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The Secret World: The MMO BioWare couldn't make?

Hands-on with EA and Funcom's promising online contender

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Despite that, this was the most traditional part of the game that we played; it was pure PvP with the puzzles as part of the combat - and , god, was it tough. Funcom has made a conscious decision with its dungeons to avoid 'trash' enemies - so every battle is a challenge and interspersed with set-piece battles against key bosses and mini-bosses.

There were two tough fights on bridges as we descended into the slime at the dungeon's base; one had us facing off against Klein, as he hurled chains of glowing explosives in unpredictable patterns; it was like a multiplayer bullet hell shooter.

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The second bridge fight showed that the classlessness of players is a huge advantage when it comes to MMO game design. We'd gone into the dungeon on normal mode with a traditional game set-up; a tank, a healer, a melee DPS / tank and two ranged DPS guys. The second bridge involved a revenant giant trudging slowly towards us, while we simultaneously tried to get rid of the smaller enemies at its feet, knock down gates on the bridge and kill the boss.

But the tanks, once they had demolished the gates and small enemies, normally would have nothing to do - the giant could kill them in one blow. Thankfuly, given The Secret World's build structure, like Rift, they can shift to a ranged class or include a ranged attack in their tank build, so the problem should never come up.

There are detectable flaws with the Secret World; firstly, a conspiracy game needs resolutions and they obviously don't want to give them in this, because they want to keep updating it; secondly, the ghost-running body recovery mechanic is surprisingly old-school for such an innovative MMO; finally, it seems weird to make players create three characters to get all three sides of the story, when they'll have the same exact powers for all three sides - why not let them change faction or do some sort of rebirth/amnesia/reincarnation/flashback thing, where they get to start from scratch with their existing powers?

That said, this is genuinely the first MMO for a long time that I want to play, and it's hard not to list its strengths: The underused classless structure, meaning all players can always play together. The superbly scripted story, which is entirely skippable for those who hate stories.

The working puzzle quests which are genuinely taxing. The ambitious dungeon design, halfway to WoW but not afraid to pull in other influences. The levelling system meaning players have a genuine choice as to how they specialise, without ever committing themselves to a path permanently. Finally, they've made a fantasy modern world believable.

Secret World's release date is June 19 - pushed back from April for extra polish. When it finally does come out, SW:TOR needs to watch out.

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