Despite a rather awesome week of gaming consisting of Civilization 5 multiplayer, Mass Effect 2, and now Mount & Blade: Warbands, I am going to stay true to my word and provide a quick and dirty review of my experiences last week with the trial version of Global Agenda.
As I mentioned in my last post, I was highly excited for Global Agenda when it was announced. A slick, character-building FPS game with character-customization aspects? That sounds awesome. At least that’s how the game was originally marketed. The game is set in a future where powerful groups, called agencies, vie for control of… stuff. It really doesn’t matter, since it’s cool to blow stuff up.
Global Agenda’s character class system features four different classes: Assault, Medic, Recon, and Robotics. Assault is a heavy-weapons guy, with a big gun and a focus on suppressing fire. Medics can heal their teammates with a targeted beam-thingy much like in Team Fortress 2. Robotics deploy turrets to assist the battle and Recon can use a cloak to get behind the enemy lines to line up sniper shots or to ambush enemies from behind. I hadn’t thought about it until I just wrote it out, but every class has some kind of Team Fortress 2 equivalent.
In any case, I fired up GA and decided to create a Recon character. I liked the idea of being able to sneak up behind my enemies and slice them with a sword. Or otherwise cause general chaos among their ranks. In order to create the character, I just had to create a face and play through the tutorial missions. The character face customization was simple enough and easy to use, and offered a fair amount of variety. Nothing amazing, but for an FPS game it feels fine.
Probably the best decision about the tutorial mission was giving the player the jet-pack right at the start. Yes, there are jet-packs in GA, and frankly, they are a lot of fun to use. The boost jet-pack can be fired in short bursts or in a single continuous stream, depending on what is needed mobility wise. It worked best for me when I would do an initial burst that was a little longer, and then short bursts to regain a little altitude. There was even a great moment in my first mission with other players where I had to jump over a seemingly bottomless chasm… only it was too wide for a single jump, so I had to aim for the small islands of safety in the sea of emptiness.
Each player has an energy bar that determines how much stuff they can do before taking a quick break. Spraying my starter SMG would deplete the bar in just a couple of seconds, as would using my jet-pack. The Recon’s cloaking on the other hand depleted my energy very slowly, allowing me to sneak around enemies pretty easily. I like how this provides a measure of tactical decision-making: do I use my jet-pack to get to the objective a little faster, or do I make sure that I have “full ammo” when I get there? I imagine that other classes use their energy to power abilities, so the trade-off between mobility, damage, and special abilities is a nice mechanic.
Graphics wise, the game is good. Not spectacular, but good. Very solid. In particular, the game animations are smooth and the weapon effects are varied and colorful, which helped give the game a “Tron”-like feel. This made the weapons lack a feel of punch, though. The in-game sounds were fine, but the voice-acting left a lot to be desired.
After completing the tutorial mission I decided I wanted to jump right into some team-on-team action. Hell, I didn’t care who I was paired up with so long as I could shoot people a lot and occasionally stab at them with my sword (okay, the frequency of those two things should be reversed). However, right after finishing the mission I was transported to a place called “Dome City.” And then I didn’t really know what to do. I went over and talked to a couple of NPCs, but they didn’t give me any solid direction on how to do what I wanted. I spent probably ten minutes just trying to orient myself. I finally settled on playing a dungeon-crawl with a randomly assigned team.
I use the term dungeon-crawl because that’s exactly what it was. It was me and three other players killing NPCs, room by room. There were small packs of mobs that would try to kill us. After cleaning out rooms and picking up items for ten minutes or so, we fought a boss monster. I died a lot.
I’m not saying that this is inherently bad, but it was not what I expected from Global Agenda at all. I expected an FPS game with cool classes and a fair amount of customization. Something closer in gaming pedigree to Team Fortress 2 than to World of Warcraft. It just felt… weird. Honestly, I was disappointed that I couldn’t play against other players right from the start. Or if I could, I wasn’t guided in the direction that I needed to go to do that. I’m contrasting the feeling of the game with Warhammer Online: in that game I’m fighting other players probably thirty minutes into the game, and I always felt like my contributions to questions were doing something to the entirety of the game world. Here, not so much.
Overall, the game felt like it was trying very hard to be an MMO, when I’m not sure that it needed to be in order to be successful. I would be more than pleased if the mission choosing and teaming could be done in a single interface, rather than by running around the game world. But that’s not the game that is in front of me. That would be the FPS way of doing things, where Global Agenda took the MMO approach, because it’s an MMO game. I guess I just feel like it would have been better to dump the MMO-genre aspects (like questing) and focus more on the player vs. player action. Or, if the game wants to tell a killer story, that’s fine too, but making me run around a town of NPCs completing quests just doesn’t do it for me for an action game.
It’s hard to explain, but the whole game just felt like it was hovering between the two genres awkwardly. I hope that as the player goes up in level, the game swings more one way or the other. As it stands, I don’t think I’m going to play it again. I did love slashing up stuff though. Hmm. Maybe I’ll give it another try; I haven’t decided yet.
A bit o’news:
I wanted to mention that there’s a possibility of one of my old gaming buddies joining me here on Too Much Zerging. Which would be great since it would mean more content for you all and more perspectives. We haven’t worked out the details just yet, but hopefully we’ll get it sorted out this week.