The Secret World
|The Secret World|
Regular version cover art
Anne Lise Waal
The Secret World is a massively multiplayer online role-playing survival horror video game described by its designers as "dark fantasy" and set in the modern day real world by developer Funcom. Ragnar Tørnquist is the creative director of the game.
In 2013, The Secret World became subscription-optional, requiring players only to buy the game with no additional subscription fees, with additional benefits to those members still paying a subscription.
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Unlike traditional MMOs, in which the players' permanent class is selected during the character creation phase of the game, The Secret World's ability wheel allows players to change their class at any time, except in some specific situations, such as combat. Players can still fill traditional MMO roles (tank, healer, melee dps, ranged dps), but the ability wheel permits ongoing class customization according to personal preferences. There are also no restrictions on weapons; players can use spells, guns, swords, and fist weapons with no class-based limitations.
Missions come in several varieties. The main plot follows a faction-driven quest storyline, which is persistent throughout the game. In addition, players can play up to one main mission, one dungeon mission, faction-limited side quests, and three open side quests, which are predominantly fetch and hunting quests. However, missions can include a variety of puzzles that are quasi-alternate reality games and require searching the Internet for various clues through an in-game browser. Investigation missions require players to find facts and solve problems, and differ from other quests in that brute strength is not necessarily needed to complete each mission.
The Secret World utilizes guilds in the form of Cabals. Cabals are made up of members in a singular faction. However many players have been known to make Multi-Faction cabals, using Global Chat channels as a means to unite the technically separate groups.
The game features an original setting created by Funcom, with contemporary elements as well as "magic, myths, conspiracies and dark horrors." Tørnquist debunked several rumors surrounding The Secret World, stating that "there are no aliens or science fiction elements" in it. He also denied any connection of The Secret World to The Longest Journey.
The game is set in the "modern day real world" but also incorporates pieces of ancient mythologies, real and false history, urban legends, and pop culture, and ties them into an original back-story. The latter is said to go back in time for 100 million years and encompass long extinct ancient civilizations.
The players will assume the roles of supernatural heroes who participate in a "future war between good and evil", fighting dark monsters that threaten the modern world. Tørnquist identified the genre of the story as dark fantasy, features vampires, demons, and zombies. The players will be free to travel across different locations of the world (both real, like London, New York and Seoul, and mythical, such as Agartha, the legendary city located within Hollow Earth and the Hell dimension) and even in time, to pursue the overall plot and investigate new mysteries in connection to the dark invasion. The overall plot has a conclusion but the designers also leave room for future issues and expansions.
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The player character, lying in bed while hearing about a terrorist attack on a subway in Tokyo, Japan, has an "unusual" bee fly into their mouth. After jolting awake, the character discovers over the next several days that they have developed magical powers. A week later, a recruiter from the selected secret society comes to the character's door, and either gives them a job offer or, in the case of the Dragon, kidnaps the character and forcibly inducts them.
Immediately after being recruited the character is sent out on their first mission to the fictional location of Solomon Island. The island, heavily based on H.P. Lovecraft's work, has been surrounded by a thick, impermeable fog; living residents of the island who attempt to escape or who are lured out into the fog are heavily mutated into draug, while the dead rise from their graves as zombies. It comes to pass that a ship hailing from the island came across a sword on an island in the ocean and, upon stealing it and returning with it, have brought with it a terrible curse. It becomes the character's goal to retrieve this sword, which has fallen into the hands of Loki, implied to be the last surviving Norse god. He has associated himself with the Morninglight, a cult which parodies Scientology and other new age religions, but which is actually a front for a secret society of its own. After fighting their way across the island, driving back the monsters and protecting the few surviving locals from harm, the character recruits the Native American villagers of the island in a bid to increase their own power with their ancestral magics, so that they can face off against a god wielding such a powerful weapon. They succeed, but upon defeating Loki the character is banished to an otherworldly realm while the sword is claimed by one of the members of the Morninglight.
In the otherworldly realm, the character encounters the remains of an expedition by Roald Amundsen to parts unknown. An unknown entity offers the character power, and speaks of the benefits that those who have accepted their gifts have gained, as well as the horrible things which have befallen those who shunned their power. Ghostly visions of others who have been given the offer form around them, with some approaching the gift (represented as a small present), and others casting themselves off the cliff beyond to escape their fate. The character must choose whether to accept the gift or reject it as the others did, whereupon they reawaken upon Solomon Island.
The next play area is heavily based upon Egypt, where the player is tasked to track down the cult of Aten, the Black Pharaoh, who is attempting to reanimate and escape his pyramid. After confronting the cult leader, the player ventures to the underground City of the Black Sun, and confronts the Black Pharaoh itself.
The player then finds themselves in the otherworldly realm again, and the entity again entreats the player to kneel before a demonic figure in submission. Kneeling or attacking the figure evokes a response, and the player awakens.
The final area is Translyvania, where a horde of Vampires led by Mara have taken power, and have created a horde of monsters to protect a massive dig site. Mara, who betrayed Vlad Dracula to his death, attempts to have the player assassinated by a group of vampires. The player receives a vision of a young girl, a visionary who was a test subject of the Orochi group who has special insight into the workings of the area. After the player resurrects Vlad Dracula, Dracula slays the near-immortal Mara. The player then ventures to the dig sight and enters the Gaia Engine, the massive hub of existence glimpsed in the opening scene of the credits. The player can attack the prison of the unknown entity or repair the Gaia Engine to bind it tighter. The ending is with either the divine or infernal angel that was seen at the very beginning of the game, who thank the player for their service and ask them to prepare as massive events are still underway.
The game ends on a cliffhanger, having learned that all three major catastrophes are heavily linked to the Orochi Group and its mysterious leader; Samuel Chandra, obviously the perpetrator of the recent events.
|Official system requirements|
After announcing the development of The Secret World, Funcom project director Jørgen Tharaldsen informed the press that the game uses the same engine as Age of Conan. According to Funcom, the game will blend elements of MMO gameplay with alternate reality gaming (ARG) and social networking.
At GDC 2009, Tørnquist gave an interview to GameSpot regarding The Secret World, revealing more about its gameplay. There will be neither levels, nor classes in the game; instead, the character building will be skill-based. This way, the developers plan to avoid level grinding, allowing new players to join the game more easily. The player characters will be customizable to a large degree, particularly in their choice of clothing (except in PvP, where players must wear faction-specific uniforms), weapons (which range from shotguns to swords and can be customized and upgraded), and the supernatural powers they acquire. Combat against computer-controlled monsters will be one of the game's central points and will require more of player's attention than contemporary MMORPGs. Death in game results in the character returning as an "anima" and they have the option of returning to their body or respawning at a variety of resurrection locations. The players will be able to form teams to fight together but in an earlier blog posting, Tørnquist assured that the game can also be played in single-player mode, should a player choose not to play with a group. According to him, the game is story-driven and there will be an overarching linear plot, as well as numerous side-quests, ranging from investigation to sabotage and hunting, since diversity of the gameplay will be another central point.
In an interview with GameSpot at the 2009 Penny Arcade Expo, Tørnquist and the lead designer Martin Bruusgaard revealed which playable factions ("secret societies") will be available in the game. The factions are: the London-based Templars, pious zealots "who would burn an entire village down to get their hands on one demon"; the New York City-based Illuminati, Machiavellian pragmatists who "believe that it's a tough world where only the strongest will survive"; and the Seoul-based "Dragon", who take a neutral stance between the other two and are "all about deceiving, orchestrating chaos, and waiting patiently for its time". A personality test to determine the players' inclination towards one of the factions was made available on the official The Secret World website soon after the reveal. It will be impossible to change factions without creating a new character. Additionally, players will be able to create their own guilds, known as "cabals" in-game, affiliated with one of the main factions. All players' actions in the game will contribute to their ranking in their respective guilds and factions. The same interview revealed that PvP areas of the game will be located in the region called Agartha inside the hollow Earth, where the players will fight for the invaluable resource known as "anima". This idea was dropped during closed beta as they decided it wasn't entertaining enough. Large scale PvP has later been revealed to take place in big persistent warzones. Control of these warzones has an effect on the rest of the players of a controlling faction, and provides bonus experience and other perks. There are also small mini-games in iconic locations such as Shambhala, El Dorado, and Stonehenge.
The pre-production of the game originally known as Cabal (and The Entire World Online in the earliest concepts) started in 2002, but in mid-2003, most of the working team was transferred to the development of Dreamfall. Cabal was to be set in the same universe as the later The Secret World but in the 1920s instead of the contemporary period, with H. P. Lovecraft's works and the Indiana Jones franchise being major inspirations. The idea of setting the game in the 1920s was scrapped after lengthy discussions, in order to make the game more accessible for modern players.
The work on The Secret World was resumed in 2006, after Dreamfall shipped, with many of the latter's designers (including Ragnar Tørnquist) playing key roles in the former's development. The Secret World was produced at the Funcom studios in Oslo, Montreal and Beijing. In August 2008, it was stated that the development team consisted of people previously involved in the development of Dreamfall, Anarchy Online, Age of Conan, EverQuest II, and The Longest Journey. In November Funcom stated that 70 people were working on the project. The Secret World uses the proprietary DreamWorld Engine.
On September 29, 2009, Funcom announced a reduction of 20% of its staff, resulting in "significant delay" for the release of The Secret World. On January 10, 2011, Electronic Arts announced that it will co-publish The Secret World with Funcom. Funcom told VG247 that they were "leaving [their] options open" in regards to the 360 version.
On August 30, 2011, beta testing sign-up became available. On February 21, 2012, Funcom announced that the The Secret World would be released on June 19. The first public beta test "Kingsmouth Calling" went live on May 11, 2012 available to all pre-purchasers of the game. The second public beta test "Hell Raised" went live on June 15, 2012 available to pre-purchasers and invited players. The company also revealed that over 750,000 gamers had applied to beta-test the game, significantly higher than for their previous MMO, Age of Conan: Hyborian Adventures.
The first promotional material appeared on May 8, 2007, when a picture was leaked into the internet, containing a poem, a Knights Templar seal, and several sentences in Spanish, Norwegian, French, German and Hebrew. When solved, the poem led to a series of internet pages, one of them with a riddle, and, eventually, to the newly created official forum.
The websites led to a Flash page with a countdown timer that uses Eastern Arabic numerals instead of Arabic numbers. The timer would presumably have reached zero at 12:00 AM on December 21, 2012, adjusted for the location of Funcom headquarters. The date is the end of the Mayan calendar cycle, which is notable in Maya mythology. A massive alternate reality game was also established in the forums.
Over the years, Funcom has hosted several alternate reality games such as: Two Lines Twine, The Dark Places and most recently CoV System Malfunction. The alternate reality games were created using: Twitter, Flickr, 8-tracks, Wikidot and several websites created by Funcom such as the Kingsmouth website and the official game forums.
A first teaser trailer featuring the Dragon faction was released on April 7, 2009, during the GDC 2009. A second teaser featuring the Templar faction was released on September 4, 2009. A teaser presenting the fictitious town of Kingsmouth was released on February 2, 2010. On March 23, 2010 (i.e. 10 days after the GDC 2010 of San Francisco, California), a short teaser was released, showing some extremely brief in-game sequences and announcing the release of a bigger teaser on March 25, 2010. This last one showed some fights in Kingsmouth. Most available teasers can be viewed on the game's homepage, however, GameSpot's interviews with Ragnar Tørnquist, on the various factions within the game, included scenes from teaser trailers.
In 2011, Funcom announced that a Facebook app called The Secret War was being created. The first stage, asking players to choose their faction, aired on August 30, 2011 along with the long awaited beta sign-up for the actual game. As of April 2012, The Secret War was active. Players were able to earn the chance for a guaranteed slot in the beta, as well as a trip to Montreal, Canada to play the game. Actions in The Secret War gained special items to be used with characters at game launch. Funcom also had a panel advertising The Secret World at PAX East 2012. People could play a beta test of The Secret World. On May 25, 2012, Funcom released an announcement moving the release date to July 3, 2012.
Funcom offered a number of in-game content packs available as a pre-order bonus by registering at the official website. These ranged from additional in-game pets and weapons to a life-time subscription and discount at the in-game store. The exact contents of the bonus packs depend on the location of purchase. Players who pre-ordered the game gained early access to the game servers, before the official release date.
Funcom promised monthly updates to the game, called "issues", that would add new missions, weapons, abilities, features and storylines. This changed after the game went from a monthly subscription to a pay-to-play policy. Issues one through four continued to be offered free, while issue five, "The Vanishing of Tyler Freeborn", was provided free of charge only to players who had purchased the game prior to January 2013. Subsequent updates have been offered at a much slower pace, usually taking several months for new issues to be released. They are available as paid-for DLC for players. Funcom does not provide these issues free to its subscribers and lifetime users, instead including 1200 bonus points as part of its subscription and thus offering the option of only buying the DLCs users are interested in. After some concern by the subscribers and lifetime members, Funcom stated that the subscribers/lifetime members would never have to pay more than 1200 bonus points for new issues.
- Carter Unleashed: Six new missions, a marketplace, new nightmare mode dungeons and bug fixes.
- Digging Deeper: Four new missions, rocket launcher auxiliary weapon, auxiliary wheel, hotbar spot for auxiliary weapons, barber shop, plastic surgeon, lair update including eight new lair missions, new nightmare mode dungeons and bug fixes.
- The Cat God: Two new missions, new Halloween holiday event including three missions, one seasonal dungeon, three pets, new clothing and trick and treat rewards; eight new Lair missions and bug fixes. Culminating in a game-wide competition with the Templar faction taking the prize for 2012.
- Big Trouble in the Big Apple: New York city raid, Redesign of Fusang PvP area mechanics, RP Theater, Chainsaw auxiliary weapon, reticule combat and bug fixes.
- The Vanishing of Tyler Freeborn: The End of Days event including: Five missions, One Seasonal dungeon; The Quantum Brace auxiliary weapon, the Vanishing of Tyler Freeborn DLC consisting of Four missions, an itemhotbar, the option to replay investigation missions and Two new stand-alone missions and bugfixes.
- Last Train to Cairo: Will see players working with Maryan against the cultists of Abdel Daoud in an effort to stop a second event on the scale of Tokyo from occurring. Issue #6 will include; The Whip auxiliary weapon, Improved Cabal options, PvP fixes including a revamped matchmaking system, and the inclusion of the Veteran points system which will allow subscribing members to accrue these points to spent on special veteran point items. All paying members will have a 48 hour early access to issue #6.
- A Dream to Kill: Offers a crucial new chapter in The Secret World’s story line, and sets up the story for Tokyo. In this update you get to play out your secret agent fantasies in Transylvania, with deep intrigue, a high speed snowmobile chase through the mountains, learn the new Auxiliary Weapon the Flamethrower and finally stand face to face with an ominous enemy which has remained hidden up until now.
- The Venetian Agenda: This update includes the Scenario System and the Augment System. It also allows the players to enter Venice for the very first time. In addition to this there were many bug fixes and quality of life improvements included.
|This section requires expansion. (July 2012)|
The game has a 73% critic rating and an 8.3 user rating on Metacritic and GameRankings, indicating that it has mostly positive and mixed reviews, however Funcom has held what it says "a low Metacritic score" and competition from Diablo 3 and Guild Wars 2 responsible for poor sales of the game.
IGN praised the presentation and also said that while The Secret World starts off strong, it loses steam afterwards. GameSpot praised The Secret World's puzzles, storytelling, and atmosphere, but criticized its lack of PvP content at launch. Jonathan Deesing of G4 TV gave The Secret World a score of 2.5/5 during closed testing of the game. Reviewer Heather Mitchell praised the game's unusual setting and puzzle quests. .
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