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The Secret World Review | Part 4 – The (Not-So) Secret War

Carl Phillips
EA, Eldorado, Fight Clubs, funcom, Fusang Projects, MMORPGs, PC games, PvP, Stonehenge, The Secret World

The Secret World Review | Part 4 – The (Not-So) Secret War

Platform: PC

Developer: Funcom

Publisher: EA

We’re almost at the finish line with our review for Funcom’s latest MMORPG The Secret World. This week will we be exclusively looking at the Player Vs Player options in the game, as we detail the three modes that are currently available. If you are late to the party and wish to catch up on my musings so far, be sure to check out Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.

I have written at length about the stories that blend between the missions in TSW, and rightly so; they are entertaining and engrossing when combined with a little bit of investigation. But what happens when the stories end? What can you do if you decide to take a break from the missions around? Sure, you can revisit your favourite missions that have previously been completed and earn some more PAX to spend, perhaps gain those last few SP and AP you need to unlock your last few skills and abilities, but what else is there? A three-way battle for supremacy, that’s what.

In PvE everybody, regardless of their allegiance, gets along in the fight against the darkness, but alongside the missions that take place over Solomon Island, Egypt, and (eventually) Transylvania, players can jump into PvP battles and fight for the honour of their chosen secret society. It’s not just a matter of pride either, or even tokens to spend on improved gear (although that does help to incentivise matters a little.) No, the real reason to take part in the PvP is for the advantages it brings to your society, with buffs which improve XP gain, health, and other various attributes all for the side that stands victorious

The Secret World Review | Part 4 – The (Not-So) Secret War

At the moment in TSW there are three ways to get involved in the action; Fight Clubs, Battlefields, and Warzones. Let’s start off by looking at the Fight Clubs, which require players to visit one of the home cities. These free-for-all arenas each come in three varieties. The one in London is a small, no-frills arena, whilst the one in Seoul is a large area with bridges and multiple levels. The one in New York provides something different however, as it is set in a pitch black warehouse with boxes of flare guns scattered around (making good use of the impressive dynamic lighting system.) The Fight Clubs provide a no-risk environment in which players can square up against other to see how they fair or to test out their new Decks, with matches able to be formed from 1-on-1 to 10 vs. 10. It’s easy and simple to jump in or leave, allowing for quick bursts of combat. That said, I did find them almost deserted when I tried them out.

You can rest easy though. McGarnagle, my virtual alter ego, slaughtered his only opponent in style.

The remaining two game types, Battlefields and Warzones, are accessible at any time via the PvP menu. Here you get all the options and information you need to begin your career slaughtering dastardly Dragons and Templars fighting for your chosen faction. We’ll start off by looking at the Battlefields, which act as the more traditional MMO PvP experience in terms of setup. Joining them is simple; select the battlefield you wish to take part in, and then select the preferred uniform, which roughly translates to “which role do you want to play?” This is where the MMO Holy Trinity comes into play, with each uniform providing buffs to emphasise a players ability to tank, deal damage, or heal. Once those are selected, the ‘Sign Up’ button can be pressed and this will place the player in a queue to join the next available game, with a pop-up appearing on screen once the match is ready. It’s a straight-forward affair that should get you into the action a timely manner.

The Secret World Review | Part 4 – The (Not-So) Secret War

The first battlefield we will look at is Stonehenge, where three groups of five do battle. Those familiar with the ‘King of the Hill’ game mode will be at home here, as points are scored by having players inside a score zone that encompasses the British landmark. The nearer to the centre a player is, the faster points are scored for their team. This isn’t the only way to score points though, as knocking other players out or killing them also grants extra points for your tally. Lasting 15 minutes, whichever side has the most points at the end wins, granting each player on that team a number of Black Marks of Venice which can be spent on better gear. The losing side doesn’t go home empty handed, but it is a mere handful in comparison to the earnings of the triumphant team.

I found myself almost seemingly doing nothing from time to time whilst in Stonehenge, but I realised I was actually on the lookout to see what the other teams were up to, hoping to take advantage of the chaos as they fought each other. Hiding behind the stone pillars made for some great opportunities to get the drop on players, as well as protect me from their line-of-sight abilities (although that worked both ways.) The intimacy that the score zone provides allows for the action to remain constant, and I actually felt it was my favourite of the modes available.

And it has nothing to do with the fact the Illuminati pulled off a stunning comeback victory when I first played (evidence of which can be found in the accompanying Dealspwn Playthrough!) No sir.

The second Battlefield is Eldorado; a 20 minute match where three teams of ten fight in a match that is almost a cross between Capture The Flag and the Oddball mode in Halo. With the three sides starting in the middle, they must make a dash for several golden relics that are spawned around the edge of the map. Holding onto these scores points and the team with the most at the end of the game wins, but if one side holds all of them for a short amount of time the match is automatically won. Unlike Oddball, players holding relics can still fight with their regular abilities, but they will have a gigantic bullseye on their person whilst in possession. They don’t have to hold onto relics to score though, as players have the ability to plant the relics on the ground once they have been picked up to provide their team with buff with a small radius. This is a risky move though, as relics are much easier to grab when on the ground.

The playing area for Eldorado is far bigger than Stonehenge, with mayan-style pyramid ruins providing hills on which to make defensive stands and slopes to create choke points on. Of course with two other teams gunning for you it’s rarely ever that simple, so staying mobile is generally the way to go. Then there is the choice of putting all your eggs in one basket by having one player be the “cash cow” or spread the wealth to minimise loses. Unlike Stonehenge, where random players can work together much easier to achieve their goal, Eldorado is catered to a more tactical approach, although that doesn’t mean you can’t just drop in and join in the fray. It’s definitely a well thought-out mode, but I almost certainly would have enjoyed it more if I was in an organised group. Rewards wise, Eldorado provides the bigger winnings (and consolation prize) of the two to balance out the longer match duration.

The Secret World Review | Part 4 – The (Not-So) Secret War

So those are the Battlefields, but what about the rewards beyond Marks of Venice? Buffs from each Battlefield are awarded to the society that has the most wins over the course of an hour, with tally recalculating every 60 minutes. This total is (supposed to be) displayed on the PvP menu, allowing you to see how well (or badly) your side had previously done, however  at the time of writing these totals are not coming up on screen (so hopefully this will be resolved in the next patch.) Factions will not want to stop at being crowned the hourly champions of one place though, as victory buffs are stackable as well. So a measly 3% increase to XP gain can be doubled to 6% if you control both Battlefields, and then that tally can be boosted further thanks to the persistent Warzone of the Fusang Projects.

The persistent Warzone, as the name suggests, provides an on-going battle over a relatively large map with several points to conquer. These are two-fold; firstly there are the Anima Wells which provide respawn points for your team. Easy to capture, I found my respawn locations changing every time I died (which was fairly frequently in the Projects.) I was even able to sneak close to captured Anima Wells, hide until the other side had run away, and capture them on my lonesome, which goes to show that a single player can turn the tide in a Warzone if they play it smart. Thankfully, the ability to spawn camp these Anima Wells is taken away thanks to the actual respawn point being on a raised platform overhead, allowing players to get back into the action in relative safety.

The Secret World Review | Part 4 – The (Not-So) Secret War

So, how do you achieve victory in the Fusang Projects? By capturing the four facilities that are located around the map. This is no easy task however, requiring much more involvement and teamwork than capturing an Anima Well. To begin with, each facility is locked down, so before players can get in they must destroy a defensive turret outside. After that is done, it’s time to march into the facility to face a Custodian construct (similar to the hulking guardian golems found in the fast travel system of Agartha) which must be defeated in order to turn over control to your society. Think of them as mini-bosses, and you will have an idea of the difficulty they bring to the table (ie. Don’t fight them alone. Ever.) It’s a feat that requires many players, but it also comes at the risk of being ambushed by another society whilst taking on a Custodian, so speed is of the essence. Once your side has captured the facility, the Custodian is reset and the buff is added to your society.

In terms of size, each side can field 150 players at any given time, meaning the fight can reach up to 450 players in total. While I haven’t seen this many players fighting when I have jumped into the Warzones, I imagine this would provide a slower but more gratifying experience. However, smaller numbers result in zerg groups running around capturing anything and slaughtering anyone that falls in their way, and while this can be fun for a while, it can also get slightly boring over time. It is a necessary evil though if you want the cumulative buffs that can be gained. After all, they are extremely beneficial to your entire faction.

That, and you don’t want those other two scummy factions putting their dirty fingers all over those facilities, do you?

That’s it for this instalment, but stay tuned for next week’s finale where we will give our final verdict on Funcom’s adventurous MMORPG. In the meantime, I will leave you with a few things. Firstly, for those of you wanting to know a bit more about my character Harry ‘Noisewater’ McGarnagle can do so by checking out his Chronicle page at the link here. Secondly, Creative Director Ragnar Tørnquist tweeted a rather excitable tweet yesterday regarding the latest addition to the voice cast of TSW, which you can find here.

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