It’s not common for MMO games to wrap themselves up in a vast cloak of PvP and also provide a small solo-player campaign to get players acquainted with the universe and the gameplay. In the game of Global Agenda this is presented in the solo campaign mission zone of the Sonoran desert (although you can certainly group up) but it only extends to about level 15 and then the missions run out. Then the real game begins: guild conquest and global domination through PvP or instanced mercenary missions.
Global Agenda is an MMOTPS shooter developed by Hi-Rez Studios with the Unreal Engine 3. Hi-Rez initially released the game on February 1st, 2010 as a pay-to-play subscription game, but has since then re-released it as a free-to-play game. The brunt of the game’s focus is on PvP aspects, but it includes elements of cooperative play.
For the casual player, once the mission campaign is burned down—which tells the story of Global Agenda’s world—it leaves little bit mercenary instanced missions and guild-vs-guild PvP to play the rest of the game. A cash shop also becomes available that provides players with the ability to customize their characters with equipment and looks; although, for the most part, the cash shop doesn’t provide anything game changing that players cannot already earn on their own through consistent play.
Overall, the game is cleanly presented, lag free, has a fairly stable community and enables a certain casual play—although the real competitive PvP play cannot be accessed by free-to-play users from what I can tell.
Graphics and Sound: I live in the Sonoran desert and it doesn’t really look like that…
Okay, I’m being nitpicky. We do have desert badlands with broad mesas and billowing dust out there south of the National Forest (yes, over 2/3s of Arizona is forest) but its hard to reflect exactly how alive the desert is in a video game. Even still, in all its sterile beauty, the Sonoran desert of Global Agenda is a fun place to visit and sure enough, Yuma is an actual town that I’ve visited in the real world.
This game does not take graphics sitting down—the medium requirements actually ask for a dual-core processor with around 2.4Ghz of power. Plus, the game takes up about 10gb of space on the hard disk (just remember to delete the installer.) This might mean that people who are still running on machines five year old or more will have a little bit of trouble with it, and with a 10gb footprint it will be noticed by anyone with an Internet connexion less-than DSL or cable. (Personally, I foolishly only have 120gb on my laptop hard drive so I really notice that download size.)
The rendering engine of this game doesn’t quite display a cell-shaded effect, but it feels like it does when I raced around the landscapes and through the dungeon bases. The world is crisp and unforgiving and the rendering engine does a very good job of portraying that with its angular light and sharp edges. The graphics shift smoothly from underground passages and domed arcologies into vast, open tablelands with yawning skies overhead.
The sound affixes itself well enough to the gameplay and players will not mistake the fire of enemies or the sound of oncoming trouble. Alarms warn when health is low or when energy is about to run out (the ubiquitous source that allows for jetpack use and weapon fire.) The enemies aren’t really that varied; but the primary campaign does run out really quickly and from then on it’s more about other players anyway.
The customization possible on player characters is fairly enjoyable and deserves a bit of recognition. Although, problematically, it’s only all variations on a theme with each of the four archetypes. Although, once and a while I saw a stand-out character wearing an all-pink outfit…funniest when it’s an Assault and not a Medic.
Gameplay: MMOTPS with a lot of little gimmicks that make the character classes unique
At first the user interface took me a moment to capture the feel of playing an MMOFPS—but I guess it’s more appropriate to note this shooter is more of an MMOTPS—and having to switch between a special ability and my gun felt a little strange. As with most FPS players, I want special abilities to trigger on a different key than my primary weapon (and I want to activate them differently as well.) However, after a short learning curve, it became pretty much second nature.
The real thing that captured my imagination about this game—and why the Sonoran desert mesa-lands make so much sense for the solo campaign—can be summed up in one word: jetpacks.
Everyone gets a jetpack. Now, in the beginning they’re severely limited and they’re never anything like actual flight (more like short, swift long distance jumps) but it’s still a takeaway from City of Heroes that made me enjoy the game so much. I simply found great delight in the ability to traverse great distances through flight or leaping. Global Agenda gives that right back to me.
There are four classes in the game that represent major archetypes of gameplay in the MMO community: Assault, Recon, Medic, and Robotics. Assault are heavily armored troops with big muscles and bigger guns, they represent extended loiter time in the battlefield and excessive firepower; Recon take up the hit-and-run, up-close-and-personal style of gameplay favored by stealthy rogue players; Medics, of course, heal and augment player capabilities by providing support; and Robotics players represent the pet class, building stationary defenses and turrets.
Freemium: A model that uses coins and subscriptions to open up gameplay.
The Elite Agent subscription costs only a one-time fee of $19.99 and becomes a lifetime subscription—it is not a recurring fee. In this model, it’s a way for the developers to present their downloadable free-to-play game with two tiers and treat it as if players had bought the box. Elite Agent opens up all of the premium content and puts players on tier with the large-scale PvP action that many come to the game for.
“The Elite Agent package bundles a large set of premium gameplay enhancers for a single, one-time purchase,” Hi-Rez Studios explains in their FAQ on the lifetime subscription. “Elite Agents progress their characters more quickly thru the game by earning double the XP, tokens, and credits. Elite Agents earn an Elite Loot drop at the end of each mission. And Elite Agents have access to premium features such as in-game mail, auction house, priority access to servers, creation of player Agencies and the ability to choose your game mode preference when queuing for Mercenary PvP missions. You can purchase Elite Agent lifetime status for a one-time payment with no ongoing subscription required.”
Boosters combine together with the subscription model that both increase experience and deliver coins while they’re active. From the website, “Boosters allow you to speed up your progress in the game by increasing your token and XP daily increments for a given amount of time. Boosters also grant you 2000 daily tokens, and allow you to jetpack in Dome City.” Purchasing a booster will also give 5 Agenda Points a day. Looking at the pricing model, it’s about $7.95 for 10 days (about 80¢ a day) and maxes out at $29.95 for 90 days (about 33¢ a day.)
Agenda Points can be purchased straight-up exactly 1.2¢ a coin—purchase 40 or 4000, it’s all the same price. AP are used to buy in-game elite and specialized items.
Conclusion: This game deserves its better-than-average reception in the game review media.
It seems like the novelty of the game may wear out without the Elite Agent content; however, after playing all the way through the Sonoran desert missions and experiencing what kind of content the mercenary missions meant for my character. It’s a beautiful, well rendered game, with interesting mechanics that make the instanced missions worth playing.
What I’d like to see from Global Agenda is more basic missions. This game would benefit extensively if it had a storyline mode connected into its mercenary missions; but right now, the PvP content seems to be what continues to bring people back.
For people looking for a game that tells a grand tale with them at the epicenter, Global Agenda is not for them. People who want to play a long tutorial and get used to the game while trying to pinch into the community, perhaps that’ll whet their appetite to actually make the $20 dive into Elite Agent status. That’s where to go.
Overall, Global Agenda lacks the long-tail of a vast world with compelling characters to give reason and meaning to gameplay; however, the focus is on the PvP elements, the guild building, and giving a solid performance when it comes to stand-up fights. As a result, Hi-Rez Studios have produced a technically competent but somewhat sterile game (although, if they extend the humor and wit of the first 15 levels in the Sonoran desert they have a keeper.)
Anyone taking all this into account when trying out Global Agenda will not be disappointed.