In a game industry genre suffocated by so much fantasy that if you cut it open it bleeds fairy dust, coming across an MMORPG Game even just slightly different than all the rest is like a breath of fresh air, like a little speck of color in an enormous sea of grey. Global Agenda, a 3rd person shooter developed by Hi-Rez Studios is exactly that: unexpected, fresh, and even though still rough around some edges, a satisfying experience.
The story is far from being new or even remotely original. It’s all about the future of humanity, a future so many times imagined as being nothing more than grim that if by some miracle it turns out to be happy and gloriously gay we’ll all be in shock for many generations. This time the world recovers from the aftermath of World War III, a conflict which has deeply scarred our planet and our society, making it an easy prey for social control organisms such as the monstrous military mechanism known as The Commonwealth. Very few are those brave enough to stand up and fight against it, and in their struggle they utilize scarce resources, commando teams and mercenaries to strike at key strategic points deep within enemy territory. The goal of one of these missions was to secure and retrieve a new weapon developed in The Commonwealth’s secret labs. A product of bioengineering and the future of The Commonwealth’s army. The perfect soldier. You. The mission doesn’t go exactly as planned and the team sent in to your rescue is met with heavy resistance and eliminated, but not before giving you a chance to escape. You take it and the fights that follow and eventually take you out of the facility function as the game’s tutorial. After this seamless, perfectly integrated experience which opens up the game in a dramatic note, you will join the ranks of A.R.M. short for Allied Revolutionary Militia, an elusive organization which, as the name suggests, opposes and seeks the demise of The Commonwealth.
Before all this takes place, there is one choice you must make: picking your class. Normally at this point I would suggest doing some research on the class system and on what each and every one of the classes has to offer. That’s because usually at the start of the game the differences between them are small or merely suggested, but over time dramatically widen and if not careful you might end up playing a class that doesn’t fit your play style and you aren’t enjoying. Global Agenda doesn’t leave room for such mistakes, as the class system it proposes is as simple as they come for the beginning of the game, only to gain in complexity and depth later in the game when the player is educated enough in order to make the right choices for himself. So in the beginning you can only choose out of four general archetypes: tank, healer, dps and support. The names used in the game for these classes are: Assault, Medic, Recon and Robotics. As mentioned, things get more complicated later on. Unlike in many other MMORPG Games, how you spend points in these skill trees has a colossal influence on your class and how it will behave in combat. For example the Recon can be turned into a stealthy ninja, specialized in behind enemy lines strikes, placing mines and taking out opposing key players in a matter of seconds with devastating melee attacks, or by spending the skill points differently you can place the class at the opposite pole and make it a deadly sniper dealing with threats from hundreds of meters away. The choice is entirely yours and the neat thing about is that you can always come back on it at any time and reshape your character into something completely different than what it used to be. As the differences between one PVP encounter and another as well as the differences between PVP and PVE can be significant, you will be playing around with those skill points quite a lot.
The PVE experience is catchy and fun, but unfortunately not sufficiently developed. The quests will last for about 20 levels from the pool of 50 and that is certainly not enough for any MMORPG player that likes to disconnect with the community from time to time, but without actually leaving the game. So if you are looking for solo experiences, Global Agenda will provide a solution to such needs, but only for a short period of time at the beginning of the game. Afterwards, the only PVE experiences left available are the instanced dungeons called missions which you can access at any time from any point in the world through an interfaced match making system. Since most of the teams that tackle these missions are put together automatically, it’s only natural to have the difficulty of these dungeons scaled down to the level of a random PUG (pick up group). Their level design doesn’t leave too much room for complains and they’re fun as it is always nice to jump into a big battle together with some allies, but they are not very challenging. That leaves a pretty wide gap for players looking for challenging PVE content, and Global Agenda doesn’t do much towards addressing this issue.
As thin and unsatisfying the PVE might prove to be for hardcore PVE oriented players, Global Agenda’s PVP is a thick, consistent source of entertainment. The differences between the two are humongous. Classes suddenly shine in PVP and skillful players together with tactical thinking can truly impact a battle’s outcome. But the thing you will truly fall in love with from the moment you decide to start PVPing is the jet pack. To me at first it felt out of place and then I just accepted it as a simple gimmick. But in PVP, the jetpack infuses battles with an amount of fun otherwise unavailable in other 1st/3rd person shooters. It’s no longer just an exploration device or a quick way of getting from point A to point B. With its fast rechargeable battery and high maneuverability, it adds a new tactical and geometrical dimension to PVP encounters. You can storm enemy positions faster than ever before, you can easily fall behind enemy lines, ambush unsuspecting opposition or simply reach an annoying enemy sniper in a matter of seconds. Whatever class you decide to play in Global Agenda, there is one thing you must master before ever hoping to be competitive in PVP and that’s the jetpack.
Global Agenda’s whole PVP system is split into two separate sections. The first one is designed for training or for those looking to instantly tap into the game’s fun resources. It consists in Mercenary missions or in other words objective driven battlegrounds in which teams of players fight against each other. However entertaining these might prove to be at first, constantly teaming up with random people in random environments and having random objectives tends to become a bit tedious after a while, especially since there is no feeling of progression apart from the experience points you gain from these battles.
This is where the second part of the PVP system comes into focus: AVA, short for Agency vs. Agency. This is the game’s most interesting feature, the crown’s jewel. It’s a persistent PVP driven world in which Agencies, or Guilds in a more common terminology, fight over strategic territories called hexes. Once control over such a hex is gained, the winning Agency can then build offensive or defensive structures in that territory to ensure its domination of the region. As these hexes can be attacked only during certain time frames and as some are more important than others from a resource value perspective, AVA adds a certain political and strategic value to the whole PVP effort, making it feel meaningful and also more rewarding. The downside of the whole system is that although fights over these hexes are between guilds, the number of players allowed to participate to a fight is limited to ten for each side. So what holds the potential for combat of epic proportions is in fact nothing more than a series of small scale skirmishes. Like many other features in Global Agenda, AVA sounds great in theory only to fail to match the expectations in practice.
Global Agenda’s graphics follow the set in stone pattern of post-apocalyptic settings, focusing much on different shades of browns and grays. But this time these barren backgrounds which have been a bit overused in the game industry only come to accentuate the color contrasts as many character elements are brightly colored and highly saturated. The result is eye pleasing and certainly eye catching. The sound package doesn’t rise up to the standards set by the graphics, but its quality doesn’t go below the level of decency so in the end it blends in nicely with everything else.
Global Agenda is a valuable game and an Online MMORPG that every gamer should at least try, especially since there is no subscription required to play it. It proposes a pertinent approach to the 3rd shooter genre and enough multiplayer interactivity to make into the MMO section. Many of its features and the ideas that stood behind them can and should be labeled as brilliant, but unfortunately, maybe due to budgetary reasons, suffered quite a lot upon implementation as their potential has not been exploited fully. And this is why, even if the game is fun, challenging and addictive, its life span is rather short. Despite its efforts of setting up a stage for global warfare (hence the name Global Agenda), the game is complacent with its heavily instanced world and because of that everything you do in it feels small and insignificant. In the end I can only hope that the game will be complemented with serious expansion packs and/or a rich-content sequel, because its cornerstone concepts are too good to be left with only this form of interpretation.
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