Faithless is He: Visit Sunny Kingsmouth
By Jonathan Doyle (Ardua), OnRPG Journalist
Hello one and all, hello from Kingsmouth. In case you missed it you’ll be happy, or worried, to hear that Dark Days are Here.
The Secret World has opened its gates for pre-order customers and the servers stand ready for everyone else tomorrow.
Let’s go over some things shall we?
A Funcom Launch
I’ll get this little bit of difficulty out of the way nice and early, as I am sure it is also the thing pressing down on most peoples’ minds if they haven’t already committed to the Secret World. How was the pre-order launch? Well… it was flawless. At least from my perspective. Oh I am sure you’ll find someone to quibble, but that’s the Internet and games. There’ve been no outages on the server; there have been no massive upheavals or anything.
I have experienced four little faults.
- On Friday night, the first night, so many people wanted their pre-order goods that it rather slowed the store. Eventually it was taken down for upgrades and by Saturday morning it was lightning quick. Fault? Popularity. Solved? Oh yes.
- A minor chat bug that on one occasion each across three people on three days affected us once each. Quitting group and rejoining fixed that. More a minor passing irritant than a bug.
- One quest and only one for me, in the entirety of Kingsmouth is bugged. That was the case last night and well known to people. I imagine a fix is incoming soon.
- This one is entirely my own fault. I need more ram. Oh the game plays fine on what I have, but the occasional spike makes my system seize. That’s no fault of Funcom or EA, that’s me being behind the hardware curve.
So as far as launch worries about Funcom not being ready once again, I’d say they finally got their system worked out because the soft launch was near flawless! We’ll see how it goes with more people jumping aboard but personally I am saying that this has been a complete success. If you want to be cranky, let’s say third time is the charm. Ragnar and the team have been active on the boards and on twitter throughout the weekend and the only server maintenance downtime so far was placed on early GMT time and finished up faster than originally forecast.
With all of that, seriously, don’t let the name of the company and other peoples’ wrong opinions of it scare you into missing this gem.
We Have The Technology!
Launch covered; let’s talk about actually getting to grips with the game. Do you have friends already playing and are worried about meeting up with them? Don’t be!
Lead Designer Martin Bruusgaard covered the server set up they are using here, but let me break it down for you.
There is, like in EVE Online, a single server. On that server there are shards, here called dimensions. The only change to the dimensions has been the renaming of the Role Play dimension from Faerie to Arcadia after some people apparently took issue with the name. Still, no one can say the designers weren’t listening.
At character creation you have two options. First, you can link The Secret World with your Facebook account. This allows you to see where any of your Facebook friends might be playing. Second, pick a dimension, any dimension. It literally does not stop you from playing with anyone. Want to roll up on Cerberus but join me on Arcadia to battle zombies? Feel free. Players can and are teleported from Dimension to Dimension to team up. The only important provision is that should you play the Fusang Projects live battleground, you are playing the one tied to your home dimension. Stonehenge and El Dorado are cross dimension, Fusang is not.
(Just to put peoples’ minds at ease? I am on the Role play server and I can tell you, Fusang gets plenty of attention. Don’t let story telling make you think they aren’t also fighting.)
All the tools to play where and how you want to are given to you from the very start. All the tools necessary to get through the investigations and fights are provided within. Which leads me to my last thought..
Blurring The Lines
How often have you reached for a book while playing Guild Wars? Have you ever needed reference material for Champions Online? Does Team Fortress 2 leave you wishing you knew more about Morse code?
Ragnar and the team have long talked about blurring the lines between the real and the game. They are, in my small opinion, succeeding. Together with two firm faithful friends (even if they are bloody Dragons. “Templar for the Win!” As you are told in London) I have stomped and sprinted my way back and forth across Kingsmouth. I have fought demons, I have fought zombies and I have fought evil. That, admittedly, is pretty much the premise of any game with combat. You fight the things that need fighting. You kill the things that need killing. The Secret World though… sometimes it asks you to be sneaky… sometimes it asks you to be nosey.
Nosey is where it gets interesting.
Oh anyone can sing the praises of the story quests, in fact I may do that very thing myself when I see you next week. Plenty of people I know have found great humour and great acting in the cut scenes; I don’t mind saying I think I love Edgar from the Scrap yard. The story and the acting and the very scenes set by The Secret World, even in its first area, are magnificent.
Then along comes the investigation quests. Then comes the thinking. Oh, sure, you could ask help channel. You can check wikis or look up guides or check the boards. You will eventually be able to look up step by step walkthroughs that tell you everything to do, but leave out all the whys. Rewards are a great excuse, complete the mission, and get the xp.
But for me? Oh no. I am meeting these special challenges head on. I never have played a game that needed me to check a Bible, a real Bible not some in game interactive Bible that has the answers spelled out, to crack a code. I’ve never played a game before that makes me stop, think and try to puzzle things out with friends. The Investigation quests are magnificent and I expect them only to get harder and more brain wracking and wrecking as time goes on.
Any game can make it hard to win, any game can throw walking bags of hit points at you and call it hard content. Any game can offer you fighting.
The Secret World is offering me a puzzle, daring me to work it all out. It has thrown down the gauntlet of a challenge in its fighting, in its sabotage and most of all in its investigation and storyline missions. I am going to take up that challenge. I am going to work it all out and live on those blurred lines between the real and the secret worlds.
Though first… I have Morse code to crack. See you in Kingsmouth my friends.