As with many games of this nature, the various factions’ purposes conflict with each other, creating much of the story’s tension. And this world is no different. When creating your character you’ll find immediately that there are three major factions: the Illuminati, the Templars, and the Dragon.
The Illuminati are exactly what you think they are; they are the shadowy overlords of board rooms and businesses that control the world — powerful enough to even manifest their symbol on the back of a world superpower’s currency. But as ancient as they are, they mix blood magic and technology to great effect, allowing them to further their own plots and schemes. And just what are those schemes?
The Templar is a bit more militaristic. They’re not directly descended from the Knights Templar, but you wouldn’t know it. They’re all about vanquishing evil and tradition and honor. However, in recent times they’ve had to embrace actions and magics they would have normally eschewed to get the job done. This makes for a wonderful opportunity for a compelling tale of morality versus consequence. How does it end?
The Dragon are a bit more complex than the other two factions since they’re not concerned with wealth or power, nor do they have a binding morality or purpose. In truth, they are chaos. Using computer modeling to predict aberrations in the system, their chaos theory allows them to foresee human behavior itself in all its irrational glory. As an agent of the Dragon, you have to ask yourself if those encounters were really random.
The Innsmouth Academy is a college for the magically gifted, with ghosts for professors or twisted lifeless dolls on which the students can practice their magics. But it’s not all fun and ghouls here; darkness has infested the grounds and the staff are unable to deal with the problem by themselves.
In Egypt you’ll cross paths with the brave Mayra peoples. A once-glorious people who grew and were nurtured by the Nile itself, they’re now reduced to a few dozen members fighting back the cultists who are gaining strength in the region. The cult that worships the dead god Aten longs for his return. Another wrench in the works of Egypt is the Kingdom, a group of undead princes of Egypt who are out to make a profit by backing the winning side.
The Draculeşti, a group of Romanians who combat the growing vampiric plague in their territory, are an ancient gypsy-like clan that draws their lineage all the way back to Vlad Dracul himself. They teach their young ones to fight their ancient enemies, but lately newer horrors have taken up residence in their forest and they’re overwhelmed by these new menaces. Will you help them in their plight?
Some Secret World factions seem to be parodies of real world factions. The Morninglight is a play on scientology, with a sinister twist. They pass out pamphlets in parks asking you to take their special stressor tests and promise well-being and enlightenment. At first they seem to be a benign group, but don’t be fooled by their neo-hippy talk.
One of the most ubiquitous faction present in The Secret World is the Orochi Corporation, a multinational conglomerate of interests, governments, and businesses that span research and development, legislation, police enforcement, weapons manufacture, and beyond. They’re usually first responders to any crisis of supernatural origin. The Orochi the beloved red shirts of The Secret World universe, and you’ll often stumble across dead field agents or an abandoned camp with bloodied laptops still recording the last moments of the slaughter. You’ll run into these guys a lot. And things usually aren’t working out too well for them.
Overall, the sheer number of factions and even non-factional NPCs (non-player characters) is astounding. What I love most about these factions is they don’t feel “tacked on” to the world. Cohesion was clearly a determining factor for what got cut during development of The Secret World. The groups you encounter augment the setting and events around you perfectly, shaping the overall feel of each zone and making the game unique and believable.
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Quick bit of background on Dorian Granruth: I’m an avid gamer, playing everything from stand-alone console RPGs and MMOs to FPSs and RTSs. I’ve been playing games since Mario hit our shores through to new indie games coming out today.
I also love spending days lost within a science fiction or fantasy universe whole unto itself, whether game or fiction. World building, setting, plot, character development, and all the other facets that make fiction great are increasingly found in even the most humble of games.
I’ll stop in from time to time to talk about some of my personal favorites. This is the third in The Secret World series of posts. See the other two posts below.