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The Secret World Preview from NYCC '11 - Tokyo Flashback and New Gameplay Insights

Updated Tue, Oct 18, 2011 by Ethec

According to Creative Director Ragnar Tørnquist, development of The Secret World began in 2006 - over two years before Age of Conan launched - and writers went to work four to five years before that, when the game was known as Cabal. But now years have turned to months (six, to be exact) as The Secret World approaches an April 2012 release date, and Funcom went public this past weekend with a panel appearance at NY Comic Con 2011.

The Secret World Sets the Stage – Tokyo Flashback

Ragnar kicked things off by introducing some of the major characters, most of which you’ll recall from the game’s trailers released to date. There’s the Revenant-shotgunning Rose the Templar, the Illuminati’s urinal monster-fighting Alex, and Mei Ling of the Dragons (whose milkshake-making was messed with by a ceiling-crawling monster). But there’s also Zubari, a mysterious, Jamaican-accented gent who's apparently tasked with reminding the player factions that there are bigger fish creatures to fry even as they fight each other for power.
Introductions were necessary because the showpiece of The Secret World’s NY Comic Con presence – “Tokyo Flashback” – made heavy use of the game’s iconic characters, whose bickering throughout the demo was alternately hilarious and informing. The scene was the Japanese capital’s subway system, where a zombifying blight called “the filth” is spreading among the densely packed population. 

The Secret World Tokyo Flashback
Rose looks on as the Filth-created horrors in the Tokyo Metro rush to meet the player.
While Rose, Alex, and Mei Ling start to succoumb to the Filth, the player remains mysteriously unaffected. This goes to the tutorial-esque “gentle” learning curve of the experience - Ragnar noted that the team doesn’t consider Tokyo Flashback to be a tutorial, explaining that Funcom’s main objective is to “teach through playing - but also to a setup for the unique power of the player. 
That setup ends with a boss fight and a glimpse at "the mystery beyond," which to me looked like planets moving among platelets like you'd find in a bloodstream. Mystery indeed! You can catch the entire demo in this video fresh from NY Comic Con 2011 (quality is a bit rough because of the underpowered projector and reflective screen, my apologies):

Ten Ton Hammer Video: Click to play.

While Tokyo Flashback was a heavily scripted set-piece, Ragnar noted that The Secret World will contain story missions like this one (some of which are “ranking missions” to ascend the hierarchy of your faction to gain perks like uniforms, items, and lore, but also investigations which mimic adventure gameplay á la Uncharted or LA Noire, PvP warzones, and plenty of open world gameplay totaling over 250 hours of content.

The Secret World Gameplay  - New Insights

In the course of the demo and Q&A session, Ragnar told us more about gameplay and combat in The Secret World than we’ve heard about before. First, though the trailers and gameplay footage we’ve seen hints at FPS-style reticule targeting, Ragnar confirmed that TSW will use tab-targeting, though he was careful to note that you have to have line of sight to the target (so taking cover is possible for both players and AI). Players using firearms won't have to worry about ammo counts for basic attacks, either.

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