The grand dream of the massively multiplayer online game was that we’d find second lives, loves, and grand adventures in virtual spaces. A paranormal attack on Tokyo’s subways unleashes the undead (and worse) on our world. That said, the quests are presented in an amusing sort of … rambling monologue on the part of the NPCs that is a lot better than it sounds.
I always had thought that it was a good idea to blend real-life research with game research when it comes to modern conspiracy RPGs, since sifting through all the many rumors, myths, and legends would make for a good way to draw the player into that obsessive, paranoid mind-set. I like being able to dress like some kind of militant Goth businesswoman, talk over voice chat with a bunch of other weirdos, and kill Cthulhu with lightning bolts. Yeah, my spouse and I played through that, mostly with the help of walkthroughs since, as you said, it was nigh impossible otherwise.
It had good atmosphere, but I was basically reading the walkthrough with no hope of getting through it any other way, just physically.
But what World Of Warcraft and its many competitors really managed to deliver was a multiverse of theme parks where gamers go to cosplay as elves and orcs and kill dragons alongside friends and barely tolerated strangers. It’s a milieu informed by the wise-assed anarchy of Robert Anton Wilson’s Illuminatus! Players aren’t chained to a rigid stepladder of progression or pigeonholed into the classical roles of fighter and wizard.
Tornquist is saying they are planning on adding at least one investigation quest per month to fix that, among other content, but we’ll see how that pans out. The first couple of characters you meet in the Illuminati induction quest feature some truly funny, witty writing, and made me fall in love with the game almost instantaneously. My wife’s laptop was high-end only two years ago, and she has trouble running the game at an acceptable framerate.

Which is to say, it’s playable, but not smooth or nice or silky-delicious or whatever. The modern-day setting, the different skill progression system, and general feel are all just so refreshingly different than any other MMO I’ve played.
Two months is about right to chew through the launch content, and it would cost $65, which is pretty much what any new game costs. You had to solve puzzles involving looking up fake website they put up for the game AND real websites.
So I stopped playing it pretty quickly while I normally see terrible European adventure games through. The Secret World, a new online role-playing game from Swedish developer Funcom, doesn’t reinvent this particular hamster wheel.
The first clues point to Kingsmouth, Maine, a sleepy coastal town with one foot in a Stephen King novel and the other deep in a Lovecraft tome. Puzzles of varying intricacy are peppered between The Secret World’s main courses of combat. Rather, they’re invited to develop their characters at will, picking abilities from a vast smorgasbord. The venue, where every myth, legend, and crackpot conspiracy exists side-by-side, feels wide open and full of possibility—like a season of Lost ghostwritten by Alan Moore. Here, you pick a quest, see it through, and then there’s almost always a new something there to investigate.
One in a while it slows down to .5 fps, or 2, or 4, and then it just judders about for a bit.
It’s not like in Oblivion where the capitol city has about 30 total residents in 30 total houses.

Secret World’s investigation missions remind me a lot of those games, but with more direction (and thankfully, a reliance more on wikipedia than custom sites). I remember there being a part where you have to assemble audio clips of a terrified girl singing a song in the correct order.
But the ambitious, conspiracy-rich mystery does tweak conventions enough to feel lively and a little dangerous. This subtle sidestep from the usual space operas and Tolkien fare does much to make this treadmill feel inviting.
The answers to many of these posers are found online, and rather than force players to crack a laptop or exit to the desktop, the game provides a web browser that’s bookmarked to Google.
This latitude provides more than enough rope with which to hang yourself, but it also gives more developed characters the freedom to hop from the role of healer to damage-dealer with the push of a button. Having other players running around, even if you’re not interacting with them, helps to populate the world and makes it *feel* like a social experience. Most games of this ilk launch a little rough around the edges, so glitches and quirks are expected and often remedied during prolonged evolution. Myriad human meddlers, like a hippie death cult and a shadowy corporation, seem involved in the misdoings, too. A corporate stooge’s online profile reveals personal details that are key to cracking a shoddy password. But trying to predict the future of a game, service, and collection of technology this big is a sucker’s game.

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