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The Secret World Previews: Hell Hurts

By William Murphy on May 24, 2012

The Secret World can be extremely hellish. Punishing. Brutal. Full of fire, demons, and pain. Also, it’s oddly exciting and fun… okay, maybe that last part isn’t what hell would really be like, but we can dream. Last night, Rob “Grakulen” Lashley, Mike “I Mod You” Bitton, and myself were able to partake in the first of three dungeons set in the literal Hell with Tor Egil Andersen of Funcom leading the way. This was the first time I’ve been able to taste a dungeon in TSW outside of mere gameplay videos, and I left feeling a great deal better about what Funcom is trying to accomplish in their upcoming MMORPG. Hell was an extremely challenging experience (even with GM cheats) and it’s plain to see that dungeon-lovers will find a lot to love in The Secret World.

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Wait… Hell on Earth?

Not quite. You see, like all else in The Secret World, Hell’s not quite what it seems on the surface.  Essentially, some time ago, a man named Wicker opened a portal to hell… and then vanished beyond said portal.  In the time since he did so, bits and pieces of hell have begun overflowing into the Savage Coast in our world.  Your mission in this case, the first dungeon involving Hell in TSW, is to go in and find Wicker to save him if you can.  There’s one overarching story through all three dungeons, and while I don’t want to spoil things too much, there’s definitely some open-ended stuff when you beat this first incarnation.


Learning As You Go

There’s a few things to note about TSW’s dungeons.  One is that trash mobs aren’t 90% of your gameplay here.  As Tor told us, the majority of the non-boss fights you’ll take part in are to either a.) liven things up between bigger encounters or b.) to help keep teaching you about the mechanics of that dungeon’s fights.  There were at least three mini-bosses in Hell, and three full-sized bosses.  I could probably count on two hands the number of non-boss fights we encountered.  It’s all a part of keeping the focus on the cool stuff in the dungeons, and not on the trash mobs you fight plenty of in the open world.

And while some dungeons’ quests might have some sort of investigation mechanics, Tor reminded us that the real “mystery” of the dungeon content is figuring out what builds your party needs to be using, and how to fight the bosses and succeed.  You see, there’s no “rez” in TSW.  When you’re knocked down in a boss fight, you’re down until the party either dies completely or manages to win without you.  A barrier goes up around the boss-fight and you have to wait until either of those two criteria is met before rejoining your group from a nearby respawn point. 

The reason for not having a rez in TSW is pretty simple: it would become a must-have skill taking up one of your valuable seven active skill-slots, and every party would have rezzes on hand to get them out of a jam.  Instead Funcom wants you to really work together to figure out a good strategy that works for your group.  They want you to check and change your builds when one set-up doesn’t work and then go back in and try again.  The boss fights and the way in which you beat them is the puzzle here.  Being able to just rez when you’re downed would cheapen the fight.  And judging by the difficulty of Hell One with our buffed beta characters and a developer nearby with GM commands… players will be dying a lot. This is the second dungeon you’ll be tasked with in TSW and it’s not a walk in the park, folks.  Take that as you will.  But me likey.

The Sauce is Boss

That last subtitle has nothing to do with the following text.  I just like Sweet Baby Ray’s BBQ sauce. But I wanted at least one place to chat about the bosses. Now, I mentioned above that the boss fights in TSW would be the main form of “puzzle solving” when it comes to dungeons in the game.  Hell’s first dungeon might not have the hardest fights you’ll face in terms of figuring them out.  But chances are, you’re still going to die (can you die in Hell?) over and over again before finally getting your strategy down.  

The first boss has you running from platform to platform in a sea of lava as each catches fire.  Meanwhile he’s swinging a massive sword and cleaving anything and everything in front of him.  The second boss has AOE affects galore, and summons exploding minions to her in the center of the room.  As she gets more pissed at you (read: less health) she’ll start summoning them faster and faster.  It’s literally a race against her anger to kill her.  It’s here we all died first, even with Tor’s mighty heals and advice.  The third and final boss mixes in every bit of info you’ve learned as you progressed.  He rains meteors on your head which successively follow you in waves so you must keep moving as they fall.  He has a shield that pops and won’t let any damage through until you pull him to a randomly generating spot that deactivates the shield.  Oh, and as you fight him, waves of fire also begin undulating across the playfield. 

In short, it’s insane. We died a ton. And I couldn’t be happier with what we saw from TSW’s 2nd in-game dungeon. You can easily see how much teamwork will be needed; how you’ll have to think about what skills you’re using and how to react to the bosses’ many attacks.  You have to move constantly, coordinate constantly, and if you’re lucky you’ll come out on top and unravel more of TSW’s overarching mystery.  One thing? I don’t see too many groups beating this dungeon within the first few weeks of launch.  The Polaris, the dungeon you’ll first find in the game, is apparently just as difficult.  Party-loving, dungeon-running, difficulty cherishing players should start getting amped for The Secret World. This is one thing they’re doing very right.

William Murphy / Bill is the Managing Editor of MMORPG.com, RTSGuru.com, and lover of all things gaming. He''s been playing and writing about MMOs and geekery since 2002, and you can harass him and his views on Twitter @thebillmurphy.

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