In the wake of the all-conquering massively multiplayer online (MMO) game World Of Warcraft, it’s not hard to come by such a game with a fantasy setting. A fantasy world (elves, orcs) isn’t a safe bet exactly, but it’s one with proven success.
A contemporary setting is a rarity, and for this alone The Secret World should pique a PC gamer’s interest. It’s got the same glossy production values as Star Wars: The Old Republic, seen in cinematic cutscenes and engaging dialogue, but tells its story in the world of today. However, it’s a world of today in which all the ancient myths and urban legends are true, but only the game’s three powerful player factions know it. These are the zealous Templars, the ruthless Illuminati, and the sneaky Dragons.
It’s an alluring setup for players with fantasy fatigue: a world you know, featuring cities such as London, Seoul and New York, beset by nightmare creatures. Ever since the disappointment of Hellgate: London, a sub-par MMO in which demons plague the streets of the capital, I’ve been waiting for just that.
As is custom, players must pick a faction but, unlike in many an MMO, there are no discrete character classes. Instead, you select skills from a vast wheel of options as you make progress, piecing together a unique character to slay otherworldly monsters. It’s an appealing approach to shaking up the safe old formula, and combat is designed to be more direct and immediate than is usual – making, hopefully, for an invigorating change of pace and scenery.