Seems legit.
Welcome to The Secret World's Overlook Motel, where the sheets are clean, the service is friendly, and there's an ominous doorway to Hell in every room. Such is the beginning of the second instanced dungeon of Funcom's upcoming horror-fantasy MMO, which sees players descending deep into the bowels of the underworld to put an end to a raging demonic war that's causing Hell to leak through to the real world.

I had the pleasure of joining Funcom's Tor Andersen on a guided tour of Hell Raised, the first in a series of three dungeons that take place in the fiery depths, and boy did I ever have a hell of a time (sorry). If you're interested in finding out what awaits players of The Secret World in the depths of Hades itself, follow along with me as I give you the ins-and-outs of surviving a confrontation in the midst of an infernal warzone.

There's no way this could be a bad idea.
Let's begin with a bit of backstory, shall we? In the universe of The Secret World, a fine, upstanding fellow by the name of Theodore Wicker decided it would be fun to open a portal to Hell in (by complete coincidence, I'm sure) room 13 of The Overlook Motel on the Savage Coast. Fast forward a couple of years, and now a war between the various demonic clans of Hell has caused the realm of Hell to begin seeping into the real world, turning the previously idyllic New England landscape into a twisted reflection of the underworld. Of course it's now up to the players to barge on in and say "Hey guys, not cool! Stop it!" Only with less words and more bullets. You get the idea.

At any rate, as previously mentioned, the journey begins by stepping through the portal that Wicker opened years prior, which puts you soundly in the midst of Hell, boasting an impressively nefarious landscape crafted largely of human flesh. While I can't say I approve of the demons' taste in decor, it certainly does lend a fittingly ominous atmosphere to the place.

One thing that I noticed right from the start was the conspicuous lack of the groups of trash mobs that have become ubiquitous in modern instance design. Tor informed us that this is a conscious decision on Funcom's part, as the studio wants players to jump right into the action that they came looking for instead of having to wade through time-consuming and ultimately pointless crowds of trash before they even lay eyes on the first boss.

Also of interest is Funcom's philosophy on teaching players how to handle boss mechanics. Unlike many other MMOs that don't clue you in on the bosses' abilities until you're in the process of being flattened by them, The Secret World introduces you to the mechanics you'll be seeing right from the start. This is the purpose served by the few trash mobs that do exist. For instance, one of the first trash pulls we encountered was surrounded by a series of pylons that, when we approached, began to crackle with electricity before emitting a nasty purple aura that would make quick work of anyone unfortunate enough to be caught in its area of effect.
Screenshot -- The Secret World
Shortly thereafter, we came upon our first mini-boss, the Antimony Ministrix, and wouldn't you know it, she was surrounded by a circle of the same menacing pylons we had seen earlier. From the start we knew exactly what those pylons would do, and not to stand anywhere near them. For a mini-boss, the fight was rather challenging. One by one, the pylons would begin to light up, each one activating in a circular pattern. It was up to our tank to kite her in a circle, staying well ahead of the rotating pattern of death-auras so that the DPS could burn her down. After a single failed attempt, we got the hang of it and emerged victorious and moved on to the second mini-boss of the dungeon.

Corroder will be instantly recognized by long-time fans of the title as a member of the species of demon that was seen in the now-memefied milkshake trailer, and they're just as nasty as they look. This particularly charming mistake of creation came equipped with a venomous AoE attack that would kill you dead if you made the mistake of standing in the bad. And as if that weren't enough, the pathway ahead and behind began to slowly fill with flame, causing the fight to turn into a DPS race. Either you kill him quickly or you get fried like an infernal apple fritter. Thankfully, we managed to down him in one go and continued on unsinged.

It was at this point that we came upon the first "true" boss of the instance, the descriptively named Fleshtank. The fight with this hulking behemoth of a demon introduced us to a concept that veteran MMO players will know well: Don't stand in the fire. The entire fight takes place on a bed of molten rock, and the only safe zones were a number of platforms laid throughout the arena. Oh, I'm sorry, did I say "safe"? I meant "prone to erupt into flame at any given moment." As the fight progressed, more and more platforms would spontaneously combust, quickly reducing the number of safe zones. Mobility is key in this fight, and I found that the addition of a dash attack to my arsenal was immensely useful in keeping out of the inferno.

Screenshot -- The Secret World
After we brought an end to the Fleshtank (which, I posited, should award an achievement called "out of the frying pan"; your suggestions welcome), we moved on to yet another mini-boss: the Traumadriver. This fight was relatively simple, combining the pylon mechanic we saw with the Antimony Ministrix with the encroaching fire mechanic from Corroder. He went down relatively easy, and we then made our way to Hell Raised's second boss.

Before the boss proper, though, we came upon a succubus-like trash mob who introduced us to a new form of AoE and the monster's ability to shield itself and its allies. This would prove incredibly useful in the next boss fight against the leader of the succubi: Recursia, Many-in-One. This seductive sadist took the AoE attacks to a new extreme, filling the entire floor with a nasty yellow pool of badness, the only reprieve to which was to get up-close-and-personal with the succubus herself. At random intervals throughout the fight, she would shield herself and teleport to the center of the room, calling forth a number of enslaved demons known as Triggerthings, which would begin to slowly crawl toward their mistress. If we didn't kill them before they reached her, then boom; Big explosion. Everyone dies. Not my idea of a good time.

By the end of the fight, the sheer number of Triggerthings is overwhelming and there's nothing left to do but try to burn Recursia down before they can reach her. We didn't quite succeed at that, but thanks to the grace of heaven Tor's GM powers, she went down like a bag of bricks and we strode forth to our final confrontation.

OM NOM NOM.
Now let me say this: If you're the type of player (like me, for instance) who has long bemoaned the faceroll levels of ease with which most dungeons can be completed, you're going to love The Machine Tyrant. I mean it, this guy is an absolute monster. He combines the worst bits of the previous boss fights into one nightmarish amalgamation of terror. AoEs, a self-shield, and frickin' heat-seeking meteors were all on the menu, and I'm pretty sure that everyone in the party (except for our savior Tor), ate dirt. For my part, I only died... well, I'm not sure. I lost count after death number five. At any rate, to say that this guy is a challenge is an understatement. Even with Tor using the as-yet-unusuable-by-normal-players Blood Magic powers (which, he informed us, are currently unbalanced and hella overpowered) to heal us, staying alive and dealing damage to the boss simultaneously was a momentous task. After an untold number of divine GM resurrections, we finally managed to bring about The Machine Tyrant's downfall. I won't spoil the ending for those of you who want to wait for the game to release to find out the story for yourself, but let's just say that it sets things up for a rather interesting story arc in the future Hell dungeons.

Personally, I had a great time in the dungeon. It was challenging without being overbearingly difficult, and I am a huge fan of the team's minimal-trash-mob policy. After all, we don't go into dungeons to fight the same junk we've been leveling on for the past however-many hours; we go for the challenge of bringing down the big-bads and bringing home the tasty loot they drop. If The Secret World's future instances follow the trend set by Hell Raised, the game's raiding crowd is sure to be in for a challenging-but-rewarding treat.

This article was originally published on Massively.