I don’t keep it much of a secret that The Secret World is my favorite MMO. While the combat is sometimes wonky, it has such a creative setting and interesting narrative that I couldn’t help but fall in love with it. One interesting area in the game stuck with me, an amusement park with several dark secrets behind it. The Park is a horror game spin-off that seeks to focus specifically on this park, going further into its dark history and telling a great story along the way.
The Park opens with Lorrain and her son Callum about to leave the Atlantic Island Park when Callum suddenly runs back inside. Lorrain chases after him, and things take a turn for the strange when the time of day suddenly changes and Callum just vanishes. As Lorrain goes deeper into the park to find Callum she learns about the twisted history of the park while the player learns that Lorrain may not be who she says she is. Later chapters detail the downward spiral of her life and her battle with depression. The Park‘s story is a horror story, but behind the obvious supernatural scares there’s a very real and very horrifying story of mental disorders, drug addictions, completely failing to live a stable life, and losing a child.
Funcom was smart by making a story that compliments The Secret World without needing to play it to get the full thing. In fact, I’d say The Park does better as a stand-alone story. Players of the MMO will already know there’s something wrong with the park and what that is, but going into The Park blind helps keep some of the more supernatural elements of the game mysterious and their revelations will have bigger impacts. That said, if you do play The Secret World then you’ll get to enjoy some nice little nods to the game. The newspapers help build up Solomon Island a bit more and show what it was like before the eldritch horrors overtook it.
There’s not much to be said about The Park‘s gameplay. While this may be a horror game, there’s nothing in the game that can kill you, there’re no enemies to fight, and no puzzles to solve either. You’ll mostly just be exploring the Atlantic Island Park to discover the bits and pieces of its history. You can hit a button which makes Lorrain call out to her son, which both gives you a general direction on where to go and also highlights any nearby items you can interact with. This is about the extent of work you’ll have to do, though, other than pulling an occasional lever to stop a ride so you can get on, or picking up a few items to inspect and give a better insight to Lorrain’s psyche.
I think this approach works better for the game. I don’t think The Park would be any better with enemies to fight or puzzles to overcome. Instead, it puts the focus on story and exploration front and center, letting you just soak in the game. While I knew nothing would attempt to kill me, I was still sufficiently creeped out by the abandoned amusement park.
Quite a bit of this came from the art design. At the end of the day, the Atlantic Island Park could be any theme park, and that’s what makes it work so effectively. The rides don’t look too foreign, the layout could be the same as a Six Flags, and you can tell this is a place that should be bringing joy. The idea of the mascot being a chipmunk seems more silly and innocent until he’s suddenly behind you with an ice-pick and a blood-stained costume. The Park is great at turning something innocent into something horrifying, and it’s an unyielding game in that regard. The game is also carried by some strong voice acting. Lorrain’s rambling starts off innocent enough, but watching her rants turn even crazier is certainly something. A story of her considering suicide by cop only carries the edge it does thanks to the delivery.
I know that The Park won’t be for everyone. That said, if you’re a fan of The Secret World‘s story and lore, then you owe it to yourself to check out The Park. If you’ve never played The Secret World then people looking for a strong addition to their horror game library, or just looking for a different kind of horror game, may just find this park worth giving a visit to.
Disclaimer: Two friends of mine worked for Funcom from early 2012 until early 2013. Both worked as GMs on Age of Conan: Unchained and The Secret World. Neither currently work for Funcom or have any ties to Funcom, neither have worked on The Park, and neither have influenced this review in any way.
A chilling story about simple horrors, strong art design, and voice acting help tie together this horror short into a package worth checking out for horror fans.