swallowing a fly while asleep that either bequeaths or activates supernatural powers within him. The rest of the cinematic plays out over the next couple of days as my character progresses from being distraught with his newfound powers to seemingly beginning to master them. Abruptly, the doorbell rings and a fast-talking tool of a guy barges in yapping all sorts of stuff at me about his client only seeking the best of the best and that I should consider my appointment tomorrow in Brooklyn as my official interview for this mysterious client. Of course, that client turns out to be the Illuminati.
Following the cinematic, my adventure begins in Brooklyn, where I’m to find a lead all on my own, which is apparently part of the test. Fortunately, I’m given a waypoint to this lead, which sort of ruins the whole point of having me go ‘find a lead,’ but I head into the nearby laundromat anyway. I run into a paranoid bald guy at the laundromat who goes on about being watched and conditioned by ‘Them’ and even claims his own girlfriend was replaced by an android. He lets me know that the Illuminati are at the center of this whole scheme and that I can find them by following the ‘yellow dot road’.
Without much to go on, I’m told (by the game) to search for signs of surveillance in the laundromat, leading me to tamper with some nearby cameras. It turns out there are more than just a couple of cameras; there are in fact enough to serve as a sort of breadcrumb to the Illuminati base, clearly marked with some Illuminati graffiti. The base is hidden within the sewers and I have to follow Illuminati symbols painted on the walls in order to find the actual base.
Of course, the Illuminati aren’t all too happy with some random dude showing up at their base and an alarm triggers just as I step in. I’m then dragged away into a room with some crazy scientist fellow and strapped to a bed. The kooky scientist adds to the uncomfortable situation by cracking jokes about the safety of the syringe he’s holding in his hand before being barked at to hurry up by his superior. I’m finally told he’s got me strapped to a bed in order to tap into my ‘extrahuman potential’ by having me partake in a ‘post-hypnosis roleplaying scenario’. Right!
After a bit more rambling, I’m knocked out and I wake up during the ‘Tokyo catastrophe’ where I’m in the body of a character named Sarah. I find myself in the company of the three characters featured in The Secret World trailers, one from each faction, including the milkshake girl from the Dragon faction. This flashback essentially serves as the tutorial. I work my way through the Tokyo train station while fighting zombie-like creatures of the ‘filth,’ this inky black substance, alongside the aforementioned signature characters. The game keeps things interesting by starting me off with a boomstick, which is always the weapon of choice for dealing with zombies. The combat is fairly standard MMO combat, though later in the tutorial I learned that some attacks can be manually dodged by looking for tells from the creatures.
Once I’ve blasted my way through the subway, I wake up back in the lab with Dr. Crazy, who instructs me to head over to the test chamber for the next leg of my initiation.
I’m given mostly free reign of the place at this point and it looks like the Illuminati base is fairly sparse and cold. I don’t know if the base just isn’t fully populated yet or this is simply the intended visual style, but it’s a pretty neat, if slightly creepy, place.
Entering the test chamber, I speak to a character who basically tells me I can test out all the weapons in the room on the holograms there, but I can only take one out with me. Naturally, I choose the assault rifle, though the fast-hitting melee Chaos Magic was also tempting.
The final leg of the Illuminati starting experience is where I meet what I’m guessing will be my ‘handler,’ a fashionable yet ugly woman who is clearly self-absorbed and tries way too hard to appear cool while barking Illuminati information at me. It’s here that I learn that there is a situation on Solomon Island, a small island off the coast of Maine, and that I am to head there in order to assess the impact of said situation on the Illuminati’s bottom line. The Illuminati don’t actually care about the plight of the people affected by the events there, so I’m instructed not to worry about that. Works for me! I’m told I can avoid the quarantine and military by traveling through Agartha and then summarily dismissed to figure out the rest on my own.
Agartha, as it turns out, is the teleport hub for The Secret World. While TSW features many real life locations, they’re all basically isolated zones that you can travel to via the mysterious underground teleportation network of Agartha. Agartha basically plays upon the Hollow Earth hypothesis, which asserts that the Earth is actually completely hollow or at least features significant amounts of hollowed out space. This concept has been shown (via observational evidence) to be untrue, but in The Secret World, it’s very much a reality. Entering Agartha via a secret passageway in the Illuminati base gives way to a massive hollowed out space with a multi-level spider web of wooden pathways to explore. Each path is dotted with several portals that can take you to The Secret World’s many locations, but I’m headed to the town of Kingsmouth, which is where my real adventure will begin…
Are you planning on playing the Illuminati? If so, what attracts you to them? Share your thoughts in the comments below!