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Vampires, werewolves, zombies are real in 'The Secret World'

Imagine a world where vampires, werewolves and the undead are real. And so are secret organizations like the Illuminati.

This is "The Secret World" — a massively multiplayer online role-playing game that seems to represent one half of a two-part assault on "World of Warcraft's" MMORPG domination.

Electronic Arts is publishing the game which is being developed by Funcom — the people who brought us "Anarchy Online" and "Age of Conan: Hyborian Adventure." And "The Secret World" became just a little less secret when EA unveiled loads of new details at their recent Summer Showcase event.

"Enter an online world where every conspiracy theory, myth and urban legend is true," reads the teaser promotion for the game, which seems ready to sweep into the MMO competition offering a breath of fresh air.

For starters, this game will be set in the modern-day real world — New York City, London, Seoul. That's right, gone are the usual medieval and sci-fi tropes. Think "Constantine" meets "True Blood" meets "The X-Files." (Check out the new trailer below.)

In fact, Joel Bylos, lead content designer for "The Secret World," recently wrote on the game's blog about just how much time and effort his writing and art teams are putting into researching the real-world locations represented in the game and the secrets and myths found in these places.

What is the time period and architectural style? What are the seasons like in this particular location? (The art team) prowls the web, watch movies and even make visits to the actual locations — all in order to create a visual style for the world which captures the spirit of the location while still adhering to the overall vision of 'The Secret World.'

Meanwhile, "The Secret World" also promises "a revolutionary progression system with no classes or levels." Instead players will join one of three factions — the Illuminiati, the Dragons and the Templars — and then set out to fight various mythical creatures while keeping the balance between the human world and the supernatural world.

Without the standard class/level system, players will follow a more free-form progression system, the developers say. All the non-player characters will be fully voiced (a nice bonus) and the game will also emphasize storytelling and the narrative decisions players will have to make.

"The story in 'The Secret World' is a giant jigsaw puzzle," says Ragnar Tørnquist, Creative Director for "The Secret World." That's really the only way to describe it. There are thousands of pieces scattered all over the game world, both figuratively and geographically, and as you play the game, you are actively uncovering — unearthing — the stories, large and small, that form the enormous tapestry of a backstory that goes back eons."  

Certainly it seems the massively-multiplayer competition is heating up. "The Secret World" is the second of two big MMOs that EA has in store for players — the other being "Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic."

And together, the two games come off like a double-barrel shot across Activision's bow. After all, EA's competitor publishes that aging king of the MMOs "World of Warcraft" — which currently boasts some 12 million monthly subscribers.

Will "The Secret World" lure players away from "WoW" with its modern setting and secret societies? Or will it be "Knights of the Old Republic" that woos gamers away from Azeroth? Or will, perhaps, "WoW" continue to fend off all comers like it has for years now? It'll certainly be fun to find out.

For more about "The Secret World," check out the official website here. And check out some of the newly revealed screenshots below.

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Winda Benedetti writes about games for You can follow her tweets about games and other things right here on Twitter.