We went on tour with Funcom's Tor Egil Andersen, taking a close look at Egypt, Transylvania and the Darkness War Dungeon.
Like the petals of an ashen rose, we’ve been carefully pulling back the layers in The Secret World. In a world that’s built like a Russian Matryoshka doll, cracking one mystery open to discover what lies beneath is a delicious reward. Working out the puzzles that unlock them: there’s the challenge.
Since we waved goodbye to Solomon Island, we’ve paid a flying visit to London and headed out to Egypt. We’ve also been on a guided tour of Transylvania and The Darkness War dungeon with Funcom’s Tor Egil Andersen. We also gained some insight behind the dungeon and ability philosophy, and tested the new graphics features.
So buckle up and grab that Agartha beacon, as we whip around the globe in our latest report from The Secret World!
Walk Like An Egyptian
Leaving Solomon Island behind, we returned to London and a warm welcome from the Templars. Even though the events in New England are still sinking in, we’re not given a chance to rest and relax. What starts off as a simple investigation into relic smuggling quickly has us packing our bags and heading overseas, with a petition from the Council of Venice warning of a Great Evil in the “lone and level sands.”
It doesn’t take long for that evil to gain a name. Our arrival in The Scorched Desert, the first playfield (zones in TSW parlance) was met with heavy resistance from the Cult of Aten, a well-organized group bent on subverting the nearby village of Al-Merayah to its will. The Marya, an Egyptian militia, works to halt the encroaching Cult but, with the Council of Venice rooted in their role as observers, it falls to the Secret Societies to help turn the tide.
The lore surrounding the Cult of Aten is rooted in real-world history. Ahkenaten, a pharaoh from around 1340 BC and husband of the legendary beauty Nefertiti, tried to abolish the traditional Egyptian gods, replacing them with the single deity Aten. But even though he built an entire city for Aten, the changes Ahkenaten introduced were gradually abandoned. In The Secret World, the history has been given a unique twist, with the Black Pharaoh and the Cult of Aten striving to rise again.
The best way to understand a cult is to infiltrate it, so in time-honored tradition we disguised ourselves to find out more about what was going on. The villagers of Al-Merayah were being drained of their free will, instead given a single-minded desire to serve the Aten. But it turned out that even the Cult is a pawn in a much larger game, as we discovered that the enslaved villagers were being sent to dig in the desert. For what purpose, and by whom, remained a mystery.
As we ventured further into The Scorched Desert, it became apparent that a chaos of biblical proportions had been unleashed; giant scorpions and packs of huge locusts roamed the sands, searching for prey. And yet among it all, lounging under a parasol in a smart cream suit and fedora, we found the enigmatic Saïd, a mummy thousands of years old, yet as agile and sharp as anyone alive. After all, in The Secret World, death is hardly an impairment.
Under The Hood
It’s common for MMOs to change substantially during beta, and The Secret World is no exception. Funcom has been working hard to deliver a number of changes, fixes and popular requests, even before launch of the game. Much has changed since our last visit to the mirror-world.
The most readily apparent change to TSW has come from their partnership with Nvidia, ushering the game engine into DirectX 11 glory. Although a couple of other MMOs have started to this new API, this is the first MMO we’ve tried that supports features like Tessellation. While this might not seem like a big deal, there’s a significant visual difference. Everything from pebbled shorelines to gravel paths, from cobbled streets to brick walls, seems less like a smooth surface and more like a coarse, realistic world.
There’ve also been improvements to the social feel of the world. NPCs now have random flavor lines of spoken dialogue. Chat channels and speech bubbles have been introduced to make communication easier. Movement has also been overhauled, with directional double-tap to dodge helping in combat and a tap of X to enable sprint and navigate around the playfields faster.