This one has been on our radar from inception. MMOs can usually feel like an exhausting process filled with level-grinding and typical quests that no one cares to read (cause it’s always all about the loot). But The Secret World’s twisted setting and moral/socially-entwined factions make this MMO a unique one that we definitely wouldn’t feel ashamed in investing time into.

We watched four Funcom developers take on ridiculously sized enemies under interesting conditions. You won’t have just the enemies to worry about, though. You’ll have to tread carefully, as the water you’re absentmindedly running through may very well be electrified. Paying attention to your enemies and surroundings, you’ll be able to gauge how to come equipped to the battle. You can alternate between your own abilities and weapons as you see fit, with myriad options to choose from. Your character’s progression in The Secret World isn’t like the usual RPG leveling you’re undoubtedly used to. It ultimately comes from equipping weapons and one of 500 unique abilities to complement them.

The absolute most intriguining aspect of this MMO, however, is certainly the three secret societies. A personality test deemed us as members of the Dragon society, but there are two others with very different, contradicting ideals. Being on opposite ends of what appears to be the impending end of the world, the three societies work against each other in both PvE and PvP gameplay. Factions can construct traps against you, which Funcom intentionally set up to feed the flames of hatred between the societies. There is a palpable difference between the societies, and as players you will all adamantly fight to defeat (or just troll) one another.

Whether you choose to rep the side of the corporate bad boy Illuminati, the tradition-focused Templars, or the mysterious Dragon societies is up to you. But who you choose to play as will influence what missions you undertake. Sure, the most obvious of these is that your starting area will be affected. The Illuminati are based in NYC; the Templars in London, and the Dragon in Seoul. You can even interact with players of other factions. The predominant task at hand is, of course, to defeat the threat of monsters. But ultimately The Secret World incorporates a much bigger, greedier dilemma of a struggle between the secret societies to gain world dominance.

In the beginning of our demo, we were led through the murky waters around Kingsmouth that have become infested by the Draug, creatures based on the Norwegian mythology of the Draugr who are drowned spirits of Vikings. After watching the developers at the helm take on co-op missions, Funcom took the role of one of the Iluminati to investigate a suspicious disappearance of one of the society’s informants. We broke in to find things have gone awry, and the lights are completely out.

Here, dynamic lighting impacts gameplay. You can choose to brandish your flashlight, thereby causing a bit of a scene that aggros the mutated enemies, or you can wander on by blind. If you were playing as one of the Templars, however, your mission here would have differed. The Templars are the ones that turned off all the lights in the area to begin with. The Dragon’s involvement in this particular quest-line leads them to mutate the humans that we were watching attack the Illuminati character. Funcom explains that putting the three factions against each other creates a much more interesting, unpredictable storytelling as compared to a two-sided conflict where one group will always inevitably be stronger than the other. In this three-sided storytelling, political alliances will constantly be shifting to disrupt the balance of the currently-winning faction.

It will take some time in building your character from its initiate status to a trusted member of the secret society. In doing so, you’ll learn more about the very complex, in-depth lore that takes place in The Secret World. This MMO is all about investigating the context of The Secret World, becoming involved in it and experimenting with the many, many abilities and roles your character can take while fighting against the myriad monsters and mini-bosses strewn about every location. These experiences all play out between the PvE play as well as the PvP play. Persistent war zones are set up all around the world that, when captured, grant that society particular bonuses based on the relics that are stowed away there. You’ll find everything from the Stonehenge to the lost kingdoms of Shambhala to the city of gold in El Dorado. It’s here that you’ll go up against 100 players in PvP battles. Strategy and tactical fighting will be even more important with swarms of (non-monster) enemies.

The Secret World is an expansive, fictional realm based on tons of lore. We can’t wait to explore more of it when the game comes out in April of next year.