Like a lot of folks, I’m finding it very difficult to not get amped up for Funcom’s The Secret World. While I know the company has had its fair share of rough patches, there’s no denying that each of their games has brought something unique to the table. Anarchy Online is aging, but one of the finest Sci-Fi MMOs in memory. Age of Conan had a rocky launch that it never recovered from, but its fans will gladly tell you there’s plenty to love in the representation of Howard’s world. Then there’s the offline stuff, with The Longest Journey and Dreamfall being prime examples of adventure gaming done right. If you put all those things together you can see why some might argue that Funcom has always been just a step or two away from greatness. So with E3 and videogame show season fast approaching let’s take a look at just a handful of reasons MMO gamers should keep an eye on The Secret World.
The Classless System
This is a big reason to be hopeful, if you ask me. Sure there have been other games to approach this idea, but very few AAA releases have done anything like it in recent years. The general trend has been towards more and more class-based games because (and I’m assuming here) they’re easier to design and easier for players to grasp. But MMORPGs are inherently about the freedom to explore worlds as a character, and there’s every indication that such exploration should be about character development as well. I mean, Gary Gygax basically gave players a set of tools, some dice and said “Go make stuff happen, kids.” And that’s what we did. I’m hoping that the 500 skills and combinations thereof will be enough to satiate the desire to make my character my own. And it’s just one of the many reasons we should be hopeful that Funcom sticks to their guns.
Dreamfall and The Longest Journey were two vastly underappreciated and underplayed games. Incredibly compelling storylines with very clever puzzles made these two titles some of my all-time favorite examples of the adventure genre done right. And guess what? The man behind these games is the man leading the charge on The Secret World. On top of that, I’m more than willing to bet his love affair with a good story and mind-bending puzzles will more than show up in The Secret World. Age of Conan was cool because we got to explore Robert E. Howard’s world. But I’m really more excited to play around in a game that’s wholly original from the minds that brought us Dreamfall. I never wanted that game to end, and with any luck TSW will be a spiritual successor in some way or another.
We here at MMORPG.com are always asking a simple question: why doesn’t anyone follow in the footsteps of DAoC and give us a three-faction conflict? It was one of the main reasons (in my opinion) that Warhammer failed to resonate with people the way Dark Age did, and thankfully it seems like Funcom knows this. Player vs. Player combat on a large scale just doesn’t work with only two sides. But when you throw in a third faction, the dynamic changes completely. Now so far we only know that there will be three factions, and there will be TSW’s equivalent of “Battlegrounds” (match-made PvP). What we’re still waiting to hear word on is just how the game’s open world PvP will be handled. All I can ask for, as I always do, is that it be persistent, that it mean something more than tokens for gear, and that someone lets me drive a Jeep.
Who Doesn’t Love Lovecraft?
There are plenty of orcs, elves, Jedi, and bioengineered humans in the MMO world. What we’ve always needed more of is the macabre. Give me zombies, werewolves, tentacled beasties, and things that go bump in the night any day. There are two “dark” games on the horizon: this and World of Darkness. I highly doubt WoD is coming any time really soon, but even if the two were competing I’d be willing to give both a go. It’s about time some present-day alternate reality games were brought into the mix.
A Sense of Mystery
The above, combined with the writing and direction of the man behind Dreamfall should give us all hope for something special out of The Secret World. When was the last time you played an MMO and were struck by a sense of wonder and awe? When was the last time that you got lost trying to solve a puzzle with thousands of other people in an MMO? When was the last time you got scared while playing one? There’s a lot riding on this game for Funcom, but there’s also a lot riding on it for us. I think a great many players are losing hope that any MMO will ever grab them the way their first did. And while that may never happen, perhaps The Secret World can grab us in a whole new way. I suppose we’ll all find out soon enough.