“Imagine if every myth, conspiracy theory and urban legend was true. Imagine a world where you can become anything you want to be, without restrictions such as classes or levels. This is the premise for The Secret World, Funcom’s upcoming massively multiplayer online game set in the modern-day real world.” – TheSecretWorld.com
I’ve been keeping my eye on this game ever since I heard about it a year and a half ago and my wait is finally about to come to an end on June 19th. The developers at Funcom had the brilliant idea of releasing a freeform MMORPG, where there are no levels and no classes. Anyone can do anything they want, and can even change what their characters are at any point in time. The game looks promising to say the least.
Aside from classes, the game does have three factions; The Dragons, The Templars, and The Illuminati. Each different faction has a different set of skills and personality traits that fits it best. For example the description for the Illuminati is “Sex, Drugs and Rockefeller- Invisible puppet-masters and corporate manipulators, they crave power and wealth by any means necessary.”. With each faction having a completely different view point on the world this gives players a more diverse way of going about playing the game. Whereas in other MMO’s from my experience, the only driving factor is level and end game gear. With The Secret World, the driving factors are whatever you want them to be. Albeit they are slightly guided by the moral compass of your faction. Whether you chose the chaos of the Dragons, the secretive manipulation from the shadows of the Illuminati, or the outright justice seeking sophistication of the Templars, each of these has a part to add to your play style.
Not only do the factions add to the game-play experience but the open ended world that you’re thrust into gives you a massive sandbox to play in. One of the other many driving factors in the game is that you can see and do whatever you want. Maybe you’d like to go hunt demons in one of the dimensions of hell, maybe you’re more interested in what really goes on behind the secure walls of an abandoned military base, perhaps you would rather go visit Transylvania in hopes of stumbling across some vampires reminiscent of Vlad the… excuse me, Dracula. Any one of these things is possible and more! I’ve heard tell of giant winged beasts coming down from the sky, as well as all of our favorite children’s tales coming to life before our very eyes in some manner, and to think all the while you’re exploring the vast world there’s a war going on between the factions.
And everyone needs a break from hunting ghosts and demons and mutated creatures, what better place to do that then in a pub in downtown London, or New York. However you may still need to be on the watch because there are those creatures and enemies that walk the paths of man. But in the meantime throw back a couple with some buddies or just go on a trip to see some sights you never thought possible in the real world.
One thing that excites me is the ability to change what you are and how your character plays at a whim. There is a skills and abilities wheel that is used to activate and deactivate your set abilities. With up to seven active and seven passive skills/abilities at any one point in time, and hundreds of abilities and skill sets to choose from, you can bet your ass you won’t get bored playing the same rotation over and over again. With more choice of weapons and combat styles in your hands it adds a bit more freedom of character development and more personality to add. I could run around wielding a Hammer and using Black Magic all while whipping out a Pistol mid-fight just to add some range, and if I’m feeling dicey maybe I’ll slide out my Katana and toss out a stick of dynamite. There are so many possibilities it’s almost too much, but that saves the game from slipping into the clutches of having a “Cookie Cutter” Class. In games before The Secret World, there have always been specific “talents” or ability rotations that make one class or one specialization of a class, better than any other. And that is something that’s always bugged me. If you can play your character however you want, then why limit them to a few skills that are the “best” option, when they have so many others at hand that aren’t being used.
The only other game that has used a free character development style like this was my all-time favorite game, Asheron’s Call. There was a list of skills that you could train, and specialize in. And you could make any combination of them work for you, whether you chose to use war magic to launch walls of fire at your enemy just to run up and stab them with a spear afterward or use a crossbow from afar and then run up and beat them with a hammer. The freedom is what makes you fall in love with your character and get attached to it, and with as much freedom as Funcom is handing the players I believe that we’ll see a lot of people enjoying the game.
My Thoughts: I’m completely stoked for this game to be released. I’ve missed having a game that gives the players the freedom to log on, do a mission or a quest and just enjoy a few minutes in game and then log off with not too much need for obligating hours upon hours each day. The factions in this game also give me something to look forward to, instead of just associating blue with good guys and pretty boys and red with bad guys and ugly dudes, I have a moral compass to look at for each. It’s a bold move to remaster the MMO world by taking away levels and class, but it’s something that will help it also. The worst part of current MMO’s is the grinding up to the level cap, you spend most of your time hating your life while you slay monsters without remorse and with no end in sight, and for what? In this case, you’re not necessarily taking out the grinding to level cap, but taking out the level cap. The grind becomes the game and since there is no “Too low” or “Too high” of a level, all content is a viable target for any player and his fellows. It’s an exciting concept to think that I don’t have to wait for my friends at the finish line only to have them quit or lose interest halfway there.