It’s daylight now, the morning after my time with The Park. That means its spell is broken. I’m safe here in the light, there’s no darkness lurking with promises of terror.
Then again, it is Halloween.
Enjoy The Ride
The Park is not a long experience. What it is is an experiment. A vertical slice of one of the dark parts of Solomon Island from The Secret World taken out of time and created in the UE4 engine. If you are a fan of The Secret World, this means things will be somewhat familiar. There will be nods and cute links between the two games. Keep an eye out for a familiar face in the House of Horrors for example.
Ultimately The Park is best summed up by it’s opening splash screen.
This narrative experience is exactly the sort of thing I fell in love with Funcom for on The Secret World. Between the wonderful voice work of Fryda Wolff and the clever audio threaded throughout the experience, I never really stopped being tense. Whatever happened, or didn’t, there were those phantom sensations and thrills of fear and tension rolling through me. Everyone on the team should be rightly proud of the dark tale they’ve put together.
If you’re wondering if it is for you, The Park is a tale. A tale of a lost child in a place that should be happy and turns so very sinister in the blink of an eye. Lorraines son Callum has run into Atlantic Island Park and it’s up to you to find him. The controls and interface of the game reflect this utterly. There is no combat, no fighting taking place. You can click on notes and items scattered through the world to examine them, or right click to call for Callum and see where there might be things of interest. Any time you aren’t immersed in Lorraines inner monologue you can sprint with the shift key. This keeps the experience focused on the story. On you trying to find Callum somewhere in the park. Of course, the longer it goes on, the more desperate Lorraines calls will get. The more the fear will set in.
You can choose to run through everything, desperately seeking Callum or you can linger a while and take a whirl on the rides. See the sights from the top of the Ferris Wheel or take a Swan Ride through a story. Players are ultimately led on a story experience but what you find and what you take away from the experience will ultimately be entirely personal to you.
For me sitting there in the dark, feeling my back and shoulders tingle madly as I got increasingly tense, worried about what they might spring on me next, I got a view into the mind of a woman who is stuck between the horror of her lost child and the supernatural horror unfolding around her.
House Of Horrors
It’s hard to think of The Park without thinking about its nominal origin in The Secret World. There is a nice perk for existing Secret World players to snap up The Park. By popping into the extras section you can enter your TSW details to unlock some powerful level 10.9 Talismans and an outfit of Chad the Chipmunk. After all the secret societies are cheerful folk and who wouldn’t want a hug from a dead eyed grinning chipmunk serial killer?
If you are a Secret World player and enjoy tension and frights, by all means do go and grab The Park. Wander through the dark paths between the rides as you look for Callum and listen to Lorraine remember and worry. However I think The Park is best gifted to people you want to play The Secret World. Why?
Well I know what happens to Solomon Island. I know what happens in the Atlantic Island Park. I may have been caught up in Lorraines worry for her son, but I was constantly on the lookout for horrors I expected. There are awful things from The Secret World that I, as a player, was sure must be lurking in the dark waiting to get me. It may just be me who ends up suffering from over thinking the horror and jumping at things that aren’t there, but I think The Park stands best by itself or as a lure towards The Secret World instead of being considered as an experience taken out of it. This doesn’t lessen either experience, but if you go in expecting a Draug Lord to be whirling around on the Octotron, you’ll be disappointed. If you can leave what you know behind and go in to The Park with fresh eyes? Even better.
— MMOGames (@MMOGames) October 30, 2015
I won’t spoil the story. I will say that I didn’t scream, but they weren’t after that, they wanted my shivers and worry. I won’t go too much into the fear of the parent when their child is lost, or the dark currents stirring beneath The Park. Ultimately it is Halloween. The nights are getting longer, the darkness deeper. Turn out the lights, put on your headphones, take a walk in The Park.
Graphics: The Park has been created in Unreal Engine 4. It looks lovely but a lot of the experience does rely on you being alone in the dark. Plan accordingly.
Audio: Funcom delivers on the audio front for setting the scene but Fryda Wolff promptly steals the scene with her voice work.
Overall: It’s a short experience but if I had to score it out of ten I’d give it a solid 8 purely for the tension I felt throughout. It’s strange that something so inspired by and owing so much to The Secret World actually suffers slightly from being linked to it instead of standing alone, in the dark.
- A unique slice of a larger MMO game
- A more elegant horror experience than a simple bunch of gore laden jump scares
- Very short. Don’t expect hours of play.
- Ambiguity can annoy some players.