The Secret World Dungeon Play Through Impressions

We had the opportunity to sit down and get a first time glimpse at a dungeon in FunCom's upcoming MMO, The Secret World. Martin Bruusgaard, Lead Designer, and Joel Bylos, Lead Content Designer, served as our tour guides while a party of 5 played through a dungeon called The Wreck of the Polaris which is located in the recently announced, Savage Coast.



Wait, what is The Secret World?

If this is your first time hearing about The Secret World, you'll want to check out our past coverage of The Secret World, because it's breaking the MMO mold in a lot of ways. But as a quick recap here, The Secret World is a new MMO being created by FunCom and published by Electronic Arts. It takes place in the modern world and asks the question what if every myth, every legend, and every conspiracy theory were true. A player selects one of three secret societies (Dragon, Templar, Illuminati) to join forces with, learn their secrets, and fight against the evil that’s rising in the world. One of the most striking differences between TSW and other MMOs is that there are no classes and no levels. Now, let’s jump into the announcements and Q&A from this week's EA Summer Showcase.<o:p></o:p>

Entering the Dungeon

The group we saw was a pretty standard party role build out with a tank, healer, ranged DPS/Crowd Control, melee DPS, and caster. The dungeon’s back story and quest line was kicked off by fully voiced quest givers who managed to inject humor and personality right from the beginning. Keeping in line with the game’s premise that every legend is true, this particular dungeon is based on the classic tale of the ghost ship that crashed and is now overrun by evil.



The team stated that the only role for trash mobs in a dungeon is to teach a lesson about the mechanics of the dungeon. For example, the first trash mobs taught the party that this instance will have electrified water as well as mobs who can summon force fields that need to be dispelled.<o:p></o:p>

As the party climbed higher in the dungeon to a lookout, you got a feel for how vast the dungeon felt. A tremendous cargo ship, the Polaris, is wrecked in the middle with her cargo containers scattered all around the landscape.

Also, on this precipice, the party came across a glowing gold area in the dungeon that was imbued with what they call anima magic. These are spots where the earth herself is fighting back against the evil. It also happens to be a place where your party can stop and change out their skills by accessing the skill wheel. In this case the 2 handed dps character adapted after seeing ranged dps is more effective and switched to an elemental magic caster. But, I think the power system requires a little more detail.

How do the powers work?

There are 500 powers to be unlocked in your skill wheel. You can unlock every single one of them (given some time…) The catch is that you can only ever have 14 abilities active in your bar at a time. The analogy they used here is building your deck in Magic The Gathering.  Like in MTG, just because you have all the cards doesn't automatically make you the best Magic player, but it does allow you to adapt to many situations. You have to be smart about what abilities you select. This encourages players to explore skill combinations where there is synergy within your own ability selection as well as with your party members' abilities. 


Building on that, the team explained that there are two forms of character progression. Vertical progression, is where players find increasingly powerful and specialized items that ultimately make you more powerful. And horizontal progression, where you gain more and more skills in your skill wheel. This doesn't necessarily make you more powerful, but it does make you more versatile. 

As we saw in the dungeon, where ranged dps was favored, this skill system encourages teams to adapt to scenarios more readily as well as allow players to be creative with how they select their skills.

ARG Elements

The party next came across a glowing chest inside of a cargo container, however, upon interaction, they found it was sealed with a combination. These are mystery or puzzle quests that require the player to use resources that are outside of the game to solve them. In this case you will need to find a website that has the cargo's ship's manifest, type in the container’s serial number to get closer to solving the puzzle.  These quests are meant to be very difficult. When we asked if they would be relying on existing resources like Wikipedia or resources they would craft specifically for the game, the team said both will be true. In this case the puzzle is so specific that they have created the website you’ll need to visit. But there will be other puzzles where you might need to look up a verse in the Bible or use Google to do some research on a certain symbol.<o:p></o:p>

Interestingly, a number of these ARG sites and identities have already been discovered. (Town of Kingsmouth, Monsters of Maine, Flickr galleries, and numerous twitter personalities).<o:p></o:p>

Finally, the team skipped ahead to the Primordial Dweller. Who looks a lot like Cthulu. Defeating the Dweller required the team to utilize all of the lessons they learned throughout the dungeon. Upon boarding the helicopter for extraction, the team is surprised by a huge final, boss. They’re not going to spoil the details of that fight for us, just yet. At this point, with the play through complete, Martin and Joel were kind enough to answer some questions of our questions:<o:p></o:p>

Q&A (paraphrased)

Q: Without levels, how will items be restricted?
A: The general thought is that if you can get it, you can wield it; however we might implement some gating to restrict certain items if we find it to be necessary.

Q: If you can have all the skills, what's the incentive to make additional characters?
A: There isn’t any. We don't think the fun part of an MMO is re-rolling a character where no one knows you because you’ve had to pick a new name and you're stuck grinding the low levels again so you can play with your friends who are doing end game content.

Q: How will you be able to customize how your character looks?
A: Items that increase your power can't be seen, they are like implants. So, everything you see on your character is strictly visual. You can still be a super powerful badass while being a female in a tank top. Lots of the clothing will be achievement based.

Q: Will there be a crafting system?
A: There will be, but we haven't revealed anything about it yet.

Q: Will there be a raid format dungeon?
A: We will have raids and they will be 10 man. It gets to be too difficult to coordinate all the powers if you too many players in a group.

Q: So, you guys must be big H.P. Lovecraft fans with the eerie New England setting, Innsmouth, and now we see a Cthulu-like boss?
A: Yeah, we are, but the great thing is this is only the feeling for the zones we're showing right now. Egypt, for example has a totally different inspiration and feel.

Final Impressions

I've been excited for The Secret World for a while now and after seeing this play through and talking with the FunCom guys, I'm even more anxious. It's refreshing to see a game that is not afraid to completely challenge the existing MMO paradigm. The game seems to focus on the right things, the story telling and the fun. Going into the demo, I still hadn’t wrapped my head completely around the idea of your character being level-less and class-less, and I’m still chewing on it, but after seeing the Skill Wheel in action and hearing them explain how it’s a lot like loading your deck in Magic, it’s starting to settle in and feel simple in a way. It certainly takes a lot of stress out of picking the wrong skills or getting stuck with a class you end up not enjoying as much as you first thought you might. Of course, we’ll continue following The Secret World and bring you the latest developments. <o:p></o:p>


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