PAX 2009: Dark mysteries of The Secret World

So, you may have heard: Funcom is taking famous myths, urban legends, pop culture, history and even things like the Rota Fortunae and blending it all into a game called The Secret World. We sat down with lead designer Martin Brusgaar and creative director Ragnar Tornquist at PAX 2009 to discuss the game and a few of its many secrets.

The Secret World has a vibe unlike any other MMO or really game currently out there. Its premise is simple -- all the legends, myths and more are true. Atlantis is rising, vampires roam the night, 2012 is the beginning of a new fourth age and so on. The world is a dark, scary and magical place. Although, it's more of the first two than anything else.%Gallery-72395% We got to see actual combat footage, and let us tell you it looked unabashedly intense. Everything we saw dealt in third-person shooting combat, but swords and sorcery definitely play a role in the game. Now, when we say third-person shooter we mean reticle and all. We can't say without a doubt that the game is entirely twitch-based, but it is an MMO without any levels so anything is possible at this point.

Visually, the game engine is running on the next generation of the Age of Conan engine. In fact, Ragnar informed us that all the performance improvements seen in that game are in part due to TSW's development cycle and the upgrades they've been making throughout the process. However, Funcom told us they're aiming to have the game work on "good" computers and not only "great" ones -- if that sets you at ease in any way. Insofar as visual fidelity, TSW is definitely poised to claim the title of most beautiful MMO on the market.

With that, let's take a quick look at the three secret societies players will be able to join in TSW:

The Templar are based in London and are very out in the open for a secret society; they're the least secret of all the societies. We saw the text, "Old blood, new veins" in reference to them, which tells us that while they may be ancient, their operatives are young. Still, their gear and look have an old school feel. Templar consider themselves holy crusaders who aren't just a part of the fight against evil; they are the fight against evil.

A subterranean base below a warehouse in New York is the home of the Illuminati, and they are quite the nasty bunch. To them, power represents, well, everything and they'll do anything to get it, even if it means blackmail or worse. They don't believe in blood or heritage like the Templar. In this organization, it's all about what you've done and what you can do for the society. The Illuminati are effectively the super secretive bad boys, but ultimately their goals are similar to the other two factions -- at least, we think.

Then finally we have Dragon, the most innocuous of the three. Their headquarters resides within a monastery in Seoul, Korea and they follow the teachings of the "true" Sun Tzu. The Dragon believes through chaos, balance is achieved -- you do not have an ocean without waves and storms. Their modus operandi is playing the other two sides against each other through manipulative means.

Obviously this is a very important aspect to the game. In fact, the idea of secret organizations running the world is central to TSW, according to Tornquist. You won't be playing with people from the other societies, ever. Sure, an Illuminati player could walk into the Templar headquarters, but they'd be attacked on sight, no questions asked. And actually, these three organizations that the players can join are not the only ones in the world.

This article was originally published on Massively.