Funcom at Their Best: High Times in The Secret World — The MMO Gamer

Funcom at Their Best: High Times in The Secret World

TheSecretWorldDX11 2012-07-25 09-58-31-11

“Your kind is always looking for villains. So much better to have something, someone to fight than to face the reality of it: That what you’re fighting isn’t physical.  Isn’t even metaphysical.  It’s an idea made real.  You can’t shoot fireballs at an idea.”

You know, at one point I thought I’d write these pieces like a live blog of my time exploring the narrative and gameplay of The Secret World.   At some point before or after the two hours of sleep I had last night, I realized that I might as well have wanted to blog and eventually spoil a supernatural mystery film.  If someone spoils the twist in The Sixth Sense before you’ve seen it, I’m pretty sure they’re off your Christmas card list.  I’m not going to be that guy. I like your eggnog.

Making me miss my Slayerdroid.

Still, that’s what I’ve come to realize The Secret World is.  Up through the Blue Mountains, Funcom’s primary mission is to tell you an interesting story and somehow conform that into an MMOG’s conventions.  Internal conflicts like this show symptoms all over the place.

When  Funcom is in full stride and flouting genre conventions as you find in the bold capital letters AMAZING quests such as “The Black House” or “The Haunting,” it’s the best MMO game experience any player can want.   Without building up anything, exploring and solving these quests felt wonderful all while the atmosphere kept me in suspense.   Has an MMO ever actually had you frightened, ever?  The Secret World manages it sometimes.


It can be a task at times to discover these nuggets of sheer luminescent brilliance in between the quests that sum up to  kill 20 Zombies then kill Zomb-o, Lord of Zombies.   In a way, the gristle makes it even more surprising and ingratiating.  Yes, I’m forgiving the kill X rats quests that I’ve done already in every game ever and did not need to do again because when The Secret World breaks from that and puts me on a roller-coaster with ghosts or plunges me into a hole in the ground full of the Rot of the World Tree, then the game becomes more what every other MMO should be.  It becomes what other MMOs should live up to in their storytelling experience.  It becomes the high standard other games can be judged against.

Funcom gave us people, not loot pinatas and questbots.

The knack that Funcom masters in its delivery is the creation of memorable, human seeming characters to deliver their story through.   The people of Solomon Island are full of quirks and flaws that show through in their long, sometimes rambling sermons that come in place of quest text.  Additionally,  every NPC has a wealth of personal conversation to mine.  The excellence of this is that all of these extra dialogues are just there to help you get to know this artificial person and their history.  It’s not there to mask the grind.  It’s a reward in itself.   When I’ve exhausted dialogue with an NPC I feel like I know what they’re about, and can remember them like I would a person.

The other game that tried this kind of thing, SWTOR, failed to capture that depth because most dialogue had some attachment to another game mechanic.  It was for a quest or for a romance.  It is only when you can detach me from my awareness of the massive spreadsheet of variables around me that you engage my inner child building then kicking over sandcastles.

Funcom’s update strategy is to provide new story based content monthly, building off of the characters you’ve met and grown to know.   Will I care about the fate of Carter the telekinetic teenage girl and the quirky parent figures found in the surviving Innsmouth Academy faculty as much as I might care about Princess Buttercup, Gandalf, Corwin of Amber, or Robb Stark?

I think it’s a real possibility and I’ll pay another month for the chance!



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  6. First I don’t think I’ve ever seen a .us after any email address where is it from? As I minteoned, whatever problems Age of Conan may have had they are not present in The Secret World. And even the whole chat problem has not bothered me that much. I am enjoying the game so much that I just hope it has legs to run past the first two months after release.Thanks for the respone. And thanks to you GM Zypah you are the greatest.

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