Review - 'The Secret World - A Dream to Kill'
'The Secret World', available from Amazon
The third purchasable DLC pack for The Secret World takes the player back to Transylvania - a location strongly influenced by Romanian folklore and mythology. Transylvania is (as should probably be obvious) the place to go for your more traditional monsters, such as vampires and werewolves. Though, it is also the home to a variety of other supernatural creatures - both violent, and peaceful. At times, Transylvania with have the feel of an eerie sort of fairy-tale - though, that is not all there is to the place. It is also a location with a great deal of potential for intrigue. The strong influence of the supernatural has long made Transylvania a place of interest to the various factions - secret Soviet research bases dot the landscape, the Orochi Group (who have established a fine tradition of involving themselves in things they really shouldn't have. And, for whom 'ethical flexibility' is considered to be an asset) conduct their own research, the mysterious Morninglight religion is active in the area for reasons of their own. And, of course, the three secret organisations represented by the players also have their own reasons to be there. It is, in short, a good location for a spy-thriller - which is exactly what the new story, A Dream to Kill, is intended to be.
It starts small. The werewolves of Transylvania have become even more violent than usual. They are pushing out of their usual territories in a way that almost looks like they are fleeing from something. There is something new lurking in the Transylvanian woods, it seems - something more dangerous than the creatures that already make their homes there. So, of course, you are sent to investigate. A trail of broken bodies, and desperate and wounded werewolves, will eventually lead you to this new creature. The fight is tough, though - and, it is only through a last minute intervention and the liberal application of a flamethrower (which later becomes the newest inclusion to the game's list of Axillary weapons), that the creature is able to be destroyed for good.
Of course, this isn't the end of the story. The appearance of this creature is only the first, small, piece in a much larger puzzle. It seems that this creature is the direct results of Orochi experiments into the supernatural - though, there is no way of knowing how or, more importantly, why. The creature is just the first bread-crumb - from there, you will find yourself investigating Orochi research installations, in order to determined what, exactly, they have involved themselves in. As should come as absolutely no surprise, even to people who have never played the game, the Orochi agents operating in Transylvania aren't willing to limit themselves simply to experimenting on supernatural creatures - they have also taken an interest in people with supernatural potential. Particularly children.
There are elements of this new story which intentionally try to capture some of the feel of your classic James Bond inspired spy-story - though, of course, still with the creepy supernatural twist you would expect from The Secret World. One sequence will see you led into a trap and pinned down by enemy fire, before being handed a parachute and base-jumping to safety (sadly, only in a cut-scene, though. Implementing base-jumping into the actual game was apparently a bit beyond what the developers could achieve in the time they had to work with). Another will see you taking control of a snow-mobile, and involving yourself in a tense chase against Orochi agents. Admittedly, the controls for the snow-mobile are a little awkward - but, the sequence itself was still a lot of fun. Best of all, it's a sequence that takes place in the open world environment, rather than a separate instance - so now, as well as the various creatures wandering the area, other players now have to fear finding themselves stuck in the middle your frantic chase (it could be a source of frustrating for some players, I suppose. But, I can't help but find the whole idea hilarious). It's just unfortunate that the sequence is so short. And, it's timed, too - meaning that you will not have much opportunity to simply fool around. But, still, the inclusion of this sequence does prove that Funcom have the basics of mounted transport figured out, now - so, it's quite likely that we will see it developed further in the future.
You even get to team up with a traditional 'Bond Girl' type of figure, in the form of a mysterious agent of the Council of Venice (the United Nations of the Secret World, whose role is to try to keep all the various factions from destroying each other). You can even do it all in a stylish tuxedo, if the mood strikes - though, unlike the Indiana Jones inspired outfit included with The Last Train to Cairo, this one is an addition to the Funcom store, and will cost you real money if you decide you want it. These sections of the new story offer much the same type of fun and excitement that the player got from so much of The Last Train to Cairo. That's only one side to the story, though - the other comes when you eventually make it to your ultimate destination.
Your investigation will eventually take you to the Nursery, the facility where the kidnapped children are kept - and, it is here that things start to get back to what passes for normal in The Secret World. The Nursery is really everything you would expect it to be - a place where illegal and dangerous experiments were conducted in children with supernatural potential, and where those experiments went very wrong. There are dead Orochi employees. There is blood on the walls and floor. There's a few too many strategically placed creepy dolls for comfort. Then, there's that damn nursery rhyme (a standard feature whenever you have horror stories involving children, I suppose), which you're bound to get stuck in your head while playing. Though, even that isn't all there is, here.
There are also some important revelations - and, an advancement of the central story-line of The Secret World, as things begin build up to the eventual release of the Tokyo based expansion. These are things that I can't really discuss in a review, for fear of ruining them for anyone that might want to experience the new story for themselves. But, they are there - and, they are a large part of what makes this particular story so important.
Like with the other pieces of purchasable DLC, though, A Dream to Kill isn't something that a new player will be able to instantly jump into. Not just because of the difficulty of the content, either - it is a continuation of the story which carried the player through each of the game's three distinct locations. It's $10 for a few hours of new content. If you're wondering whether it's actually worth your money, though - well, they all are, as far as I'm concerned. But, if there's only one of the three currently available that you buy, it should probably be this one.
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