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Dayum.

I have to say that The Secret World's Issue #4 update looks pretty funking sweet. Despite the tough times endured by the title over the summer and after the subsequent Funcom layoffs, all signs point to growth for the game and its dedicated players going forward. Join me after the cut for a peek at why I'm excited about the game's immediate future.

PvP revamp
So, yeah, big PvP changes are incoming, and despite the fact that it's going to be a bit harder to grind AP in Fusang while on autopilot and reading a Steven Erikson novel, I was pretty excited to hear about Funcom's plans for the revamp. Despite its PvE- and story-centric status, TSW has always had loads of potential as a PvP game, owing to both its three-faction setup and its unique setting that isn't bound by much in the way of precedent.

Alas, as you all are probably aware, the reality of The Secret World's PvP has thus far been a way to grind the aforementioned AP with little to no PvP required (I've even had faction "teammates" yell at me in Fusang for daring to defend the point instead of letting the other team take it unmolested and refraining from interrupting the grind and flow!). Stonehenge and El Dorado are less annoying, but still suffer from the ills of small-group PvP implementations the world over -- namely, you might as well not bother if you're not running with a highly geared pre-made crew with voice chat.

Wouldn't it be swell, though, if the persistent Fusang instance actually encouraged conflict and provided both ample rewards for the victor and ample opportunities for the underdog to change his lot in life? Funcom's Big Trouble in the Big Apple update looks to do just that. If you missed our summary of the news release earlier this week, here you go. It's a long read but a good one in almost every respect.

The Secret World - NYC raid monster
NYC raid
It's hard to describe how awesome the New York City raid looks and sounds. This week's Gamespot video reveal (embedded above) boosted my excitement considerably, as did some comforting words from Funcom designer Graeme Lennon about the difficulty/accessibility of the content. One of The Secret World's strengths is of course its nifty recreations of real-world settings, and I was preparing myself to be severely bummed out by the fact that I wouldn't get to see NYC and its giant tentacled Times Square-smashing thing-a-ma-bob without grinding myself silly for several months to acquire the appropriate gear.

Not so fast; Lennon revealed in a dev blog that the fight isn't balanced around endgame gear yet still features plenty of mechanical challenges to keep it interesting. I'm not a pro raider by any means, though I have done it more than a few times in titles ranging from Star Wars Galaxies to DC Universe Online to Age of Conan. If Funcom takes a page out of its Hyborian playbook for The Secret World's epic boss fights, well, I can't wait. AoC's raids were a ton of fun, as were the smaller six-man instances introduced in the Rise of the Godslayer expansion that served as something of an appetizer for TSW dungeons like Darkness War, Hell Raised, and others.

In fact, I'd go so far as to say that the thing Funcom does best (aside from visuals and world design) is high-end PvE content, and after looking at the new vid, I can't wait to be one of those guys sprinting down a street in the Big Apple, badass buddies in tow, making a beeline for the nearest big ugly and bashing it with my supernatural super powers.

The Secret World - Albion theatre
Bells and whistles
Last but not least, I luuurrrv what Funcom is doing with London's Albion theatre. The venue is being tricked out for roleplayers in Issue #4, and virtual thespians will have the ability to put on plays and entertain their fellow gamers via one of the more unique user-generated content systems I've seen in quite some time.

When I first heard tell of this feature, I was a bit skeptical, and I'm betting some of you are too. Definitely check out the video above, though (the Albion bit starts at the 3:25 mark), as it might just change your mind. Game director Joel Bylos says that you can use a vast array of props, sets, effects, lighting, and backdrops to bring your wildest dreams to life on the stage, and some of these doo-dads are apparently acquired via loot, lore unlocks, or the in-game shop.

Finally, Funcom is adding several new missions to the game, as per usual with The Secret World's semi-monthly content updates. Chief among these are a new action mission at Innsmouth Academy and a new investigation mission that allows you to venture deeper into the darkest recesses of London. Oh yeah, and don't forget about the reticle combat option as well as various niceties that include height sliders at character creation and a new lair mission.

And that's about all I have for you this week and the next little while. Massively's new TSW headmistress, MJ Guthrie, now has the keys to Chaos Theory, though I may turn up for a guest appearance every now and again. In the meantime, thanks for reading, and if you see Lothario Jones or Tulkas in the trenches on Arcadia, don't forget to wave hello.

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Yes, Jef Reahard is paid to play The Secret World. But he's not paid by Funcom; Massively leaves the bribes and the bad grammar to its imitators (it's a conspiracy!). Chaos Theory comes your way every Thursday, bringing you Gaia's latest news, guides, and commentary.

This article was originally published on Massively.