Everything you need to know about The Secret World

The Secret World - zombies incoming
So what's all this hullabaloo about The Secret World? Let's start with the basics.

The Secret World is a new MMORPG by Funcom, the studio that brought you Age of Conan, and way back when, Anarchy Online. It's also the brainchild of one Ragnar Tornquist, familiar to adventure gamers the world over thanks to Dreamfall and The Longest Journey. Like those seminal titles, The Secret World seeks to conjure an immersive, fantastical realm of myth, magic, and in some cases, horror. Unlike the adventures of April Ryan, though, The Secret World is your story, and it takes place in the video game equivalent of the real world (not to mention Hell, portions of a hollow Earth, and many other mythological settings).

There's an undeniable Lovecraftian influence, there are zombies and assault rifles, and there's a three-faction setup that asks players to join forces with noted secret societies like the Templars and the Illuminati (as well as the less-familiar Dragons). Did we mention battleground PvP, a Minecraft-inspired crafting system, and skill-based progression mechanics that depart from traditional MMORPG classes and levels in favor of player-made builds (drawn from a pool of nearly 600 distinct abilities)?

As you can see, Funcom is throwing everything at the wall, and luckily for you, Massively has been keeping tabs on the game's development for a number of years now. We've also managed to spend quite a bit of time in the beta of late. Click past the cut for a roundup of our best coverage, including guides, impressions, interviews, and basically everything you want to know about The Secret World.
Hands-on with TSW's Hell Raised dungeon
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.
Hands-on with TSW's mission system
So The Secret World's mission system treads well off the beaten MMO path. It's pretty cool, actually, though portions of it may irritate quest-grinders who just want to blow through zones on their way to the game's equivalent of a max-level toon.
Hands-on with TSW's combat system
TSW isn't really a game where you want to go into combat half-cocked and spam-happy, either. It's a fairly complex system, both build-wise and execution-wise, even though at its core it is the familiar tab-target hotbar approach.
Massively Speaking talks TSW
Massively Speaking Episode 201 gets into all of your dirty little secrets -- not to mention Funcom's, as well! We're joined by Jef, who gives us the full scoop on The Secret World now that the NDA's come tumbling down. Will this be another Failcom or possibly a Fabulouscom? Only Jef knows, and he's highly resistant to torture and bribery.
TSW's skill system detailed in new video
The ability wheel breaks everything down into one of three categories: melee, magic, or ranged. Each is subdivided a further three times into different types of weapons (blood magic, blades, rifles, etc.). Technically you can learn every ability in the game, but you can only equip 14 at a time (seven active and seven passive), and you're also limited to equipping two weapons simultaneously.

Hands-on with TSW's character creator
The creation of our character says so much about us, so it is extremely important that western RPGs and especially MMORPGs allow us to express ourselves. The Secret World's character creator has its good elements and its bad, but the most important part is how much Funcom's version allows us to express our personalities.
Hands-on with TSW's press beta Illuminati
Dark days are upon us, and I, for one, couldn't be more pleased. For the past few days I've had the pleasure of exploring the dark corners of the press beta for Funcom's upcoming horror-fantasy MMO, The Secret World, and now the embargo is up and I'm finally able to share my impressions with all of you.
Hands-on with TSW's press beta Templars
The Secret World is also quite heretical when it comes to gameplay. It eschews the tried and true class-based approach for a complex grimoire of a skill system featuring an ability wheel made of hieroglyphs and higher math (or so it first appears).
Another PAX 2012 point of view
Of course, I'd be lying if I said I'm not at least a bit cautious myself, regardless of my enthusiasm for the game. So how is the game shaping up? Well, sit down, grab yourself a drink, and let me tell you what I think.
Massively plays TSW at PAX 2012
My ears tend to perk up when the game gets mentioned, so of course I was all but falling over myself to hop into the playable demo this weekend. Walking away from that experience, though, I'm unconvinced.
Massively goes to Hell to play TSW
Remember the movie Constantine with Keanu Reeves? Remember what Hell looked like there, when he stared into the cat eyes and moved to that realm? Well, this version of Hell is just like that -- with you in the middle.
TSW skills and abilities explained
You'll probably want a couple of caffeinated beverages for this one because Bruusgaard has a lot to say about The Secret World's abilities, skills, gear, progression, and crafting systems.
Free-form progression video
Regardless of what your character has unlocked, you'll be limited to seven active abilities and seven passive abilities at any given time, thereby ensuring that more experienced characters will have more options rather than more raw power.
Watch Funcom's full GDC presentation
Senior Producer Ragnar Tørnquist, Lead Designer Martin Bruusgaard, and Lead Content Designer Joel Bylos take turns showing off in-game footage and discussing the game mechanics at play.
Is TSW a sandbox?
I'm more excited than I thought I would be for The Secret World. After playing it at last week's Game Developer's Conference and getting a preview of the game's crafting system, I think it's safe to say my anticipation went up a few notches.
Our TSW impressions from GDC 2012
The Secret World creative director Ragnar Tornquist kicked things off with a brief introduction, which was followed by a look at the game's character creation as experienced by a female Dragon-faction avatar.
Massively's second TSW hands-on
I'll say that this second visit managed to convince me that this game is on the right track to impress gamers with fresh gameplay, vicious puzzles, an ability wheel full of synergies, and new elite abilities at the top tiers of weapon specializations.
Skill deck templates released
It's The Secret World's answer to the how-do-you-make-a-level-free-MMORPG question, and it allows players to select from 500 abilities to create "exactly the type of character they want."
TSW skill deck interview
Bruusgaard says the system was designed to offer players a way to get their heads around the game's 500-plus abilities. While there are some recommended decks and combos for newer players, Bruusgaard says the intent behind the The Secret World's classless progression system lies is adaptability and plenty of customization options.
Blue Mountain location reveal
Presently, the mountain is home to the Wabanaki native American tribe, which has fallen on hard times due to the greed and machinations of the modern age. Funcom says that an ancient evil is sleeping beneath the rock, and draugs, wendigo, and golems are overrunning the surrounding areas as a result.
Illuminati trailer released
The video serves as a pretty effective recruitment ad for the faction, as the narrator opines that the Illuminati may not have all the answers, just "most of them." He goes on to talk about how knowledge is not only power, but currency, and if that doesn't make you want to roll an Illuminati, well, you're probably one of those silly Templars.
TSW uses Age of Conan's Dreamworld engine
A recent interview with lead programmer Øystein Eftevaag discusses the way that the engine interacts with the newer game, how the unified engine helps both games, and what special features the game is using in a technical sense.
TSW designer talks deck, outfit customization
One of the aspects of The Secret World that sets it apart from your typical MMORPG is the huge amount of character customization available through the game's clothing items. Bruusgaard says that some of these items are purchased from in-game vendors, some from the cash shop, and some of them are reward-based.
Scorched Desert video revealed
The Secret World is expanding its territory today with a new video revealing the Scorched Desert. The new zone is set in -- where else -- the sands of Egypt, where a dark corruption is taking over the land.
TSW designers talk progression, hand-holding
Those of you wondering how the game's classless skill-based advancement system is going to work will definitely want to read through the piece, as there is a lot of information in terms of both how the The Secret World feels and how it directs players in comparison to more traditional themepark titles.
Templar trailer released
Rose is also the star of Funcom's Templar trailer, which gives us a brief overview of the faction's philosophy and focus. Loyalty, tradition, brotherhood, and discipline are the cornerstones of what makes the Templars so effective in combating the evil that we fail to see all around us.
Templar Week sketches revealed
The rest of the concept art focuses on Templar-related areas, such as a "Camelot" castle in a park, a fighting pit, and a lounge where off-duty Templars can knock back a drink or unload a few dozen rounds at the adjacent firing range.
Tornquist interviewed, Milkshake Girl video released
Dragon Week is in full swing over at The Secret World, and today players get a double dose of Dragon with a new video and an interview with Ragnar Tørnquist. The video highlights a previous trailer's character -- referred to hereafter as Milkshake Girl -- and her initiation into the Dragon.
Dragon Week gallery revealed
As part of the focus on The Secret World's least-understood faction, Funcom's released a quartet of artwork pieces to help give us an insight into the organization.
Tokyo flashback revealed
This introductory instance is known as Tokyo Flashback, and not only does it serve to introduce players to the mechanics of combat within The Secret World, but it also sets up the game's conspiracy-laden storyline by introducing players to four key characters of The Secret World's universe.
This article was originally published on Massively.

This article was originally published on Joystiq.